How it was: At launch, combat was kind of a mess. Even if I leave aside the piles of weaponskills that I'll be covering in a minute, the whole Stamina system added an extra layer of complexity and shepherding resources. Except not really, since you were really encouraged to just spam everything at the start when you had a full Stamina bar and then hope for the best. The net result was that you frontloaded a lot of basic attacks and tried to focus on quick bursts of TP, then limped on with whatever you had the Stamina to execute.
How it is: Stamina is long gone. Every character has an autoattack at a reasonable rate, and a lot of the needless fluff has been trimmed from the combat system. You can also perform combination attacks with your various abilities, and each weaponskill has an added effect under the right conditions -- extra damage if you attack from the left, chance to stun if you hit from the front, and so forth. The result is that combat is a lot more about tactical decisions rather than spamming things on the Stamina gauge.
How it was: Let's start with the basics. You got one set of eight leves every 36 hours, and that was it. That's even disregarding the fact that you get no rewards other than gil for completing a leve, meaning that the best strategy was to find certain leves, hammer at enemies for 29 minutes, and finish the last objective just before the timer trips. Not to mention that objectives were messy and frequently unclear, and you often found yourself knee-deep in a leve that just couldn't be regularly completed...
How it is: I'm going to start by noting that leves are still pretty much as repetitive as ever, and the diversity of them has expanded only slightly. That being said, these little nuggets of quick solo content now actually fulfill that objective, allowing you to grab leves, go kill things, and then be done. Difficulties have been clarified, and leves have been re-balanced so that all level 30 leves are roughly equivalent in overall challenge. Rather than being the only real source of content and confusing besides, leves now work correctly. Oh, and you now get a batch of four every 12 hours and can hold up to 99 at a time, so that's nice.
How it was: Levequests. Oh, and a lackluster main story. Mostly levequests.
How it is: Levequests are still there, but the game has added proper quests, Grand Company quests, instanced boss battles, and instanced raids. Not to mention the Grand Company leves and escort missions. There's a fair amount of content to take part in outside of an endless series of leves followed by making up your own goals.
How it was: Every single class was dripping with skills. I mean, literally, dripping, especially Conjurors. The problem was that for many of these classes, especially combat classes, it wasn't immediately clear why you should use one weaponskill over another. Of course, it barely mattered, since all abilities were equipped using the same pool of AP. This meant that you could fulfill the usual open-skillset dream of equipping every useful ability and no useless ones no matter what class you were playing. Enjoy having Sacrifice, Raise, Cure, Protect, Shell, Second Wind, and Invigorate on every single melee character!
How it is: Classes have to equip their inherent abilities and get a few extra ability slots, and only some class abilities even can be shared. There are a few weaponskills, each with a clearly outlined set of extra effects and combo abilities. You'll still generally be equipping the same utility skills to every class, but at least now the classes all play differently on a regular basis, and there are fewer utility skills to equip everywhere, giving you more range.
How it was: Pretty much every single piece of gear could be equipped at any level. There was a small boost if you were wearing something at or below your level, but in all practicality, you were best off just buying Level Awesome gear straight from the start. Of course, you'd also have the issue of repairs, which were a mess from either NPCs or from players. Repair prices varied wildly from NPCs, and finding the reagents to repair a given item could often be an entire minigame in and of itself.
How it is: If you're wearing something that's higher than your current level, it doesn't work. At all. It takes up a gear slot and does nothing for you. Repairs have been streamlined to use a single all-purpose material, and everything has a unified sane pricing structure now. You're actually encouraged to use gear, melt it into Materia, and then buy or craft something new.
Feedback may be left in the comments below or mailed along to firstname.lastname@example.org. You know, as in other weeks. Next week, I'm going to rant about missing the point, something that the Armoire has brought to the front of mind.
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.