A whole new class action list
OK, we've had a taste of all this before. And I will allow myself to now have a moment of disappointment that we're still seeing no Dual Wield trait for Gladiators. Alas, nothing yet. Maybe next year.
That having been said, the new lists look nice. They're far leaner than the previous lists, but that's also a good thing. Several skills wind up supplemented very nicely with the new traits, meaning that players can do with one press what has previously taken two or three presses to execute. And the refining pass has certainly helped provide a stronger identity for each class, especially in the sense that most of the higher-level abilities are exclusive. There are some really interesting unique abilities in each tree, and certainly it looks like some much-needed aspects of gameplay got boosted (Gladiator area aggro, for instance).
If there's a downside, it's probably that the classes haven't really had their roles expanded in any significant way. Gladiators are still only useful as tanks; Pugilists and Marauders can pull double duty; and Thaumaturges lost most of their party support abilities. In many ways, even without the job designations, most of the disciplines will be playing more or less in job mode, sprinkled with some alternative abilities here and there.
Of course, those alternative abilities do make a big difference, especially coupled with the return of bonus points per class. You have extra slots to play around with your tricks. Maybe your Conjurer will mix in some Thaumaturge attacks, or maybe you'd prefer support abilities that will boost your MP and survivability from the Pugilist list. The fact that you now have extra abilities to choose from instead of choosing between every action you've learned makes a big impact, and the trimming of the overall list of abilities allows for more meaningful choices.
Getting better with company
This was one of those updates that I really wasn't expecting, although I'm happy to see it just the same. A new set of ranks for the Grand Companies means that players can pick up new rewards and keep advancing, and it generally provides an advancement path for people who don't necessarily have the time or inclination for some of the other endgame content. This is one of the strengths of the franchise, the idea that there's no strict endgame, just a lot of different things to do at the level cap.
The seal requirements are a bit more onerous than the previous ones, but that's understandable now that we're seeing the rank advancement in full effect. Unless you've been hoarding seals, you might have to go out and earn more to leap up in ranks when the patch goes live. Still, since almost everyone has a company chocobo by this point, the real game-changing benefit is still easy to get: It's something to work toward, it's advancement and some bonus items along the way. Nothing to complain about here.
Gear dyeing is still broken
This just made me roll my eyes. Actually, it made me roll my eyes while saying several other things, but I'm not allowed to repeat those on the site.
This is, without a doubt, the dumbest possible way this could have been handled. I wasn't terribly keen on the system in which color change affected stats, but as it was, it worked. It felt strange, but at least then there was a justification for why, say, you could only have your Cobalt Cuirass in red. Justifications existed.
But now the color has nothing to do with stats, yet the devs are still limiting your coloring options... now that's just plain annoying. I know, database structure and all that, but if you can't fix a problem, then don't. This sort of half-fix isn't going to satisfy anyone, especially as the only thing it does is draw attention to the broken parts.
Of course, my love then comes rushing back for achievements because I am a sucker for these things. I know that not every really cares for achievements, but I love hunting down new achievements, getting rewards, and just having new little landmarks to spur me toward progress. And the fact that you can get some gear out of the whole system is like cutting crack cocaine with more crack cocaine, so I'm incredibly happy to see this system get rolled out in earnest.
The fact that you have to talk to NPCs first is a little weird, but that's my only real complaint.
OK, so there's one more slight complaint, but it's just a potential one: I'm hoping that the design team is smart enough to remember that achievements are for everyone. Some games forget that and set up reams of achievements for a very narrow spectrum of gameplay, effectively cutting you out of the system unless you want to do one specific thing. I'm not too concerned about that, but it's worth voicing.
I still have to get in-game to see how all of this plays out, so I might very well spend the day you're reading this doing just that. I'll still read any comments you wing along to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave in the comments below, however. Next week, it's time to start wrapping things up for the year with a look back for both games.
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.