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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.