"Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn" – The Basics of Dungeon Crawling
If Final Fantasy XIV is your first MMO, you're probably feeling rather overwhelmed at the many things that you can do in the game. Playing with other people becomes more and more common as you approach level cap, so it would behoove you to learn the basics of dungeon crawling. During the course of this article, I will talk about each of the three roles in A Realm Reborn and give general tips that should be of great use to you during group content.
Given that I currently have a level 40 Gladiator, I can safely say that I know a thing or two about tanking. Depending on who you ask, you may hear that tanking is the most important role in dungeon parties (others may say that healers are more important). In any case, people seem to defer the leadership role to their party tank, so you'll want to keep that in mind. With great responsibility, comes great blame (or something like that). Here is the basic process of tanking a group of enemies.
- Use your ranged ability (Shield Lob for Gladiators; Tomahawk for Marauders) to pull groups of enemies to your position.
- Once the enemies have locked on to your position and approach melee range, use Flash (GLD) or Overpower (MRD) to keep them attacking you and stop them from attacking your allies.
- After your Flash, you'll want to use your enmity generating combo on the primary target in the enemy group. That would be Fast Blade/Savage Blade for GLDs and Heavy Swing/Skull Sunder for MRDs.
- My favored rotation for low-level tanking as a GLD is Shield Lob on the primary target, Flash the group of enemies, Fast Blade/Savage Blade, Flash again, and then keep using your enmity combo. While you don't have Flash innately as an MRD (a good reason to cross-class GLD to 8 at least), your MP pool isn't the biggest anyway. Overpower serves MRDs well. Just make sure not to spam it as it costs a lot of TP.
- You'll want to point enemies away from the rest of your party members, especially the healer. This isn't a huge deal in the tutorial dungeons, but enemies start adding strong area of effect (AoEs, for short) attacks to their repertoire as early as Halatali (Level 20 side-dungeon). Considering someone of those AoEs are one-hit kills (or nearly so) on healers, it behooves you to make sure your allies are not caught in the crossfire.
So, what's all that about primary targets? Unlike the greater part of the world of Eorzea, enemies in dungeons are laid out into groups of 2–4 (sometimes more). However, not every enemy within a group is equally threatening. Generally, you'll want your party members to attack the most dangerous enemies first, so as to reduce the damage you (the tank) take (which reduces healer stress) and also to reduce the chances of being wiped. A simple rule in dungeon running is that your damage per second (DPS, for short) classes should attack whomever the tank targets first. However, an even easier way to make sure that everyone is on the same page is to mark your primary target first. So, how do you that? With a simple macro, of course! I explain macros in the next section.
Using Macros As a Tank
Note: You can watch the video (credits to lowratehitman o YouTube) in the sidebar for a visual representation of marking targets.
Macros are snippets of code of up to fifteen lines long that you can place on your hotbar (aka. that thing that holds all of your skill buttons on the screen) to automate things that you do frequently. As a tank, you'll want to have a macro set up to mark targets with numbers. That will tell your other party members what to attack first. So, how do you set up a macro?
Note: The following instructions are for the PC version of FFXIV: ARR. If you have the PS3 or PS4 version, the process may be somewhat different.
- Press ESC to bring up the main menu.
- Click on User Macros.
- You will see six premade macros for things like greetings and farewells. The fifth button has a basic marking macro that marks an enemy with a 1 and automatically writes out: "Attack this enemy!"
You can tweak that premade macro to your heart's content and it will serve you well. However, here's a shorter one-line macro used by most tanks in FFXIV.
/mk attack1 <t>
Basically, using this macro will place a 1 atop your current enemy target. You can set up multiple macros for different numbers by changing the 1 in that macro, so as to mark the order in which you want your party members to deal with the enemy group ahead. This isn't so necessary at the start of group content, but your allies will love you for it by the time you start doing Level 30 and up content.
General Tanking Tips
Here are some other tips for tanking that will help on your way.
- If using a keyboard: You probably already know that you can move with the WASD keys of your keyboard. However, did you know that you can strafe (sidestep) with QE as well? Q will make you step to the left and E will make you step to the right. This is the best way to dodge AoE attacks that have a cone of effect.
- If you're new to dodging AoE attacks: If you remain close to the enemy in question, you can dodge line and cone AoEs by running through said foe. However, this is not the best practice since some enemies have cleaves that hit everyone in a short radius and you risk someone else getting hit. Even so, it's serviceable until you get the hang of strafe dodging.
- It's your priority to keep the healer alive in every encounter. If your healer falls, your own lifespan may be measured in seconds. Make sure to use Flash and Shield Lob as needed if your healer pulls an enemy off of you somehow.
- Keep up to date with your gear! This is basically FFXIV (MMOs in general, really) in a nutshell, but you need to keep up to date with your gear. Having healed tanks a few times already (been leveling up Conjurer when I get bored of other content), I can tell you that the difference between being undergeared and adequately geared is a gulf. It adds healer stress and makes you easier to kill, which are both bad things. In my humble opinion, tanks have the biggest community pressure to be adequately geared.
- Don't hesitate to use your long cooldown abilities such as Rampart and Fight or Flight. I tend to use Rampart when available and Fight or Flight during longer boss fights. A common newbie mistake is to hold said abilities for "a better time to use them". 90 seconds goes faster than you think when you're fighting groups of 3-4 enemies.
- Don't rush all over the place! Keep a mindful eye on your healer's MP pool. if you notice that your healer is running low on MP, for the love of Halone, please let them recover before running to the next group! I've heard of healers that make it a point to let their tanks die if they don't follow this tip.
Easier Healing of Party Members!
So, if you're playing on a PC, you probably already know that you can use Tab to cycle through various targets. For healers, however, there is an easier way of targeting allies specifically.
During dungeon runs, you will see a box at the upper left corner of the screen that shows your party's stats (HP, MP, buffs/debuffs) as well as whether they are casting a spell or using a weapon skill. It's really a well-constructed detail. You can left-click on the name of one of your allies at any time to target them. So, instead of having to Tab target like a madman, you can just click on their name and cast your Cure. Much easier, if I may say so myself!
If you're a healer and under Level 30, you are almost invariably a Conjurer. Conjurers are the only healing class in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn until Level 30 (at which point the job system allows Arcanists to become Scholars which gain some healing abilities). As such, you're highly solicited within the community for dungeon runs. If you pop up the Duty Finder right now as a Conjurer, you'll probably have to wait less than one minute (contrast with about two or three minutes for tanks and I don't even want to think about queuing as a DPS class) to join a dungeon. Of course, the role of healer carries a lot of weight. While tanks are looked to as the leaders of the party, healers may very well be the figurative and literal supports. Everything falls apart without a healer.
As a healer, you should know a few things.
- Do not overheal if you can help it. Overhealing is when your curing spell would heal more damage than is currently present on your target. So, if your tank has taken 100 damage and you cure for 140, you just overhealed for 40. FFXIV: ARR is designed to punish overhealing by applying an enmity multiplier on every point of excess healing.
- Instead, what you should do is let your tank drop to about 60%-70% HP (it's something you'll have to figure out during the course of a run as gear and play styles can affect the speed at which your tank will lose health) and then cast your Cure. Optimally, your tank should always be lightly hurt (about 85% HP left at worst) so as to minimize the possibility of overheals.
- Fluid Aura is your best friend for low-level runs. Attained by completing the Level 15 Conjurer guild quest, Fluid Aura is a spell that pushes an enemy away from yourself and binds them to wherever they land for up to six seconds. If your tank lets an enemy slip by, you can push them back. Just keep in mind that it is on a 30-second cooldown.
- Medica seems like a great spell, given it's AoE property. However, it generates a LOT of enmity. Use it sparingly, if at all. (The few times Medica will be strictly better than properly using your Cure will be when a boss uses an AoE of its own to damage the entire party at once, and that only if it deals a significant amount of damage).
- You heal first, heal second, and DPS third. What this means is that any time your tank takes a sizable amount of damage, you should heal them. If a DPS gets caught in the crossfire (and your tank isn't hurt), you should heal them. You should only use your damage spells such as Stone or Aero if no one is in need of healing (Aero is particularly good for that extra bit of damage against bosses).
- As already hinted in the previous bullet: Your heal priorities are yourself (if it comes to that which, hopefully, is not a frequent thing), your tank, and your DPS, in that order. If you die, a wipe is only moments away (with certain exceptions, but that's the general rule). If your tank dies, a wipe is also imminent unless one of your DPS is vastly overgeared for the content and can pseudo-tank (or perhaps is an Archer that can kite and shoot at the same time. If one of your DPS dies, however, all you lose is killing speed. That can be fatal in some boss fights, but is merely an annoyance in others.
- You are not a statue! If you are being attacked by several enemies, run towards the tank so that they can use their AoE enmity generators to draw the enemy group's hate. I've seen several healers just stay in one spot while getting pummeled. Not the best idea.
Your job is to kill! All done!
What, you actually want some substance in this section? Oh fine!
DPS classes are the most common in all of FFXIV: ARR. There are a whopping five DPS classes in the game. Three of them are ranged and two of them are melee. As of the time of this writing, I have not dabbled in any DPS class. However, I can probably give some basic tips based on what I've seen and read so far.
- Although I was being a little tongue-in-cheek about it, your job truly is to kill. The tank holds enemies at bay while the healer keeps the tank standing and you visit delicious pain upon your mutual enemies. If you are a Pugilist or Lancer, you will want to position yourself to the side of the primary target so that you can use your combos to their full effectiveness. I've had Lancers in my party that attack enemies from the front. That's not optimal at all.
Checking Enmity Conveniently!
As I mentioned in the healer sidebar in the previous section, the upper left corner of the screen is a veritable gold mine of party information when you're running a dungeon. Everyone would benefit from paying attention to the enmity bars. Where are these bars? Check out the photo below!
- Damage adds enmity, so you'll want to hold back a bit at the start of pulls so that your tank can stack some AoEs and enmity combos. Otherwise, you'll pull enemies towards yourself. For a short blurb on where you can see the enmity bars for your entire party, take a look at the sidebar to the right of this section.
- During mini-boss and boss fights, while it is generally the tank's job to keep everyone else safe, the DPS can reduce tank stress by attacking enemy reinforcements (called adds in MMO lingo) and keeping the party healer safe. Whether its best to do so or not is determined on a fight by fight basis.
- Some fights encourage the DPS to pitch in against adds, and other fights require the tank to pull the extra enemies. Generally, if the boss has strong AoE attacks, you do not want the tank to pull it around just to peel adds.
Limit Breaks 101
If you have played Final Fantasy 7, you probably know what a Limit Break is already. For those of you who haven't, a Limit Break is essentially a power move that can only be used at certain times. In Final Fantasy XIV, each role has their own limit break. Tanks can place a protective shield upon the entire party that mitigates damage for a short time. DPS get a power strike that deals roughly 10 times the damage of one of their stronger attacks. Healers get a global heal.
So, how do I use a Limit Break?
It's rather simple. When you enter a dungeon with a party, you will notice a bar above the party information box in the upper left corner of the screen. It starts empty and fills up as you clear the dungeon. Once you have filled up at least one bar, you can unleash a limit break. Go to the General Actions section (you can find it within the same submenu as your Character and Inventory menus) and find the Limit Break button. Drag that button to a spot on your hotbar and you're all set to actually use the power move whenever you are able.
In roughly 95% of dungeon runs, it is implied that the DPS use the limit break (more damage is always good). However, as you advance, you may find certain fights where the party is better served by the healer's mass heal or by the tank's party shield limit breaks.
Equipment Loot and Loot Etiquette
If you are an MMO veteran, you would probably argue that this deserves its own hub. After all, ninja looting (taking all items ever because you're greedy) is a thing in online games since ever. However, FFXIV: ARR is fairly good about limiting that as much as possible. When somebody opens a treasure coffer that contains a piece of equipment, a button will appear near the lower right corner titled Loot. Pressing that button will show you the item in question along with three buttons.
- You can only roll Need if you are currently able to equip the item. So, if there's a Lance inside the treasure coffer and you are a Gladiator, you are not allowed to press Need, as GLDs don't use Lances.
- You can always roll either Greed or Pass on the item.
- Once every player in the party has chosen what they would do with that item, the game organizes the rolls. The game rolls a 100-sided die for each player and gives the item to the person who rolled the highest. Need is placed above Greed so you are in zero danger of not being able to win a weapon upgrade (assuming you are the only player of your current class in the dungeon). Armor upgrades are a bit sketchier as multiple classes can equip different pieces of armor.
So, that's the loot system. What's this about etiquette? Well:
- Even if you have the capacity to Need on a weapon, you should not actually do so unless it is an actual upgrade. Greed on it if you really want it, but don't forget that you can cross-class in FFXIV. If you already have a weapon far better than anything the dungeon can generate, let someone else upgrade instead.
- If you have no intention of using a certain class, Pass on equipment drops for that class (I tend to pass on Pugilist weapons, as I am currently not interested in leveling up PGL). Let the people who are intent on doing so Greed on it.
Obviously, those two bullets are mere niceties and are not hard and fast rules that you have to follow. Particularly, if the entire party is running the dungeon thanks to the Duty Roulette, it's possible that everyone involved is over-leveled for the area. In which case, Greed to your heart's content. Even so, loot etiquette helps spread equipment to the people that will actually use it and reduce the "pack rat" effect that some people have when it comes to looting in video games that center around it.
So, that's all there is to it about dungeons, at least at the basic level. You will quickly find that the dungeons of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are rather nuanced in their mechanics. At that time, you will be best served by looking up tutorial videos on Youtube that explain the various boss and enemy mechanics of each particular dungeon.
I hope that I have managed to teach you something new about running dungeons in FFXIV: ARR. Before you leave, feel free to check out the video that I took my screenshot from (credits to Rhin STC on Youtube). It is a general overview of the first dungeon that you will have to run in the game.
Until the next time, take care and have fun!