Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s class weaknesses and why they matter

    
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My track record has been pretty good!
The other day, I was browsing the official Final Fantasy XIV forums for a reason I can no longer recall. I am sure it made sense at the time, but then, I’m sure of lots of things. On the browse, I found someone complaining that as it currently stands, Ninja has pretty terrible AoE, and the designers really need to do something about that because it makes the job less useful on dungeon runs.

That stayed in my brain. Because on the one hand, the person who wrote that was completely right. Ninja does have weak AoE capability; we have three AoE skills, two of them are tied to Ninjutsu cooldowns, and the third is almost entirely worthless in terms of actually damage done per TP. (If someone is spamming Death Blossom, she is playing poorly.) But the author was also completely wrong because that’s not a problem. The only problem is if you try to play Ninja as if it did have tons of AoE capability. And buffing up that ability would make for a worse job and a worse game.

Why? Because every class needs weaknesses.

Remember back when no one had weaknesses and everyone had a spear, like, all of the time?Every single job has weaknesses right now. Every single one. Dark Knight has the worst damage mitigation out of all tanks and has to juggle MP obsessively. Astrologians have awful damage output. Machinists are highly random. Ninja lacks strong AoE, Black Mage is weaker on single targets, and Monks are reliant on positioning and not having to move away from the boss for long. I don’t need to keep going; you get the idea. There is no job without some weakness.

We haven’t had a whole lot of major changes made, however, because it’s debatable whether any job has any major deficiencies, which is a very different animal.

Generally, when we talk about stuff in games, weaknesses and deficiencies are lumped together under the same header, but they really aren’t. A weakness is something that a job is negatively affected by, a consequence of strength; Ninja trades AoE ability for strong single-target damage, mobility, and utility. A deficiency is something that a job needs to be able to do but cannot do.

Case in point: Do you remember when Warriors had an interrupt on a 30s cooldown? That was a deficiency. The idea was that Warriors had an interrupt off the GCD, while Paladins had one on the GCD but without any cooldown, forcing both of them to use their skills differently. In practice, however, with every physical class having an interrupt off of the GCD and with a shorter cooldown, Warrior interrupts were functionally useless. The cooldown made their interrupt deficient, suitable only for rare circumstances. So the cooldown was lowered.

Warriors still have the worst interrupt out of the three tanking jobs; Paladins don’t have a cooldown and can Pacify, while Dark Knights can get a reset for parrying. But it’s not a deficiency. Nor is it a deficiency that a Warrior can’t close distance like a Dark Knight or sport a Paladin’s passive mitigation; that’s intentional. Warriors can do more damage than either of the above and have a number of self-healing tricks that the other two lack. They have weaknesses, not deficiencies.

Deficiencies have a negative impact on your ability to do things in the game. When 2.0 first launched, Warriors were deficient and not up to the job of tanking in several bits of content, resulting in some major changes to bring them in line. Machinists and Astrologians likewise lagged when first introduced, necessitating some improvements to avoid making them incapable. The jobs are in a good place now.

That doesn’t negate weaknesses, though. On Machinist, I still have a lot of emphasis on cooldowns and luck. I have no defensive cooldowns whatsoever, unless you count my damage cuts which themselves have lengthy reset times. My health is low and I am going to do less damage than an equally geared and skilled Black Mage or Dragoon.

Looking hard as heck is an advantage.On the other hand, I can also stay out of melee range, get extra damage from turrets, can apply debuffs to make the rest of the party play better, can apply those damage cuts to weaken a boss right before a big attack goes out… you get the idea. My damage might be lower than others, but it’s still competitive and solid. And that’s all assuming equal skill from everyone else; I’ve had runs wherein I was rocking the top end of DPS with my gun.

The weaknesses of the job are a good thing. They allow for distinctiveness, encourage different playstyles, and mean that you’re able to choose between the jobs for something other than aesthetic purposes. Pretty much all of the new abilities added in Heavensward don’t actually change the weaknesses of the given jobs; Dreadwyrm Trance gives Summoners more interesting stuff to do on rotation, but the job still has the weakest burst damage and doesn’t have an easy time dealing with lots of quick burn. But that’s a weakness, not a deficiency, and thus it’s part of what the job is supposed to do.

Of course, some weaknesses are going to negatively impact your play. That is, also, by design. If weaknesses are invisible in actual play, they’re not really relevant. Ninja has to worry about positioning in ways that Dragoon doesn’t, but Ninja can also apply more debuffs and is less reliant upon the final hit of combos to do solid damage. The reason Ninja had more positional play added was entirely due to how necessary it was to remove Dragoon positionals; it was too easy for Dragoons to get locked out of the ability to play effectively, and with no positional requirements on either jobs the weaknesses weren’t pronounced.

So be happy that there are things your favorite job can’t do in FFXIV. I certainly am. I’m glad that no matter what I play, I have certain weaknesses and stuff that balances out my better abilities. It means that choosing between Scholar, Astrologian, and White Mage is an actual choice with different playstyles and skill caps, not just a difference in aesthetic.

And if you’re upset about your job’s AoE capabilities? What you want to do is play a Black Mage. It’s not hard, I hear that you can just get soul crystals for that job from random lalafell.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below, or you can mail it along to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk about the housing price changes and some lingering quality-of-life issues that the game is still experiencing which really ought to be addressed by now. They’re little things, but those little things add up over time, you know.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Silmol
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Silmol

Flimflamberge NoxAeternum My wife is a Paladin and I often heal (WHM) in dungeon runs. If we have well-geared AOE, we do big pulls. If not, we do smaller pulls and I do more DPS. When I DPS as SMN, we look at the healer’s gear and base the pulls on their gear, Had a newly minted healer in Antitower this week and did smaller pulls. Plus we threw in tips for the healer on what to expect.

Silmol
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Silmol

NoxAeternum If you have good AOE in the group. My  wife is a Paladin, and I either heal as a WHM or play SMN. If we have a DRN and NIN in the party, we do smaller pulls unless they are very overgeared.

wolfyseyes
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wolfyseyes

And you have so many fun tricks to reel them all in and hug you…so much fun.
I adore throwing out a lined-up Dark Passenger myself. It’s probably not the most effective thung, but as part of my initial herding salvo it just looks cool. :D

Dope_Danny
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Dope_Danny

Midgetsnowman DRK feels like the first time you can one hand a greatsword in dark souls. all of a sudden the gaps arent as wide, you are exploding all around you and it feels like you never have to stop moving.

It just feels like it has more momentum.

Dope_Danny
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Dope_Danny

I think the classes should always have a ‘missing’ section it doesnt cover. The worst part of WoW by the end of its over homogenisation crusade was how you can get two tanks that cover all the bases. id rather see more classes that do different things with pros and cons. Some have skills for some kinds of fights and some have skills better for others.

I was thinking about this a lot playing Bravely Second this week since it takes some classes like Astrologian and adds them to it and theres a few like Exorcist -a class that doesnt heal but resets your hp, mp or bp to what it was 1 2 or 3 turns ago, and same with enemies- and i thought that would be a really, really cool class in XIV, but also would have a few problems compared to something like scholars.

But then doesnt that just mean more variety?

I mean god knows i play DRK better than NIN, but i main NIN because i have the most fun on it, and theres enough variance in melee that you can take them all for different reasons. Seeing that for healers/support healers would be a nice change of pace to EVERYONE IS WHITE MAGE, BARD WHY ARENT YOU PLAYING?!? like ARR was before the scholar buffs.

nappthea
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nappthea

WAR’s gap closers are taking advantage of Holmgang’s low cooldown to stay in-place for some mechanics (A3S Wash Away) and Equilibrium to regain instant TP (Sprint after getting spit out of A4S containment)

Goronmon
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Goronmon

A Dad Supreme I think one issue I’ve noticed that doesn’t seem to be mentioned often is the standard group size in modern MMOs. Mainly that in games like FFXIV, I wonder if the devs have built groups to be too small at the lowest level. When you only allow 4 players in a dungeon, it severely limits the options you can give players to be effective. You have 2 slots taken up solely by the tank and healer, and then all you have left is a couple slots for when always ends up being DPS. There is just not enough wiggle room their either in class makeup or encounter design.

Loopstah
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Loopstah

Well said Eliot. I think a lot of gamers nowadays forget that the staple of RPGs is uniqueness and individuality of classes. Not everyone should be good at everything, but all should have their own niche strengths and weaknesses. Homogenization is the worst thing that happened to WoW imo, because it made it completely irrelevant which class you picked for the role – all warriors and paladins could tank equally in all situations, all healers had the exact same toolset, etc. 
Introducing rock-paper-scissors type mechanics in class balance means that you really do value the choice that is presented, as well as appreciate the utility that a given class brings to the group.

NemuiByakko
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NemuiByakko

A Dad Supreme There are 2 typed of balance (it can be seen especially good in PvP balancing):
1) Balance on individual basis, universality: make every class as good as other, in any situation. If not – playerd will cry and demand “show more love to XXX class!!!”. Because everyone wants become The One, and all that blocks that is unfair (individualism and – people should have equal rights to be The One, right? :) This is usual approach os Western games.
2) Balance on system basis (specialization), rock-paper-scissors. Everyone has convenient adversaries – and abysmal ones. You may be great and best among your class, but never The One. This is usual way of balancing in Eastern games (but globalization takes its toll).
It is very hard to make interesting teamplay with the balance of first type. At the end all will be just a zerg rush vs zerg rush (and we see exactly that more and more). They say that this is because players are noobs, have no cooperation, strategy etc. This may be so, but deep reason is changing of the game essence. It is always simplier and more effective just gather a bigger mob of “The Ones” :))

Flimflamberge
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Flimflamberge

NoxAeternum Especially because you’ll make it easier on the healer, which means you’ll free the healer up to throw in a little damage sooner.