Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers in benchmark and letter form

Toss me a cure, will you?

One of the nice things about the rules around the Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers media tour is that seeing the big job change video means that those of us who were there can be all, “Yeah, we saw, it looked so cool.” But we also need to avoid talking about the stuff that is not in the video and/or the actual live letter until Wednesday, which makes for a fun time watching people speculate about how X works.

This speculation is always either “entirely right” or “wildly wrong,” it seems. It’s never mostly right.

Fortunately, there’s enough to discuss without picking apart speculation from the live letter alone, not to mention that long-awaited benchmark (which was as much of a surprise to me as it was to everyone else watching). So let’s talk about the new stuff that we know to take a brief interlude from our retroactive appraisal of Stormblood, starting with the long-awaited look at our two new races!


Perhaps no so much with the customization

Correct me if I’m wrong (I am not), but before we actually had the benchmark we were promised that both Viera and Hrothgar would have a variety of additional character options in the creator as part of the flip side for having only one gender each. Cut to now, and not only do they have about the same number of options, Hrothgar actually feel like they have fewer options due to hairstyle locking to face choice.

This is not the hugest issue ever, of course; if Viera and Hrothgar were wildly more customizable, it’d feel rather unfair to everyone playing other races. I’d just be remiss to not to point out that this did not pan out anywhere near as promised.

I also have to admit that I was hoping for a bit more differentiation between the clans of Viera, but that’s a minor quibble. The fact is that yes, I do like the new races. I don’t like the gender locking, but it’s not like I ever thought that was a real possibility from announcement up to now; at best, it wouldn’t tarnish how I felt about the new races. And while I think they’re both going to need a bit more polish and work (as tacitly admitted with the headgear element), they’re still neat.

Of course, the actual benchmark part is largely for giggles at this point, but it’s still nice to see the confirmation that your computer is up to the task of running the game. Since I’m planning some upgrades soon anyhow the results didn’t matter as much, but hey, I’d be fine without upgrades! That’s nice to know.

Hit it harder!

Sir, that’s my emotional support weapon damage debuff

And now we move into the part wherein people listened to half of the statement and jumped to conclusions on the rest. What the live letter actually said is that job synergy was being adjusted and the designers wanted to tune down places where it got excessive. What a whole lot of people seemed to hear is that we’re all selfish DPS now, no one synergizes at all, Dancer is now superpowered because it buffs other jobs.

That’s not what was said. What was said was that this particular synergy was a mess. They wanted to get out of a state where Monks were the only job using blunt damage and thus were lower on the totem pole because of it, and so now weapon type damage buffs is gone.

To be honest, as much as I liked these debuffs from a theoretical standpoint, we all know that they really did deform the meta. The longstanding NIN-DRG-BRD-MCH meta was based around the piercing and slashing debuffs, and that in and of itself was a challenge in balance for both Bard and Machinist. Do you buff those jobs to operate without the piercing debuff (thus making them hypercharged with a Dragoon) or do you assume they’re operating with one (weakening them substantially under other circumstances)?

From the statement alone, my mind doesn’t go to eliminating buffing or changing how the core of it works, but eliminating degenerate synergy. If you have pairings that are just so much better than any other pairing, there’s something wrong there. I’ve talked a lot about the hard balance work done to make sure that each of the various jobs is still balanced and worthwhile in content, and part of that is making sure that choosing between Bard and Dancer is a choice with actual upsides and downsides. Weapon damage debuffs skewed that, and they’re not a thing we still need in the game.

Removing that synergy allows you to pick out other synergies across the board. Although we’ll have to wait a little to see how those play out.


Pure tanks, pure heals

There’s a similar misconception that seems to be swirling around the idea of “pure healers” as mentioned in the live letter. Seriously, there was an immediate and vociferous objection to the idea that a “pure healing” role was being emphasized and “oh, what, are healers not supposed to DPS now?!” despite… again, that not being what was said.

In fact, if you paid attention, it felt like the actual test of the changes wasn’t about removing DPS, it was about removing passive healing. Pet changes put more onus of healing in the hands of the Scholar instead of letting Eos or Selene do a big chunk of it. Astrologians need to be more active in card selections and choice. And White Mage gets more tools to not be chained into just hard-casting Cure II, right down to new instant heals that unlock a damage spell.

That was said right on the live letter. If you think “pure healing” meant “no DPS, only heals,” you might want to check your assumptions there.

It feels like these changes tie into what was announced with tanks, as well; from now on tanking means going into tank stance, full stop. This doesn’t mean that tanks aren’t supposed to do damage or care about that, but that enmity and holding things and positioning are your primary goals as a tank. No, you do not want to be doing just enough threat-wise to keep the boss on you, and now that’s no longer an option or even sensible.

That having been said, I think what’s being done for off-tank and main-tank roles makes a lot of sense. It seems like the sort of space to give you areas to differentiate the four different tanks while also not leaving any of them as undesirable on fights where one spends most of her time (or all of it) as backup or off-tanking. There will be a different character to having a Paladin or Gunbreaker as your off-tank, but you won’t have situations wherein, say, Dark Knight just doesn’t work well as an off-tank and thus gets the short end of the stick.

Obviously, I have more to say about some of these changes… but then, you’ll just have to wait until Wednesday to see our coverage of the media tour and get hints about what that might mean. Until then, feel free to leave comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, back to the Stormblood summation!

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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