Balancing for the end-game and moment-to-moment gameplay #FFXIV

We played over the last few days a good chunk of Final Fantasy XIV, as part of the latest free login campaign.

FFXIV is a game that I enjoy playing when I’m in the middle of a session, but for whatever reason it doesn’t manage to hook me longer term. Reflecting on this, over the last few days, I think it is partly that the classes we are playing have simple rotations; so, moment-to-moment gameplay can grow rather tiresome. Over the years that I’ve dipped in and out of this game, it has become more of an issue, the original release had pretty complex class building options, in A Realm Reborn class design has been progressively streamlined. I imagine it is now very much balanced around end-game (the cap is 80 at the moment), so lower level characters – like our Astrologian and Dark Knight pair freshly dinged level 40s – have a relatively small palette of abilities to play with.

I find myself spamming the basic attack or area damage equivalent *a lot* in combat, it is especially bad in FATEs or Battleleves where there are lots of enemies. I’m a tank class, so my ‘job’ is to keep the baddies off my husband’s healer. The most effective way of doing that is to spam area damage constantly on the global cooldown. Yes, I can throw in the line-attack, or the odd mana regen attack to keep myself topped up, but that does little to up my damage on average, and with a tank+healer combo we already face longer fights due to lower overall dps.

This isn’t a FFXIV-specific problem, of course. Many MMORPGs have simplified class ability rotations as the level cap stretched skywards. My knowledge of World of Warcraft is probably the most solid in this regard. For several expansions, Blizzard took away more and more abilities from all the classes to focus them on specific rotations and roles. In Battle for Azeroth to some extent, and in Shadowlands even moreso, this trend has been reversed. My Shaman has totems back that are not just for his current spec, and as DPS he can even drop a heal-when-hit shield on allies. This level of utility and breadth of abilities is a very welcome returning feature to Retail WoW. However, leveling new characters in Retail WoW can involve many levels of ultra boring gameplay, as classes start with very few abilities, and often lack the most fun ones until very near the level cap.

It’s kind of strange how narrow FFXIV classess feel now with a big gap in time between playing and with the comparative experience of playing a MMO that is developing in the opposite direction mechanically; perhaps, if we ever reach the cap, the classes will feel more interesting? The irony is, in this MMO much more than most, a single character can fill any role and playstyle with ease because of the class switching mechanic. But, if those classes feel so much simpler than classes in other MMOs, that class flexibility doesn’t necessary lead to more satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay…

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4 Responses to Balancing for the end-game and moment-to-moment gameplay #FFXIV

  1. bhagpuss says:

    This is a tough one. The combat in FFXIV was nowhere even close to the the main reason I never realy clicked with the game but I did notice it was a little repetitive. I’d rather that then over-fussy, though, especially when it comes to action games. Combat in Valheim, for me, is really just a single button press. I very rarely even block or dodge, just attack attack attack, which seems to work pretty well. And it’s fun. Similarly, in Black Desert all I really do is mash one button. And that’s fun too.

    On the other hand, in EverQuest, where I have 12 spells and really quite a lot of AA hotkeys these days it’s a much more tactical situation but the pace of the fights allows for it. Whereas in EQII, with upwards of forty possible keys to hit, it’s mostly a case of trying to hit as many as possible when they’re off cooldown. All of those are okay with me.

    WoW is one of the games where I do find the rotation somewhat confining. It seems a bit labored compared to other games. It’s not terrible, though. Of all of the games I play I think the one where I most enjoy the fighting for the tactility and sensory stimulation is possibly GW2, but ony on my Elementalist. Some of the other classes send me to sleep.

    Not sure if i even have a clear idea of what I like, to be honest. I can just feel it when I’m not enjoying it.

    • Telwyn says:

      It is hard to define – I suspect there’s rather a lot to unpack there to get to the root of the multiple factors behind such feelings. My approach to enjoyable combat or even preferred playstyle does vary between MMOs, perhaps more than I have ever thought seriously about.

  2. Syl says:

    I do like FFXIV combat but the differences between classes are huge and become very glaring on savage mode. That’s why I pretty much gave up on harder content with my BLM and the dps of BRD also means nobody wants you in their savage runs. That is too bad and imo needs fixing.

    My personal fatigue with FFXIV is always the endgame which is exactly the same in every xpac: grind tokens for gear, then grind the next tokens for the next gear and so fourth. And never having enough storage space while they keep bringing out gear. So I am again somewhat on a hiatus for now.

    • Telwyn says:

      Even within the game I guess I’m somewhat inconsistent with my thinking here. I enjoyed bard, I played it to a higher level so had more buttons to press, but the rotation is still rather simple by other game standards. Maybe I’m just not that into tank or melee DPS classes in FFXIV. I do find the animation-locking irritating, so that may be another factor that I left out of the blog post, plus the lack of a dodge action when there quite a lot of telegraphs to get out of during combat.

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