Ragar wonders what the Dark Knight job means for the future of the Armory System
Hello and welcome to the 28th edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week’s column, we’re going to dig into another one of the new features of the recently announced FFXIV expansion, Heavensward. Flight, new zones and increased level caps are all great features of the expansion, but the feature many players were focused on during all of the announcements was the addition of new jobs. So far we’ve just had the one reveal with the Dark Knight, but there’s something unique about this job: the Dark Knight is the first FFXIV job option without a base class. So what does this mean for the rest of the jobs Heavensward and any future expansions will bring us?
Armoury System 101
Most of you are going to be familiar with how FFXIV’s Armory System works, but for any new readers I’ll do a quick walkthrough. With the current game players start off by choosing a class from one of the four Disciplines. Want to sling fire spells? Pick Thaumaturge. Looking to hit people with a giant axe? Marauder’s got you covered. Each of these classes has their own abilities and quests, plus they can mix and match certain abilities with their cross-class skill slots. Once a player has 30 levels of a class under their belt, plus 15 levels of a related second class, their job quest will open up. Jobs are a kind of specialization for those base classes – at their core they’re an extension of what the base class is capable of, but with better tools to do their role. In game terms this means access to new gear, new skills and adjusted rotations with a narrowed focus on the job’s role (DPS/tank/healer).
There is one downside to these new powers though – when a player puts on that soul crystal to change to a job, most of those cross-class skill options they had before are gone. Thaumaturges who go Black Mage become even more iconic glass cannons – extra damage potential, but most of the survival/healing/utility cross-class abilities they could use before are now unavailable. In theory this means that players have a choice to make when it comes to using their jobs. A tank or DPS who might be soloing could want to remove their soul crystal, so they could slot a Cure spell or some other support ability to cut down on their downtime. Alternatively, a healer could go sans soul crystal so they can grab some attack skills and do some actual damage. Of course, that’s not including the possibility of multiple jobs.
FFXIV currently only has one base class, Arcanist, with two advanced job options. For the Arcanist that loves DPS, they can dip into Thaumaturge for a few levels and unlock the Summoner job with new attack powers and pets themed off the Primals they’ve faced in the game. If healing is more that Arcanist’s style, the Scholar provides new support pets as well as a variety of healing and other support skills to supplement the handful of base Arcanist support powers. These two job options show the potential of the Armory System. FFXIV may offer players the potential to play everything with a single character, but many players have that class archetype that just calls to them. However the default role may not fit what they want to do. You may be playing a Warrior and your Free Company’s raid group is low on players, but already has enough tanks. There’s always the possibility of leveling another class/job, but you really like hitting people with axes. If another DPS-focused job was added for Marauders, this would solve both problems: your raid group fills an opening and you get to keep your axe.
Dark Knight: All the Unholy Fun Without 15 Levels of Subclassing
So what does it mean when Square Enix says that Heavensward’s Dark Knight has no base class? Essentially it means that the Dark Knight is a class and job rolled into one. As a player, once you’ve logged in on launch day and made your way to the Dark Knight equivalent of a guild, you can immediately switch and start questing as a level 1 DK. Your rotation will evolve as you continue to level, but since there’s no job gating like the other classes offer, the DK will likely have access to most of their gameplay systems and resources from an early level. I doubt we’ll see anything quite like hitting the normal job level of 30 and suddenly having entire new systems like the Warrior’s Wrath to deal with, but I could be wrong.
The other part of the DK having no base class means that we’re likely going to see their cross-class options restricted right from level 1. While the base classes may have access to Cure, Protect and other common skills to help solo questing, the DK is a full-fledged job and that means they’ll likely only have access to two or three pools of skills that all the other jobs are limited to. A minor point, but it does illustrate another point of this classless job addition.
Earlier I was talking about how multiple job options could give characters the ability to play the same character concept with different roles, like the Arcanist’s DPS (Summoner) and healer (Scholar) jobs. Currently the other base classes only have the one job option, so they’re in the same boat as the Dark Knight – their class role is the same as their job role, be it tank, healer or DPS. However, because they have a base class, they always have that potential to unlock a new job with future patches or expansions that give them new roles and abilities. For the Dark Knight though, barring a major shift in how the Armory System works, they’ll be a tank from level 1 all the way to 60 and that’s where they’ll stay. Want to change roles? You’ll have to put down that greatsword and change to another class/job.
The Future of the Armory System
Now that we know the Dark Knight has no base class, we have to question whether we’ll continue to see a base class for every job. Will the teased pistol job from the end of the London Fan Festival come with a starter class or will they follow the same path as the Dark Knight? The DK does set the precedent to allow for standalone jobs, but we also have the recent 2.4 patch and the addition of the Thief class and Ninja job. In the case of the Thief/Ninja, these two professions have some history together going all the way back to the original Final Fantasy, so seeing them connected feels natural. On the flipside though, if Square Enix is transitioning to classless jobs in the future, they could easily have kept these two separate with unique class questlines, skills, and combat playstyles all the way to 50 and eventually 60.
The Armory System has its pros and its cons when it comes to base classes and jobs. Like we said earlier, jobs add the potential of multiple playstyle and role options for the same base class, giving players the ability to change roles without having to level another class all the way from the beginning. Currently though, this is terribly underutilized – unless you’re an Arcanist, your only options are putting on your one soul crystal or staying with the base class. Since those jobs are the same role as the base classes, there’s very little reason to not put on the soul crystal, especially since most of the endgame gear is restricted to jobs only.
On the other side, if we drop the classes for anything new from here on out, players can switch to whatever they want without prerequisites. This means that we could potentially start seeing new jobs that otherwise wouldn’t fit with any base classes: Gambler, Chemist, etc. Anything that means more unique classes from the FF catalog is always a plus. However, this also means we start to run into problems with the way the Armory System handles changing jobs. Each base class has their iconic weapon to use, where equipping something from that weapon type will change your character to the appropriate class. When we add a job to an existing class, that job can keep using their old weapons and old armor; the only gear that needs to be added to the game is whatever job-specific set pieces they’ll need for endgame and the story. When we add new jobs with no base class, you not only need all of that equipment added, but now you need weapons from one to level cap to give them what they’ll need to level. You’ll also have to add many of those entries to the appropriate crafter’s recipe lists, various dungeon loot tables to properly incentivize Duty Finder queuing, etc. The other issue with the weapons for those classless jobs is that they all need to be unique types. If a weapon type already exists like the Marauder’s two-handed axe, we can’t add another classless job with two-handed axes like Berserker or Viking because of how the Armory System handles the class swap when you equip the weapon.
So what does all of this mean for the future of jobs and base classes? In all likelihood I expect we’ll see a mix of both classless jobs as well as job additions to the existing base classes. In the case of the Dark Knight, the iconic DK is always shown with a sword of some kind. Cecil from Final Fantasy IV made use of both a sword and shield as well as a two-handed blade. In many of the other FF games, particularly the MMO predecessor Final Fantasy XI, the Dark Knight is shown as this imposing figure in plate armor and wielding a wicked-looking greatsword. No classes in FFXIV use greatswords though, so there were really only three options: add greatswords to the Marauder’s weapon types, make the DK use greataxes instead, or make the DK a standalone job. We certainly could have made the DK use greataxes, but that takes away from their image somewhat. We already have a large imposing plate-wearing character with a giant axe, so what would make the DK stand out at a distance? Same problem with letting the Marauder use greatswords – if we want these two jobs with the same tank role to stand on their own two feet, they need separate weapons and they can’t be tied to the same base class. The same could be said for other iconic FF classes like the Gambler – they could certainly figure out a way to fit them into the game design-wise, but if there’s no obvious connection to a base class, why not make it a standalone job?
As for future base classes with advanced jobs, I wouldn’t be shocked if the new pistol job ended up having an associated class to go with it. There’s plenty of room for different classes based off pistols as well as firearms, from the Corsair to Engineers to the Magitek Knight I was brainstorming a few columns back. The same can be said for other weapon types and classes. If Square Enix really wanted to, they could expand on this system by using that secondary equipment slot. For example, we could make a Phalanx job for Lancers that gave them access to shields – this could give Lancers a tanking role for when they want a break from DPS. A Rifleman DPS class could have a Sniper advanced job as their default, but with the addition of a Magitek reactor or something equally science-themed for the secondary slot, we could make an Engineer job for them that offered support capabilities or potentially even healed depending on how it was built. There’s still plenty of room for growth.
That’s it for this edition of the Eorzea Examiner. What do you think about the Armory System and how it handles classes/jobs? Do you think the new classless job design of the Dark Knight is the way to go and base classes are unnecessary or would you prefer everyone have a class/job to allow for that sense of progression and evolution? If you think the DK should have a prerequisite class, what should it be? Now that classless jobs are a possibility, what’s a job you’ve been dying to see that just didn’t mesh with an existing class? Tell us in the comments below. If you've got any requests for column topics, add those as well – we’ve been doing this column for a year now and I’d love to involve the readers more. Until next time, see you in Eorzea.
Michael “Ragar” Branham