It’s fair to say that a lot was riding on the first limited job for Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not just that the job itself needed to be fun, it’s that it needed to justify a highly unorthodox approach to the game’s leveling and gameplay structure while at the same time providing people with the sense that it was a useful and worthwhile addition to the game. Oh, and it also needed to be fun in the process, while demonstrating good cause for its status as a limited job. That’s a whole lot of burden on the first limited job, doubly so considering that it was the longtime fan favorite Blue Mage.
So, with all of those caveats in place, let’s get into a measured and professional analysis of Blue Mage. And that analysis would be…
Holy crap, this is so much fun. This is awesome. I got Toad Oil! I got Toad Oil on my first pull! I’m taking on overleveled enemies even without 1000 Needles! I don’t have to wait for you, loser, I have Sticky Tongue! Get over here!
Seriously, the last time I had this much of an immediate positive impression of a job was when I got to try out Red Mage early before Stormblood’s launch. I went from figuring I’d try it out a little to eagerly and enthusiastically farming up abilities despite knowing full well that I had to be up early the next day. “I should really get to sleep… but I could instead swing over this way and try to pick up Toad Oil! Maybe just one or two pulls.”
Going around to hunt down abilities is just plain fun. Not only does it encourage you to take on enemies that are a higher level than you while solo – which is pretty doable even without things like 1000 Needles cheese techniques – it also gives you a good reason to teleport around and explore corners of the map you otherwise might have skipped. And the momentary surge of learning something feels good even when you don’t plan to use it. I haven’t cast Self-Destruct or Final Sting as of this writing, but I was still happy to get them, and those are among the “tricky” low-level skills.
There’s also the fact that a lot of the abilities that you learn actually have multiple sources, which further encourages different behavior. Don’t want to wait until 12 or so for Sticky Tongue? There’s a FATE right outside of Limsa that offers you a shot at it. Waiting until 50 for Plaincracker? Heck with that, there are golems who use it in the mid-20s.
It’s this sort of playful misdirection that makes the job even more fun. The spellbook is not inaccurate, but it’s not the only set of sources possible. For example, as people have learned, if you want to learn Tail Screw, you don’t have to pay attention to the proper way of doing things. You can have a level 70 friend run you over to The Peaks and then take on the Crag Claws there, according to reports; they use Tail Screw and as long as you’re there and in the party, you have a shot at it.
People don’t seem to have yet tested this with skills like the Dragon and Ram’s Voice, which I suspect you could similarly farm up in Azys Lla; it’s a question of where these abilities are more common, but it is as simple as whether or not the ability is used. This means that creativity is supreme.
“But what about that early dungeon you need to do to get Mind Blast? You can’t queue for it!” For one thing, people have already figured out how to solo their way through Tam-Tara Deepcroft on-level. For another, that is actually part of the point. The whole point of having Mind Blast as something of an ability gate is to remind you that Blue Mage is not a job that can’t do dungeons, it’s a job that can’t queue for dungeons normally. It can and sometimes must needs do dungeons.
That’s just not how you level up. And how do you level up? Really quickly, it seems; since you can bypass some of the usual gating necessary for higher-level fights that helps bulk out your leveling early. FATEs and leves are a bit less useful, especially at lower levels, since you get better results by just taking on random enemies and chaining them, but getting in your challenge log entries on both is probably a good thing. You get the idea.
There’s apparently even the need for an alteration to chocobo leveling as a result of this, although on my main this is a fairly neutral fact; my bird has been Level 20 for a while now. It’s nice to know it’s here, and if you need to catch up a little, now is the time before it gets hotfixed away. (It was put far enough in the future that you have plenty of time to take advantage of it.)
Perhaps most importantly, the job really does put paid to its limited status. Not because it’s overpowered in every arena (although it tends to be so more often than not), but because it doesn’t work like other jobs. It’s something you notice pretty early on when playing it because the job’s abilities aren’t designed for synergy or rotation or sequence or anything. They’re designed to work in a specific context.
At level 20, my main attack is Water Cannon. It’ll likely remain Water Cannon until I pick up a spell with slightly higher potency, and while 1000 Needles gets to be a huge boost for a good while, once 1000 damage starts being less impressive it stops being too useful. The spells for the job actually top out at rather low potencies, around 130 for most of the spells you can use reliably. Glower, Flamethrower, Plaincracker, The Ram’s Voice, and The Look are going to be your main go-to attack spells if you want to maximize your per-hit damage, and all of them have notably less range than Water Cannon.
This is kind of the point. Blue Mage doesn’t need to be restricted to range; you have Sticky Tongue to get things to where you want them. A lot of your spells and actions are conditional or utility-based, with things like Loom, Flying Sardine, Bristle, and the aforementioned Sticky Tongue offering a very different playstyle. If you want to be a tank, you can throw on Mighty Guard, use The Look to keep threat, with Diamondback and Toad Oil to mitigate. It has less of a rotation than it has a one-button setup, but if you’re willing to do some back-and-forth darting you can make combos happen with things like Ram’s Voice and Dragon’s Voice.
As a DPS, it’s sort of boring because Off-Guard, then Bristle, then just spam Glower until you’re low on MP and need to Blood Drain is pretty bland. But as a multi-purpose, multi-function job designed to operate in any necessary niche, it’s an absolute blast. It gets even more fun when you have the spells to support weird loadouts; an all-BLU party to run dungeons is fun and weird.
Making all of this totally balanced would make it less fun. Making for fixed loadouts would make it less fun. This is actually a really fun job doing exactly what it should be doing; the one aspect that I wish had been included is the option to enter dungeons with your squadrons. I’m guessing there was a technical limitation on that one.
That’s the real sticking point for me. Could all of this be crammed into a rather banal rotation of abilities where you have to cast Water Cannon, then Bristle, then Dragon’s Voice, then Blood Drain, and finish with Drill Cannon? Probably, yeah. It would be possible. But would it be as fun and different? No. Blue Mage engages in combat differently than other jobs do, and feels like a wholly different experience. It justifies its limited nature then and there.
I had been optimistic before. Now, I’m excited to see future limited jobs. This was a great idea that resulted in a fun job, and I look forward to further efforts in the same direction.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s actually go into that deep dive of all the lore and story implications. Hopefully I can steer myself away from just spamming The Look on things in the meantime. Epic side-eye mage!