Wisdom of Nym: The jobs of Final Fantasy XI compared to Final Fantasy XIV

With 30 years of history, Final Fantasy as a series has had lots of riffs on the same basic ideas. It’s the only thing tying the series together in the first place, after all, and I look forward to getting ever more surreal takes on the various nuts and bolts of the franchise as I get older. Final Fantasy XIV exists as a part of this, naturally; it has yet to have any jobs which are truly unique to it, as everything in there has showed up at least once before in some capacity.

That having been said, of course, some of that “showed up before” happens in very different contexts. There have been a lot of Dark Knights, after all, but it’s hard to compare the tanking job of FFXIV to, say, the status-based job of Final Fantasy X-2 or the prestige job in Final Fantasy Tactics. The games have very different design goals from the outset.

But we can compare these jobs to their equivalents in Final Fantasy XI. After all, most of the jobs we have now were in that title! So let’s take a look at how the jobs worked in the older game, how they work now, and what consistency might be there if any.

It’s important to note here that when I talk about the various jobs of FFXI, I am primarily adjusting them based on their “expected” roles and subjobs. There was nothing stopping you from, say, making some bizarre PLD/NIN damage-dealing build, but no one was actually going to expect you to play that for most of the game. Similarly, your DRG/WHM was not really what people think about when they consider Dragoons.

Similarly, we’re not forcing connections here. I could argue, say, that Machinist is basically like the halfway point between Ranger and Puppetmaster, but that runs afoul of the problem of it not being Ranger or Puppetmaster. It is what it is.

Still cleaving on a jet plane.Warrior

The funny thing about Warrior is that at low levels, the two are completely different. FFXI Warriors are like Swiss army knives; they can use every weapon, have a toolbox of useful general melee abilities, and excel at no particular role but fill a couple of different ones. FFXIV Warriors, meanwhile, are axe-wielding tanks from day one.

However… by the time you’re up to the cap? The only real difference is that FFXI Warriors aren’t really pure tanks, but FFXIV lets them be the most damaging sort of tanks. They’re still swinging big axes for big numbers, breaking bones, and overwhelming enemies with pure martial force. So they wind up feeling similar.

Paladin

Sorry, dudes, but you’re more or less the same thing. There’s only so many ways to do this particular routine, but both version of Paladin feel like the same sort of job, a solid and unmovable tank with a side of party support.

Dark Knight

Now this is a significant departure. FFXI has Dark Knight as a surprisingly fragile job for its heavy armor with a big emphasis on casting and dealing damage; its two-handed skills are pretty savage, and its specific Absorb spells let you make the enemy weaker while making you stronger. By contrast, FFXIV has them as tanks constantly walking a lot of edges between health and failing, pulling off a constant balancing act.

Thematically, they’re still very similar; both jobs harness that sort of leeching anger to sustain themselves. But mechanically, there’s almost no comparison; no jobs like FFXI Dark Knight exist in FFXIV right now, and vice versa. You can see the comparisons, and it doesn’t feel like either one is a wrong interpretation, but all of the fundamental assumptions get twisted in two different ways.

White Mage

Yawn. About the only difference is having a wider range of elemental damage spells in FFXIV, the actual job is nigh-identical.

Scholar

And this job is pretty much unrecognizable as the same job. They have the same name, but Scholar is a through-and-through healer here instead of being a more caster-focused version of Red Mage. (Also a functional replacement for Red Mage and White Mage, but that’s neither here nor there.) You can’t really compare the two; there’s no point of commonality.

Gas, brake, honk. Gas, brake, honk. Honk, honk, punch. Gas, gas, gas.Monk

Here’s an interesting one, because Monk’s big thing in FFXI had more to do with the variety of options available to the job. It was a remarkably flexible job with lots of abilities to make it more durable, lots of abilities to rely on unconventional gear and subjobs, and so forth. While it was indisputably best at punching things, it seemed like a toolkit that never quite got the supplemental tools it needed.

By contrast, FFXIV gave Monks a fairly wide range of tools in its initial version, but the current job has its stacking infinite combos that feels closer to FFXI Samurai than anything. We still have some interesting tools as Monk, but the focus has been on providing a better punch-engine for a while now.

Dragoon

While I have a lot of lingering affection for FFXI Dragoon, the reality was that it was pretty far from the usual Dragoon setup, turning the job into a pet class with a largely unmanaged companion (that proved to be a balancing nightmare). Thus, the two incarnations feel pretty different; FFXIV Dragoon is closer to a classic Dragoon rather than the ersatz Wyvern-summoner.

Ninja

Hoo boy. This job had a wild ride through FFXI as people realized how good Utsusemi was for taking hits, then losing that status as the developers put more emphasis on things bypassing Utsusemi’s unintentional use. The actual abilities of Ninja never supported the idea of the job as a tank, nor did its gear; it was just something players found.

What they did support was an odd magical-melee hybrid job that applied sequential elemental debuffs to stack out the damage and coordinate with the rest of the party. Which… is pretty much where the job is in FFXIV. So they feel similar now, but if you left FFXI back when blink-tanking was an active thing, they feel like wildly different takes.

Samurai

I’m actually really sad that Samurai have lost all of their archery abilities in FFXIV, since it was both thematic and fun in FFXI. That having been said, the big things that made Samurai tick in that game simply can’t translate here; there’s no such thing as skillchains, everyone does their own combos, and thus the Samurai skillset of being weaponskill experts just doesn’t make sense. They still feel very similar thematically simply because, well, they’re still Samurai.

I think the translation ultimately worked out well, but I don’t feel like there were a whole lot of clear paths from one to the other. Then again, much like Scholar, Samurai has never had a particularly clear definition of what it does in various franchise titles. Swings and roundabouts, then.

Bard

All of that stuff I said about FFXI’s Dragoon being an outlier? Yeah, that applies to FFXIV’s Bard. You’re still singing a lot, but you’ve gone from managing a network of party support buffs for various utility to basically shooting at stuff all the time. It’s a pretty wild change.

Life goals.Black Mage

And again, a yawn. It’s basically the same job with a slightly narrower list of elemental spells. Again, this makes sense; as a basic job across both games, the core concept should remain pretty close. But it does make comparisons a bit less relevant.

Summoner

Here’s something interesting: for a long time in FFXI, Summoners were functionally healers. It’s not like the job was meant for that, but you couldn’t actually keep your summoned pets out for very long based on the high MP cost, and several of them had useful party buffs. So Summoner would summon a pet, use the buff, dismiss the pet, then brute-force heal as a SMN/WHM.

Over time, this became less popular as we got more means of mitigating that MP burden, and Summoners became closer to the pet job they were clearly meant to be. None of which really launches thematically into FFXIV’s narrower selection of summoned pets and assortment of DoTs, but the core idea of “build up power for a bigger summon” does have some consistency. That being said, it’s a very different job within the same core framework; FFXIV seems to have had clearer branding from the beginning but a smaller interpretation at points.

Having said that, you still see a lot of Carbuncle, so that’s all right.

Red Mage

I think there is no better example of a job that’s closer to what was intended compared to what was than this comparison. FFXIV Red Mage is an efficient hybrid of melee and casting damage, swinging back and forth as necessary, with plenty of utility spells. FFXI Red Mage was clearly meant to be all of that, but it actually wound up being a Refresh-cycle support machine with lots of debuffs.

You can see the developers clearly wanted the job to be scary in melee, too; all of the sword weaponskills kept going to Red Mage, after all. But there just was never enough time between the needed support casts for the melee to matter, and now the job is functionally useless in FFXI. So the two are very different now, but they feel very similar except for the lack of Refresh.

A summary? There isn’t much of one, really; it’s just an interesting thought exercise, one you can feel free to agree or disagree with down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, either I’m going to talk about news from PAX East (if it’s worth talking about) or about the annoyance of the Live Letters (if it’s not). Stay tuned!

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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Eamil

I actually just recently started playing FFXI. It’s my fourth or so attempt to get into the game over the past decade, including one just a year ago, and somehow this time it’s clicking and I’m just loving it. They’ve made enough concessions to new players that once you get past the lack of hand-holding (Records of Eminence is super important but easy to miss) it’s definitely nowhere near the chore it was a decade ago.

Not to say that it’s a better game than XIV or modern games, but it has a lot of old-school design sensibilities that I think could fit in modern games if anyone thought to look back and draw inspiration from them, as well as some unique ideas of its own. I’d love a system like Conquest in XIV for example, and I feel like XI’s summoner has a much stronger identity as a summoner than XIV’s. I think XIV’S SMN and SCH both suffer some dilution of their class identities because they have to share most of their abilities, and it would be fantastic if they could be reworked as fully-separate jobs in order to do each of them justice.

Also, open-world dungeons are a thing I never understood until I started playing them for myself in XI. Goddamn, when designers aren’t limited to linear, relatively-easy trash-boss-trash-boss-trash-boss patterns that take half an hour or less to clear, they can make some sprawling environments you can actually get lost in and feel like you’re on a real dungeon delve.

The game has my head spinning on how modern MMOs could take some of these old-school concepts and update them for new audiences. I’d love to see an article on that topic.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

I’m still holding out hope that RDM will get refresh in the next xpack for FFXIV.

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Mark Johns

dnc/nin

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Danny Smith

I still want my goddamn Puppet Master job yoshi!

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Chris Moss

Came here to say this!