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…