"But Dark Knights in the franchise aren't tanks!"
First off, I want to make it clear that I totally understand players who do not want to tank. I get that. Tanking, as I have said elsewhere, can be a crazy high-stress role, and it's a pain to be a tank learning a dungeon for the first time, especially when the game you're tanking in loves to throw you unexpected curveballs, which Final Fantasy XIV does frequently. And I can totally understand wanting to wield fulminating darkness and drains as a DPS role -- that's completely understandable.
That having been said, Leon of Final Fantasy II was a beefy sort, and he's the first Dark Knight in the series. The class that would become Dark Knight in the Final Fantasy III remake was pretty tanky in the original game. Cecil was functionally the tank of the group during his time as a Dark Knight in Final Fantasy IV, the class was quite durable in Final Fantasy X-2, and the Dark Knights of Final Fantasy Tactics are crazy durable and can outlast and outmove everyone. Final Fantasy Dimensions even gives the class access to a direct aggro draw, despite the fact that the game doesn't quite feature tanks in the traditional sense.
Final Fantasy XI did not make Dark Knights into tanks. Then again, the game also didn't make anyone into strictly anything until much later in its lifespan. It was a game with class design that generally aimed toward throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and then seeing what stuck. Claiming that Dark Knights must be damage dealers as a result of that one game also neglects the game's chronic problem with finding proper tanks, or the many ways that players could put together a party to mitigate or eliminate the normal Dark Knight issues.
Final Fantasy XIV's take on Dark Knight is a tank. And really, a warrior in heavy armor with a huge sword that's spreading contagion around as a tank is an idea I love every time it comes around. I loved World of Warcraft's Death Knight tanking (or at least, I did when you could tank as Frost, but that's another discussion). The fact that this is where the class went is no more or less valid than deciding that this game's Ninjas are not tanks.
And if you want a DPS class to play that wields a big weapon in slow and dangerous arcs? Well, Dragoons exist. And I'd be surprised if we don't find out we're also getting another melee DPS class (my money is on five new jobs in total: new tank, new healer, new ranged DPS, new magic DPS, new melee DPS). I totally understand wanting to bring back your scythe-wielding damage dealer from Final Fantasy XI and dropping Papa Roach references in your Last Resort macros again, but that's not what we're getting any more than Dragoons are getting wyverns. Things change.
You will have to decide whether your want to play a Dark Knight outweighs your desire to not tank. I find it an easy debate, since I like tanking anyway. (Especially if it's not as boring as Paladin.)
No base class, starting new
This was the other big surprise about Dark Knight, and it ties into something a lot of people have speculated about: Classes are kind of surplus to requirements at this point. This may or may not be true, depending on further job reveals.
The idea of the class/job split is functional enough. Rather than create a new class from the ground up each time the team wants a new specialization, it creates a job, and you don't even have to re-level the class. In an ideal world, this makes it easy to have a single class that branches off into multiple different roles with different priorities. Arcanist branches into Summoner and Scholar, which play differently and are both fun. And... then no other class does that at all, so you wind up with one class that has a split and others that always become the same thing when they change.
And now Dark Knight isn't even bothering. That could mean lots of things, really. The obvious possibility is that the game is just doing away with base classes in the future, but I tend to doubt that, simply because we've got a new class coming out tomorrow, and as much as I already love Ninja with every part of my body it seems like it would be silly to launch Rogue to Ninja pre-expansion when the future plan is to get rid of Rogue in the first place.
So why? Well, one possibility is that Dark Knight is starting as a job because it's not going to work as a class does. Classes start you in one of the three nations with a new class to advance; Dark Knight may start off somewhere else. Picture, for a moment, the possibility that starting Dark Knight immediately throws you into an Ishgardian camp, ending with your taking a trip to one of the three nations once you hit level 15. It'd still be functionally integrated with the rest of the game, while at the same time it'd fit in with not having a guild in one of the three main cities.
Another possibility is that the job is explicitly meant to avoid any potential repurposing by having no abilities that can be cross-classed. That also makes some sense; it allows Dark Knight to get in on some casting abilities that tanks generally lack in the game without breaking balance. For that matter, it could be that the base class would need to have all sorts of fulminating-darkness-related abilities that just did not map well into potential cross-class skills for anyone.
Or Square really is going to get rid of base classes in the future, which is a distinct possibility. It's just not where I'll put my money.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. As much as I would have liked to talk more about stuff from London like flying mounts and the adorably fat Vanu Vanu, there just was not the space today, and tomorrow I'm going to be waking up at 4 a.m. to start blasting forward on Ninja. So expect to hear about that in a week.
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 other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.