A new season of ranked PVP launched earlier this month in FFXIV. I’ve only touched upon PVP pretty briefly since Stormblood came out, mostly to say that it has drastically improved, so I thought now would be a good time to actually sit down and look at it properly.
PVP used to be XIV’s big joke — it wasn’t fun, queues took hours, and the rewards simply weren’t worth the effort. Sure, you could get some weird-looking glamour items and the odd rare title, but that was really all you could get from it.
Indeed, there was a lot wrong with PVP when I started writing for this site. For one, you had all of your PVE abilities, which definitely weren’t designed for competitive content, plus a few exclusive to PVP. Your hotbars didn’t switch, either, so you had to try and cram everything on one set of bars or rearrange them every time you planned on heading in. I can’t tell you how many times I took screenshots and people would point to the icon for Farshot and ask me what it was.
Stormblood changed all that — now you can only use abilities exclusive to PVP, and there are far less of them, bringing the entire mode in line with something like GW2. Classes have been boiled down to their most fundamental form, and many have cool twists. Broil burns away mana and TP, making Scholar a cool anti-caster job, while a friend of mine describes playing Samurai in PVP as feeling a lot like Overwatch’s Genji — you can reflect attacks and you have a damaging forward charge.
The main mode people are playing is The Feast. I’ve not had too much time to knuckle down and play competitive, but a lot of the problems that plagued it before are gone. It used to be the case that, along with super-long queues, you’d often queue into matches against the same people because interest was so low. This doesn’t seem to be happening much anymore; the community is still quite small, so you might run into people you’ve seen on the leaderboard, but for the most part you’re rarely matched with the same people twice in a row.
The Feast is pretty good fun, although a lot of people don’t seem to know how to play it. Players have medals (essentially, your team’s points), which they drop when they die. Your team needs to have most of them when the game ends. The more medals you hold, the more vulnerable you are to attack. If your team holds all of the medals (or at least the overwhelming majority of them), the match ends early and you win.
What I’ve seen happen a lot of the time is people hoarding a huge amount of medals, becoming massive targets, and then running to the other team’s base, getting ganged up on, then dropping them all and losing the match. I don’t think this is people throwing games deliberately, either — I’m pretty sure people are just ignorant of the rules. Playing it with people who understand what to do is really enjoyable, though.
Removing the ability to chat in-match and replacing it with a series of preset phrases (sort of like Hearthstone) has done a great deal to tone down the sort of toxic banter you get in these modes. It does mean that telling people to retreat relies on you spamming macros that most players tend to ignore, and I expect that a lot of serious players would really like to be able to co-ordinate a detailed strategy, but it also insulates people from getting put off by unfair or relentless criticism and gives them space to learn. Given that one of PVP’s biggest issues was its lack of fresh blood, I’m happy with the way things are.
Some of the old problems with PVP remain. Healers, or the people they’re trying to keep alive, are extremely difficult to kill, and I really wish it wasn’t so easy to lose your limit break by canceling it by mistake. Queues are still a little overlong, too, though far better than they once were. But all in all, the mode is good fun, and finally worth taking seriously. It’s not perfect yet — I think there are some balancing issues that really need addressing, but as it’s level synced and gear doesn’t matter you’re able to switch classes pretty freely anyway.
The real test will be how the leaderboards look when the season ends. Everything is proceeding well now, but FFXIV ranked PVP seasons are really long (normally around three or four months, if not longer). If interest dies down, and inevitably it will to some extent, then we could face a return to very long queues and win-trading of the past. As it stands, though, I’m satisfied what’s there is enough to keep people interested — and I urge those who are on the fence to at least give unranked a try.
As a final reminder: The Garo event continues, and there are three mounts tied to achievements on offer. I’m not sure when it will end (some people suspect it never will), but they take quite a while to get, so if you have even a slight interest in getting a cool armoured horse, I would start working on them now so you aren’t caught off-guard if they announce it’s ending in a couple of weeks.