I said that the DPS classes in Final Fantasy 14 could use a post to themselves, so here goes. The DPS classes are divided mostly into melee, casters, and Bard, which is a special case for a number of reasons. Interestingly, this role is often referred to as DD (damage dealer) as a holdover from Final Fantasy 11.
The options for melee in FF14 are Dragoon and Monk, and I’ll just get this out of the way now. Dragoons have a terrible reputation for dying a lot. (Even the developers made fun of this.) Both classes require moving for positional attacks directed at either the flank or the rear of their target, and the target circles are fairly helpful in helping you figure out where each of these starts. Monks generally have to move more for optimal DPS, but are penalized less for not moving. Dragoons lose entire combos without access to the flank or rear of enemies. Monks have a fair bit of ramp-up time (which can be mitigated somewhat with their level 50 ability, Perfect Balance) that dragoons do not. Dragoons tend to do larger single hits, monks don’t have anything with a potency higher than 190. In return, monks hit very quickly, getting up to 15% increased attack speed and 27% increased damage once they’ve been fighting for long enough. Dragoons have more off-GCD abilities, with a lot of cooldowns and their signature Jump ability.
Dragoons tend to have high physical defense (only tanks have better) and low magic defense (literally the worst in the game), leading to them taking extra damage if/when they get hit by boss AOE, which is almost always magic. Jump does apparently provide some untargetable time now (I don’t have lancer leveled and can’t test this), but it locks you in place for the duration of its animation, and can lead to eating boss attacks if used at unfortunate times. Monks have a different problem, in that if their rotation is interrupted for long enough, they lose their buffs and have to start from scratch. Perfect Balance every 3 minutes is not enough to mitigate this every time.
Either way, having a melee in the group gives everyone a strength bonus (meaning more threat for the tanks) and more importantly, access to a single-target limit break. Braver, Bladedance, or Final Heaven (depending on limit level) are incredibly useful in group content. This is kind of a balancing lever in itself, because as long as melee are the only ones with these attacks, melee will never be obsolete.
The choices here are Black Mage and Summoner. Summoner is a dot-based pet class, black mage is more direct damage with a fairly unique MP management mechanic. Both classes have a bit of defensive utility, with Eye for an Eye from summoners (which is cross-classable) and Apocatastasis from black mages (which is not). Summoners are the only non-healing class that can raise during battle. Summoners excel in AOE situations since they can apply a large portion of their single-target damage to as many as 4 things at once. Black mages excel when burst is called for, because Flare is one of the hardest hitting abilities in the entire game (and with some tricks it can be cast three times in a row).
Both of these classes are limited in the amount of DPS they can do while moving. Virtually all black mage spells used for DPS require you to stand still while casting. Summoners are a bit better off since their dots and pet can be going even if the caster has to move, but they still can’t re-apply most of their dots while moving. As far as the DPS produced by each class I don’t know which is actually better. Summoner DPS is incredibly difficult to parse, as it involves 3 dots, a week filler spell, a ground-targeted damage field, various pet abilities, and one very large hit. It’s hard to get a feel for if the damage you’re doing is good, and I think that drives a lot of players away from the class.
These classes also have a damaging limit break. The caster limit break is Skyshard/Starstorm/Meteor and it does significantly less damage than the melee one, but it’s a ground-targeted AOE. Most fights that don’t call for the melee limit break use this instead.
Bards are unique. They are currently the only dex-based class, and have unique benefits and drawbacks. Bards have various “song” options that drain the bard’s own MP for a group buff, either TP regen, MP regen, or lowered enemy resistances; these effects are entirely unique to that class. In addition, they’re a full DPS class in their own right and can do their full damage while moving. They’re also the best source of the silence effect.
The drawback for this is that they don’t have a damage dealing limit break, instead sharing their pool of limit breaks with the healing classes. It takes a bit of awareness to play this job well, since leaving one of the songs (other than Foe Requiem) running longer than you need to means you’re doing less damage than you should be.
This post kind of got away from me. I find it incredibly nice that systems in FF14 promote class diversity, and make all of the classes useful in some way. It creates sort of the reverse problem, where too many of any one thing is bad. The generally small group size (8 for “serious” content) also mitigates class stacking, but makes fitting all of the puzzle pieces in much harder. It’s a nice breath of fresh air from things I’m used to seeing where if you could, everyone in a raid would be one of two classes.