Also they provide support abilities, in theory.
It’s not exactly a secret that both Bard and Machinist have suffered in terms of damage for this expansion, but Machinist has really been hit with it hard. I had of course heard the rumors, but it wasn’t until I took the class for a spin for a while that I could confirm those issues are there, and they’re about as bad as they look when you’re wondering why Machinist is lagging so far behind other DPS.
I was initially a little suspicious of claims that the job was horribly undertuned, simply because it’s new. People were always going to be surveying it very harshly, and there was always going to be an element of disappointment simply because not everyone has accepted the game’s established paradigm that ranged damage isn’t quite as strong as melee. It makes sense from a gameplay perspective (it’s harder to get to and from targets as melee, and you’re often vulnerable to mechanics ranged players can ignore or handle differently), but it’s not exactly a screaming endorsement of the class when you find out that the new DPS job is solidly middle-of-the-road.
Realistically, Machinist deals decent damage and deals more damage than, say, tanks or healers. But that’s not nearly enough when you consider that the gap between it and every other DPS job is exceedingly large. It’s not that you can’t do a dungeon with two Machinists as your DPS; it’s that you are going to have much lower DPS than if you brought two equivalently geared characters of any other job unless, say, you bring a pair of tanks with Strength accessories.
Maybe even then.
I do honestly believe that MCH and BRD are meant to be at the bottom of the totem pole, but I don’t think that they’re meant to be this low. And the core of that issue seems to be overvaluing support effects combined with a love of randomness.
Support DPS has been the niche that Bard has occupied alone for a long stretch of time. In the initial version of the game, Bards actually used caster skills as their sub abilities; they were meant to offer support rather than just raw damage. The idea makes sense: While you’re doing a bit less damage because you’re at range and you also don’t get that AoE mastery, you make everyone else perform just a little bit better. It’s the same philosophy behind Astrologian’s almost total lack of offensive ability.
The problem with this idea, of course, is that “support” makes sense only if that added support is worthwhile. And the support offered by these jobs generally isn’t.
Yes, you can offer TP and MP regeneration fields, but literally no one needs those. Every single DPS job has a reliable way of regenerating resources on its own, and that’s ignoring things like the TP restoration effects of Goad. Hell, the class that could really use those MP restoration fields (Dark Knight) can’t actually benefit from them at all. At best, these effects are minor buffs that make life slightly easier, but they don’t exactly make up for the loss of damage for classes already struggling to keep up with other damage jobs.
Other than that, what else do you have? Some mild damage reduction effects here and there. In other words, your “support” effect is limited to restoring a resource that by all rights no one has a problem restoring on his own, and this is seen as valuable enough to cut the core DPS of these jobs. Bards even make the equation explicit: You’re dropping your damage by 20%, so are these songs increasing everyone else’s ability by 20% on the balance? I tend to doubt it. While I’m not exactly fond of the many Bards out there who hamstring their groups by refusing to sing, it’s not as if I can’t understand why.
So Machinist had an issue walking into the environment. But there was another issue rearing its head right from the start, as well: randomness. And that’s far more distinct to MCH than BRD.
At its core, MCH has a three-hit combo. Each subsequent hit has only a 50% chance to be triggered, but the Ammunition mechanic is there to make sure that everything plays nicely and you can get control over the rate of fire. And in theory, it works fine. When you open up a fight and load up, you can pump out some pretty solid DPS right out of the gate. The problem is that you run out of ammunition, and suddenly you face a minute of hoping that you can actually do some kind of reliable damage at a 50% shot.
Yes, mathematically, it might work out in the long run. But it all comes down to 50% odds, which means that you may as well flip a coin to determine whether your DPS is going to be reasonable or utterly worthless for the fight. This is not helped in any fashion by the fact that every attack will consume that Ammunition buff, meaning that you have to time it perfectly.
“Oh, so you have to time your attacks?” you might think. “What a horror.” But that’s not it at all; the problem is that Ammunition is a counterbalance to a counterbalance, an attempt to even out random chance that could be solved with better adjustment in the first place.
What makes it especially odd is that Bard, again, had a template for making this work. I don’t blame the designers for trying to do something different with MCH rather than just making it identical to BRD in all but appearance (although considering the whole pseudo-casting thing, whether or not something different was tried is up for debate), but the way that it actually plays out is less than impressive.
Add in that the damage buff for Gauss Barrel doesn’t really make up for the losses you incur in terms of auto-attacks and mobility, and it’s easy to see why people are generally underwhelmed by MCH. There are workarounds, yes, and some of it is entirely reliant upon player skill and practice, but the job itself is suffering badly from an over-reliance on random chance and over-valued support effects that no one really wants.
Can it be fixed? Of course it can, with a bit more balance tuning (adding a reason to use Slug Shot or Clean Shot beyond simple combo potency would help). But at the moment, it’s struggling to keep up with everyone else, and the sad part is that the problems I’m pointing out now are nothing that couldn’t have been seen before. They just were either ignored or marginalized, and now we’re left with corrective measures.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to email@example.com. Next time around, I want to talk about whether or not the expansion is maintaining its luster a month out and content consumption speeds.