DO ALL THE LEVES!
Hello again, ladies and gentlefolk, and welcome back to another riveting installment of Choose My Adventure: Final Fantasy XIV edition. Last week you fine people voted for me to dive headlong into combat in pursuit of Lancer level 15. Also, you had me betray my home of Limsa Lominsa for Ul'Dah, and I hope you're happy with yourselves because I have a few bones to pick with you for that. But more on that later.

I regret to say that I did not quite succeed in my goal of reaching level 15 because in the name of all that is sweet and holy I could not grind out another levequest without shoving the nearest pointy object into my eyes. However, I did make it to about level 10, so nine levels and a billion levequests later, I think I have a pretty good impression of combat. So follow on past the cut and join me as I share it with you, would you kindly?


Combat in Final Fantasy XIV is, more or less, what you'd expect from MMO combat. You target an enemy, you press your hotkeys, and you continue ad nauseam until one party is alive and the other is a twitching pulp on the ground. That being said, there are a few quirks and nuances that separate it from the masses, for better or for worse. For starters, there's the fact that you don't just simply jump into combat. Pressing 'F' draws your weapon, which is required before initiating combat. While your weapon is drawn, your movement speed is reduced considerably, which I guess is neat and all from a flavor standpoint, but mechanically it's largely just obnoxious. You can't really do much of anything besides fight while your weapon is drawn, so in order to change the abilities on your hotbar, change gear, sit down to rest, or what-have-you, you have to sheathe your weapon first, regardless of whether you're actively in combat or not. Frankly, it just strikes me as entirely unnecessary and tedious. Why make drawing/sheathing your weapon a manual process? Why doesn't my character just draw her weapon when she's in combat and then sheathe it when she's not?

But really, tedium seems to be the name of the game with most of Final Fantasy XIV's mechanics and UI features. For instance, in order to use a potion, I can't just bind my potion to a hotkey like in, you know, every other game ever. Oh, no. I have to hit the 'U' button to open my usable items window (it took me a bit to figure out that particular window even existed, and prior to that I was trying to use potions from my inventory, which required even more menu-navigating tedium), scroll down, select the potion, select the target (which, bizarrely, defaults to the enemy while you're in combat), and then hit enter to use the item. I'm sorry, but why? Generally potions are something of an "ohsh*t I'm dying" item that you want used immediately. For inexperienced players, trying to navigate the menus to use the potion can be the difference between life and death, and it's -- quite honestly -- just inane.

But moving on to combat itself, yeah? Special abilities are powered by a resource called TP, which is gained by landing and taking hits. Landing hits, as far as I can tell, grants a considerably larger amount of TP than being hit, which can lead to a degree of frustration when you omg just want to use your freaking abilities already but your character's autoattacks keep missing. And I think that's really what the combat boils down to: autoattacks. It leads to combat becoming much more reactive than proactive. You stand there, you watch your character swing, you gain some TP. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you have the 1000 or so TP required for many abilities, fire off your ability, and then wait some more. Frankly, it's just not terribly exciting.

Also somewhat obnoxious is the execution of skills themselves. Combat doesn't feel terribly responsive. There's a brief but noticeable delay between pressing a hotkey and the execution of the ability itself. In many cases this isn't a huge deal, but when I was just starting out, it drove me wild. You see, my main ability at lower levels was an attack that dealt damage to my primary target and any enemies between me and said target. So I'd wait patiently, lining up a shot in order to hit as many enemies as possible, and finally they're all in a line, so I press my hotkey. And I wait. The enemies move. The ability finally goes off, and it misses my secondary targets. I eventually got the hang of it thanks to a useful diagram (pictured below because it's awesome) from our resident FFXIV pro, Eliot Lefebvre, but boy-howdy was it frustrating at the beginning.

I have one more gripe to address, though it's not so much with combat in general as it is with the fact that you bunch of sadists decided to send me to Ul'Dah. The city itself is beautiful and I love the theme. What I don't love, however, are naked moles. My levequests had me up against these obnoxious little buggers at every turn (but then again, I seemed to be repeating the same four or five levequests repeatedly, so I guess that's to be expected), and oh. My. God. At about 50% health or so, these little jerks start burrowing, causing you to untarget them, and then they pop out of the ground to deal some extra damage. And that would be fine if it happened once or twice each combat. But noooo. They would burrow. I'd wait. They'd pop back up. I'd re-target them and wait for my next auto-attack so I could build some freaking TP. And then they'd burrow again. And again. And again. It has gotten to the point that if I ever see a naked mole rat in real life, I can't guarantee that I won't punt it just on principle while screaming, "Burrow under this, b***h!"

Even for all of my frustration, however, I can't say that I found combat itself to be entirely unenjoyable. Is it grindy? Oh, oh yes. But the animations and sound effects that accompany your special attacks are awesome, and using your abilities really feels like a treat (which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it). The TP system, while not my favorite, does add a layer of strategy to the whole ordeal. Since you can't fire off your abilities left and right, you have to put a bit of thought into which TP-consuming ability will most benefit your current situation. Truthfully, the majority of my issues are with the game's UI. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The UI is archaic. It was clearly designed with console gamers in mind, and very little optimization was made for PC players. People tell me "play with a gamepad, it'll be better!" but I don't want to play with a gamepad. I'm primarily a PC gamer for a reason, and that's because I prefer a mouse and keyboard.

Ahem. Anyway. So we've got a couple of weeks left in this Choose My Adventure, so here's what I've got in store for you guys. Crafting is still on the chopping block, as I've yet to touch any of my crafting professions. In addition, Eliot was kind enough to inform me of a level 15ish open dungeon called Shposhae, so if you guys and gals would like to hear more about the game's partying mechanics, I'd be glad to give that a go (and as an aside, if any of you out there have level 15ish characters that would like to join me, that would make my job a whole lot more fun). I'm also going to give you guys the choice of changing my class for that adventure, in case you'd like to see one of the other classes in action.

So that's it for this week, folks. Vote for next week's activities and goals below, and I'll see you again next week.
Dungeon-diving or crafting?
Dungeon-diving! Notorious monsters, phat lewt, and party mechanics!312 (74.1%)
Botany and alchemy! Yay flowers!55 (13.1%)
Mining and blacksmithing! Yay rocks!54 (12.8%)
Should I change my combat class?
Nope!159 (38.1%)
Yep, let's see some finger-wiggling! (Thaumaturge/Conjurer)149 (35.7%)
Kill things like a man! (Pugilist/Marauder)109 (26.1%)

Matt Daniel is in a bit of a slump. You see, he's between MMOs, and he needs your help in deciding what to play next. Stop by every Wednesday for Choose My Adventure and tell him what to play, how to play it, and what color underwear to wear. No guarantees on that last one, though.

This article was originally published on Massively.