Wisdom of Nym: Balance changes after Final Fantasy XIV’s patch 5.05

    
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Transformers?

Gosh, someone really likes Monk, huh? Not only did the job already get plenty of buffs, Final Fantasy XIV gave a bunch more improvements to Monk with the Savage patch… probably a few too many buffs, if we’re being honest. One suspects an element of overcompensation is at work here, even though most of the actual changes are largely quality-of-life things. Still, those quality-of-life changes seem to have actually drawn out the potency the job already had, so that’s part of the path toward balancing a little bit further.

This patch really does feel like the first step on a longer balancing path, to be fair; it’s only the second patch since the expansion, and while we all knew there would be some balance changes we’re probably going to be seeing more when Savage has been out for a bit and some things can more reasonably be tweaked with better data. So let’s talk about the balance changes in place, their impact, and where things are still lacking.

Monk

Honestly, most of what there is to say about this one is right there in the introduction, but it seems as if this was the moment when people actually realized how good Monk is right now. Being able to build Chakra quickly out of combat and not having Greased Lightning wear off between pulls are both quality-of-life changes that don’t help your actual damage, but they do make the job a bit more fun to play. And with the greater emphasis on speed, really, that Riddle of Fire change feels overdue.

If there’s one thing in here that’s actually a direct balance change that might need to be tweaked, it’s the Riddle of Earth effect; while it definitely needed a change, there’s a bit of an issue when it’s now super-easy for Monk to actually just ignore positionals, especially when that’s a big part of the job’s damage. If raidwide damage was less common at this point, it might be different, but that wound up getting a bit overpowered. Maybe another tweak.

Oh, is this one my time? It keeps changing back and forth.

Samurai

Oh, thank goodness, Hagakure is back in a way that doesn’t suck.

For those of you who didn’t play Samurai in Stormblood, you might not be familiar with how weird Hagakure was. It was a very important skill that masqueraded as being functionally useless. The way the job tells you to play it is to build up your Sen and use it for Iaijutsu, with Hagakure there to get rid of Sen and build Kenki if you need a reset. The way that you would actually play, though, was to build Sen, then Hagakure and keep using your Kenki oGCD attacks to do way more damage, and then worry about Iaiajutsu when Hagakure was on cooldown.

It didn’t make the job unpleasant to play by any means, but there was a distinct split between people who knew this and those who didn’t, and the people who didn’t were generally certain that it was wrong until actually trying it. I know that because I was one, and it felt like unlocking a gorram cheat code.

Now, I was still sad that Hagakure was gone because the ability to reset your Sen was useful in various situations. So I’m glad that the new version of it still lets you do that and still gives you Kenki, but it’s no longer a gain to convert a full set into Kenki instead of continuing to use Iaijutsu. It’s a tool for smoothing your rotation between pulls, not for rewriting the way things work for the job.

Red Mage

Huh. That… sure is a good change, but is it the one we needed here? Don’t get me wrong, Red Mage had MP problems, but is that really the job’s biggest problem right now?

Red Mage is unique among basically every caster job in that it has no way of controlling its MP outside of Lucid Dreaming; White Mage, Scholar, Summoner, Black Mage, and even Astrologian all have tools to keep the MP flowing, but Red Mage historically relied on not actually using much MP with its usual rotation. The revised costs for the flat MP values wound up making Red Mages rely heavily on working in Lucid Dreaming over and over, which could be a problem if you actually had an unusual drain on your MP like raising someone.

However, Red Mage also has the problem of underperforming in damage right now, and this fix not really… well, fixing that. To some extent it’s understandable, Red Mage hasn’t changed a whole lot, but it deals pretty low damage, and I’m not sure if adjusting costs really addresses the problem. Is it really providing that much additional utility? I don’t think so. But then, it’s not even suffering worst in that department…

Gosh am I glad that the dang frog is still around, too.

Ninja

It’s hard to play Ninja right now. Not just because Ninja damage is underperforming compared to other jobs by a significant margin, although that is an issue; it’s because Ninja damage is underperforming and it’s really hard to get to that level anyhow. Miss a cooldown window and your damage plummets even further, meaning that it has a similar problem to what Machinist had in Stormblood wherein you had to work overtime just to keep up.

Balancing Ninja is, of course, really tricky. No other job offers that flat bonus of Trick Attack for the entire party, and a flat 10% damage boost is really powerful when you get down to it. The problem is that it’s in that realm wherein the damage boost it offers doesn’t actually balance with its own sub-par damage, and even that doesn’t balance particularly well when you remember that Ninja’s boost scales differently depending on party size.

Much as the Monk changes seem aimed at letting people know how dang good the job is now, the Ninja changes seem conservative, as if SE is trying to avoid a return to Ninja as automatic meta by tuning it too high. That’s a reasonable goal, but it means that right now the job is very complex to play (though not nearly as unfun as Machinist was last expansion, let’s be completely clear) just to lag behind other jobs notably. More tweaks are needed. It doesn’t need a complete playstyle reworking, but it needs some improvements.

Astrologian

This one is a straight potency buff, and it’s for a healing job that really wasn’t that bad to start with. Seriously, Astrologian was solid even before all of these improvements. This is probably why none of these changes is really earth-shattering, but together they’re a lot of little improvements that add up until they start to feel a lot stronger.

Buffing regen potency while reducing barriers slightly? Kind of a wash, but also the sort of thing that encourages using your actual toolkit in more diverse ways. Making Sleeve Draw easier to use? A straight improvement for what it’s actually meant to do. Improving potencies for area heals? Fixes the biggest weakness that Astrologian did have, when it was lagging behind in recovery moments.

A lot of people are salty that the card system was replaced with something that’s less impenetrable at a glance and offers a better guide to what you’re supposed to be doing. I get that; managing your cards is still a major element of the job, but it’s a major element that feels very different now. But adding some more raw power helps that feel better. It’s probably not enough to fix the perception of Astrologian as the weakest healing job of the expansion, but we’ll have to see if it gets stuck in the same slot White Mage used to be in.

BEHOLD MY HUMAN LASER!

And the others…

I generally didn’t have a lot to say about some of the more minor tweaks, nor do I want to really pick apart some of the other jobs that didn’t get altered much. Do some unchanged jobs need alteration? Yes, definitely. But this is an initial balance pass with things that are clearly not quite where they need to be; some stuff just has to wait until 5.1. Much like the alliance raid, really.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I’d like to take the opportunity to speculate about that alliance raid because we’ve got a few routes it could go, and they’re all interesting from a lore standpoint.

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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Shadex De'Marr

Astrologian is a casualty of the continuing trend among game developers to focus on shorter, repeatable content or the carrot and stick grind. Now this is not entirely their fault as there are many facets that put us where we are today. One being an overall generation shift toward everything needing to be shorter or attentions wane.

Now pair this with developers that need to keep players logging in and paying so instead of creating long, involved, difficult quests, instances, or raids they make super short pocket experiences and force the players to repeat them over and over in order to gain some arbitrary currency to get what they want.

So now you have players already focused on wanting to get something now having to run the same instances over and over often for weeks on end of course they are going to find any way possible to make it faster and that is where DPS enters the picture.

Now Square has decided to turn completely into this skid and dedicate pretty much their entire design paradigm around this idea making almost everything about DPS. Raid content is DPS gated, tanks have to DPS, healers have to DPS. Do you have DPS buffs? OK you’re in. You? No? You suck get out. What do the developers think is going to happen when you build content around one game mechanic. Of course the only card they wanted was balance. It was the only card your content was built for. Take this quote from Utopia:

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

Developers have taken a generation that was already predisposed to fast fast now now and built content that feeded that mentality in order to make a quick buck. Only to turn around and punish the population as a whole by removing content under the pretense of ‘well that was the only card being used.’

Start developing content that requires other thought processes. Challenge your players to discover new ways to defeat obstacles beyond the current MOAR DPS. Rather than removing game abilities how about taking the high road instead of the easy out and make content to make those abilities relevant?

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Renard Volpe

I’m disappointed summoner wasn’t addressed in the article seeing how it’s a trash fire of a class right now and the “balance” update in this patch was just a slap in the face .

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Sariel

As a Summoner main I’m doing 11K sustained DPS, I don’t see the problem right now. I’ve seen a lot of terrible SMNs, but… the job itself is doing fine

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Renard Volpe

I’ve seen the likes of Tsundere Imouto and Miyabi Vartengale the two Gods of SMN and the creators of the standard rotations absolutely rip the class to shreds for how bad it is. With all the spell weaving, mediocre potency, and still bad pet AI the class has an insane amount of issues. Sure 11k is nice but when a 6 other classes are doing more then that consistently with less effort and skill it makes you wonder if it’s worth it. FFlogs has plenty of data to support this, I’m a numbers man and numbers don’t lie.

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JBNL

Poor astro still hamstrung on the new card system … the old one worked so smoothly, the new one is 6 flavors of single target damage up.

F.

JonBuck
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JonBuck

I think their reasoning was that the cards other than damage were rarely being used. I remember them posting a metric about that.

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JBNL

Story I heard said that people had issues distinguishing between cards and only played the damage up ones (Balance) … so they pretty much gutted the entire card draw system (draw/redraw, spread, royal road) into the current system.
(The old card system offered A LOT of utility and the dmg up card wasn’t always the best to play to boot)

And then to cover for them gutting it, they split drawing and playing into two separate actions to boot. I will level it like everything – but I’m emphatically -not- going to like those 10 levels.

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styopa

Personally, AST was the 2nd class I’d leveled to cap and I liked it enough that I was sorely tempted to (psychologically) switch it to be my main for ShB.
Now? I’m still grinding my WHM to cap (I’m slow), so I haven’t played my AST for quite some time now, but I’m pretty pessimistic about the new gameplay.
AST was damned interesting before, where with WHM healing is pretty straightforward with AST it always felt like a dance, like I was always *just* on the edge of not being able to keep up.
As far as I can tell, they switched the old card draw (2/3 of the cards were junk or useful for VERY specific situations or only to set up something later) for the new card draw (you’re drawing 6 cards with identical buffs but ACTUALLY drawing just for a set of 3 seals). Seems like the new one is silly – why not just draw from THREE cards then?*

But again, I haven’t played it yet. Maybe I’m wrong.

*personally, I think they could have slightly juiced the cards for relevancy, it would have made a far simpler and useful change. My personal idea was that they give you an AST toggle, let your draws be truly random (as they were) or set-driven, ie random, but as you get each card it falls off the list until you’ve gotten each card from the deck once, then reshuffles. That would add a tiny bit of meta-strategy to playing it.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

This reeks of Metrics Based Design. Players don’t use the entire toolkit correctly on a high skill-cap class? You don’t say…

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cursedseishi

Honestly? I think it isn’t so much that nobody uses them… It’s that nobody could use them. Get an Ewer/Spire pull right off the bat as an instance starts or between pulls? Well… Yeah, I guess I could use it now and hope whoever needed that tick-up for MP/TP starts burning through it hard…

Or I could redraw to hope for a better card, or burn it for the AoE effect if I end up redrawing Ewer/Spire. And sure, I could tuck it off to the side… But the value behind Balance/Bole means it is better to tuck those to the side instead. Even Arrow and Spear are better to tuck off, since nobody will notice a TP/MP booster at the start of the pull. Better then to buff damage/speed/crit at the start then rely on those to pop mid-fight instead…

JonBuck
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JonBuck

I never ended up playing AST because I just couldn’t understand how it worked. SCH is almost as bad for me. WHM is my chosen healer class. Simple, straightforward.

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cursedseishi

It looked denser from the outside, which has always been a bit of the issue with the class. You end up worrying about what everything does, when in essence the only two cards universally worth anything is Bole/Balance.

Like I said, and as others have said, you can break the card mechanics down to either the good cards (b/b), or the bad ones (the rest). Spear/Arrow are DPS increases, though not the flat out big buffs like Balance… Which is why I simplified it for myself in that if I drew the two nigh-guaranteed bad cards (Spire/Ewer), I should just burn for the effect or redraw. If its S/A, I can use them if I want, especially for giant trash pulls, or try and redraw for balance.

The current system is definitely a buff towards parties as it means reliable and always useful draws… Though at the cost of a good Astrologian’s flexibility.
I can’t speak definitively for healing myself since those jobs I tend to leave last to level, but I’ve heard scholar’s gotten a bit of a rough go of things while White Mage is blossoming in the current expansion. So that fits.