Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers overhaul jobs, part one

    
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I am not throwing away my shot.

There are four jobs that we know of which are getting some major reworking in Shadowbringers. For a game with fifteen jobs, that’s not so bad; one healer, two DPS, and one tank. And none of these jobs are even terrible, to be fair, which is a testament to the strength of Final Fantasy XIV’s design team. This is why I think it’s interesting to take a look at all four jobs and ask why they need some significant redesigns, as these have all been singled out ahead of time as jobs in need of more love.

Obviously, we don’t yet know what the jobs will look like at 80; we don’t know what any jobs will look like at that level, and ever job will have some abilities changed, some trimmed, and some altered as part of the redistribution. But these four are going to look pretty notably different. So let’s find out why.

FIRE ELEMENT

Machinist

The bane of Machinist in Stormblood has been trying to keep Gauss Barrel relevant, resulting in the Heat mechanic. This in and of itself is all right… except for how it interacts with Wildfire, and results in a job with a razor-thin margin of error to be useful.

For those of you who don’t play Machinist, the root of the issue is the interplay between Heat and Wildfire. Wildfire is a debuff you apply to a target that “stores” a certain amount of the damage you deal, exploding after 10s for a big burst. Heat, meanwhile, accumulates through most of your weaponskills; while Gauss Barrel normally increases your damage by 5% and you get a boost to your normal skills at 50 heat or above, reaching 100 heat puts you into an “Overheated” state for 10s that increases damage by 20% and also shuts you out of Gauss Barrel for another 10s.

At its core, this is… a decent start to things. It makes sense, for example, to overheat and fire off your Wildfire at the same time, to get the most out of both 10s windows. All fine and good, right? Except that you may have also noticed that this gives you a really narrow window to actually play the job, juggling a whole lot of things at once and requiring a perfect execution of setup, burst, and aftermath.

You only want to overheat here. It is very difficult to perfectly time that without using Flamethrower, which essentially is useful only as a way to overheat at this point. And you have to spend a bunch of time getting your weaponskills perfectly queued up ahead of time with ammunition, and having your turret out, and then all of it goes straight into the trash if the boss jumps before Wildfire wears off.

No other job has this nail-biting an execution of its basic rotation; the closest equivalents are Summoner and Dragoon, which both have very intensive bits of timing for their windows of burst, but still don’t involve juggling so much stuff at the same time. And this is all for Machinist to just keep up. It’s not for doing game-breaking damage, it just keeps the job on par with other DPS.

One of the central issues here, honestly, is Wildfire. It makes perfect sense why Wildfire is there, but maximizing it as part of your rotation has never actually been fun. It wasn’t fun when we were still using cast times, it isn’t fun now, and if it persists into Shadowbringers it’s likely not to be fun there either. It has to be perfectly timed around boss invulnerability to be effective, and it winds up being a way to keep Machinist balanced by allowing a big burst that can be stymied in far too many ways.

In other words, you get to be awesome for 10s every minute. The rest of the time you’re scrambling to keep up. The system makes sense as a concept, but it really needs to be taken out and seriously refined to be fun.

Booooring.

White Mage

Remember when one of the new abilities that White Mage was used to show off was Rescue? You know, the cross-role ability? That kind of shows off why White Mage has had issues with the expansion. It’s not that the job is bad so much as it keeps… not getting much definition, and its new toys don’t really help with that.

Lilies are pointless. They serve as a slight cooldown reduction, and trying to max them out before using the abilities with linked cooldowns is a good idea, but far more important is knowing when it’s smart to use those cooldowns. Plenary Indulgence is a burst of healing that had to later sort of be designed into being worthwhile, and even then it’s still of only moderate use because Scholars and Astrologians need to be able to heal through the same stuff. It’s kind of interesting to me how the closest we have to a White Mage “identity” involves regen effects, and we didn’t even get a new one in Stormblood.

Part of the reason for that, of course, is that it’s become clear over time that regen effects are just… not as good as barriers. But this comes on the heels of White Mage losing Stoneskin, which is sort of replaced with Divine Benison but it’s not nearly as good.

This isn’t to say that White Mage is bad, exactly, because it’s still a solid healer with a solid toolkit, but it really doesn’t get anything more than just tweaks to that toolkit. After the balancing passes were handled, Scholar is still better at DPS and Astrologian is better at raw output with its buffs and sects. With spells like Protect made universal, it’s just… well, basic. An archetype for healers rather than an interesting one on its own.

So one of the positive aspects of having another healer in the group is that it gives the job more space to refocus. Rather than being contrasted against two other options, it can be contrasted against three, and it can have more space to carve out a distinct identity. And, frankly, it’s not just a problem White Mage has here; there’s a reason so many White Mage characters over the years have had some other aspect as a hook, like summoning or being good at archery or just being Minwu.

My hope is that we see more stuff on the basis of what is distinct to White Mage. A new form of Stoneskin, for example, would be great. Imagine a version that doesn’t serve as a simple barrier but as a combination of Protect and a barrier; it reduces damage up to a certain point. Or a form of Blink, or the return of spells like Banish or Erase. There’s definitely space in the material.

It’s not that White Mage is a balance nightmare; it just needs something that it offers that not every healer does. That alone would do the job a world of good.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, we’ll wrap this up by taking a look at the other two jobs slated for some noteworthy overhauls, Dark Knight and Monk.

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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Rob W

I noticed the article intro said it’d be talking about 4 jobs being different, though only two are listed (unless you count the mentions of AST and SCH, but it really doesn’t discuss any differences for them in future content).

I’m hopeful that this means another two job write-ups like these rather than unintentionally listing it as “4 jobs” but meaning to only do 2, since I’d say these descriptions are pretty well done and give a brief overview of the conversations that have been going on regarding these jobs over the past expansion.

Edit: somehow missed the article being listed as “Part 1,” my bad. Looking forward to part 2!

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cursedseishi

Machinist’s issues have been present since the class was introduced, the problem has been they’ve only compounded it with the following expansion and additions. It’s worst issue, especially early Heavensward, was that it was practically “Bard with Gun”. Basic 2 (or 3, for Mch) shot rotation reliant on RNG buffing procs for next skikk for single target with an execution skill? Check. Being a buff-bot? Literally in Mch’s case. And toggable skill to make their attacks require casting? You know it!

Just… Machinist had more RNG thrown onto their basic rotation, ammunition to track rather than song timers, and in exchange for buff bots they lose access to the “Make enemy take more pain” buff Bards still had. And Wildfire… The second you get it, it’s about mandatory to keep up on DPS and it becomes obvious that you’ll be using it or being punished for not. Heat is an interesting addition to manage, but anything that increases your damage done is just going to make Wildfire that much more mandatory with it… and well, that compounds. They need to step back, perhaps pair down a bit of the mechanical bloat you need to juggle…

And, hey… maybe borrow something from Guild Wars 2? The Engineer class in that is a blast, and having the Machinist play a little harder into his machinery rather than his gun may be a good idea?

Can’t really speak much on White Mage, as it’s been at Lvl 50 for me since Heavensward. Will get around to it though… However the consensus I’ve heard matches. It isn’t a bad healer, but everyone else took its lunch money! Buffs? Standardized or Astroligian. Stoneskin? That’s the Scholar’s thing, just repeatable. And you can’t make them the “king of HoTs” by buffing their over time abilities without busting it… My Discipline Priest in WoW was a broken powerhouse because of her heirloom gear that I further buffed and twinked out. Heal over times that are stronger than a single cast of another healer’s spell per tick? Ouch… No reason to ever waste time casting a heal then, when I can layer on a HoT or two and never worry.

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Cody Cantrell

One issue with the WHM section…

The White Mage shouldn’t be trying to farm Lilies. Ever.

The goal is to maximize Regen/Med II/Bene/Tetra/Benis along with your co-healers move set to the point of never having to cast a Cure I, Cure II or Cure III.

In short, the more you have to hard cast a Cure, the more dps you’ve lost because the damage most likely could’ve been healed (or prevented) in a better way.

Endgame WHM is using the entire toolkit to never have to get a Lily while you dps as much as possible.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

I was leveling a MCH because I wanted to be 2nd Gen Mistborne :-) but even as I was playing I knew I was doing something wrong. I reading about how exact it is I’m not sure it’s a class for me. I need something with a slightly larger margin for error / to do other things (why I enjoy support classes).

WHM never held any appeal for me, not sure why. I’ve SCH healed since the relaunch. I <3 my faeries

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cursedseishi

Unfortunately, I doubt will be getting any bullet fields to nudge attacks aside or super jumps to Wax and Wayne over in the coming expansion. But who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky…!

And I can attest to that. Part of it for me is the fact that my fairy can heal full time in any dungeon pre-35-to-40 with minimal assistance. As a person attracted to any chance to hit things? More chances to cast ruin = more interest!

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Sorenthaz

MCH just feels too awkward in too many spots imo.

Essentially you have multiple periods where you know you’re not doing optimal damage. Anytime that you don’t have ammo to spend, the 10 seconds where you have to wait for Gauss Barrel to become active again, oh and of course you have to essentially blow your load every 10 seconds in a perfectly executed window just to do competitive DPS that still only puts you at upper-middle of the pack iirc.

Oh and the very basic rotation, your three shots that you combo one after another? Yeah, that’s RNG-based if you don’t have ammo. Have fun repeating Split Shot over and over again as you flip a coin and hope it lands on heads. You only get a 25% probability that you’ll even be able to execute your basic three-hit combo without ammo.

The whole design just doesn’t feel good to me and I think it needs a complete overhaul. Wildfire pretty much needs to go and just be incorporated into the Heat mechanic – Gauss Barrel too imo. Ammo should be up to 6 held and reloading should have two options: 1, quick reload, instantly replenishes 1 ammo but uses the GCD or has a mana cost; 2, a reload that has a cast time and it’ll have an ‘active reload’ mechanic (akin to Gears of War or ZMR – rip…) where if you time it just right you can get 6 ammo back instead of 3. Instead of making it about maximizing tiny flipping windows of burst DPS, make it about managing ammunition and building up to that big overheat moment without needing to micromanage as much nonsense.

^- If they did the above changes MCH would feel way more fun to play while still retaining skill-based elements of timing and managing stuff… just not to such ridiculously anal levels. It’d also make more sense and feel more natural-ish as a job that requires gun mechanics with ammo and such. Right now MCH just feels very convoluted and not elegant or intuitive in the slightest.

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cursedseishi

Eh, I doubt they’d want to introduce an active-reload type mechanic as a main mechanic for a class. Latency/lag could screw someone playing the class moreso than it might even now. It’s why the “active time battles” that all pop up in the game all are button-mashers with a generous bit of wiggle room.

Ammunition needs a reworking though, definitely. If they want to keep it down to 3 rounds for the reload, then something should be worked into the skills–whether by including it in the skill itself or by trait. Like giving Heartbreak the ability to give ammo upon an enemy’s death similar to Drk’s Lone Survivor, where it leaves a short debuff on the enemy that triggers on death. Or something that triggers off a critical hit, giving the next skill a chance of not using a round when fired. At most right now you can get 4 rounds in 45 seconds; 3-round reload on 30s cd and a 1-round reload on 15s. Even if by chance or a single skill, padding out the munitions number between the 30s reload would probably help. Though I don’t have access to numbers to guess further on that…

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Sorenthaz

At the very least remove the cooldown from the 3 bullet reload and give it a cast time or something. I’d rather have that than the current “your basic rotation only feels good/consistent once every 30 seconds” nonsense.

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styopa

I main a WHM and frankly would really like the class to have more of a focus as well. I mean, packing the biggest heals is damned handy sometimes, as well as a suite of OGCD abilities.

But…I’m just getting AST to 68 now, and it just feels so much more purposeful (not to mention pretty as hell). I’ve never felt at all gimped to WHM healing (but then I haven’t been running 70 content with the WHM to see if ‘wow, this really is simpler’ or no…) and the rush of dropping +damage or +Att speed on an ENTIRE 8 person group is substantial. In a PUG Wanderer’s last night we ran with 2 SAMs and +damage buffs on them made the run just sprintingly fast.

WHM does do big clunky DPS in between, sure & I do still essentially love my WHM but with a good group, WHM play is aero, stone………..stone………stone……….stone……

…which is pretty damned dull.

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Toy Clown

I main a White Mage and I’ve often looked over at the Scholar job with a bit of envy, especially after leveling it to play Summoner, which shares many things with the job. The envy came from the knowledge that Scholar gets a lot of the DPS abilities of Summoner.

I am curious to see how White Mage plays out in the expansion, as the playstyle of many of the classes changed direction drastically. For example, I loved Summoner through 60, but it took a weird, tedious turn in the last expansion that wasn’t quite as fun. It was too much “do this x amount of times to trigger this, so you can trigger this after x amount of time.” It was difficult to play the class to its strength due to fights ending too quickly to take advantage. I could see it would be a good raid class, but I don’t like to raid, so never played that aspect.

It’s a big reason I’ve stayed loyal to White Mage to this point as it didn’t require too much brain function going toward knowing the synergy of different abilities, and I could just cast an ability when needed, no matter how fast-paced action became.

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Jon Camp

In ARR I was “BLM4LIFE!!!” but then in Heavensward the changed made so that you could cast Fire 4 and keep it up felt like I was fighthing the job more than the monsters, so I swapped to Summoner. At 50 it was still boring, but at 60 I loved it. Then Stormblood came out and summoner initially was boring again. BLM was improved from HW, but still not quite “there” for me, so I swapped to RDM. It was also fine, but again, not quite “there” for me either, so I more or less switched to PLD as my main job. SMN got decently fixed, so I tend to use it if I go with a dps role instead of tanking.

For healing, I’ve always preferred Scholar, in every phase.

I’ve never been in to the melee dps either. Bard’s pretty good now, so I don’t mind it, though I focus on my caster gear 1st, so Bard tends to not be played due to not having it geared up as well.

I’ve never really liked Machinist for the reasons described above. I hated the RNG of the base rotation, the ammo management, and then after adding in the heat how you had to make everything line up *just* right so you could blow your load during Wildfire…. Nah, not for me. Even though I *love* the animations of the heated shots. Ah well.

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BigAngry

I want to like MCH so, so much, but the timing is just too ridiculous for someone with fibromyalgia and arthritis like me to pull off. It’s a cool job! It’s got some fun mechanics! I’ve got the Garo event golden pistol glamour! But I can’t get my damnable fingers to work fast enough in the damage window for Wildfire/Overheat to do decent damage without doing me an ouchie in the process.

Also, I agree, lilies are useless. I get that they probably took the inspiration from Aeris being a WHM (…right? It’s been an age since I played VII [my PlayStation 1 memory card got corrupted at the save point outside Sephiroth’s lair when it came out, and I still haven’t gone back to it]), but like PLD’s oath gauge, it’s just there so that WHM can have a gauge of some sort so they don’t look left out.

Looking forward to your write-up on MNK especially next week, Eliot!

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IronSalamander8 .

I actually switched from Black Knight as my main class to Machinist as my old group stopped playing and I hate PuG tanking but the timing of the class is a mess indeed. Cool ideas, but I always feel like I have to work my character’s tail off (literally in her case!) just to keep up on DPS. I’d like a smoother, more intuitive mechanic.