FFXIV Impressions: Combat

FFXIV has one of the worst-feeling combat systems I have ever played.

FFXIV_LevelDifference

Must be some hill.

It is not just the 2.5 second global cooldown, although that is a significant factor; it is the entire early game experience. I started with Arcanist, which is probably something I shouldn’t have done to begin with, and here are the levels in which I get buttons I can use:

  • Level 1: 2.5-second generic nuke.
  • Level 2: instant-cast DoT
  • Level 4: Summon and forget a pet
  • Level 6/8: 60-second cooldown gives a buff that let’s you press a button once.
  • Level 10: 2.5 second cast DoT
  • Level 26: 2.5 second cast DoT
FFXIV_Arcanist

Eww.

So, from levels 1-9, you press 1-1-2-1-1-1, then from levels 10-26, you can press 3-2-1-1-1-1.

I thought that melee had it better, but when I rolled a Marauder, I saw that the level 2 ability was a 2-minute defensive cooldown and I instantly deleted the character. Now that I look at the rest of the Marauder ability list, I do see quite a few extra buttons to push, but I was pretty exacerbated at the time.

I did manage to get a Lancer up to level 8, and I will say that melee definitely feels better than Arcanist at least, but my Lancer was a Miqo’te so… yeah.

FFXIV_Exenterate

I hate when I’m disemboweled for 30 more seconds than normal.

Now, I have heard all the arguments already – something something console gamers, something something players new to MMOs. But, Christ, this is vanilla WoW paladin-level nonsense in 2016 (or 2013, whatever). Regardless of whether it ramps up to having too many buttons to push at max level, the era in which a game gets away with having a boring start is basically over.

…or not, considering how FFXIV is clearly the #2 MMORPG on the market at the moment. But still! In terms of combat, Guild Wars 2 beats FFXIV hard enough that even FFXI gets bruises, let alone in comparison to WoW. The moves look fancy, but that’s just because you have to look at something while you wait one extra second * a million goddamn times.

[Fake Edit:] After writing the above, I realized that I hadn’t actually seen the WoW beginning experience sans Heirlooms in like three expansions. So I went ahead and created a “F2P” Starter account and rolled up a Warlock, Mage, and Paladin. Conclusion? As it turns out, WoW doesn’t really give you many abilities either:

WoW_WarlockPaladin

Paladin in particular looked pretty heinous, with Crusader Strike having a 4.5 second cooldown and Judgment not coming until level 5. If I’m looking at Wowhead correctly, it seems like Paladin is Crusader Strike, Judgment, Templar’s Verdict until… level 38, when Hammer of Wrath unlocks? Can that be correct? Holy fuck. I haven’t leveled a Paladin since TBC, but I’m pretty sure that was my rotation throughout all of vanilla content. At least back in the day, we had to recast Seals every time we hit Judgment!

In any case, one of the differences I noticed right away on all the WoW characters though was how utterly satisfying it was to kill mobs. The Warlock had 2.5-second Shadowbolts just like the Arcanist, but the Warlock was 1-2 shotting all the creatures in the opening areas. Hell, Corruption at level 3 was more than enough to kill them in seconds too. Try that with Bio and let me know how it goes.

So, basically, I’m sticking with what I said earlier: FFXIV has one of the worst-feeling combat systems I have ever played. And that negative feeling apparently has everything to do with the longer GCD and longer Time-to-Kill, rather than lack of abilities. Although more buttons to push would help a lot in making the combat feel less like a slog.

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Posted on February 9, 2016, in FFXIV, Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I agree that the early game experience can get pretty boring, with just one or two buttons to press. Do note that there are lvl 15 and 30 skills for each class that you gain through quests, and often add complexity to the rotation. They don’t show up in the class skill list until you get them though, which I feel is a mistake. Past lvl 30 you get the job skills which also add to your options, but suffer from the same ‘not showing’ problem since they all come from quests..

    I felt the same about the 2.5 seconds global cooldown at first, but I’ve ended up linking it. Each ability feels like it has more weight, and once you get skills that can be used off-gc, you can add them in the rotation without breaking the timing of buffs and debuffs. It also allows more time to watch the battle and realise you need to move out of bad things, which is not always easy when learning a rotation and having to watch the skill bar constantly.

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    • I’ve definitely been doing 100% story quests at this point, as I’ve somehow gotten above the leveling curve doing side stuff, and thus am trying to catch up. It might be that Arcanist was simply a mistake.

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      • Just don’t forget to visit your class guild / job trainer every 5 levels (every 2 in the expansion) for the class and job quests, those are the ones that give you your extra skills.

        I admit I don’t have much experience levelling a caster, I started as Gladiator/Paladin and it could get pretty boring unless in a dungeon when you have a reason to use your defensive skills. Marauder/Warrior and Lancer/Dragoon however were pretty nice, but I can’t say if it was tied to having more skills, optimized crafted gear, or the increased xp gain for your second and later classes. Probably a sum of all three.

        My experience with a caster was a Conjurer, and playing solo even at 30 you only have like 3 buttons to use, one of them on a longer cooldown, but I always assumed that was because I was playing a healer.

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      • Yep, I’m hitting the class trainer every 5 levels. My level 15 “spell” was a tanking version of my pet. Which came in handy in a dungeon later (ooo, foreshadowing), but did not actually change anything about what buttons I pushed.

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  2. I admit that I wanted to try this, but then I read somewhere about the 2.5s GCD and basically decided to forget about it. I’m used to feral druid madness and tended to fall asleep when playing paladin….
    If you want slow, tactical combat then do it the Wakfu-way and do it turn-based. If it’s supposed to be realtime and interactive, then it should be somewhat faster, otherwise I can just go play World of Warships, where at least one shot every 30s feels right…..

    BTW I agree on WoW’s assessment: the lower levels have a combat which is boring. I think the problem is that compared to vanilla there are more levels and more or less the same amount of abilities, so you if you want to keep people getting new abilities as they level up, they must be far apart. Archeage solves it by giving you a ton of new skills early on, then almost nothing after, which I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.

    I’m leveling a hunter and the low-level experience at least has resource management, since from very early on I got:
    – one no-CD serious hit ability which costs focus
    – one no-CD long cast ability which restores focus
    – one short CD pet attack which hits hard and costs focus
    so you get a glimpse of how things will work in the future.
    Heirlooms or not, leveling up goes very very fast anyway, so I’m not sure how much of this is a real problem.

    How fast do you level up in FFXIV?

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    • If you do straight-up questing, it’s slow as hell. FFXIV definitely encourages spreading out your activities: quests, “levequests” aka dailies, “guildhests” aka Scenarios, Hunting Logs aka “kill 3 of X mob,” and so on. The guildhests in particular are nice, as the first time you complete them as a given class you get probably ~25% of a level as bonus XP. There are FATES too, but just like with Warhammer and GW2 and every game with “dynamic” events, the majority are empty and boring completing by yourself.

      Bottom line: if you weave all the things together, it’s not too bad; there is no vegging out just doing quests for two hours here. Especially considering how much is gated behind the extremely boring (thus far) story quests.

      I will say that the Thaumaturge was a bit more entertaining to play than Arcanist, despite having about the same number of buttons, simply because you had a Balance druid rotation thing going on.

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      • What is with the names of these things? Levequest, ok that kind of sounds like level and quest mashed together, but “guildhest” I can make no sense of.

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  3. I think the main issue is Arcanist, like most pet classes, its a more passive approach to combat, especially because in FFXIV its a healer pet class, where even in dungeons it requires you to do less than others.

    Class aside, the early combat is boring, but like you said, in what themepark isn’t it like that? You brought up GW2, but to me FFXIV starting slow and ramping up is far better than GW2 starting fast and tapering off quickly.

    Switch classes and start running dungeons; that’s really when the 2.5 global makes the most sense to me (you can actually focus on what is happening on your screen and not on your hotbar, what a concept!).

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    • Not entirely true regarding the Arcanist, but I agree that combat complexity in FF14 ramps up significantly as you level up.

      I mained an Arcanist (back when the cap was 50) and the Summoner job played very much like a WoW warlock: manage dots, manage pet, nuke, spread dots to AoE etc. etc. Later on the Scholar was also similarly involved but… only at the level cap. A level 40 Scholar is generally bored out of his mind, unless he is also DPSing in Cleric stance. Generally a level 50 scholar doing harder content was expected to put his pet on manual and manage 2 bars of abilities + the pet. I have no idea if or how Heavensward changed things, however.

      I think the majority of the disconnect is when you hop directly from WoW (or a similar clone), where abilities are on rotation evey few seconds and the GCD can be as low as 1 second for some specs. It gets even worse if some of your abilities are off the GCD as well, and then you get the typical Feral, Rogue or DK gameplay of smashing that hotkey 2-3 times per second to save even that 0.1 of the GCD. When you’re used to playing like that, the 2.5 sec GCD in FF14 can be brutal. At least until you get used to it.

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  4. I *like* slow, steady, traditional MMO combat. I am a full-on advocate of hotbar clicking and standing still. One of the highlights of fifteen years of gameplay for me was playing a druid in EverQuest, spending hour after happy hour casting a 3 minute root on a mob from a safe distance, stacking dots on it and watching it die. And some of these mobs took three re-applications of root and eight minutes to fall over!

    And yet, even with that perspective, combat in FFXIV seemed slow, awkward and tedious. I played an Arcanist but I got to the mid-30s before I gave up and I had some other jobs to 15 or more as well – the one with a bow I remember doing, which was even worse. Far from finding things got better in FFXIV my experience was that everything got slowly worse, combat, exploration, questing, progression, you name it, I started off loving it (or at least not hating it) and ended up never wanting to see it again.

    It’s a very odd game in my opinion. As you say it’s clearly very popular, especially with ex-WoW players. It makes me wonder whether what Blizzard shouldn’t have done (or be doing right now) isn’t just remaking WoW with FFXIV-level graphics. Can’t help feeling that would get them back their missing millions overnight.

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    • They’d need to undo a lot of their design decisions as well in my opinion. This all consuming need to perfectly balance their game has led to an endless cutting/neutering of abilities that used to be interesting or defining.

      I really like these old entries about this issue.

      http://www.eldergame.com/2008/07/balancing-for-awesome/

      or

      http://www.eldergame.com/2009/07/the-warcraft-live-teams-b-squad/ – ignore the clickbait title. He talks about how developers can obsess over balance when their players genuinely don’t care.

      I started playing FFXIV because of the “one character, all classes” option. Because I figured (rightly so far) that it would reduce the pressure on the dev team to obsess about balance because the world first crew just swaps classes if one is better than the other. I don’t have to try to keep up with weekly “tweaks” to how much damage my class does, and my abilities still do the same thing they did two years ago.

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  5. Then at higher level (at least from my experience as lancer/dragoon), there’s a heavy focus on combo chains in order to keep up DPS efficiency which you really only get time to get into against bosses. And if you do a roulette dungeon, be prepared to have higher-level abilities locked out if you end up in lower-level dungeons, even if they’re part of a primary combo. @.@

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  6. A lot of the combat complexity is backloaded, and comes in much closer to 50 or 60. The thing is that there are a lot of off-GCD moves, and you can generally use 1 off-GCD in-between GCD attacks (due to animations).

    So effectively it’s almost as if there are two separate GCDs that overlap/interweave. GCD 1 has your main rotation, the one you start building from early levels, and is always full. GCD 2 has a lot of extra abilities, but you don’t always use them. For example, if you play a paladin, all your cooldowns are off-GCD (about 6 of them), as well as 3 or so damage moves. A machinist has several “rotational” buffs on the off-GCD, as well as their execute and several other damage shots.

    Personally, though, I like the slower pace. WoW has gotten too fast for me, especially with large amounts of Haste.

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  7. this is vanilla WoW paladin-level nonsense in 2016

    Damn, there went my planned comment about how it still sounds more interactive than WoW’s Vanilla paladin (yay for having to wait several levels before you can even do anything but auto-attack). But I do actually prefer a slow and steady approach myself.

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  8. Can’t disagree. It bored me badly enough that I don’t think I logged in past two weeks into my free month, and never continued my subscription nor returned. And no, I didn’t reach level 30 or whatever magical level is supposed to make it fun. There were too many other gaming options which WERE fun, not which promised they MIGHT be fun.

    I have only ever encountered one MMORPG whose combat I disliked more, and that was FF XI! (although EverQuest 2 is almost as bad, it just hides it by making the “rotation” 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 instead of 3-2-1-1-1-1-1)

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  9. When people quit playing WoW they often say something like “I don’t think this game is being designed for me anymore.” FFXIV feels like a game that is being designed for me. Crafting is complicated. Classes are confusing and complex. You can do everything on a single character, so there’s never any question about “what character do I want to play/get attached to?”. I love having to plan out what move I want to do next 5-15 seconds in advance while also tracking which move the boss is doing next in a raid.

    In my opinion, WoW has focused on “Playing your character well is easy. The hard part is learning every single incredibly complex raid encounter” as their design plan. FFXIV has gone with “playing your character well is hard, the raid encounters are strictly scripted so they’re easier to learn”. However they unroll that complexity over time, so the first levels kind of suck. Case in point, Arcanists/Summoners play like TBC-era Affliction Warlocks, so if you’re not multi-dotting mobs it’s going to be super-slow and boring. But at level 60 playing a Summoner well is really hard and feels awesome. Seriously. Death Flare is the best and every other job is super jealous that we got it and they don’t.

    Also FFXIV is a more patient game/community and I think that’s not an accident. I run the leveling roulette almost every single day and I’ve only ever once seen any unpleasantness once. And I’ve had groups fail mechanics and wipe several times without dissolving into blame and profanity. I do tank though, so I tend to set the tone early by offering to explain fights if anyone is new.

    Overall, there are some really terrible elements to FFXIV in terms of design/frustration. I still kind of hate the map. I miss continuous zones/worlds. I miss swimming. However, I *love* crafting and I find gathering relaxing. I love the community and dungeons. I adore my character (I do play a Lala, the running animation reminds me of my clumsy toddler when he first started running places and falling down alot).

    Sidenote: Log out/in at an inn. The animations are pretty cool. My Lala rolls over and jumps out of bed and “sticks the landing” like a gymnast with a big smile on his face, which is just about my favorite thing.

    Anyway, that’s about long enough. I guess I’d summarize by saying that it’s the best theme park out there if you liked Vanilla/TBC pacing and community. If you miss/like a sub-1s GCD though, you’re in the wrong game. :-)

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  10. It does get better, but I agree. We live in a world where MOBAs give you four abilities to juggle almost instantly. MMOs can do at least that much.

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    • I will say that the Thaumaturge was very fun for the ~12 (sped-up) levels of it I played, even with just two casted nukes, due to the mechanics of switching between the fire and frost modes. I think Arcanist would have been a bit better if there were more Energy Drain interaction instead of it simply being (basically) a 60 second cooldown.

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      • Thaumaturge is an interesting class, especially when they add procs to Thunder and Fire. I didn’t particularly like Thaumaturge/Black Mage until I got to 44 and got Firestarter (which gives your Fire spell a chance to proc a free instant cast Fire 3), and then suddenly I found it really fun. If only for the “every so often I can just completely annihilate an enemy when RNGesus smiles” moments. Which are super-fun.

        And, to be clear, I completely agree with you about early levels of Arcanist (and it’s my favorite dps class at cap). It gets better when you get 2 and 3 stacks of Aetherflow (and especially when you get Fester as a Summoner) but it is a pretty slow playing class even by FFXIV standards. I mostly leveled as Scholar in dungeons to get to 50. And again, I love Affliction Warlocks. It helped that I meandered from class to class, so I was able to add the DoT from Conjurer as well, so I had like 4 DoTs to screw around with.

        However, they really fleshed out the class in Heavensward by adding a second resource (I don’t remember the name) which is a stacking buff that you get when you use Aetherflow stacks. At 3, you can activate “Bahamut’s Favor” or some such buff that increases your damage for 15s and you go into a “big nuke spam and close with Deathflare” bit, which feels really impressive (and looks super cool). This really improves the feel of the class while you’re waiting for the Aetherflow cd to come back up, which used to be incredibly boring/unrewarding spamming Rune time.

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