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.
Final Fantasy’s Ninja job may be the reason I stick with the game for more than a month or two this time. I’m currently sitting at level 38 and hoping to be at 40 by the end of the night and just a week ago I was level 10. Part of what I find appealing are the roguish, duel dagger-wielding abilities with brilliant animations (all Rogue classes in every MMO should have an execute ability that has you leap on your opponent’s head) but the biggest draw for me is how the rotation is shaping up so far. I’ve not had this much fun with a class’s gameplay since I retired my Fury Warrior at the end of Mists of Pandaria.
Blizzard likes to change the way classes play between expansions and while I can appreciate some of their design philosophy in theory, in practice it’s just annoying. In preparation for Warlords of Draenor the studio did some ability pruning to all classes. It was necessary and never going to make everyone happy but for me the Warrior class got the worst of it. They removed the very thing I loved about playing Fury—Colossus Smash and the six second window of opportunity to fire off as many attacks as possible.
Colossus smash allowed the warrior to bypass all armor on their opponent for six seconds of every twenty. During this period of time you would try and execute as many Raging Blows as possible while also hammering away at as many Heroic Strikes as you could afford. Heroic Strike was on a separate global cool down which meant button mashing was fast and furious during that six seconds.
Playing a Fury Warrior required you to start out slow and methodical, careful not to waste any Rage while slowly letting it build for when Colossus Smash would come off cool down. Once it was ready you had six seconds to be precise and fast with Raging Blow, Heroic Strike, Raging Blow, Heroic Strike, Berserker Rage to enable another Raging Blow, then squeeze in another Heroic Strike. My memory may be a little rusty, but that was more or less the idea and all of that took place in a six second window—about .75 seconds between abilities. Then it was back to slow and steady. Patiently waiting for the next opportunity to unleash the fury.
When Colossus Smash and Heroic Strike were removed leaving the spec hollow I abandoned the class and focused on a Subtlety Rogue instead. While I have enjoyed my time in Warlords as a Rogue I am disappointed that I let my subscription lapse for several months before the expansion dropped because I missed out on the opportunity to get in a few more dungeons and raids as a Fury Warrior the way I loved to play it.
At level 38 the Ninja does not have a Colossus Smash ability and as far as I know it doesn’t get anything like that later on either. However what it does have are the Mudras and accompanying Ninjitsu abilities, all of which are on a separate GCD than the main rotation. That means while I’m slashing away with my daggers in steady, 2.5 second intervals every now and again I am flashing a series of hand gestures to unleash an elemental attack in between the whirling dagger strikes. I have no idea what the game play will be like at 50, but right now it is a nice mix of slow, methodic rotational abilities with the occasional series of short burst skills shoehorned in between. It doesn’t have the same cadence as Fury nor as many abilities to fire away in quick succession but the flavor is similar enough that I get a little taste of what I loved so much about my Warrior.