Here we are. The newest Final Fantasy XIV patch is as much a proof of concept as the original Blue Mage launch was, showing how this can be expanded instead of simply how it must be expanded. It was always going to be a touch contentious simply because of the contentious nature of the limited job, but that means that this patch is simultaneously a chance to see what is intended for the future of the weird job, where it has to go, and how it’s going to maintain relevance.
So what did I think of it? Well, I tried, I gave it an honest shot. I dived in on Tuesday evening willing to give this job extension every benefit of the doubt I possibly could.
First of all, it’s only fair to offer my proper disclosure. At the time of this writing, my Blue Mage is level 57 and has learned all of the new spells you can hunt down in the open world. (I also took the time ahead of hunting those down to pick up Mountain Buster, Eruption, Aqua Breath, and Snort; I did not previously have them, for reference.) I fully expect to be finished leveling up by the time you’re reading this, but I am writing with certain understood blind spots in my experience. There is a limited amount of time during the day and I can only request forgiveness for not already being 60.
In stark contrast to the original Blue Mage launch, we had far fewer “new” enemies added in the world for these purposes; the only one I can think of are the Abalathian Moths, which themselves are the heart of what is easily the most annoying open-world skills to learn right now. Most of the abilities are thus existing tricks, and a lot of these new spells come from dungeons, most notably the Mimicry spell from Pharos Sirius (Hard) and the Pom Cure from Thornmarch.
This was always something of a thing, but it’s more pronounced now that Blue Mages have more expectation of party finder groups formed just for Blue Mages. The Mimicry spell in particular feels like it should have been a totem spell, since it enables you to properly tank, heal, or DPS when you’re in a group environment.
More important than this, however, is the reality of what these additions mean for the job. Several of them provide new combos or utility, for example; Exuviation and Pom Cure round out your healing options, while Devour, Revenge Blast, and J Kick are all useful additions to tanking. You also have things like Alpine Draft and Northerlies providing easier (and higher-potency) access to some otherwise uncommon elements for use in both challenges and leveling.
Aqua Breath and Northerlies are now basically the approach to leveling, for the record. A 20s stun is amazingly potent, it deals solid damage, and it allows you to basically focus entirely on dealing damage by spamming Northerlies and oGCD abilities to the point that higher-level enemies will just melt. If you hadn’t already hunted these down, well… do so. (Aqua Breath is easily learned from Ultros in the Masked Carnivale.)
Of course, a lot of the tricks do require going in with a group. This means… we have to talk about the duty log feature added and how it completely does not do what most people (myself included) were hoping for.
It appears that rather than being an all-Blue Mage duty finder, the log just allows you to quickly make a Party Finder group and then pray for rain, so to speak. This is a bit of a problem anyhow; it gets worse when you realize that it’s the easiest way to learn a number of useful abilities for tanking or healing. The advantage is that you get extra rewards for clearing and your learn rates are higher than being boosted through, but the disadvantage is that it relies on players looking and deciding to sign up.
Despite some theories, I don’t think this is a matter of not wanting a duty finder option but a more realistic problem with the game systems. At a glance, it seems like the duty finder only has a flag to either allow or disallow jobs from queueing, not one to carefully decide based on circumstances. (Remember, you needed to use combat jobs to queue even for the gathering version of the Diadem.) So while the limitation is unpleasant, it might be somewhat inevitable based on the game’s existing code.
And while that is due for an update, well… I don’t know how much work would need to be done for that and the duty finder is kind of an integral part of the game, so I think there’s good cause to not pull that apart in this particular case. For whatever reason, the work needed to make that function was beyond what the team had time and resources to do.
The addition of a Blue Mage store for Allied Seals helps in this particular case in terms of offering a reason to run this content. It doesn’t completely solve the issue, of course, but it at least provides something further to spend Allied Seals on (including cosmetics) and helps to encourage more runs. I think we ultimately need a bit more, or we need more refreshing items in the store, but I think it has a reasonable chance of leading to reliable full party runs being put up for a while. Still, it doesn’t quite have the added longevity I’d like to see.
Having said all of that, what we ultimately got was an expansion of the concept of Blue Mage and what can be done. The experience of playing one is still very different from other jobs, and the nature of its arsenal continues to be a major element. Keep in mind that even when synced down, Blue Mage has access to far more abilities than your average character would at the equivalent point; you have tools for dealing with mechanics that might otherwise be unapproachable.
If anything, the ability to challenge things has gotten even more expansive. Mimicry allows for specific ability modifications and stat boosts, while the overall arsenal allows an individual Blue Mage to have a truly impressive loadout. You can remove debuffs, buff your defense, stun and silence, attack at range or in melee, apply a wide variety of debuffs, provoke, deploy oGCD abilities, and almost always pull out as much damage on single-target as on multi-target. That’s a lot of different abilities, especially for a job that’s only been out now for less than a year. It might not be overpowered in the “no one can hurt you” way some players would like, but Blue Mage is pretty dominating in the content it can access.
So it’s not a perfect expansion of the job, but it’s a pretty good job. I look forward to the next batch.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time, let’s talk about the live letter! Yes, I forgot these two were going to perfectly overlap if I just went weekly.