I decided that I was going to get over my “rut” with Final Fantasy XIV today and get my mojo back, so I booted it up and decided to try something I hadn’t done before: give Dark Knight a go.
Dark Knight is the new tanking class that was added in the Heavensward expansion. So far, I’ve levelled Paladin (the main “defense tank”) to 60 as my main, and I have Warrior (the main “wallopy tank”) at 50, so I have a reasonable understanding of it. Dark Knight was a bit of a mystery, though; although I’d read a bit about it, I didn’t really have a bead on how it might actually feel to play it.
Turns out it feels like a hell of a lot of fun — far more so than the rather weedy-but-graceful-feeling Paladin, and, for my money, also more so than the cumbersome swings and heavy hits of Warrior.
I’ve only levelled fro 30-34 so far (you start Dark Knight at 30, unlike pre-expansion classes, which start at 1) so I don’t have a huge amount of experience as yet, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done. The class feels like a good balance between the relatively straightforward, set combos and defense of Paladin and the more intricate combos and damage-buffing of Warrior. There also seems to be a bit more in the way of “stance-dancing”, since there are a number of abilities that only work when you have a specific status effect active — or in some cases, if you don’t have it active. The skill “Blood Weapon”, for example, which increases your attack speed and allows you to drain MP from enemies, will not work if you’re in the defensive “Grit” stance, but that’s fine, since Blood Weapon is an offensive skill and Grit carries a hefty damage penalty, so the two aren’t really compatible.
I like this way of playing; rather than Paladin’s approach of sticking with Shield Oath most of the time and giving it a bit of Sword Oath only when you have a hefty aggro lead on the rest of your party, Dark Knight allows you to switch back and forth a lot more freely, giving combat a much more dynamic feel. The rhythm I was getting into by the end of tonight’s session saw me doing my basic aggro combo, weaving in the “Low Blow” stunning kick (which is off the global cooldown) and also dropping in the off-GCD “Reprisal” proc to reduce enemy damage after a successful parry. Then, when Blood Weapon was up — it actually has a pretty short cooldown — I’d drop Grit, hit Blood Weapon, unleash as many attacks as I could manage — including DRK’s DoT, which, unlike PLD’s, isn’t part of a combo, so can be applied immediately — before switching back into Grit again once Blood Weapon dropped. The timing of Blood Weapon’s cooldown usually meant that I could rotate defensive cooldowns at the same time as throwing up Blood Weapon, too, so I could mitigate at least some of the increased damage I’d be taking by dropping Grit’s considerable (20%) reduction in incoming damage.
DRK’s AoE aggro move is also a bit more intuitive than PLD’s Flash, whose radius I’m still not entirely 100% sure of. Unleash, meanwhile, displays a very clear area of effect when you use it, making it extremely apparent whether your positioning is right or not. It’s not quite as satisfying as WAR’s cone-area Overpower, being a weird-looking spell with an annoying sound effect rather than a distinctly HULK SMASH-style swing of your axe, but I’ve also found so far that DRK appears to be able to hold aggro pretty well even with only a couple of Unleashes at the start of the fight — perhaps a side-effect of its increased damage when compared to something like PLD.
I’m digging DRK so far, then, and although it’s another tank class like my main, it feels different enough from PLD already that I feel like it’s going to be enjoyable to level. And who knows? I might even end up maining it if and when I get it to 60.