Final Fantasy XIV this week, other than the somewhat mollifying UI update preview, was the addition of another 30 days of free playtime for everyone. This is the sort of thing that I don't think you can really see as anything other than a classy move on the part of Square-Enix. It's also very unexpected, but in the best possible way -- I can't help but be surprised that the company which has long been seen as completely dispassionate by Final Fantasy XI players has essentially responded to the "I don't want to pay for beta" complaints with "that's fair, we'll let you play for free."
So as long as we're talking about class, let's talk about Final Fantasy XIV's classes. I'm a big fan of games that give you a broad toolbox and let you decide what you want to do with everything, and building a field class is one of my biggest joys in the game. It's not that you can't mix-and-match abilities from Disciples of the Land or Disciples of the Hand, but there's less variance than the combat-oriented classes. Let's start dipping our toes into character building, yes?
Roles, porting, and flexibility
When you start out determining who you want your character to be, you're probably going to start with a class. This isn't a bad place to start, but it runs into the immortal problem that a class is far less definitive in FFXIV than elsewhere. While there are some things that are unique to Lancers rather than Marauders and vice versa, for the most part you're better off thinking not of a class but a role.
Traditionally, roles are focused around the big trinity -- tank, healer, and DPS -- but the roles have always been a fair bit looser in the Final Fantasy series, especially in the online installments. Simply forming a party consisting of the trinity in Final Fantasy XI was considered sub-optimal, when you had things like support and enfeebling and pulling to consider. So your role should be more of a brief description of what your character is going to be doing -- debuffing and dealing area damage in melee, for instance.
Despite what you might have expected, every class cannot perform every role equally well. This isn't really a slight against the game's structure -- it would be difficult to imagine a world where an Archer could serve as a tank, after all. It does mean, however, that the concept of a "main" persists insofar as you'll generally have one class you focus on moreso than others. If you want to tank, you're probably best off playing with either a Gladiator or Pugilist, for example.
I should pause here for a moment to note just the slightest amusement at others (and myself) for thinking that fatigue would in some way influence this. Fatigue has been essentially a non-issue for the entirety of the game's population.
Note that this sort of decision can feed back and forth for players. When I started looking at classes pre-beta, for instance, I was intrigued by both Thaumaturges and Lancers (my love for Dragoons is well-known). Since Lancers have a number of debuffs they can inflict and some interesting area attacks, I decided to focus on a pseudo-Dark Knight build, using Drains and enfeebling spells coupled with Lancer Surges and weapon skills. My focus wouldn't be on raw damage so much as damage with a heavy support emphasis, since that would allow me to shift roles as necessary.
Simple math will make it clear that you can't raise every attribute all that far. You wind up with somewhere around 650 points for raising attributes, and getting a single attribute to 120 is going to eat up a fair chunk of that. This isn't a bad thing so much as it is something that makes pure builds somewhat more powerful than hybrid setups and forces you to pick certain stats that are more important than others.
The short version is that you're going to need to weight how important each stat is to your build. Generally speaking, I try to use something of a loose weighting system. I figure out what stat is most important to my character overall, then start assigning the stats in a hierarchy down from that.
It's easiest to explain via example, so let's use what I'm working with when playing Rhio for the moment. Dexterity is my most important stat, without a doubt -- I can't manage to do anything if I can't hit the target, and since I'm a Lancer, at most times physical attacks make up the bulk of my damage. As a direct result of that, Strength is right below Dexterity, and Piety is on par with Strength. I'll trade a bit of direct damage for some accuracy, but my magical attacks aren't as important as my physical damage, so Piety is a second-tier stat. (It does, however, help improve the potency of drains and DoT spells -- you see how the build feeds upon itself.) Vitality and Mind are both tied for the next spot, since they're both essentially battery stats but not crucial to my build's performance. Last on the list is Intelligence, since I'm not expecting to do a lot of straight damage with spells and have more concern for the secondary effects.
Now that I have the stats roughly broken into four tiers of importance, I can start deciding which stat gets bonus points and when. A loose rule of thumb is to increase points for each stat by one and a half each time you go up a tier. In other words, for each point that Rhio puts into Intelligence, she should put 1.5 into Vitality and Mind, 2.25 into Strength and Piety, and 3.375 into Dexterity. Obviously, you can't quite put in fractional values like that, but this gives you an idea of how to increase your stats while still progressing all of your attributes.
You might be asking yourself why you should bother leveling caster stats if you're sticking with physical disciplines. You certainly don't need to do so, but Mind and Piety are both useful as defensive stats against casters, and it will make life less painful in the event that you start leveling one of the casting classes. And, hey, you probably were planning on tossing Cure onto your action bar for soloing purposes anyway.
This is a topic I know I'm going to be coming back to, so please, tell me I'm full of it in either the comments or by sending mail along to email@example.com. Until then, I have to give props to Prime's guides and Eorzeapedia's still-growing collection of guides. We're all still figuring this stuff out together, but I bow to those with more time to focus on the mechanics of the game instead of the unnecessary philosophical nattering I frequently indulge in. Next week, come on back as we do a rather different look at a community aspect.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.
The Mog Log: Class actions
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