Eorzea continues to be a ridiculously fun place to run around in.
Actually, let me take a moment to mention the OTHER thing I’ve been playing, which is Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It’s about as far from a high-fantasy MMO as you can get, but I have been having a really good time playing it with an old friend and one-upping each other on the many ways to destroy helicopters that we have just carefully liberated from the Evil Cartel. I am not sure whether him landing a helicopter directly in the middle of a river trumps the time I set one down in an alley just wide enough for the body but – critically – not wide enough for the rotors, but either way we have not been kind to the flying machines of fictional Bolivia. If you enjoy slowly opening up a map covered with icons and then methodically going to each and every one of those icons and clearing it, I profoundly recommend this game. Moving on.
The most notable feature of Final Fantasy XIV – apart from, you know, it being full of references to older Final Fantasy games – is the ability of every character to take on every possible job. You can go from a hulking meat shield to a glass cannon with the simple switch of your weapon, and this means that you will theoretically never get stuck in the position of having devoted hundreds of hours to a character who is suddenly “off-meta” and fundamentally undesirable for group content. It’s a pretty brilliant thing.
Of course, it means that you can lose a stunning amount of free time to levelling all of those other jobs. This game can be murder if you have an alt habit.
In the last few weeks, I’ve completed two expansions worth of story, gone through all of the normal-difficulty raid content for the most current expansion, and found a really good Free Company (FFXIV’s version of guilds), full of people to hang out with. I am 100% prepped for the launch of Shadowbringers on the 28th, and could theoretically stop playing while I wait for that to come out.
One of my biggest worries with FFXIV when I decided to come back was that I really enjoy playing tank classes, but certain MMOs make it very difficult to actually do so effectively. Everquest 2 will always come to mind here, with its 24-man raids that demanded eight healers, eight “support” classes, seven random DPS classes and a single tank. Getting that single tank spot was like winning a lottery. Getting the gear needed to even buy a lottery ticket? You had best be Midas levels of rich.
FFXIV reserves tank slots at a 1/4 or 1/8 ratio, depending on the content you’re doing, so there is always demand for tanks. Gear? Well, if you’re doing a dungeon as a tank and a piece of plate armor drops, you get first dibs – you’re not losing that to the wizard. You also get a guaranteed piece of gear at the end of almost every dungeon on your way to the level cap, so you are always getting stronger.
The FFXIV team also made some design decisions that vastly improve the general feel of tanking.
Aggro, for example. Enmity, to use the FFXIV term. THE most important thing about tanking in any MMO, since you don’t get to use that armor rating and all of those hit points unless the enemies are trying to kill YOU and not the other, squishier, group members.
When I last played FFXIV, enmity came almost exclusively from damage output. Tanks, being generally lower on the dps scale, had a tremendous disadvantage here, so the meta – I really hate that word, but let’s roll with it – was for tanks to use as much dps gear as they could. Optimizing for taking hits was considered to make you a poor player.
(And, arguably, this was true for the very highest-end content. Of course, the attitudes tended to filter down into levels of play where they had no place being.)
At some point in the last few years, someone decided that this was dumb, and now tanks have abilities and stances that generate considerable enmity without actually doing a ton of damage. There’s no need to straddle the line between the tank role and the dps role – unless, yes, you are doing that super high-end content.
So, in case you haven’t gotten the gist of where I’m heading yet, FFXIV makes it fun to tank and easy to do so if you want to. Since I like tanking, this is basically an MMO made for me.
And, if I ever get tired of soaking hits, I just need to change out my Big Damn Axe for a grimoire and suddenly I am the frail magic user at the back of the group who must be protected at all costs.
Oh, and there’s mahjong.