After Friday’s keynote, Naoki Yoshida made it fairly clear that Final Fantasy XIV fans would not hear anything further about the contents planned for the game’s third expansion, Shadowbringers, through the rest of the fan festival. Luckily, patch 4.5 was on deck to be a meaty update anyhow, especially when… oh, right, it contained a new freaking job on top of setting up the story of the expansion. That kind of gives enough to keep people’s attention.
Patch 4.5 will be the last patch of the 4.x cycle, and like prior pre-expansion patches, it will be split into two halves, with part one arriving in early January 2019 and part two in late March. Naturally, that means content will be split across the two parts, as well as the Main Scenario quests splitting in half.
Obviously, players will be exploring a new dungeon, the Ghimlyt Dark. The artwork shown of the dungeon was a dead ringer for the footage shown in the Shadowbringers trailer, which lends credence to the thought that the opening moments of the trailer are taking place in 4.5 rather than 5.0. Watch this space.
Players will also be exploring Eureka Hydatos, the last of the Eureka series, which will contain a new open-world public dungeon designed as challenge content after clearing. There’s also the conclusion to the Four Lords story with a battle against Seiryu, the Wrath of Snakes. (A teaser image of the battlefield was perched on a high platform, with Yoshida smirking as he noted that guard rails tend to break…)
The final stretch of the Return to Ivalice raid line will be added, sending players to the Orbonne Monastery, a name that should be immediately familiar to any and all fans of Final Fantasy Tactics. Players will be able to earn, among other rewards, gear resembling Final Fantasy XII’s self-proclaimed leading man Balthier’s outfit, but Balthier himself will not be appearing. However, someone who should serve as an exciting tease of the future will be showing up, which in context strongly hints at Fran (also from FFXII).
PvP content is also getting an update with a new Rival Wings update, adding the new map of the Hidden Gorge. There’s also a new form of content in the Gold Saucer that will be detailed in the next letter, along with a new GATE dubbed Air Force One in which you pilot a tiny Air Force mount along a roller coaster-like track whilst shooting at targets. There are also new prizes. Last but not least, there will be a new custom delivery client to boot.
The new World Visit system will be added near the end of the patch cycle, allowing players to hop to other servers from the Aetherytes in the three starter cities (Ul’dah, Limsa Lominsa, and Gridania.) It’s a fairly simple system, and players won’t have to deal with any time limits or be forced back to their home world by logging out. If your home world is Mateus and you visit Balmung, you’ll stay on Balmung until you decide to head back.
That being said, there are restrictions. Housing cannot be purchased on other worlds from your home world, players cannot access retainers or put items up for sale, nor can they access Free Company features other than chat or any linkshells. There’s also no weddings, no mail, no use of unspoiled gathering nodes, and no purchasing Jumbo Cactpot tickets or taking part in Gold Saucer tournaments. Beyond that, everything is agreeable; you can clear quests, buy things off of the market boards, visit housing, explore the world, earn achievements, queue for duty, and so forth.
Of course, what worlds you can visit will be affected by your data center… and this is where the new data center expansion comes into play. North American servers get a third data center, Crystal, while Europe gets a second data center, Light. This also means servers will be rearranged for both data centers, with some worlds being pulled from both Aether and Primal for North America while Europe’s worlds are split between Chaos and Light.
Particularly of note is the fact that the two historically largest servers, Balmung and Gilgamesh, will now be located on two different data centers; Balmung will be moved to the Crystal data center. Mateus, the second unofficial RP server, will also be moved to the Crystal center, so the World Visit feature will actually strengthen the game’s roleplaying community.
Redistribution will take place over time, and affected servers will be able to use the world transfer feature for free if you don’t want to change your data center. You’ll also be eligible for extra gil to transfer and special compensation if you lose a house and/or apartment, to boot.
So, that’s everything. Right? Oh, except for the previously mentioned new job.
To start things off, Yoshida explained the basics of Blue Mage. Like Blue Mages throughout the series, Blue Mages learn their abilities from monsters; the job starts at level 1 and is capped at level 50 to start, with the job available to unlock by anyone at level 50 even if they haven’t gotten any expansions to the game. (Yes, it’s technically 2.0 content!) Clear the 2.0 MSQ and reach level 50, and you can be a Blue Mage, the first limited job!
So what is a limited job? Yoshida explained that it’s based on one of the fundamental notions of Blue Mage, that it’s a job without balance. Part of the fun of the job is using powerful techniques that wreck game balance. The developers didn’t want people walking into a high-end raid and using Level 5 Death to kill the bosses instantly; at the same time, you don’t want to get a Blue Mage queued up with you who hasn’t learned necessary abilities at a given level. Hence Yoshida historically saying that the job is difficult to adapt.
How do you do that while maintaining party balance? A solution was finally found: you don’t. You let the job be limited, designed for solo play rather than parties. Blue Mage cannot queue up for duty roulettes, any duty requiring matchmaking, PvP matches, Deep Dungeon content, or even certain other content that may not yet be revealed. You can enter instances with pre-formed parties, however.
If this sounds, well, limited… that’s by design. But Yoshida stressed that the point here is that there’s fun stuff to do with Blue Mage and you get to have fun with the job, first and foremost. Rather than making it not feel like Blue Mage, it feels like it should, and it opens the door for other fun limited jobs that may not fit into the game’s role-based party structure. He brought up Beastmaster and Puppetmaster as specific examples, to a chorus of cheers before noting that he was speaking hypothetically at this time.
So how do you level Blue Mage? You fight monsters. There are 49 different BLU spells in the game at launch, learned by witnessing the ability used and killing the monster. They aren’t 100% learning rate, though, and it seems like higher-level or more dangerous enemies may have better odds of teaching you new tricks. Some abilities also come from quests or are earned through “other means.” Players will also be granted bonus experience from kills, so just killing monsters becomes more productive.
You can have up to 24 abilities equipped at once, and all of your learned abilities are stored in a book sharing hints about where unlearned abilities might be found. Obviously there are some familiar tricks like Aqua Breath, Thousand Needles, and Mighty Guard; players can also find tricks like learning Eruption from Ifrit. (You’ll need some help to make that one happen, obviously.)
In short, Blue Mage isn’t a new job like others, but it is also a new form of open-world content for players to enjoy. And it’s the test run for a whole lot of new possibilities in the future. But players will only have to wait another month and a half or so to try it out for themselves, which should prove nicely exciting even before the launch of Stormbringers.