At the same time, I think there’s some issues that are still running through the game’s crafting systems at a fundamental level, issues that are easy to overlook for a bit but jump to prominence when you take a closer look. Stormblood has been kind to crafters and gatherers on a whole, but it’s inherited some issues from the game’s initial rollout of systems during Heavensward, and some of these things could use a careful examination sooner rather than later.
Let’s start with the good. It seems almost transparently obvious that M’naago will not be the last custom delivery character introduced in this expansion; her delivery recipes are all lower-level, and the system is easy enough to expand that there’s no need to limit it to just her storyline. That alone does address one of the issues that existed for much of Heavensward, where there was a distinct lack of any mid-tier crafting options for players who didn’t feel like pentamelding and playing market boards but still enjoyed crafting.
Custom deliveries in general serve as a good way to keep players engaged and give players more options for yellow scrips and something to do; the numerous recipes we’ve gotten with each new patch don’t hurt, either. A lot of the furnishings introduced in patch 4.1 seem particularly designed to be sought after, so that’s also a good thing.
The problem, however, comes when you start getting into the specialist system.
Specialization was introduced in Heavensward, but it didn’t seem particularly useful then; while it offered you some additional actions, it felt like a rather awkward effort to shoehorn the game’s job system onto crafters. That’s a reasonable idea, but it’s one that kind of misses the mark right on a conceptual level, starting with the fact that jobs are not exclusive. You aren’t limited to three jobs; you can have all of them. They’re an upgrade to further differentiate the base classes.
In fact, the whole “job” system itself has become more pointless over time, but that’s a discussion for another time. The fact is that while jobs make classes more diverse, crafters start out as all being the same basic job. They had some crossover actions that haven’t changed at all in the intervening post-launch period, and several Stormblood actions are clearly targeted at outright obsoleting several cross-profession abilities.
Specialization, at the end of the day, feels like desynthesis, a system introduced to give more nuance to crafting and gathering without much consideration for how much fun it would actually be in play. The fact that Stormblood is trying to make specialization more relevant makes sense in light of its general irrelevance in Heavensward, but it doesn’t actually fix the fact that it was never a great idea in the first place.
Crafting classes are not combat jobs, and they don’t neatly slot into the same places. This is even more evident when you consider that adding more gathering jobs seems like an obvious thing to do… but you run into major issues when you realize that there’s no plausible way to expand beyond the three that already exist. Despite the fact that gathering is currently a rather hodgepodge assembling of different demands, it’s hard to slot in another job… especially when you would probably need to start from level 1 instead of using the mid-level catch-up options like expansion classes.
The result is a system that has to make a lot of concessions for various options. Culinarian and Fisher are clearly the outliers from the crafting and gathering clubs; while they both have fans (and both certainly work and have enough to do), it’s hard to miss that neither one is quite like its close cousins. Which crafts do what has also been wrestled with extensively; we’ve gone from Goldsmith making all accessories to a split between Goldsmith, Carpenter, and Leatherworker.
Fishing in particular feels like it’s suffered this expansion; while spearfishing is pretty darn fun, actually catching fish for leves feels frustrating at this point. There’s always been a high degree of randomness involved with fishing, but it’s tilting a bit toward being downright obnoxious, with a plethora of fish that exist basically just to eat your bait.
I think that a lot of the game’s current class structure is something that will need to be addressed in future expansions and patches, but I do think that Stormblood has generally done a good job of making incremental steps to improving things. I also think that it is important to continue having the crafting and gathering classes as actual classes, rather than simply side activities; part of what makes the game feel distinct is that being in these classes is a choice. You can’t just fight something while you’re out gathering; gathering lumber puts you at a certain amount of risk.
So where should we go? First of all, I think that the obvious way to go for crafting is to still have a choice of specialization, but have that specialization based on what you make rather than which class you make. For example, imagine a Furnishing specialization; your various crafts are tuned toward making furniture, probably allowing you to make big jumps in progress without much in the way of quality bumps. Or imagine an Outfitter specialization, with the ability to push quality easily but requiring lots of CP.
Gathering is a bit more problematic, and specialization there is largely not viable, but I think spear fishing actually serves as a nice template for what can be done in the future. The game moved away from its full-on minigames with the relaunch, which was probably for the best, but I think there’s space for more gathering options that have a bit less certainty in what they’re gathering. Heck, we even could have a sort of minigame gathering come back for mining and botany along those lines; the bright side would be not waiting for unspoiled/ephemeral nodes, the down side would be less control over what you get.
Crafting can get by without much more in the way of class options, but we really do need a bit more gathering variety at this point. It’d also be nice if all of the above had some use for leves even at the top end; right now, there’s no real reason to ever use leves once you’ve finished up with your leveling. This isn’t exactly unusual, but giving more options for content is generally a good thing.
I don’t think that crafting or gathering are broken by any stretch of the imagination, but much like the game’s class system, there are clearly some broken edges that are showing through at this point. We’ll probably need to see some extensive reworking in the game’s next expansion, but that doesn’t mean incremental changes before then are wasted effort; the more moves we make toward what crafting can be in the future, the less of a shock to the system it will be when we finally arrive.
Oh, and maybe we could have a gathering beast tribe at some point instead of just a crafting one? That’d be neat.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I’d like to talk about the state of balance, the state of the game’s meta, and why it only barely matters.