As many fans of Final Fantasy XIV know, the game’s producer/director Naoki Yoshida (or Yoshi-P) is a pretty huge fan of PvP. Despite the game’s strong PvE leanings, Yoshi-P continues to make the case for PvP in FFXIV with the addition of new PvP content introduced to the game over time. But despite the team’s efforts, it’s never really taken off until the release of the game’s latest expansion, Stormblood.
FFXIV features two forms of instanced PvP: an 8v8 (or 4v4 ranked) player arena mode called The Feast and a 72 (!!!) player mode called Frontlines. The Feast is your straightforward MMO BG affair. The goal is to steal your opponent’s medals (each player starts with some and players killed drop their medals to be collected and added to your team’s score). The second mode, Frontlines, pits three teams of 24 against each other (one team for each of the game’s Grand Companies). There are three different maps for Frontlines available, each with different objectives.
Stormblood doesn’t add any new PvP content to PvP, but what it does is completely overhaul the underlying systems governing PvP combat. For one, instead of splitting PvP into multiple brackets, players can start queuing for PvP at level 30 and all players will be on even footing with each other. Whether you’re a fresh level 30 or a raid geared level 70, it doesn’t matter. Skill is all that matters in PvP now; gear is purely cosmetic.
Ability sets for each Job have also been separated from their PvE counterparts. Players now have access to only 10 pre-determined actions available per Job and while those abilities may share similar name or function to their PvE counterparts, they’re balanced completely separately. Combo chain abilities also correspond to a single button in PvP. For example, Dragoon’s get Fang and Claw Combo as a single button. Pressing the combo’s corresponding button repeatedly will take you through the entire combo chain (True Thrust->Vorpal Thrust->Full Thrust->Fang and Claw). The goal here was to streamline the game’s classic MMO combat featuring tons of buttons into something that is a bit less unwieldy. You’ll now have a dedicated PvP hotbar set up that the game will switch to automatically when you enter the Wolves’ Den or a PvP match.
It’s true that this reduces the complexity of PvP in terms of choosing how to gear and figuring out which abilities and setups are optimal for PvP, but not all choice is lost. There is a selection of role abilities (similar to PvE) and traits that players can select to fine tune things. It’s not ideal, but it’s enough for me.
One of the biggest draws to PvP in Stormblood is the fact that PvP is now an alternate means of leveling. Unless you were a hardcore player of PvP, it wasn’t really worth your while in the past. Now, you can spice things up by leveling through PvP as early as level 30 and it’s incredibly efficient to do so. In fact, Frontlines are the single most efficient way to level above level 60, even if you lose the match. If you’re someone like me who tends to prefer PvP, this is great news. From what I understand, the only reason PvP isn’t necessarily as efficient as something like Palace of the Dead pre-60 is due to the fact the Armory bonus experience for previously-leveled jobs is not applying to PvP at the moment. Whether this is intended or an oversight, I’m not too sure.
The end result of all these changes is what matters, though, and some nagging issues aside, I’d say Square Enix may have finally found a workable place for PvP in FFXIV with Stormblood. The moment-to-moment action is fun. Ability cooldowns are much shorter in PvP, so you get to have fun with some of your most high impact moves a lot more often. As a Dragoon, this means I really get to take advantage of the Job’s iconic Jump moves more frequently, and they are great both for their damage output and for closing the gap with enemies. Other abilities, used more situationally in PvE, can find new life in PvP. The Dragoon’s single ranged attack, a spear throw, is actually an execute in PvP, for example. As a melee Job, it’s damn satisfying to be able to just launch a spear at that pesky Bard who I had dead to rights but managed to flee by the skin of his teeth.
I’m not going to comment on balance issues since the expansion just came out and I have no doubt that some things may be imbalanced with such a significant overhaul of PvP gameplay, but there are definitely some issues with PvP presenting themselves that need to be sorted sooner rather than later. The most significant of which is the rampant AFKing being reported in the community. Since PvP is such a great avenue for experience and you get the same experience whether you win or lose, there are many players who are simply AFKing in Frontline matches.
Yes, there is an AFK timer in PvP, but there are players content to just move every now and then so they don’t get kicked out, while not otherwise participating in the match in any meaningful way. This needs to be addressed one way or another. Ensuring PvP is fun, playable, and productive is great, but the fun and playability will rapidly deteriorate if the mode(s) continue to be abused this way. My concern is that Square Enix may choose the easier path of nerfing the mode’s viability as an alternate leveling path by simply nerfing experience rewards rather than find other methods to ensure players actually contribute during the match.
What’s your experience with the new PvP in Stormblood been like? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!