It’s official, I’m a Ninja. As of Saturday night this past weekend I managed to bring my first class in Final Fantasy XIV to level 50. Levels 46-49 seemed to be a bit of a slog but the last level went surprisingly fast. For those currently leveling in this game looking for a little boost, be sure to complete as many of the challenge logs as possible on the class you are leveling. The bonuses are remarkable. Completing three of these logs quickly brought me through the last leg of leveling and into the end game. Except I can’t really participate in end game yet, I still have quite a bit of the main storyline to complete. Currently the quest I am on is for level 46 players and I will also have all of the patch content to play through once I catch up to the level 50 ones. There appears to be plenty of time between now and the launch of Heavensward so as long as I do not get distracted I should have no problem being prepared for the expansion. However “distraction” should be my middle name when it comes to MMOs and chances are good I’ll putter around on a few other classes instead of focusing on the finish line. Legitimately, I will need to work on the Dragoon and Monk in order to get the cross class abilities I’ll need to be a better Ninja, so that distraction should still count as “focused.” “A focused distraction,” I like that. It makes my waffling on everything sound intentional. I did complete the Ninja quest line and now have a complete set of gear that has me actually looking like a stealth assassin rather than a pirate or a Swiss mountain climber who forgot to wear slacks. The story was pretty cliché but I enjoyed getting to know the two NPCs, Oboro and Tsubame, and hope to see more of them if Square Enix adds additional class quest content for Heavensward. The final boss was exactly who I expected it to be, but thankfully the fight itself was simple. Personally I don’t like these solo scenarios, and I want to get through them as quickly as possible so if I don’t have to play through it more than once, I’m a happy gamer. It’s not that I mind a little challenge but lengthy solo instances with a learning curve in any MMO frustrate me. In FFXIV for example a few of the quests for the Ninja class have had very specific mechanics you have to be aware of that do not appear until fifteen minutes into the scenario. If you don’t recognize what needs to be done quickly you wind up dead and have to slog through several rounds of trash for another fifteen minutes before giving it another go. Usually there are hints as to what you should be doing but they appear in the chat log and I am too focused on my rotation and what’s in front of me to notice the verbal queues in green text in the bottom left corner of my screen. At the very least I would like these scenarios to start me at the boss if that’s where I die rather than sending me back to the beginning and having me go through all the trash again. Nevertheless I am incredibly content with the class itself. The Ninja in Final Fantasy is quite possibly the best class mechanically that I have played in any MMO. The rotation is the right amount of predictability, complexity, and choice. There is a set pattern (albeit a complex and layered one) and if I spend enough time playing I’m sure I’ll be able to complete it in my sleep but it is one easily interrupted or changed based on circumstances which means you have to know how to respond to changes in the encounter as well as what to prioritize when the standard rotation is interrupted. The best way I can describe it is that you are juggling two priority systems at once. You have the abilities that come standard with the base class of Rogue in which you combo different dagger slashes for damage buffs, dots, and pure dps. Then you have a second set of skills learned as a Ninja based on three Mudra or hand gestures. These three abilities can be used in a number of combinations to produce different effects. These abilities used singly, in pairs, and in threes provide attack speed buffs, enable the use of stealth abilities while unstealthed and in combat, and provide additional single target and aoe damage. It sounds very complicated (and it is) but you are taught one Mudra at a time giving you opportunity to learn at a reasonable pace. That said, going from two mudra to three hurt my brain and left me wearing a lot of rabbit hats for a couple of days. Now I’m feeling confident in my Ninja abilities and look forward to getting involved with more difficult content as I progress through the end game. I think I’m finally settling into Final Fantasy and plan on maintaining it as a home game while I continue to play characters in other MMOs to max level on the side. As much as I enjoy multi-gaming and getting a taste of all the great games in the MMO landscape, I’d like to establish roots once more and I think FFXIV and the Ninja might offer me exactly that.