PVP isn’t everyone’s favorite activity in Final Fantasy XIV. It can be confusing, stressful, and hectic, and feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the main game. All of that remains true after Patch 6.1 in Endwalker. However, the competitive suite did get a sizable overhaul with the update. Certain modes are gone or on hiatus while Crystalline Conflict replaces them as a much more streamlined alternative. Perhaps even more important than that, however, is that basically every PVP skill in the game has been replaced or updated. That means it’s time to swap out those hotbars before you go into battle and look like a massive fool.
Y’know. Like me!
Changing hotbars — those onscreen rows of abilities you need for combat and the like — is nothing new to FFXIV. The critically acclaimed MMO asks you to do it with basically every new expansion. Old skills get replaced; new ones get added. It’s the circle of life in a constantly evolving MMO. The way FFXIV handles this isn’t perfect, of course. It just grays out old skills that no longer exist. Usually you need to manually delete those and replace them with anything new. And there’s a lot new to this PVP update. Which is why I dropped into my “Frontline” Duty Roulette this morning and suddenly found I couldn’t do a single thing.
Every single one of my Dark Knight skills was grayed out (like in the picture you see above, taken from my PC copy of the game before I reset my hotbars there). You do get a brief grace period before Frontline battles — a window of noncombat as players ready up and prepare strategies. Yet it’s not nearly enough time to delete every single old skill, replace them with the new ones, and actually read what they do. As such I went into battle cold. Unprepared. Completely floundering.
This isn’t actually that different from my usual PVP experience. While it’s a good source of XP for my alt Jobs, I don’t play the competitive modes that often. I did slowly start practicing in the leadup to Patch 6.1. That way I could try out Crystalline Conflict and the revamped combat skills. Yet it was such a small part of my overall hopes for the new update that I still forgot to hit up the Wolves’ Den Pier and change my bars.
Once I did, though, boy did I have a shockingly good time.
Response to the new competitive FFXIV structure actually seems pretty positive across the board. Those new skills are heavily streamlined — just like the new game mode. They’re also incredibly cool. In my humble opinion, FFXIV has really sanded away many of the various Jobs’ gameplay identities over time. Most of the tanks play very similar to one another, for example — just with differences in potency and cooldown timers. By comparison, some of the new PVP skills are absolutely wild.
My aforementioned Dark Knight, for example, got a new Limit Break called “Eventide.” This reduces the Dark Knight player to just 1 HP. The tradeoff is that they also becomes invincible for 10 seconds while massively damaging enemies behind and in front of them. Not to mention they actually steal HP back from whoever they attack for those 10 seconds — kinda like the normal Dark Knight skill Living Dead. The entire Dark Knight kit, in fact, is largely about sacrificing HP to land huge hits and suck health back up, vampire-like, from opposing players.
To put it lightly: this rules.
Warrior does play slightly similar but with less zone control. Instead, it focuses on running into battle (or bringing enemies close) to build up inner rage. This shields and heals the Job — which deals more damage the higher its HP gets. By contrast, Paladin is all about party-wide buffs: granting reduced damage and invulnerability to nearby allies. And finally Gunbreaker, the gunblade-wielding class inspired by Final Fantasy VIII, literally gets an approximation of Draw and Junction from that game. You steal (Draw) abilities from opposing players and turn them back against them (Junction) according to which class you’re fighting.
I’ve mostly stuck to the tanks (the role I’m most familiar with in FFXIV) so I haven’t had a chance to check out how other Jobs play. Nor have I actually tried Crystalline Conflict yet. Though, just by looking at the Bomberman plus Overwatch hybrid, it too seems to have much more personality than your average skirmish. If the redone Job skills I’ve tried so far are any indication, I could easily see myself finally making PVP a big part of my day-to-day in the game (alongside raiding, crafting, etc.).
How interesting it stays over time does remain to be seen. At least for now other players seem extremely keen on the new stuff as well. Though that might just be due to the GARO gear returning to the game as a PVP reward. Whatever the case, this is the most lively I’ve seen the Wolves’ Den Pier since… basically ever. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts if nothing else.