Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival: Reactions to Stormblood

Here we go again.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood ought to have be the least interesting announcement possible. It was heavily teased before it actually happened, and we knew that there would be a next expansion. Instead of an insane half-court shot that has no right to exist, what Naoki Yoshida has set up here is a very predictable and expected shot well within established boundaries.

On the other hand… that doesn’t even matter because that’s actually a strength. The game is not trying to be something it isn’t already doing; it’s aiming directly at what it does well and staying the course. And considering how the convention hall lit up with people who already love the game, I’d say it was the right move.

It occurred to me only well after the fact that despite being The FFXIV Guy on Massively OP, I hadn’t actually said anything about this expansion yet. So let’s talk about Stormblood, even though we don’t actually know much about it yet. Also, ogle some screenshots, why not?

I will admit that going to Ala Mhigo always worried me a little bit, just because from a narrative standpoint it had been set up to lack subtlety. We’ve been told, over and over, that Ala Mhigo is being crushed by the Imperial bootheel and needs to be free, darn it. And all of us – including me – kind of forgot along the way that we’re getting that unified message from the people who aren’t there any longer.

The announcement raised a question that should have been there since the beginning: What do the actual Ala Mhigans think? Not the ones who left, but the ones who are still there?

It’s nicely handled, and it’s a suggestion for another multi-layered conflict. On the one hand, you have the Ala Mhigan Resistance, whom we know want freedom… but we also know that it can be corrupted and give rise to dangerous extremism, it’s highly factionalized, and it contains lots of people willing to use awful means to achieve that freedom. On the other hand, you have the Empire, an unambiguously antagonistic organization… but it’s quite possible that Zenos yae Galvus governs fairly and is well-liked by the people, and he wouldn’t have to work hard to be better than the last ruler. Is deposing the ruler really a good thing here?

Also worth noting is the name: Zenos yae Galvus means that he’s in the line of succession, and it means that there’s more to the politics here than simply dealing with a new Legatus. It is possible, although not likely, that we may wind up finding ourselves between a rock and a hard place; I can see precedent for Zenos declaring Ala Mhigo independent of the Empire, forcing us to actually help him even if we don’t want to do so.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that really does look like a katana, doesn't it?So that assuaged my main worry, that this would be a straightforward case of “good guys go beat up the bad guys.” In Heavensward, we had to deal with the fact that beating up the bad guys wasn’t enough to really fix the issue; this time, it’s not even clear who’s bad, just whom we’re in opposition to.

We’ve heard about our first new job, too; technically it’s still a mystery, but wearing a Scarlet Witch shirt isn’t any more subtle than wearing a Batman shirt to announce Dark Knight. The question, of course, is what role Red Mage will slot into. I wrote this morning that I would have preferred Square just tell us about the job outright, but here we are. And yes, it’s going to have a specific role; the game is not going to unwrite that for one job.

Realistically, RDM tank isn’t going to happen. While red mages usually have acceptable armor, it’s generally more tilted toward the mage side than the heavy physical resistance side; at best, their armor options are usually on-par with melee fighters. This also ties into the fact that all tank jobs presently use the same armor, which seems like something that wouldn’t be fussed with this late in the game.

That leaves DPS and healing as a role, and healing has some legs. Red Mages frequently wind up being excellent support casters; in the original Final Fantasy, they were more valuable than Black Mages simply because they could cast lots of great support spells and were more useful hit-for-hit in a boss fight. Refresh casts and heals formed a large part of Red Mage gameplay for a long time in Final Fantasy XI, to boot.

However, my personal speculation – and this is just speculation at this point – is that Red Mage is going to be melee DPS. First of all, making them into caster DPS runs the very real risk of making them Black Mages With A Twist; much like my Lady in Red speculation, I suspect we’ll get jobs that play differently before we get jobs that could be another job with a coat of paint. Making them healers overloards the color-based mages in healing, too.

So why melee? Because RDM is traditionally better in melee than any other caster. This is a regular and consistent thing, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single red mage character in the franchise that didn’t have at least acceptable melee options. (It goes double for Terra/Celes in Final Fantasy VI, who arguably could be the best fighters or the best casters.) It also differentiates the job from its contemporaries significantly.

Obviously, nothing is certain. Heck, it could even be a DPS job that can focus realistically on physical damage or magical damage and actually make use of multiple stat bonuses (it’d be a first, and it’d still be DPS no matter what). But that’s my guess. It’s always hard to be sure, simply because we’re basing everything on a fairly thin pattern of just one prior expansion and a long franchise history, but there are conclusions that can reasonably be drawn even if they’re far from certain.

Guys, you... you do know women can wear pants, right? This AF trend here is starting to get kind of upsetting.

We also know that the battle system is being “revamped,” which sounds big but as of yet doesn’t actually mean much. Yes, cross-class actions are being changed up, and yes, useless abilities are getting trimmed. But without any details, all of that can mean anything. Are cross-class actions being changed in such a way that we’re actually going to have more space on our bars? Are outdated things like attribute allocation going away? We don’t know, and until we know it’s hard to muster much enthusiasm for the change. It’s just an idea right now, and while I’d like to see a system that actually gives different jobs more effective things to choose between rather than having every tank choose the same cross-class skills, there’s nothing right now for or against that idea.

If you dislike the game’s current combat, don’t expect it to change that much. The GCD isn’t going anywhere, but the exact number crunching will change. We need more details before we can be absolutely sure of anything.

Overall, I would have liked more information, but the information we do have is promising. I’m excited, although there was little doubt I would be. By and large, it means another set of levels and more of what I already like about the game for another two years with some additional options. That may seem like low-hanging fruit, but it’s also exactly the fruit I wanted. I’ll take it.

Lodging and travel expenses for the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival were provided by Square-Enix, which was pretty cool. This prompted a rather interesting disconnection between Bree and me, as she kept urging me to go out and focus more on having fun, while I wanted to make sure that I was covering as much stuff as possible. “Go have fun!” she’d say. “Providing coverage and making sure that the site does well is fun for me!” I’d say. We get along.
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