Tag Archives: Classes

On Class Selection

Blaugust Post #12

Q: You can excise one class from every future game. Which? Why?

A: Warrior. Replace with something more interesting than ‘guy who hits people with sharp objects’.

Thalen wrote the above this morning, and it inspired this post. A while back, the developers of Mass Effect revealed various statistics about how people play their games. (Some spoilers for ME3 at that link.) It turns out that a very large number of people play the game as the basic Soldier, which was somewhat disappointing to me. In a game that has 6 class options with varying unique abilities, the one that “just shoots people” struck me as utterly boring. It remains one of two classes I haven’t played a Mass Effect game as (at least single-player).

Unexpected Brilliance

Mass Effect 3 wasn’t just a single player game; it has one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever played. It wasn’t quite so good at launch, but by the time I actually got into the game a year later, they’d added so much to the multiplayer that it was nearly unrecognizable. You have the same selection of classes from the main game, with a stripped down selection of abilities at the start (and honestly I don’t think I like most of the starting ability sets). What later patches brought was the ability to unlock additional characters with varied power sets. They’re still divided into Soldier, Engineer, etc., but some of them are different races with different strengths and weaknesses, and even the human unlockables tend to be pretty non-standard. The differences are pretty extreme in some cases, with the N7 Shadow infiltrator having a shadowstep and being more about murder with a sword than a sniper rifle (although it can do that too).

This brings me to my earlier point: Some of the soldiers in the multiplayer bring variety and interest to what would otherwise be the most boring class. (They’re still the class about shooting things.) There are two variations on slow, unstoppable powerhouse types in the Geth Juggernaut and the N7 Destroyer. The Juggernaut is large and slow with well above average health and shields, but comes with an immunity to instant kills and the highly damaging Siege Pulse power . The Destroyer is a mobile weapons platform, with the ability to slow its own movement in tradeoff for increased damage and accuracy, while also launching homing missiles at things that come too close. At the other end of the spectrum is the jetpack-equipped Turian Havok, capable of using its stimulant pack ability to run around the battlefield faster than any class that can’t teleport (i.e. the aforementioned Shadow and almost all of the Vanguards).

Lessons to Learn

I feel like certain other games are learning from examples like this. D&D5 comes to mind immediately, with subclass-like options for all of the base classes. Even Fighters get in on the game, with options I’m going to call “Standard”, “Battlemages are fun”, and “I liked 4e’s Warlord”. (On a semi-related note, there are a bunch of ways to make a character that can both hit things and cast spells, which one is primary mostly depends on what class you’re using to start.) I’d kind of like it if other games could use a bit of this, and make the “basics” not always so basic.

On Role Balance, Continued

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.

The Oddball

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.

On Role Balance

Class design is always an interesting topic for me, and Bel’s post about Final Fantasy 14 classes yesterday sparked a bit of discussion. Final Fantasy 14 has 8 classes which promote into 9 jobs, all focused on either tanking, healing, or DPS. Ideally, every class option would be equal for every role, but this is impossible without giving every class the exact same abilities. Let’s take a look at some of these.


The one I’m most familiar with by far, the two tank jobs in FFXIV are Warrior and Paladin. Both classes wear the heaviest armor and have a number of skills that grant bonus threat.Eventually (Level 30 for warriors, Level 40 for Paladins) they get a stance that increases their survivability, decreases their damage done, and increases threat generation. The differing way in which this is accomplished has led to some perceived imbalance in the classes, and at launch (a year ago) this was actually true. Warriors had more health, but not enough damage reduction (leading to the “healing sponge” complaint that Druids faced in WoW). In addition, they had nothing that matched up to the invincibility that Paladins have as their level 50 class ability. This has been tweaked, and Warriors are just as good now, but the perception still remains that Paladins are good for MT and Warriors for OT. (Interestingly, if you’re optimizing for damage, the ideal situation is the other way around.)

In the mid levels, there’s some actual imbalance. Paladins don’t get their tank stance until level 40, whereas everyone else gets a massive stat boost (and usually some important ability) on hitting 30, making the levels from 30-40 extremely rough in terms of holding aggro. (Survival is less of an issue, as Paladins have better cooldowns than warriors at this stage.) Nowhere is this more clear than in Brayflox’s Longstop, a level 32 dungeon; this is the first instance most people do with their newly acquired jobs as it’s required for the story. Healing this dungeon is generally harder with a Paladin tank than a Warrior tank, but not insurmountably so.


The two healing classes are Scholar and White Mage, and unlike the tanks these have been pretty balanced since the game relaunched. The White Mage is more traditional, with a toolbox consisting pretty much entirely of direct heals, with a long-cast-time shield spell (used before combat more than anything else) and a decent heal-over-time. The Scholar has a pet fairy that helps heal, and an assortment of shielding and damage reducing spells (They can also cross-class the White Mage’s shield spell). Because so much of their healing is preventative, I feel like people notice less when they’re doing a good job.

Not helping is that the class that Scholars promote from (Arcanist) is not a healer, so if you take that path you can’t queue as a healer until you get your job crystal. As such, Scholars sometimes reach Brayflox and have no experience healing in a group, which is compounded by the issue I outlined earlier with tank variation. It’s further compounded by the last boss making use of stacking poison, and Scholars not having a dispel until level 40.

The Longest of Stops

The instance I’ve mentioned twice in this post, Brayflox’s Longstop, is run by a lot of players more than once because of all of the nice things that drop out of there. There’s a set for physical DPS, a set for mages of all kinds, and a set for tanks, all with unique graphics, along with a full set of class-specific rings which are fairly nice. Since dungeons are also used to level now, it’s a fair bet that most players will also hit it many times during the 30s as they work their way up to Stone Vigil(the next required dungeon in the story) even if they don’t need any gear from there. While the game is fairly balanced at max level in regards to the above roles, it’s anything but balanced here. I have to wonder if the impressions left from doing this instance color impressions at the cap more than they probably should. I’ve seen both White Mages and Scholars carry groups on their back in the 8-man content. I’ve seen both Warriors and Paladins pull off incredible feats of survival (and I’ve personally done it a lot more as a Warrior than a Paladin). It’s a bit unfortunate to see one of these classes get the shaft in most rundowns.

There’s an additional issue of DPS balance, but that’s an issue that deserves its own full post.