FFXIV Dawntrail's New Jobs Are Already Some of My Favorites In the Entire Game

A painter and an assassin walk into a bar.

FFXIV Dawntrail Pictomancer
Square Enix

I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV for nearly a decade, and in that time, like most players, I’ve found my preferences for jobs and content. So, my biggest surprise after nearly six hours of playing Dawntrail is that I might have found a new favorite job, maybe even a replacement for my tried and true ones. The two new DPS roles coming with the expansion are brilliant additions that feel like a much-needed breath of fresh air, and that hearkens to the general feeling of Dawntrail at large. This is the start of a new era for Final Fantasy XIV, and the expansion wants you to know it.

After Endwalker, which brought a close to the decade-long Hydaelyn and Zodiark storyline, Dawntrail kicks off a brand new story. Director Naoki Yoshida has previously described this expansion as a “summer vacation,” and that’s abundantly clear in the lush forests and dappled beaches of the new continent, Tural.

FFXIV’s first graphical update looks fantastic in motion, making environments feel much more lush and detailed.

Square Enix

During our hands-on session, we had the chance to roam around two of Dawntrail’s massive tropical zones, test out the new Viper and Pictomancer jobs, run the first dungeon, and get a feel for some of the other big job changes. In short, this is a massive expansion that’s bringing a lot of new elements and refinement, including Final Fantasy XIV’s first graphical update.

The graphical update is a substantial step up, even in this preview version that lacks a lot of the NPCs that will populate Dawntrail. The environments and vegetation look so much more lush and full, textures more refined, and buildings and cities packed to the brim with details and objects. Dawntrail is continuing FFXIV’s trend of giving you grand cities to explore, filled with life and culture. My personal favorite detail is the slightly cute, somewhat disgusting baby Mamool Ja that I stumbled upon. These new environments, including the new hub city of Tulilloyal, were clearly designed with the graphical update in mind, and feel markedly different from anything else in the MMO.

Urqopacha is home to the diminutive Pelupelu, who use adorable llamas to carry out a variety of merchant tasks. This zone felt more like a mountainous highlands area, versus the lush jungle of the other zone, Kozama’ukam, filled with crushing waterfalls and dank swamps.

As much as I’m interested in exploring the new lands of Tural, the real star of the show is the wealth of job changes and additions coming to this expansion. Both Viper and Pictomancer feel drastically different from any other job in the game. While I found Pictomancer to be bright and peppy, I almost couldn’t believe how much fun I was having with Viper.

The Final Fantasy 9-inspired job is an absolute whirlwind in battle, juggling multiple different rotations at once with almost no downtime whatsoever. Viper has two different single-target and AoE (area-of-effect) rotations that it swaps between, and an additional rotation of each that it can loop in between cooldowns. Between using all these powers, there’s barely a second that you’re not actively pressing a button or activating a skill. This breakneck pace is utterly thrilling and makes great use of Dawntrail’s simplified one-button approach to skills.

As you use weaponskills you’ll gain stacks of Rattling Coil, which can be used for a unique attack. You’ll also raise your Serpent’s Ire gauge which, when full, lets you enter a trance-like state that changes your weapon skills to more powerful, and even more visually dazzling, versions. Playing Viper is intense, and takes some getting used to, but boy does it feel satisfying. That high speed and intensity may mean I don’t want to play Viper all the time, but I can already tell it’s going to be my primary job for the new content in Dawntrail.

The Pictomancer is almost the exact opposite of Viper, a slower-paced job with a wildly unique mechanic that lets you dynamically adjust to any situation, and provide some great support to the party. The core mechanic of Pictomancer is its Canvases, three boards that allow you to paint different “motifs.” This is honestly a bit difficult to explain, so I’d recommend watching the video below, but essentially each motif allows you to use unique weaponskills, which can then be comboed into other skills. The motif types are Creature (mostly AoE attacks), Weapon (Mostly Single Attacks), and Landscape (Mix of AoE and support). To properly play Pictomancer, you’ll want to juggle the cooldowns on each of these motifs while using your basic rotation and looping-in support skills.

Again, I know this is incredibly difficult to understand properly, and it honestly took me a couple of hours and a dungeon run to properly wrap my head around how Pictomancer works. That being said, once I got a good feel Pictomancer also started being a blast to use. Juggling the different motifs and canvases gives this job a markedly different feel from other magic jobs, especially with the vibrant Splatoon-esque paint visual effects that you’re treated to.

Over the years, FFXIV’s development team has tried to address player feedback by simplifying how jobs work, which in turn led to more recent complaints about jobs feeling too homogenized. Viper and Pictomancer feel like direct responses to that criticism, along with some of the other big reworks.

During our preview, Square Enix told us of a handful of jobs getting big reworks, those being Dragoon, Ninja, Monk, and Astrologian. I was only able to test out Dragoon and Ninja, but based on my experience, the changes feel focused on eliminating how often players can accidentally hit the same button, while simplifying actions overall.

For example, Dragoon no longer has a Life of the Dragon gauge, instead using Geirskogul will grant you stacks of Nastrond and a single use for Stardiver. Because of that, Mirage Dive is now a separate ability and Spineshatter Dive seems to have been removed entirely. Of course, new weaponskills have been added for levels 90-100, extending rotations.

It seems like nearly every job in FFXIV has been altered or changed in some way with Dawntrail, as every single one I tried was a little different, and not just because of new weaponskills. By and large, however, I’m on board with the changes, as most of them feel like an effort to restore some unique quality to each job, or make them more “fun” to play.

Tural is a bright and colorful location, with plenty to uncover through exploration.

Square Enix

That seems to be the entire ethos behind Dawntrail as an expansion, getting back to what makes Final Fantasy XIV fun to play. During a group Q&A, Yoshida said as much, noting that with Shadowbringers and Endwalker the team really wanted to focus on adding single-player and solo options, but now with Dawntrail they want “Final Fantasy XIV to evolve as an MMO.”

After spending hours with Dawntrail, I can’t help but be excited at how it feels like the expansion is redefining so much of the core experience of Final Fantasy XIV. The imaginative new jobs are a blast to play, the graphical update works wonders, and there are a wealth of smart little changes across the board (like being able to preview how dyes look on clothing). I still have some reservations about Dawntrail’s story and themes, especially traveling to a “new world” that’s clearly based on the indigenous cultures of North America. But on a sheer mechanical level, I can already see that Dawntrail is a necessary step forward, one that can lay a new foundation for the next decade of the MMO.

Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail launches on July 2 for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

This article is based on play of an in-development build of FINAL FANTASY XIV: Dawntrail, and content in the final version is subject to change.

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