Written by Dragoon 21st July 2015

The Dark Knight is the newest Job class introduced to Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a magic based tank that has high damage and self-healing but relies heavily on MP management. I’ve been playing the tank role from the very start of my time with FFXIV and I find it really rewarding, the success of a dungeon relies heavily on the tank which can be stressful but it’s also incredibly satisfying when you pull through. For those of you who are new to MMORPGs a tanks job is to generate and hold enmity, the value that determines who the enemy is attacking, while the other players work on defeating them. I was really excited to get my hands on the Dark Knight when it was first announced since the tank meta game was a tad stale before, due to their being only the high mitigation but low damage Paladin (The job I have played most) or the high area of effect damage Warrior to choose from. But does the Dark Knight job do enough to set itself apart or will it just fade into the long shadows of its predecessors?

The Dark Knights of Eorzea are an order who embrace their darkside to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Their massive greatswords serve as a beacon to guide the weak through the darkness and they aren’t afraid to stand against those who think they are above the laws of the land, from the lowliest peasant to the holiest priest, even if it makes them Pariahs in their homeland. You join their ranks after meeting a mysterious man named Fray who mentors you in the way of his order and helps you commune with the darkness that lies within you. The quest line for Dark Knight is a tad cliché in its writing but Fray is an interesting character and there is a great twist later on that I definitely didn’t see coming.

When it comes to the Dark Knights abilities they have a great mix. One of the Dark Knights most interesting mechanics are its toggle abilities. They both bolster your power but it comes at a price and certain skills can only be used when they are active or inactive. Grit increases all enmity generated and you both deal and take 20% less damage whilst Darkside increases your damage by 15% at the cost of every hit costing MP and MP refresh statuses having no effect. Unfortunately at the time of writing Darkside is bugged, it takes MP for things it shouldn’t such as healing effects which is a major issue that will hopefully be fixed. Switching these on and off is an integral mechanic behind being a successful Dark Knight, allowing you to adjust to your situation on the fly. For example in an eight man party where you are the off-tank you can easily and quickly switch between doing damage and tanking to help your team get through fights as fast as possible as opposed to the other tanks which are pretty set in their roles.

Another interesting skill is Dark Arts which when activated allows you to alter the property of another skill used after it at a high MP cost, allowing you to increase the enmity generation of a skill or applying a blinding effect to your area of effect attack but again some of these effects don’t work as intended so make sure you read up on the reported issues if you give it a go. One of the Dark Knights more quirky abilities is Living Dead, this allows you to survive a death blow by putting you in a Walking Dead state and if you are healed to a 100% of your health before it ends you are revived. This is great in an emergency situation but it means the healers have to focus heal you and many people don’t understand how it works so its usefulness is varying.

While Dark Knights have the generic range of tank skills and the standard three part enmity combo they also bring a wide range of branching combos that all lead from Hard Slash which are useful in different situations, this is something I felt Paladin was sorely lacking. There’s the Regeneration/DPS combo of Syphon Strike and Souleater which restore MP and HP respectively with a healthy dose of damage added to the mix and a debilitation combo in Syphon Strike to Delirium which reduces the targets Intelligence stat which means both you and your allies take less damage from spells. This versatility is a big plus over the Paladins standard one, two, three combo gameplay.

MP management is key on the Dark Knight and it has a number of tools that aid it in keeping up with its usage. Two of the Dark Knights key combos restore MP so a good Dark Knight will be sure to make liberal use of them. Blood Price is an invaluable skill which restores MP every time you are hit by an enemy and as a tank you are pretty much always being hit so make sure to use this every time it’s off of cooldown. These skills are not affected by Darksides MP refresh negation so you can use them at will. Blood Weapon is an amazingly strong skill that grants you 10% attack speed while converting your damage dealt into MP but it cannot be used while Grit is active so you leave yourself vulnerable while using it.

When you first unlock Dark Knight you start at level thirty but the skills you start with are all the bog standard tanking skills and it stays this way for another ten or so levels. It’s only around the forty mark that Dark Knights unlock their more interesting skills so early on they just feel a tad weak and squishy, a lot of healers around that level find it much harder to heal you since you take much more damage than the other tanks but once you unlock the majority of your skills you can stand shoulder to shoulder with them with some good skill rotation management.

Overall I don’t think Dark Knight is going to budge the other tanks out of the established end-game meta, at least for now. Being a jack-of-all-trades tank with high micro-management is a big detriment and while it’s still early days I think it will need some buffs or changes to put it up to par with the others. Once the bugs are ironed out I think it will definitely be a good off-tank in raid or large party situations but right now it’s hard to justify having one over a Paladin or a Warrior. It’s definitely fun to play and I like what it brings to the table. So while it may not be at the forefront of the tanks it’s more like its waiting in the shadows for it’s time to shine, it has the potential but it needs the time to fully realise it and hopefully Square Enix can do it.

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