I am doing the impossible: I’m learning how to play Final Fantasy 14 on controller.
This is a seemingly innocuous statement. The MMO was built with controller in mind since its inception as FFXIV was always meant to be both a PC and console title. However, unlike other MMOs who have limited skill bars that benefit from using a controller, FFXIV is as old-school as they come.
This means bars upon bars of skills, all which are used in a rotation to maximize healing, threat generation, or DPS in the most tense of moments. Using a controller, especially after spending so much time playing the MMO with a mouse and keyboard has been an interesting affair.
A little background: I’m playing a Red Mage, which let’s face it is not the most complex of classes to learn. While it still has a rather robust opening salvo rotation, it’s fairly simple when you get down to it, especially compared to other classes in the MMORPG. As to why I’m learning how to play the MMO using a controller, it’s rather simple: I’m playing it on PS5 now instead of my PC.
This is largely due to the fact that my work and gaming PC are one in the same. Sitting at my PC all day for work, while better than some of the other gigs I had that saw me loading storage units during the long, hot Vegas summers, can still be mentally draining. The last thing I want to do is sit there any longer. This also has the added effect that any game I play on that PC for fun feels like work since the surroundings don’t change.
Enter my PS5 which I got late last year (thanks again, Dan). Final Fantasy 14 has always been an MMO I’ve wanted to really play, even when I struggled to get into it like I did many times last year. Part of that struggle I realized was down to mixing the feeling that it was work with just genuinely enjoying myself in the MMO.
I often tell family and friends that I need a change of scenery to recharge and refocus. This was incredibly true when it came to switching up where I played FFXIV. Logging into the MMO on my PS5 for the first time was rather invigorating. I felt the excitement to play the MMO fill me the first time the Endwalker music wafted over my living room.
Logging in and seeing the cross bars, though, left me with a different feeling: dread. How was I going to learn how to play, especially knowing that basically no one I knew played with a controller.
This is where I think playing a relatively easy-ish class like Red Mage has helped. The standard rotation is, as I mentioned before, rather simplistic: fire off a Jolt and follow up with either Verthunder or VerAero depending on your Mana needs. When you get up to a certain level of mana you fire off your melee combo. There are other skills in there as well such as Accelerate and more to give you more instacast options to speed up DPS, but that’s really it in essence.
The major issue is that the MMO does a poor job of teaching you how to navigate the myriad crossbars you can set up. This is where YouTube has helped tremendously. Finding players who have mastered the controller, especially for Red Mages, was a huge help. Learning how to set up the bars I needed, the secondary bars, as well as change targeting and more to ensure that I wasn’t accidentally targeting an ally during a tense fight when I needed to change targets to an enemy (one of the major issues I had during the first dungeon I ran like this) was a God send.
However, while I’ve been playing tab targeting MMOs with a mouse and keyboard for years, learning the controller has been slow going. I understand the basics, I know the rotation and what I need to do in order to activate everything in order, but doing it at speed and under pressure is still an issue more than two months later.
This has come up while running Duties with friends and regular players. A friend of mine who has played FFXIV since it launched commented with a chuckle that the healer and tank did more DPS than I did on the first dungeon we ran while I used the controller.
Thankfully, the trial we ran about a month later I was able to make it up to him, out DPSing at least the non-DPS players. I still lagged behind the rest of the damage dealers, but it was an improvement.
It’s going on two months since I started this journey, and the controller has become my preferred method of playing Final Fantasy 14 now, even on PC. This is mainly due to wanting to keep building up muscle memory and keep it intact when I switch devices. Though, I would be remiss in saying it feels really nice to lean back in my chair at my desk after a long day at work and just chill running around Eorzea with a simple push of a thumbstick.
I’m not sure I’ll ever get as good with a controller as I could with a mouse and keyboard. There is a reason why MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft thrive as tab-targeting MMOs. But I’m enjoying the challenge - even if it feels insurmountable or ridiculous at times.
Do you play FFXIV with a controller? How do you like it and was it a challenge to learn? Have you tried and moved back to keyboard and mouse? Let us know in the comments below.