It’s hard to say whether 2017 was a good year for Final Fantasy XIV
Sure, on one level it seems obvious. The game launched its second expansion, it continues to drive sales, every financial report shows it doing well, players are happy, content is delivered on a swift and regular schedule, everything seems to be going fine. Yes, the game had a good 2017, it has a pretty good year on each outing. What more needs to be said?
Well, a few things. Because this year also brought out some pretty nasty bits of underlying issues that the game has long had bubbling under the surface, problems that we’ve all known were there but sort of ignored for a long time for various reasons. We’ve got another patch coming around, but the year has shown that as solid and impressive as the title may be (and it is), there’s still room to improve.
Here’s how this column got written. Last week, I was talking about new potential jobs based on weapons rather than on jobs that have existed in Final Fantasy
in the past. The very first comment on the article was this wonderful bit by NobleEinherjar
, which was a bipartite comment that started off by discussing the sharp limitations of the Armoury System and the whole “weapon = class” system in Final Fantasy XIV
. It was a nice digression that I thought deserved a response.
About halfway into writing that response, I realized that I was already most of the way to writing a separate column. So now we have this here.
See, there’s an interesting point to be made about the rigid nature of jobs, the limitations that they impose upon the game’s systems, and perhaps most importantly how we got here in the first place. Especially when you consider that when the game launched, you had a class without any particular restrictions on what it could equip, much less with any jobs at all.
So, what’s the ideal raiding composition for progression in Final Fantasy XIV
right now? If you started listing off Paladin, Dragoon, Ninja, Bard, Warrior… well, you get a silver star. You know the trivia answer. You get a gold star if your answer was some mixture of “there isn’t one” and “it doesn’t actually matter.” Even more bonus points if you highly that the world-first clear of Unending Coil most certainly did not make use of that meta.
There are a lot of discussions swirling around pretty much everywhere about how one aspect of another of the game’s balance is off, and the “raid meta” is frequently brought up as an example of why the balance is overall kind of messy. For example, if you look at the meta composition and replace your Machinist with a Red Mage, you’re losing some raid damage! It’s clearly worse, and casters need something to fix it!
Except it’s not clearly worse. In fact, it’s actually fine. So let’s talk a little bit about what the meta composition is and why it doesn’t matter in the slightest, when you get right down to it.
Crafting is really important in Final Fantasy XIV
. That much can’t be denied; the game places so much emphasis on the options available to crafters, adding in extensive new recipes and options for crafters, new content that can only be accessed by crafters (often with important lore and setting details), and a plethora of gear available just for dedicated crafters and gatherers. It’s indisputably not quite as supported as combat, but it is clearly super important.
At the same time, I think there’s some issues that are still running through the game’s crafting systems at a fundamental level, issues that are easy to overlook for a bit but jump to prominence when you take a closer look. Stormblood has been kind to crafters and gatherers on a whole, but it’s inherited some issues from the game’s initial rollout of systems during Heavensward, and some of these things could use a careful examination sooner rather than later.
Let me make an agreement with you, dear readers: this column about Final Fantasy XIV
will not talk about the housing situation in Shirogane at all. If you’re wondering “why wouldn’t you cover that,” the answer is that I already did and you can read the whole feature on that
. (You can also read the follow-up
.) So for the remainder of this column, we’re going to talk about all of the other features of this particular patch, which seems like a better use of our time anyway.
Heck, the whole stupid housing mess was only released with this patch, it’s not like the mechanics or anything are new.
And hey, there’s some good stuff going on with this patch, along with parts that are well worth discussing for where they don’t work as well. So let’s dive right in, starting with the obvious centerpiece of every patch, the continued expansion of the game’s storyline… as perfunctory as it may feel sometimes. Some mild spoilers are possible, so be fairly warned.
Here we are, folks, staring down the barrel of the latest major patch. If you’re feeling a minor set of trepidation simply because that means it’s time to contend with Final Fantasy XIV
housing and all the racing that implies… well, I’m right there with you. But hey, however that turns out tomorrow morning, there’s new stuff to do in the actual patch, and I always do like to pick apart the patch notes when the time rolls around.
The notes are as extensive as ever, of course, so I’m going to be hitting the highlights rather than going line-by-line. The patch as a whole does feel a little bit thinner, but there are some pretty notable changes tucked in there that you either didn’t notice or did notice and might not have internalized. So let’s take a trip down patch note lane.
Have I really not talked about the dungeons of Stormblood
yet? That’s unexpected. Usually I would have mentioned them by now, I talk about these things a lot. Yet here we are and I haven’t really given a deep look at any of the dungeons through the leveling experience up to the top. It is, frankly, a shocking realization, and it’s all the worse that I spent a lot of time thinking (and working on) columns on more esoteric elements of Final Fantasy XIV
before remembering this obvious one.
So let’s correct this now and talk about these dungeons. The level range for things was adjusted after my initial preview, and we have a similar leveling arrangement to how things were in Heavensward, but I honestly like this batch more. Part of it is familiarity, sure, but I remember feeling like the first two dungeons in Heavensward were kind of clunkers even when they were new, compared to really enjoying the heck out of everything in Stormblood. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t high points and low points, but… well, let’s just get to it, yes?
I’ve been gathering, crafting, and fighting my way up in Final Fantasy XIV
in preparation for 4.1. Not that I haven’t been enjoying the game on its own, of course, but it seemed likely that 4.1 would bring a new set of beast tribe quests, more stuff to nab from the 24-person run, plenty of new main scenario lore… you get the idea. It seemed like the sort of thing I’d want to be as prepared for as possible, in other words. And here it comes in just about a month! That’ll be nice.
Of course, the lengthy anniversary broadcast didn’t reveal everything we’re going to be hearing about for the patch; it was more of a tease than a full rundown. But we can derive a lot from that tease alone, so let’s talk about what we’ve heard so far for patch 4.1. We’ll know more around the middle of the month, but we’re here now.
I find it kind of wild to think that when I wrote my last Final Fantasy XIV
anniversary column, we hadn’t yet actually heard of Stormblood
yet. Obviously we did hear about it a couple of months later and it’s dominated the discussion cycle since then, but we were still just speculating about the game’s second expansion when we hit the three-year mark. Now it’s here and we’re all looking to its first major patch. So by most metrics anyone would care to use, things are going well.
What was once shocking or surprising has now become mundane, and what was unexpected is now the most expected thing in the world. Another expansion is going to come out in a little under two years, we’re going to get more reliably paced patches, the game is going to continue on as it has to this point. Is there nothing interesting to say about all of that?
Of course there is.
The first time, it was all about the jobs everyone thinks are garbage now. The second time, it was all about the jobs everyone thinks are great now. And this time… well, it’s about the Final Fantasy XIV
jobs no one seems to think about much at all. Or they’re in the middle of simultaneously called spectacular and awful so that it all averages out into the middle. In other words, these are the jobs that tend to escape the notice of players.
That makes these jobs a little harder to talk about, because they’re not in the midst of any sort of perception shift. In at least one case, we have jobs that have basically just maintained their position in the game’s overall makeup across expansions, yet they haven’t seemed to change enough for people to really notice what they’re doing now. Are they good? Bad? Neutral? What’s going on with these jobs? Let’s talk about it.
Last time around, we looked at the jobs everyone thinks is deep in the loser category in Final Fantasy XIV
. Some of them are really in a bad place, some of them just seem to be in a bad place due to perception, and some sort of have both going on at the same time. But now it’s high time for us to look at the other side of the coin, the jobs that everyone thinks are just doing great
The funny thing is that in this case, I feel there are fewer jobs where the reality is that the job isn’t that good but just gets perceived that way; it’s more a case where some of them are being seen as outright overpowered when they’re really in a pretty good spot. But enough of the hand-wringing; let’s move on to the jobs that everyone sees as being the absolute winners of the expansion thus far, and examine whether they’re really so great.
It took me a very long time to cap out everything in Final Fantasy XIV
was current. Until the moogle questline was introduced, my crafting jobs languished pretty badly. I could have gotten more materials and worked on them, but some of that required leather, and since my options were farming that myself or sending out retainers on ventures… well, that meant leveling Warrior, I didn’t want to bother, it didn’t happen. It took a long
By contrast, right now with Stormblood, I’m already halfway done with the leveling of combat jobs. My overall goal of leveling everything to 70 plus all of my alts should be done by mid-November. I know that later today, I’m going to be getting at least two more levels, maybe more, and I’m well on my way to my goals. And I’m not bored or putting in the time, I’m excited.
I’ve seen this sentiment going around from other people, too. There’s a general sense that leveling and just playing is much more fun with Stormblood. So what’s the difference? Why is it that now leveling up seems like less of a chore, when the usual methods of leveling quickly (FATE trains) have basically dried up to nothing?
The biggest problem with jobs in Final Fantasy XIV
isn’t always mechanics. Sometimes it’s a matter of perception. With 15 jobs to play in combat roles, some
of them are bound to be seen as worse than others… and it’s really
easy to see some of them as worse when they’ve actually been brought closer to the middle rather than being horribly undertuned.
I cautioned extensively against people making balance predictions based on early preview mechanics before, and in the case of the jobs most frequently cried about as being dead, that turned out to be right on the money. (Surprise, White Mage isn’t on this list!) Now that we’ve actually been playing the expansion for over a month and have Savage information to look at, we can make a more comprehensive picture of which jobs are seen by the community as being good, which ones are bad, and which ones… just sort of are still there.
But let’s start with the losers. Because that makes a fun headline. Who’s on the downward path, and are they actually bad/worse, or just not as good as before?