Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: Ranged DPS jobs

    
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It did, at least, address the issue, but MCH didn't fix the problem.
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I have to say that the Live Letter was a wee bit frustrating in places. How great would it have been to reveal that there are no more cast bars for ranged DPS in the expansion? I mean, probably about as great as it actually was for Final Fantasy XIV players, but I would have been the one to do it. Ah, well.

Much like melee DPS, ranged DPS is near and dear to my heart simply because one of my main jobs is ranged DPS. I play a lot of Machinist, although part of that admittedly derives from the period when no one could tell the difference between a good Machinist and a bad one. I was looking forward to Stormblood just because I wanted to see what was coming next.

The answer, in short, is that ranged DPS has probably received the biggest overhaul of all the roles in the game. Rather than having its support role kind of cobbled together based on what players should want, it now has a whole lot of abilities players actually will want to use. And all of the fun gun-or-bow action you’ve come to love regardless.

ARROWED

Ranged DPS in general

Yes, the cast bars are gone. As someone who never minded them much to begin with, I’m a little bit torn, but I think the overall changes to the ranged DPS/support role have been for the positive.

Among the universal skills now is a Swiftsong equivalent (Peloton), a mana-restoring effect (Refresh), and a TP-restoring effect (Tactician), thus freeing both jobs from having to jump through hoops to make that happen. You also have access to Leg Graze, Foot Graze, and Head Graze, making these heretofore universal mechanics actually play universally. It’s more useful to inflict Heavy or Bind while solo than in groups, but the option is there when you need it.

There’s also Invigorate, Second Wind, the new Palisade ability to defend a party member, and Arm Graze to stun a target. Overall, it’s the same support-happy useful stuff you already have had access to in the past, just compressed into a more universal format.

Seriously, it's Arrow City over here.

Bard

Let’s make something very clear – Bard is a lot more mobile now, but if you think the job has changed from being a proc-based support job, you will be sadly disappointed. It’s just that the job is much better at providing that support now, and it does so in a less obtrusive way.

Your three main songs – Wanderer’s Minuet, Army’s Paeon, and Mage’s Ballad – are all attacks now. Each one hits for reasonable damage and then starts the song bar. Each one also has the same effect so long as you’re singing, boosting attack damage and critical rate. So far, so good. Each song also has a secondary effect along the way, improving some element of performance whenever your DoT effects get a critical tick.

So the old Bloodletter reset? That’s tied to Mage’s Ballad now. Using Army’s Paeon will boost crit and attack power higher for each critical tick. Wanderer’s Minuet lets you unleash a potent attack that becomes stronger with each critical tick. You can also buff the song with Troubadour, another new ability.

Regardless, your core gameplay remains the same insofar as you want to keep your DoTs on, keep Straight Shot on, and wait for procs as you pepper your target with arrows. It’s just the effects of those procs that have changed, and the fact that you now have no reason not to be singing at all times.

Also worth noting is that both Windbite and Poison Shot have upgraded forms, so your DoTs will be hitting for more damage on top of everything else. That’s not really a change to the gameplay, but it’s welcome. There’s another new big attack that triggers on Straighter Shot, which is the arrow-swarm-of-doom trick you see above.

Bard has always suffered from a big mechanical problem and a big cultural problem. The mechanical issue was that bard songs were never hugely beneficial despite being a core part of the job, while the cultural one was that Bard players were split between people who wanted to never have to sing in the interests of maximizing DPS and those who wanted to mostly just sing and play support. This strikes a decent balance. The job is still meant to be singing and supportive, but your means of ensuring that support is by doing DPS, and you don’t have to pick between the two.

If you’re still waiting for Ranger, though, you will be sadly disappointed.

Burn for the colony!

Machinist

One of my suspicions when I first saw the Flamethrower ability was that Machinists would be able to choose between different attachments at last. That is not the case, but the ability still speaks to a major element of Machinists at this point in the form of heat.

Those of us who have played Machinist extensively in Heavensward know that it’s a job all about maximizing your use of Wildfire and getting in as much damage as possible during that cooldown’s active window. Combine that with our utility, and it’s a good job, but it also means that it’s a job which is more vulnerable to bad timing than any other. Throw Wildfire right before the boss becomes invulnerable and you’ve just wasted your damage for a minute and a half.

Machinist is still going to be a job about maximizing your window. It’s just going to be a different sort of window, and it’s one intimately tied to your current heat level. As you use most of your abilities, your heat level rises. When it hits 100, your gun overheats and you wind up doing much less damage until it cools off. So far, so simple.

When your heat level passes 50, though, several of your skills suddenly become turbo-charged. Remember those nifty-looking weaponskills you see in the class ability trailer? That’s all the result of being past 50 heat. Straight Shot, Split Shot, and Clean Shot turn into much more powerful tricks, and your instant-cast Cooldown shot gets turbocharged as well.

Thus, your struggle is made clear. You want to hang out in the 50-95 heat range as long as possible. Of course, you also have to make sure you don’t trip over into the 100 mark, or you’ll be doing much less damage. So you have to carefully manage Quick Reload, your Cooldown shot, and your weapon skill usage to keep your heat within the safe zone.

Machinists can also use a special attack to detonate turrets, and you’ve still got your ability to apply vulnerability and a damage cut to your target. Maximizing your window is going to be just as important as it ever has been, but it’s going to be less about inadvertently getting screwed over. I count that as a positive shift.

Disclosure: Square-Enix provided both lodging and travel expenses for this particular trip. I tried to play Shovel Knight while traveling, but for some reason it just frustrated the heck out of me while I was playing. Which is weird, I really like that game. Also, everything described here is still in development and subject to change. Machinist still will probably look boss, though. Those gun moves.
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Glenda McCarthy

while the cultural one was that Bard players were split between people who wanted to never have to sing in the interests of maximizing DPS

Currently, bards should always have Foe’s up since it does not reduce their dps at all.

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Eamil

Just to put this out there, it’s been noted on Reddit that the Japanese tooltip says that overheating increases damage rather than reducing it, and looking at damage numbers in video footage from the press tour seems to confirm it actually works that way regardless of what the English tooltip says.

Of course, it’s hard to say what final form the job will take or which is the original vs. final version of the ability, but I just wanted to mention it.

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bobfish

I think its important to state that the role of these classes is primarily DPS. The Bard may have a thematic role of support, but you’re in the party to do damage above all else.

No one should ever be under the illusion that it is anything else, otherwise it is just opening them up for disappointment.

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Jay Madison

wait…so what happened to Wildfire now?

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Aywren

Thanks so much for breaking these two classes down like this. I was a Bard main in 2.0, and less of a Bard main when they added cast timers in 3.0, so this change thrills me.

This is the first article I’ve seen that’s explained what exactly is going to happen with Bard songs and Machinist heat, and I’m pretty pleased by what I’m hearing. Looking forward to picking up my Bard again. :)