Stormblood is here! After a rough launch in which Raubahn single-handedly (see what I did there?) held up the main quest for most of us and everybody learned to queue like the British, things are finally straightening out, and we’re finally able to explore the brave new world of Othard and Ala Mhigo.
I’m going to hold off on discussing the Main Scenario because I don’t want to spoil anything, but so far the expansion really, really good, and I genuinely want to find out what will happen. The dungeon and environment design seem significantly better than Heavensward, and even swimming, which I tend to hate in MMOs, is a welcome addition.
Even ‘old’ content like PVP — which for a long time has been FFXIV’s red-headed stepchild game mode — has been massively improved, and the new classes are great fun. I’m not done yet, but so far, I’m super impressed.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, but my first Stormblood column is going to be about the Samurai. Now we’re able to play the job seriously outside of a preview environment, I’ve been able to get a proper feel for it, and what I’ve seen has impressed me so much that I’ve decided to make it my main job. (Fortunately, my static needed a melee DPS, making them the only group of people on XIV who need a Samurai, as the job is hugely popular.)
Since I first started playing MMOs seriously, I’ve longed to play a DPS that focused on two-handed weapons. I played Rogue in WoW, and while I liked dual-wielding I was always pretty jealous of Hunters and Warriors being able to use huge blades. Thankfully, Square Enix has answered my prayers, because man, it’s everything I wanted it to be and more.
The Samurai uses Katanas and generates ‘Kenki’, which is fairly similar to the Warrior’s Rage mechanic in WoW. It feels a little bit like Fury warrior, too; In my first few hours, I was charging from enemy to enemy, doing huge damage and never staying still for very long. On top of Kenki, you also generate Sen, which are essentially tokens which allow you to do different skills. Two Sen gives you an AoE, for example, while three (the maximum) lets you use a 720 potency attack that hits like a small limit break. It’s really good fun, even in routine content such as FATEs.
The abilities are beautiful. Generating clouds of sakura petals and drawing the moon with your sword never gets old, or at least it hasn’t yet. My girlfriend also plays XIV, and when she saw me playing SAM and one of the first things she said was ‘God, that’s gorgeous’ — and it is.
But looks aren’t everything, and Samurai is backed up by feeling really damn good. I was a little sceptical when people said the abilities flowed into each other really well — after all, it’s a melee class in which a couple of abilities have cast times — but they really do. The rotation is natural to the point where you can easily work it out without googling guides, and the maintenance buffs don’t feel like an arbitrary chore to keep up, instead fitting neatly into what you’re already doing.
The job really opens up at level 62, once all of your abilities start generating Kenki. At that point, the full rotation is essentially available to you, and man, it’s really satisfying. Not only do you do real damage, but you have some incredibly satisfying movement skills, too. Samurai has a genuinely engaging AoE rotation, too. It’s a far cry from spamming Spread Shot until your TP runs out.
As someone that struggled with Blood of the Dragon and Mudras on Dragoon and Ninja, Samurai is totally manageable by comparison, and the off-GCD abilities aren’t that troublesome to weave in between your other abilities. I’m very surprised that there are no positionals, and I expect that to be tweaked at some point, but who knows; with the changes to the way accuracy works, attacking anywhere but the back might be really risky.
If you’ve tried Samurai in Palace of the Dead or something like that and you’ve decided you’re not really into it, I’d strongly advise you to revisit the job once you’ve got your main to level 70 and things have settled down a little. It feels challenging and natural in equal measure, and it has its own identity as a methodical heavy hitter; it’s just not a Monk with a katana. With really high personal DPS and shared role abilities to give the job utility in groups, Samurai feels complete. That’s an astonishing achievement for a job hasn’t been patched or balanced in any way.
I’m a bit of a hipster in that I like to play unusual or underplayed jobs. But jobs tend to be underplayed for two reasons: they’re either hard, or they’re bad. At first glance, Samurai is neither. I suppose the Asian aesthetic coupled with the fact that it’s genuinely fun means that loads of people are playing it. In fact, the job is so fun that it’s convinced me to go mainstream and main something everybody seems to like, even if it means groups need me slightly less. So Well played, Square Enix — that’s one less hipster in the world.