I never got into WoW’s pet battle system. I understand people got really excited about it, but by the time it was a thing I was already mostly checked out of the game and didn’t care much for the pokemon-alike gameplay. I like pokemon, but I can just play pokemon. As a result, I didn’t expect to enjoy FFXIV’s pet battling system; I figured it was going to be another pokemon-alike, but it isn’t even close.
It’s more of a slow-paced real-time strategy game than anything, and it’s really interesting to me how it’s set up. The basic premise is that you’re summoning your battle pets in various numbers onto the field, and you’re attempting to take out three enemy crystals, before they take out yours. It’s a simple, MOBA-like setup.
Minipets fall into one of four categories– “critters”, which are strong against “poppets”, which are strong against “monsters”, which are in turn strong against critters. Finally, there are “constructs”, which are neither strong nor weak against anything. Every minipet also has a special ability, which is usable only if you have a group of four of them together, and only once they’ve charged up enough. It creates a bit of a balancing act between having well-balanced groups of battle minions and skewing heavily towards a certain type to benefit from special abilities.
Each minion costs a certain number of points, ranging from 10 to 30 (I don’t think I’ve seen any costing more than 30, but I could be wrong), and you have an overall maximum number of points you can have active at a given time. At the start of the match, you can pre-summon up to a certain point value’s worth of minions, which will appear instantly when the match starts. Thereafter, you can summon further minions by queuing them, like a build queue in Starcraft.
It’s a heavily tactical game, since you can summon whatever minions you like provided you have points for them (and have appropriately set up your bar). Some minions are strong against structures (like the crystals you have to destroy), others are strong against other minions, and others have more support-style skills.
Compounding the tactical part of the game are two more non-critical structures, which are close to the enemy’s deployment areas and, when destroyed, either make the crystals more vulnerable or remove the enemy’s ability to see where your minions are, unless they’re very close to them. It gives you some options to gain an edge, provided you can commit the forces to it.
A crystal can only be damaged if there are no enemy minions in its immediate vicinity, but only the crystals in the center overlap. This means that you often have to choose between offense and defense, and it’s possible to overwhelm an opponent by rolling around with a huge death ball of minions or by spreading your forces out.
It’s been an interesting game to play thus far, and I’ve got a few nice, powerful rare minions to work with. Unleashing a swarm of tonberries and bombs is every bit as satisfying as you might imagine.