Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers’ balance issues ahead of the first patch

    
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No, really, this is still around at the moment.

So, here’s the genesis of this particular column: Originally, my plan was to actually just talk about story beats from Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers that wind up raising questions that aren’t ever definitively answered but wherein I want a definitive answer. That column is still interesting to me and is still something I want to do, but when thinking about the topic I also realized that we’ve got our first balance patch coming out tomorrow, and it’s worth talking about the balance issues that I have actually noticed.

Look, some of the balance claims that people are propping up are either wrong or based on the wrong assumption. Yes, Scholar is no longer the same sort of damage powerhouse that it was before, and that’s entirely intentional because it was sort of absurd before, we’ve talked about this. Yes, Astrologian’s card management is a bit more simplified now. But with a game that has this many moving pieces – even though the staff works really hard at avoiding any balance issues – we need hard data from actual players at work. And, well…

Some of the DPS is undertuned

Dragoon, on the other hand, is not suffering.One of the things that players should always be cautioned about is doing math ahead of the actual expansion release. Yes, we get tooltips from the media tour, but we also know full well that they are early tooltips that may very well not reflect the finished product. So people doing the math and theorycrafting ahead of time tend to be alarmist and wrong, usually based on wanting Job X to be good and Job Y to not be as good and so forth. It’s kind of tedious.

That having been said, well, it turns out the math predicting that Ninja was going to be suffering was right on the money. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be alone, as Dancer and Red Mage are hanging out in the same undertuned boat.

In the case of Dancer and Ninja, it makes a bit more sense. The two are easily the most supportive DPS jobs in the game right now, with Ninja’s Trick Attack and Dancer’s entire job mechanics based around buffing the rest of the party. Unfortunately, neither job is really quite hitting that balance mark just right, and their “support” doesn’t really enhance someone else to the point that their own weaknesses are offset. And Red Mage doesn’t even have that same supportive niche to justify itself unless your party is really bad at not dying, which isn’t really a selling point.

This is, honestly, fine at this point. The numbers might have looked right on paper but aren’t borne out in play. I think that’s totally normal. I would, however, really like to see these things addressed with the first balance pass. They’re not crippling, but winding up with these jobs shouldn’t feel like you’re accepting a weaker party overall, even with their buffs to the rest of the group.

MP issues are a little more pronounced

Red Mage actually has MP issues now. That’s new. In Stormblood, you had to be actively Mana Shifting on the regular in order to ever hit any sort of MP issues, or you had to be recovering from a raise. Now, though, you probably actually need Lucid Dreaming every so often, and healers can definitely make good use of Lucid Dreaming to prop them up.

In the case of healing, the goal is almost certainly to make Piety more appealing than it was through Stormblood, wherein it was really not worth the melding space. These aren’t horrible issues, either, and they can be mitigated (as noted) with Lucid Dreaming. No, the problem comes in more with the fact that Lucid Dreaming is also your main tool to recover if, yes, you die. There’s a little bit of an issue with the pressure of wanting to save that if the worst happens and needing to rotate it pretty regularly to actually… you know, keep casting spells.

It’s not a dealbreaker. But I feel like some costs could use some tweaking here.

Ow, right in the face...

Tank durability is still a bit light

Is it just me, or does Paladin seem a little… squishy at the moment? Don’t get me wrong, Shelltron’s changes make it much more useful, but more than once I’ve found myself on Paladin feeling like I’ve gone from having all the cooldowns to having a real dearth of them. And it seems as if the Oath gauge doesn’t want to yield Shelltron quite as aggressively, sadly, especially during larger pulls.

I’m leery of how much this is a balance issue and how much this is an early issue. The fact that I can no longer automatically do wall-to-wall pulls in Expert runs isn’t inherently a problem, aside from the fact that dungeons are still set up to encourage that pulling style with a clear dividing line. But some of this is also a matter of still being in, well, early equipment for most players. People still do not have full Grade VIII melds tricking out their weekly tomestone gear, so they are naturally a bit more squishy.

My memory isn’t quite good enough to remember how long this feeling of squishiness persisted with the last two expansions. I don’t think it was all that long, but it does feel a bit odd, especially to feel a touch squishy as a Paladin of all the jobs in the world.

And yes, Scholars could maybe use another damage trick

Let me preface this by saying, first and foremost, that my phrasing there was intentional. My actual experience playing Scholar has made it clear that while the job no longer has its same damage output, it’s still very potent all around, has great healing potential, and is actually more fun to play in some ways. Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal, but the people I know who have been playing it a lot past the “blah, I have to Actually Heal Now” crowd have been pretty positive, especially since the problem of “but I suck at damaging things” is solved because you’re literally leveling Summoner at the same time.

However. Scholar does suffer a bit because it is currently the least damage-oriented healing job, to the point that Astrologian literally has more damaging spells. And part of why I think it suffers a bit is that Art of War is kind of the worst AoE damage spells of the healers; it has all of Holy’s weaknesses without its strength or its stun, and while Gravity isn’t great it at least can be used at range.

A buff to Art of War alone would probably be nice to make Scholar damage feel a bit less perfunctory. My thought would be that it could work like Bane for the Scholar’s one DoT, which seems pretty balanced to me; you’re not actually affecting much on single targets, but it allows Scholar to use Art of War once or twice without it being pointless.

Obviously, I don’t think it’s necessarily vital, nor am I entirely sure that my idea is actually a good one. But Scholar could use a tweak, at least, if not a straight buff.

As always, feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time? Well, Eden, obviously! What else would it be?

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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Krenian Kandos

Much like Eliot, I’ve been slowly digesting Shadowbringers and firmly believe he’s spot on with much of his thoughts:

Paladin ‘does’ feel like it’s missing something. Having leveled as a Dark Knight initially, I was very surprised on how potent and sturdy Dark Knights are now. Perhaps my hiatus from Stormblood from the class made me not realize just how strong The Blackest Night was but I am fully aware of it now on ShB and it is riduculously potent. Paladin feels like there’s something missing that just simply makes you take ‘more’ damage, if possible. I am not sure if it’s because of the Parry/Block nerf that came in 5.0 but their damage intake is much higher. It may not be as harmful as it is when you’re out of a shield, but it really shows the difference of sturdiness between DRK and PLD.

Ninja and Dancer being low dps isn’t surprising me at all due to the fact they’re pure supportive roles with DPS coated in. And while I’m not sure the numbers validate the statement, it seems to me a lot of people love having dancers as their partner so there seems to be a pretty good argument about having one in the party to increase that big dps player’s number even more. From what I saw from logs, they’re around the same as Ninjas. I feel like NIN needs a bump. And yeah, a fellow RDM in Stormblood hates RDM in Shadowbringers as it feels like they are so underwhelming. But my wife who uses RDM is enjoying it and sees it more as utility about having an extra quick raise when doing extreme/raids when progressing so I guess that’s the offset of the class. Could use a bump too.

From what I saw, also, going back to the tank part, they’re pretty much close in dps as well. What surprises me greatly is Warrior is lagging behind the others. That shocks me as it is known as the DPS tank and it’s behind the other three. I have not touched my warrior yet so I can’t comment but I wonder how the state of Warrior is at this time..

For healers, I don’t touch that end of the stick but general comments is that most people hate the AST changes period. They hate the fact that it’s so dumbed down to the point that they feel the class is bare bones. I think that’s the crux of the issue as SCH lost their identity being the DPS class and the AST class was a mix of a buffer/healer which lost a lot of its buffing niches. I won’t go more into that. I just know the wife as a WHM ‘loves’ her class now.

Like all expansions, tweaks are expected after the first bit. It won’t be a massive reshuffling of the classes like some hope but tweaks to the potency are well on their way.

Also, as we’re Wednesday and this is a day after the patch, good call on the Art of War potency buff, Eliot! Modern day FFXIV Nostradamus, it seems!

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Sean Walsh

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed AST after my first dungeon with it. Healing has always felt like the most complicated role in this game to me, and as someone who never plans to straight main healing, I appreciate being to pick it up every once for a change of pace.

The card mechanics specifically are what felt especially good. With the new seal system and how Minor Arcana works, every single time I pull a card it’s a good thing. Nothing sucked as much as pulling cards for 3 straight minutes and getting nothing but Spires and Boles.

Nephele
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Nephele

I can only really comment on PLD, MCH, and WHM right now.

Before I start though let me say that I am someone who started in 2.1, and I learned the game well before the overgearing situation got out of hand. Maybe as a result of that, I don’t really enjoy big pulls or AoE spam, and I much prefer fights where I have to think, dodge, and use situational abilities like stuns and cooldowns liberally.

PLD is my main and has been since I started. Right now, it feels about right to me. In Shadowbringers content I actually feel less squishy than most other tanks I have run with. While I am not really a fan of spamming spells for damage, holy circle isn’t terrible, especially with the instant cast trait and the 80 finisher. So for the way the game is being designed at the moment, Paladin feels like it is in good shape right now.

I enjoyed MCH in both 3.0 and 4.0 but I know many other players did not. Going into 5.0 I wasn’t sure I would like it, since I felt a little like it was being dumbed down to appeal to more players. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy it now. It is very different, but using overheat properly still requires thought and timing. Compared to stormblood my damage output is very high now as well. I have been ripping aggro off tanks regularly in some of the 80 dungeons and I am not in full 430+ year yet. However, it could also just be tanks not realizing they need to actually work to KEEP aggro either once they grab it.

Finally WHM. I am only 71 on this right now but I can comment on healing in general. I like that tanks are taking more damage and that I have to be on the ball with healing now. I hated in stormblood how the only time healing mattered was in a boss fight, that is very much not the case now. I also like that I am not completely eclipsed by Astros and scholars anymore. I am having more fun healing as WHM on normal content than I have since 3.5 and that is a good thing I think.

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Toy Clown

Right now, White Mage feels like it’s in the best spot it’s been since I started playing back in Heavensward. Everything clicked when I started playing it in Shadowbringers and I love how they’ve done the lilies and blood lilies. Finally.

Where my issues lie with White Mage is players in random roulettes, which I tried to avoid like the plague currently, who insist that the class needs to be a hard-hitting DPS class. It boggles my mind. Sure, I DPS when not healing, but they halved the damage of our AoE spell and it’s just not that hardhitting enough that I’ll mess with it past 3-4 casts. I much prefer to single target DoT the mobs, then I’ll jump in with Holy, but our DD spell is nicely hitting. But yeah, the class is in great shape, but player perception of those that don’t really play it … blows.

Red Mage doesn’t feel in a good spot right now. It had the least reworking of the classes, but it feels… off. So much so, that I’ve picked up Machinist to see how it plays out.

Thankfully we can level more than one job on a character and it just means I’m leveling a new class for now.

Alyn
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Alyn

I recall a famous mmo from some years back began “balancing” classes and then finally just dumbed down the skill tree completely. I say to Square be careful how you “tune” jobs. Once you have committed it is very difficult to change back-

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Danny Smith

I’m going to be very interested to see how Scholar and Astrologian are by 5.1. It really feels like back when bards and machinist couldn’t move while attacking for a patch or two and it was so unanimously hated it got reverted. Now i’m seeing WHM’s and a few SCH’s but nobody, myself included, has touched AST beyond the early access and the running sentiment seems to be ‘i’ll get to that when they undo this hot mess’ almost unanimously from folks i know.

But getting a bunch of role bonus materia as DNC/RDM will be nice while it lasts :p

Bereman
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Bereman

Bard and Machinist could never “not move” – they had a stance that could be toggled called Wanderer’s Minuet that increased damage significantly, but added cast times to weaponskills and most abilities and removed auto-attack while it was on…so you could do extra damage with it on and have cast times, or turn it off and attack while moving.

And while it wasn’t well liked, it lasted the entire Heavensward expansion, only changing with the rework that came with Stormblood (for Bard, at least, they’ve held to that design with some tweaks, with Machinist getting another rework with ShB).

Which I guess is to basically say is that don’t expect significant changes to a job in a patch – tweaks of numbers absolutely, possibly an ability changed a bit or added back (like Miasma II with Stormblood), but something on the order of what happened with Bard/Machinist when they shifted away from the cast time design come with expansions.

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blahlbinoa .

Paladin does feel squishy past lvl 70. I got Dark Knight up to 75 and my health bar barely moves, Paladin at 75, I’m constantly healing. I think Paladin needs to have Rage of Halone back as well as Shield Swipe and Flash. And when you start getting the trait for your skills to get MP back, you have no MP to spend. Flash should not of been taken out, and it feels like Paladin is gutted. I’ve mained the job since 2.x and it feels weak compared to the other tanks right now.

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Java Jawa

So scholar main here pre xpac…

It’s unfun now, why?

We lost no management
We went from 5-6 damage abilities down to 3, one of which now has an absurd mp cost in comparison to WHM holy.

We lost control over our pets and their abilities this losing a large portion of our targetted healing, yea sorry the AI will never be as good as manual control from a player.

The entire feel and function of the class changed. Ok we got shields, well…one hit from an enemy tears through the entire shield….very useful.

On the other hand I’m having a blast playing warrior.

Yes…I’m grumpy as a class I’ve enjoyed and mained since 2.0 has been axed. Class design should not be changed this far into the life of an MMO. Small meaningful changes sure, this is what we get since there is no test server and thus no feedback.

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Danny Smith

Replace pets with a totally reworked and borked feeling tarot deck and totally nerfed values and i feel the same as AST. It feels like they brought both down rather than just bring WHM up to equal them.

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Java Jawa

Yea I feel for you! Add to the fact it’s the second xpac … ala 4 years and we don’t have another healer is just icing on the top.

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styopa

IMO the whole Lucid Dreaming thing could easily be solved (and left for simpler future tweaking) by fixing the actual problem and giving Raise an element of mana regen as part of the resurrection mechanic. Either a flat X amount of MP, or 6 seconds of accelerated regen that might get a Raised player up to 25%, 50%, 75% (pick your number) of their full mana.

Lucid faces in some way a similar double-bump problem in use as Swiftcast; if your party is not struggling at all, you can use them freely because you don’t need them as oh-shit buttons. If your party is struggling, you need them constantly AND ALSO then want to avoid using them because it’s almost certain you’re going to need them even more the moment they’re on cooldown. At least that’s my life.

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Sean Walsh

Love this Raise idea. With the Weakened debuff, dying is punishing enough to begin with. And with TP gone, non-casters get to revive and then go right back to their normal rotation anyway. Why should it be any different for casters?

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Ruby Lancer

I can only really comment on the tank changes and the like so far myself, but I’m still on the fence if tanks really are squishier overall and need another cooldown, or if its just the incoming damage and healers need to be using their heals more often still.

It also feels like its solely a ShB thing. Content prior to ShB I’ve been able to do almost as I’ve always had and not had too many issues. It could very well just be a gear thing, meaning that we’ll have a lot more pain from tanks that just ignore their gear than we already do now.

Been also hearing that a lot of folks think that Gunbreakers are squishy, but how much of that is actually true and how much of it is just anecdotal is hard to say. Lots of people picked up the class that might not have actually tanked before, so they don’t know to use cooldowns before they’re already on death’s doorstep, or that they shouldn’t be using all their cooldowns all at once because with how such things are calculated, there is a -heavy- drop-off in effectiveness.

Honestly, I suspect things will get better as we finally get the Weekly Capped Tomestone gear, as well as people start gravitating back to the jobs that they really want to play and get a handle on all the changes.