Wisdom of Nym: A measured evaluation of Final Fantasy XIV’s Blue Mage

    
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Never seen a bluer sky.

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.

Obviously, this was a design decision that I had been publicly in favor of, but I certainly had my doubts that the job would actually work. For all my enthusiasm for the concept, it had yet to be proven, and I could certainly see a version of the job where things went disastrously wrong. In fact, my first plan was to not even try the job for a little while in hopes of letting some immediate rush furor die down, but I found myself with some spare time on Tuesday evening.

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.

Kersping.

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.

The most wonderful sound.

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 eliot@massivelyop.com. 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!

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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ExcaliburLost

I like the premise of this content a lot, but I’m left wanting more. I think this would have been better released earlier in a patch cycle, with the promise of a little bit
more to come each patch. As is, it feels like there’s an eternity between now and when I’ll actually get to do more with this job.

It’s also extremely disappointing you can’t take this job into Palace of the Dead, a place perfectly suited to toying around with all its unique abilities.

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Utakata

The joking aside about waiting till they release a Pink Mage…

…in my pigtailed opinion I find one of the weakest aspects of FF XIV of having to level ones character to 50 in another class or “job” in this case to unlock any of the newer classes. Then having to regrind it back up to max level. Yeah I get SE favors a multiclass system over an alting one…but it sure makes it grindy in the ad tedium. To which the strength of WoW has always been to hop in any classes that are available to that race regardless how new it is with it’s own unique start zone, and the way we go. This is why I could never go back to XIV if they paid me to. Sorry. :(

It’s a lovely game though otherwise.

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

Afaik, you have to indeed reach Ishgard on a job, before you unlock Dark Knight, Astrologian and Machinist. For Stormblood you need to have one job at level 50 for Red Mage and Samurai.

But it’s a natural progress, and you don’t start from level one on either of these. Dark Knight, Astrologian and Machinist start at 30, while Red Mage and Samurai start at 50. Current levelcap is 70, which isn’t too much of a stretch if you ask me.

Current levelcap with WoW is 120. You start all classes (except Demon Hunter and Death Knight) at level 1 and have to grind it up all the way to 120. Before the shift to scaling that wasn’t too bad, but now it takes ages… Especially for DPS classes that can’t just chain dungeons like tanks or healers can.

We can use boosts, but the potions in FFXIV cost a hell of a lot less than the ones in WoW.

But that’s my 2 cents, I love the laid back style of leveling in FFXIV, with some netflix or something on the second screen while hacking away at mobs, or dungeoneering.

Different folks, different strokes :)

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Utakata

Well, thank you for least clarifying it is not as bad as I was initially lead to believe. I am still not sold on it though. :(

…as I also agree WoW’s march to lv 120 needs to be the next on the item squish list. /sigh

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Toy Clown

A friend asked me to level Blue mage with them and they didn’t show up, then the next day while I was sitting on level 10, then told me they were 50! I was like… that’s rude! haha

I’m glad they found some awesome fun and pell-melled it, but I, on the other hand, ended up finding it all just a bit tedious: Lots of running around, lots of other people trying to do the same thing I was, lots of travel expense wracking up… and all-of-a-sudden I just didn’t find the idea of leveling Blue Mage fun anymore.

It’s something I’m going to have to take in small doses – if I ever get around to leveling it again.

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nobleeinherjar

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but is one of the points of BLU (after you’ve had fun getting all the spells and finished Masked Carnivale and all that) being that you can run old content you may have missed without having to get a group together for it? Old raids and stuff?

If that’s the case, I think I could get behind this limited job business. Though, I wonder then if they ever add BST or PUP as limited jobs, will they serve the same purpose just with a different flavor? Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m just wondering.

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styopa

Stupid question: can you ONLY learn attack abilities?

I nabbed BLU of course and just set it aside for now as I have other priorities, but if you could grab non-attack abilities and build, for example, an unorthodox BLU healer then I’d be all-in for working on that.
comment image

…and “must needs”. Well played, sir.

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David Blair

They do have a mix of abilities and some role spells as well. Oddly, two of the spells you learn early are self-kills which was totally amusing the first time I tried one, but I’m not sure what to do with them now…

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cursedseishi

Self-kill spells like Final Sting (Physical, Piercing I believe) or Self Destruct (Magical, Fire) are fight enders. You aren’t instantly killed by them, so as shown by a popular Masked Carnival strategy if you deal a finishing blow with it it still counts as a win. Scaling for Blue Mage is already rather crazy, and with a Potency of 1500+ for Final Sting and easily 1200+ with Self Destruct, I’ve seen what looks like damage numbers between 20-30,000 easily before even utilizing an Int-boost potion. With lvl 50 content? That is a massive hit. While that damage comes from the Carnival where elemental weaknesses do come into play, I’d expect something similar outside in regular combat.

To answer the OG question though? Yes and no. You do earn non-damage skills to an extent, but not a lot. Aside from Mighty Guard (your tank stance), you’ll get Toad Oil (Evasion buff) as well as Diamondback (big-hit tank cooldown), as well as Transfusion (Full HP/MP heal while self-killing), but that is about it. You get a lot of damage skills that also serve utility or adjustments for you, and the Masked Carnival does a good job of enforcing and showing a lot of that.

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Corey Gray

I just finished leveling BLU to 50 last night… and I didn’t enjoy it.

Originally, I was not even going to touch BLU until after the fervor had died down as I have other jobs that I care about more, but then I read about how they were going to nerf the chocobo leveling which I do care about so I pushed through it and ranked my chocobo from 7 to 13. Now there’s a bad taste in my mouth. Admittedly, much of that is probably because of the community: I did not enjoy having to contend with hordes of blue-garbed PCs every time I went somewhere. I am peeved that SE isn’t taking action against people who use the job-switch exploit to level quickly and that those same people were ridiculing me for not doing it.

There were guides to gaining all of the spells on the day of release. I have been deliberately avoiding them since I figured that discovering spells was a core part of the job and should be part of the experience. Otherwise you’re just running down a list and rolling the dice a few times and SE should have included exactly which mobs drop what in the spellbook if that was their intent. Apparently not using a guide is worth more ridicule, but that may be deserved since, unfortunately, that central mechanic isn’t very fun: I can never tell if a mob doesn’t have an ability or if I am just rolling poorly, so it is possible to waste a lot of time. I ran past plainscracker and flying sardine since they didn’t drop while I was hitting those mobs while leveling. Guess I’ll have to go back for those and grind on mobs that don’t have anything else to offer, but the idea of doing that for all of the other spells I do not have is not appealing. Yet without all of those spells, I do not have the “true” BLU experience and if that experience requires a guide that seems like a poor design.

I am glad that is is a limited job because it is not balanced at all and I would hate to have to play BLU to be at my best. I have only been playing for a few months and my MSQ progression is only at 2.2 because I do that with my wife. With the rest of my time I have been leveling multiple jobs, doing dailies, and making the most of that earlier game content. I do my dungeons and trials synced and try to hit them the first time without knowing what mechanics to expect.

I figured I would go through BLU eventually, as I am leveling all of the jobs, just to knock it off the list. I’m not sure how I feel about weekly Masked Carnivale content: On one hand, that gives the job more longevity and hopefully SE didn’t spend all of this developer time on something that people will be done with in a couple of weeks. On the other hand, I really want allied seals and poetics but I don’t really want to play BLU to get them so I won’t be done with the job when I wanted to be.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

I am peeved that SE isn’t taking action against people who use the job-switch exploit to level quickly

Why would they? They understand that it’s basically irrelevant due to limitations of this job.

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Corey Gray

It is an exploit that cheapens the accomplishment of leveling the job and undermines the idea of being that job. It is currently possible to be level 50 BLU without ever actually playing the job by using another job for leveling.

Even for jobs that are not limited, everyone will hit max level eventually. You could thus say that how quickly people hit that point is irrelevant and that the exploit should remain in effect or be replaced with some other effort-free method of power-leveling. Yet we want people to go through the process partly so that they don’t undermine the accomplishments of other people at that level and partly so that they know the ropes and can actually be that job. We don’t just hand out level 70 or even 50 to everybody who asks.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yet we want people to go through the process

Please learn to use “I” (and phrases like “my opinion”) in place of words like “we”. Because personally I don’t care AT ALL if some Blue will reach lvl50 after one hour of playing, regardless of the method. Just as I don’t care if, for example, someone buys a level skip potion from Mogstation to instantly level non-limited class to lvl60. Because this has 0 impact on my personal gameplay in this game (even if such character will end up in a same dungeon as me – there are several ways I can deal with it so even that does not bother me).

If that really bothers you – then perhaps you should find a different game where powerleveling or buying items to instantly boost your level is not possible.

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Corey Gray

I take it you didn’t seen the Known Issues After Patch 4.5 (Jan.18) that SE posted?

We would normally classify such a method for levelling as an exploit, but since we were not able to address this promptly despite it being a known issue, we will not issue any penalties for players who level this way. However, since this was not the Blue Mage’s intended design, we do not recommend engaging in this behaviour, and encourage players to level in the intended fashion.

So, yes, we want people to go through the process. We being SE, myself, and whoever else doesn’t appreciate this sort of behavior. Please refrain from telling people they shouldn’t play the game because they want it to be played the way it was designed to be played.

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

*removed*

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Vincent Clark

1. They’ve addressed it’s a known exploit 2. Because it’s not an easy hot-fix as it deals with how XP is applied across the board, the fix will come more than likely in 5.0. They’ve encourage people not to do it. But y’now what, people are people and sometimes they suck. But that is only going to affect your game play if you let it.

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Corey Gray

Honestly, this was never supposed to be the focus of my post. I found it annoying, yes, but only annoying. I went to a place that was less crowded and leveled the way that I wanted to level without sidebar comments from the people one-shotting the stuff that I was trying to fight. I do understand why it is not an easy fix and even understand SE’s position on not penalizing people for it even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

The part that has me not wanting to do more with BLU is that what seems to be the core mechanic (discovering and acquiring new spells) does not seem to be that much fun without an external guide smoothing it out. I like doing my dungeons and trials synced and without reading up on the mechanics first. I’ve been avoiding game trailers because I don’t want any spoilers for the MSQ I have not done yet. I would like to experience BLU the same way, but it seems that would require a lot of fruitless grinding.

I’ve been thinking about how to improve that, and for me personally I think I would have preferred a list of spells and no hints on where to get them instead of hints on where to get them without knowing what they are. Then I could draw upon my existing knowledge of who does what or explore Eorzea looking for mobs which have those skills, fight each of them a few times to determine if they have what I need, and then do the grinding. I may try to find a sanitized list of spells to do exactly that without getting all of the spoilers.

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Christyl Goodnetter

Its no more an exploit than those that have been power leveling since day 1. You have always been able to tag a mob on any class and have a higher class kill it for you. By utilizing regens or shields from a higher level partner outside of your party you avoid death. This is actually a much faster way to get to 50 on blu using its given open world exp buff without doing the job swap solo bs. The fact is BOTH methods have been in the game for ages…. Anyone with half a brain has been using them them to solo level or boost jobs from 1 to at least 16(dungeon ready) as far back as at least 2.0 and maybe even earlier. Idk why people have to get so upset and butthurt because they don’t habe anyone to carry them through. Props to the folks that do the solo plvl with the job swap bevause it takes a hell of a lot longer than just doing and old fashion plvl. The fact is blu gets an exp boost and people took advantage in different ways.

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David Blair

So I went through this with my wife and we staggered our sessions over the weekend to stay away from the BLU wave. I also stayed away from guides until I cleaned out a zone of unique monsters and couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be learning from who.

I would have loved for them to have had the book filled with the description of the spell (that you get after you learn it) instead of the location, then you could be like, “Oh, I remember a tribe of Goblins being over by Aleport, I’ll try to learn Bomb Toss from them!” yada yada… instead of it being, “Well shoot. I just killed two to three of everyone in this entire zone… what two spells are in here that I can learn among all the ones I can’t for whatever weird reason…”

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Corey Gray

This! And then acquiring new spells would be a fun treasure hunt of looking for mobs that have the spell that you need instead of grinding a mob and when you don’t get anything not knowing if that is because you are unlucky (in which case you will ultimately prevail if you just stick with it) or just wasting your time.

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David Blair

I missed your other post on the other wandering thread which is interesting that we both came to the same conclusion on what would work better / provide more fun…

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cursedseishi

I think it’s hard for them to just ‘pin’ a spot down for one skill or another with Blue Mage while also avoiding rail-roading people into places. While there were guides out practically day 1 for skills, they were far from comprehensive and most of them could of easily be written just by using the location hint of each spell and knowing the mobs there. Multiple mobs use the same skills, so the same Goblins tossing bombs by Aleport you may also be able to learn it from Goblins elsewhere, just as Ram’s/Dragon’s Voice can be learned from more than simply the Cutter’s Cry boss.

No one has tested to the extent of if every mob who uses, say, Final Sting, can be learned from… but the area locations the book provides is enough to set up a general idea.

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David Blair

Yeah, they don’t need to provide a spot or zone, just the spell name and the brief description (check the ones that are in the blue spellbook). I didn’t enjoy the area location as the only info. I walked the entire length of Western Thanalan killing two to three of each mob and didn’t see the fun in walking back through that process when I hit the top of the map and was missing two spells listed to be in that zone. It was Toad Oil and Sticky Tongue, btw. How frustrating would that have been to path all the way back down and back up, and only get one, then path all the way back down and up again? That’s the point where I was like, “Screw it. What does a guide say?” And I had already killed toads in La Noscea which would have also given me a chance at learning the spell. Story-wise, it also makes sense that the book that Martyn hands to you would have the spell name and a snippet of information instead of vast blank pages with zones listed in them. I tell you what, when Martyn told me to go learn “Mind Blast”, I was immediately snapping my fingers and saying, “Mind Flayer in Tam Tara.” Him giving clues is a better method than, “Find mystery spell in zone X”.

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cursedseishi

Oh yeah, there are definitely weaknesses in the current method they use, I can’t deny. Whether it be people not understanding to let Bombs cast Self Destruct or Wasps Final Sting, and just killing everything in sight. Or certain mobs who have a tendency to… not really use their skills as often as one would like, or even obviously used ala Bristle with the Boars in Eastern Shroud.

Sticky tongue had given me no shortage of issues precisely because everyone was burning down toads en mass and more so via AoE (Bomb Toss was popular) and stunning them. And as a ranged class predominantly, you won’t always see Toad Oil since I believe it’s only used when one is in melee range. My guess is they intended you to find the spell one way or another as you kill your way to lvl 50 since multiple abilities have several sources, much like the toads and wasps for instance. Especially since the spells confined to singular areas are almost guaranteed off bosses to be cast and used. Those abilities with multiple sources I think could definitely be named in the book, while Martyn only knows you may be able to gleam something off of Ifrit but has zero clue what it is. After all, he has no defense against the Indoctrination that Primals so commonly use.

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Louie

Leveling up to 50 and learning spells as BLU was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be, but my main issue with the job pertains to the exact reason that Yoshi-P/the devs made it a limited job: it’s not nearly as powerful as it should be to justify separating it from everything else and limiting it to 4-5 year old content. Doom essentially never works, way too many bosses are immune to fun spells like Missile, the potencies in general just feel a little lacking when you’re on-level.

Also the drop rates for the Primal spells are abysmally low, but that’s a complaint for another time.

The Masked Carnivale is a blast to go through, though. I finished it yesterday and they really knocked it out of the park on that one. Especially love the achievements that require you to do special objectives like finishing the final fight without taking any damage while also using a spell of every element. I hope that extends to achievements for new content as well.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

I guess I just want a “boring” job that can actually, well, play the game. I don’t see why these things can’t coexist. Let the people who want an “authentic” BLU experience have the current version. Let the people who want a real new job have it. Just make it unlockable by acquiring the necessary spells (the game already has a way to check built in, so this would be trivial) and then limit the spell setup to a certain subset. Whynotboth.jpg.

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Nathan Aldana

yeah my biggest issue with BLU is pretty simple. Once you do all the effort to unlock all the spells..then what?

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Ghostcoast999

Almost sounds like chocoho racing (which I initially and still do to an extent loved) and many other mechanics they introduced into the game.

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Nathan Aldana

right. I love Blue mage. its fun and interesting. But once you;ve finished the carnivale theres basically nothing to do

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Vincent Clark

The bonus of doing Masked Carnivale is that it’s a fun way of getting a crazy amount of allied seals and poetics–on a weekly basis.

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Ghostcoast999

I honestly think Blue Mage is this game’s third or fourth major mistake. I appreciate the design and I think it’s great people are currently having fun with it. The problem I foresee is what’s happened with a lot of content. No one touches it after about a month.

Blue Mage really should have been a regular old job. Feature it’s enemy ability gathering as something unique to the job! Add it to the Job Quests. The things that make this job unique could have been featured in ways we already have in the game. Flat out this game needs more varying jobs and I can’t stand the idea that Beast Master, a regular pet class MMO staple, may be hamstrung in this “limited job” business.

Elliot I’d love a follow up in 2 to 3 months with you how much you’ve touched Blue Mage after the furor has calmed down