Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: The healers

    
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Healing! I need it.
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Healers! You need them in Final Fantasy XIV. Seriously, they’re vital, and not just to make sure the tank doesn’t enjoy a new experience with several new unscheduled puncture holes. Everyone needs healers, and the three existing healer jobs will have to work overtime in Stormblood to be as flashy and fun as the new DPS jobs. Even though Square-Enix is pretty certain that anyone who has signed up to be a healer at this point is pretty well committed.

The healer role is also the hardest one to test out and get a feel for without a group, which means that my impressions of the healers is also perhaps the least in-depth out of all three. This isn’t because I don’t love healers, just because there’s only so much you can glean from not playing a healer in dungeons. But I did still get a chance to play around with the relevant tools, and I think it’s safe to say that if you’re already fond of playing a healer, it’s going to be both easier and more engaging in Stormblood.

The power of books compels you!

Healers in general

First and foremost, there’s the simple fact that Cleric Stance isn’t what it used to be. Your damaging spells use Mind along with your healing spells, and Cleric Stance is now just a straight damage cooldown. That alone makes a world of difference to healing; you can now weave in damage more naturally without worrying about stance dancing, and I think it’s arguably a straight buff for White mage in particular.

Surecast, Swiftcast, and Eye for an Eye are all now in your general toolbox, as it was before. Protect and Esuna are also in that lineup, the latter of which makes me particularly happy; it’s often good to have that along, but considering the situations wherein Esuna and similar spells don’t actually have anything to remove, the fact you can choose to not have it makes me happy.

What is particularly notable is how many abilities are no longer specific to White Mage; Divine Seal and Shroud of Saints are both in the role-specific actions (redubbed Largesse and Lucid Dreaming, respectively), and with Protect, Esuna, and Cleric Stance migrating as well, there’s a distinct feeling that these are much more generalized healer kit tools. Break is just a generalized damage-and-heavy spell for soloing purposes.

The one new trick on the book is Rescue, which yanks party members to your location. It’s useful for people who either can’t seem to get out of the bad or players who need some extra help. The tooltip, at least, says nothing about preventing use on bound or slowed targets, so there are situations where this might be more useful than the usual movement tools available to players.

The lineup is thus one of reliable options that should provide some good choices. Protect and Swiftcast, obviously, are spells every healer will want; there are several good options in there which you might not always bring along, however. Would you rather bring Cleric Stance or Largesse? Which one is going to help you out in the long run? It’s some interesting pressure there, which I like.

Feel the new heals, same as the old heals.

White Mage

If there’s one job I found kind of disappointing, it’s probably White Mage. That doesn’t mean the job is bad, but it suffers a bit from how much pieces of its kit are now part of the default loadout, and its gauge is definitely the least mechanically interesting of the lot.

Here’s the way that works: as you cast Cure or Cure II on targets, you can get a lily. The more lilies you have, the more your cooldown time is reduced on your big cooldown spells like Assize, Asylum, Tetragrammaton, and your new Divine Benison spell. That’s it. Yeah, I was underwhelmed.

In addition to all of the spells you have already lost aside from the generalized spells, you also no longer have access to Stoneskin at all. You see where I’m coming from, here.

That’s the bad stuff, but the good news is that White Mage does, in fact, still feel very solid. Your new gauge is kind of a matter of whatever, but you also have a new trait which reduces the recast time on Asylum and Assize when you get a crit with Cure or Cure II. More importantly, there’s the simple reality that White Mage benefits more than most from the removal of stance dancing; Assize, Holy, Aero III, and your various directly upgraded Stone spells all make the job exceedingly capable at straddling between damage and healing in an instance. And really, when you get right down to it, a greater emphasis on having your big cooldowns be more accessible alone makes White Mage feel plenty strong.

Divine Benison is functionally a replacement for Stoneskin, erecting a barrier on the target for 15% of the target’s health (and it’s affected by your lillies, as well) with no cast time. Your showstopper at 70, Plenary Indulgence, is basically a group heal that scales in potency the more Confessions you have on your fellow party members, which are applied via repeated Cures. It’s a cooldown without an MP cost, so it can be a good way to get in some big healing for free on a short cooldown.

At the end of the day, I think White Mage is going to feel fine, but it does feel like it got the short end of the stick in terms of new toys. I suppose someone had to.

It's never been more of a faerie job than it is right here.

Scholar

Scholar is an odd duck, because it’s a job that has basically subsisted almost entirely on its toolset at 50 all through Heavensward. Sure, you get a couple of new tricks along the way, but they’re more about shoring up weaknesses than anything; Indomitability and Emergency Tactics are both very nice, but neither rewrite the core of playing Scholar.

Good news! Scholar is still basically the same job at 70. Which means it still has a reliable damage and healing toolkit, and most of its new tricks still focus on corner cases.

Your two biggest new healing tricks are Excogitation, which puts a time-release healing shield on a party member, and Aetherpact, which institutes a special Fey Union status decreasing your little faerie gauge. I don’t feel Scholar’s gauge is as underwhelming as White Mage, but it’s still not a massive rewrite; the Fey Union status is all that really drains the gauge, and it basically turns your faerie into a regen effect for as long as it’s up. It’s more useful than Dissipation, but it’s still kind of just another tool in the box.

Of course, you also now have a chance at reducing your Aetherflow cooldown each time you consume a stack of Aetherflow, so that’s a good thing. And you’ve got a new rank of Broil and the ability to make a target more vulnerable to critical hits, which is also cool.

The short version is that Scholar feels like, well, more of Scholar. Not much has changed there. That’s both good and bad; you have no dramatic new tools, but you don’t feel like you’ve lost tools or gotten something inconsequential a la White Mage.

The stars, they lie.

Astrologian

First of all, Astrologian is the one healer who gets no new real mechanics to go along with its new gauge. It’s still all about card drawing, but considering how intensive that mechanic was before, it’s a good thing. No, the two biggest tricks Astrologians pick up are the two new arcana available and the new Earthly Star ability, which is just plain cool.

Let’s cover the latter first; Earthly Star deploys a field and gives you the option to trigger the effect again for a burst of healing and damage to allies and enemies, respectively. If you can wait out for ten seconds, however, that same ability delivers a much larger burst of healing and damage. The cooldown on it is a minute, so you can’t keep it out all the time, but you have to make good use of the modal effect. Can you hold it down? Do you need the healing now? What’s your best option?

The two new arcana replace your existing arcana when you draw one, and both of them are direct rather than buffs; the Lord deals direct unaspected damage to a target, while the Lady provides a solid heal to your target. You also have the new Sleeve Draw ability, which allows you to execute all of your separate cooldowns at once every two minutes. More cards and more uses of same, in short.

Astrologian is still the weakest healer when it comes to direct damage and the most reliant on random draws, but it also still requires a subtle hand to play effectively. Much like with the new Scholar abilities, it feels like it’s been refined more than redesigned, the same core abilities mixed up with a new set of details.

Disclosure: Travel and lodging for the media preview event were both covered by Square-Enix. We were also fed while we were there, which I thought was nice. They had these coconut macaroons, and I love macaroons so much. I haven’t had one for years. Plus, I got to see a bit of San Francisco, which was honestly pretty cool in and of itself. All content covered here is still under development and subject to change. Although if you’re hoping Astrologian will get a gun, odds are low.
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Giannis Papadopoulos

Thumbs up for the removal of cleric stance dancing!

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Leiloni

I want to know what skills they’re removing from each class to make up for these new role actions. That’s my biggest concern, is having to go without things I have now.

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Gordi_the_mighti

MTQcapture on youtube goes through all abilities that are added or removed for each class.

White mage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh6K_81v4ds&t=7s
Scholar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGE10nM_OQ8
Astrologian https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKak8KZkgqg
Role Skills https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MqlCEiT-04&t=9s

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Aaron Biegalski

As a scholar, I am not terribly pleased to lose a DoT. Especially considering that the upgraded version is arguably not even as useful.

It’s not the end of the world, but still.

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Tiresias

I’m assuaging my disappointment with the Red Mage by cherishing the fact that they didn’t change the Scholar too much. It’s the most enjoyable healer I’ve ever played in an MMO outside of a Mantra-based support Mesmer, which is DEFINITELY the most fun I’ve had “healing” in any MMO ever since, largely because it’s healing through doing things that aren’t healing (dealing damage, removing conditions, etc.).

I’ve never been able to get into White Mage or Astrologian. I might give them a run in the new expansion, but if the Scholar is as good as everyone is saying I’m likely to stick with my weird healing lectures.