Just as planned, my second character is aiming for keeping two ranged jobs on par to switch between them at will. And so before I proceeded to catch up with the Heavensward story, I leveled machinist first in addition to black mage.
Yes, it’s the same character here, but when you start with a new job, you start from the ground level. It’s like if your toon in WoW was a druid, then you decided to level shaman, so you start from scratch – the only difference being you level it on different WoW toons, and you level it on one toon in FFXIV.
Machinist (basically a steampunk gunslinger) is an analogue of “hero” WoW class like DK or DH – it means that it starts from higher level than other jobs/classes, but still has to level to reach the content of expansion it was introduced to. So to proceed with 50+ Heavensward expansion story I had to level 30->50.
What I discovered – and it was hilarious – that leveling an alt in FFXIV routine was exactly the same as in WoW (well, finally they have something in common, lol). I may stand corrected by savvier FFXIV players, but I figured out three ways of leveling an alt job:
- FATEs (or “world quests”)
- Palace of the Dead (roguelike group activity, aka FFXIV version of Torghast)
Unlike WoW, you cannot complete storylines (well, in case of FFXIV that would have been too brutal and virtually impossible, because the story is linear and doesn’t split into zones). But you can grab side quests appropriate to your level/experience rate if you skipped them. Anyways, questing is out of question, so we’re left with the three options I mentioned.
Palace of the Dead seemed very much like Torghast to me in every sense. A group of four via automatic group finder, non-specific about roles and classes/jobs, pew-pews through the floors and fights a boss in final level. Like in Torghast, you get some dungeon-specific items to facilitate your run, which reset in the end. Like Torghast, it has a small variety of environment/enemies to make runs slightly different. And like Torghast, the runs are excruciatingly boring.
After my third run I felt like I’m in an endless loop of corridors and rooms and started to feel dizzy. Maybe people love this activity for its pace, as a run takes about only 15 minutes to clear the limit of 10 floors, and queues are almost non-existent. But I just can’t do this. There’s zero thinking, zero engagement as you mow through endless throngs of mobs and after a zillionth corridor simply forget on which plane of existence you are. It’s fun for the first run – the pace is refreshing, but it grows dull too quick to consider.
The final – and the most imperial nail in the coffin of the Palace was the actual profit. My first run went to the drain, as apparently you start at “level 1”, so all my Palace level points went into covering the “gap” to 30 which I already had. So technically I haven’t leveled a single bit. The next runs start to count into your actual experience. After the next two runs, I found myself at 31,5. Considering how already sick I was from the Palace, I thought it’s totally no worth all the fuss, so I turned my back on the gate NPC to never come back.
Now, this option was out of question, and I was left with FATEs and dungeons.
FATE is a sort of WoW’s world quest – you see them on the map, you arrive there and may immediately join the fray – as normally it’s possible to complete only by several players’ joint efforts. Normally they’re quite fun and quick to do – for example, you see a group of good people attacked by a creature flock, and any adventurer/player may jump in and help with the kills. Sometimes it’s a boss fight, sometimes it’s gathering (from kill drops), but all in all, you come, you contribute, and get your XP and small coin reward when the progression bar fills and thus FATE ends.
The biggest advantage? Unlike WoW’s world quests, FATEs spawn all the time, so technically you can be in your level range zone and jump from FATE to FATE, they never run out. The biggest disadvantage? 10% of your level bar per one FATE completed. So technically you can level through FATEs only, but it’s not a reliable source of XP on its own.
Dungeon Runs. There we go, as this is what makes leveling fun (in my case), fast and renders leveling experience equal to WoW. In fact, so equal that it’s kinda scary :) At rush hour, group finder has you in dps queue for the same 5-10 minutes tops, and a dungeon itself takes about 15 minutes to complete. Runs are fast and quick-paced, people tend to collect several packs to finish them off by aoe, and normally do not stall, knowing their ways around. So generally you have to keep up and do your job (pun intended), which is quite fun. Unlike Palace, dungeons have boss fights, some tactics to execute and in general allow more variety and meaning than the endless loop of this damned roguelike – not to mention meaningful loot/transmog drops for current and alt jobs.
Finally, a dungeon offers a ton of experience – an average of 1,5 level per run which could be compared to pre-Shadowlands WoW runs rich experience gains (haven’t really leveled alts from scratch in SL, so can’t tell the modern situation).
And so, the alt class/job leveling is as follows: chain-queue to dungeons and do FATEs while waiting to speed things up a bit and not be idle. In WoW, it’s absolutely the same, with the only replacement of doing yellow quest hubs instead of FATEs in zones of choice. The only drawback is dungeon repetition – for example, I was thrown in Dzemael Hold three times in a row yesterday, but what’s new? And one more thing: few dungeons are raid-like arena boss fights, without trash and running, just an encounter. Which is a hooray, because no legwork and trash, 3 minutes and you’re done. But they would give less experience than a FATE, which means queue time wasted.
Oh, and one more weird thing: your level – and spells – scale to current dungeon. So, for example, you learn your big nukes at level 32, 36 and 40, then you go in a level 20 dungeon and find yourself with your hotbars inactive except for 3 buttons of basic spells. That’s understandable, it’s just a bit frustrating to be robbed of 80% of your rotation for the run.
Now I finished with the dungeons as I entered the current content, appropriate to my level. And now I can level machinist through the story, which is not just required, but by all means quicker and more fun.
Entering new content on a fresh leveled job was kinda frustrating. Until you got yourself some current expansion gear, you feel like a Suramar fresh in Legion. On your main job/class, you get a decent amount of gear through obligatory story raids, dungeons and currency vendors, so you transfer to the next expansion very well packed.
On your alt job, you suffer :) I bought what gold could buy for my current level, and still some random bat kitten creature (don’t ask) gnaws me to 10% health, and two bat kittens mean a guaranteed cemetery run. It required me to complete a couple of chapters and get almost a full quest gear upgrade not to feel like a paper doll, and only now I start to feel on par with the environment.
I found one more disaster that bothers me – in quest reward design. You see, story quests offer you rewards in turns, and it’s always the same range. Quest one always gives rewards for tanks and melee dps, and next quest always gives rewards for healers and ranged dps. So – as in my case – if you’re leveling two ranged jobs simultaneously, you have to pick one, and that’s a bummer.
Yes, you’re getting a guaranteed chest reward, but machinist and black mage can’t both get it, because you get to pick one. If you leveled a tank and a mage, or a dragoon and a healer – you’re getting them for both jobs, and that’s a bummer. If we talk WoW, imagine you can get rogue and priest chest, or DK and priest from story questline, but you can’t get hunter and priest, or hunter and mage, because they’re both ranged classes. Boooo!
I make up for it by throwing dice in dungeons for my alt jobs, and I’m sure I’ll buy loot later so I can keep both Black Mage and Machinist fit and interchangeable, depending on the mood I’m in today, but it sucks :)
So, that’s my alt job leveling experience so far.
I think I will try and keep both jobs fit and simply progress through the Heavensward story as it rolls. It’ll be a while until I’ll level other jobs, but don’t get me wrong – all three I’m playing now are simply amazing and sit so well with me. I love my lancer/dragoon (other toon), I love the slow and powerful exploooooshuns of my black mage, and I’m insanely happy with my machinist’s burst damage windows, quick-paced and hilarious. Off to level them!