Wisdom of Nym: Speculating about the mechanics of Final Fantasy XIV’s Sage way too early

    
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Here’s what we know so far about Final Fantasy XIV’s Sage: It’ll be a healer. Specifically, it’s going to be a barrier healer, as part of the sorting of every healer into two different types, pure healer or barrier healer. And we know… a handful of abilities that it’s going to have, which certainly appears to include a barrier along with a direct heal and a couple of damage abilities. That is absolutely it in terms of hard gameplay.

So is now a good time to speculate on what sort of role it will have? No! But I’m going to do it anyhow.

Why? Well, we’re in a bit of a lull in terms of content to talk about right now, and we won’t have any new previews for a while. That means for the moment that we’re freely into the space of speculating and considering possibilities. So with that having been said, let’s take a gander at where it’s possible for Sage to fall, what sort of things it could offer, and whether or not we can really draw any conclusions despite our limited information.

First and foremost, I think it’s illustrative to look at what happened when tanks were subdivided at the start of Shadowbringers. If you forgot that… well, it happened! Technically, Paladin and Dark Knight are “main tanks” while Warrior and Gunbreaker are “off tanks.” You might not really know it, being that all of the above are perfectly capable of serving in either role, but the difference is… well, at least in theory there’s a difference between the two roles and how they’re designed.

The point I’m making here, though, is that “barrier healer” doesn’t really tell us the abilities so much as the focus, which may be a more instructive way of thinking about the split. (It also might not – as always, I don’t have the benefit of any insight beyond what’s here.) While Sage is definitely going to be putting up a lot of shields, it’ll probably have at least one or two regen effects, and it’ll probably be part of an overall shift to have all the healers possess similar kits… except that shift already happened as part of the Shadowbringers launch, bringing all three of the healers closer together.

Thus, it’s pretty well assumed that Sage will have a direct heal, a direct damage spell, a damage-over-time effect, and an AoE. At a glance, the AoE is akin to what Astrologian offers, with a targeted effect rather than a point-blank effect.

Laser needles.

As a result, though, it’s less useful to ask what its kit is going to be in the abstract and perhaps more effective to look at how the existing healers each fulfill their role and see what space might be occupied by a new healer. In short, bullet-point summary:

  • White Mage: Most direct and straightforward healer. Best overall damage output thanks to its kit. Solid regen effects, only one temporary barrier for a single target. Offers no real party buffs. Sort of the equivalent of a “selfish” DPS in its healing.
  • Scholar: Lots of barriers for both the party and individual targets, able to stack exceptional amount of barriers with crits. Able to divert a lot of attention from healing thanks to passive healing from its pet. Lower DPS, one notable party buff. Good proactive healer and/or backup healer.
  • Astrologian: Excellent buffs for the party DPS to make up for its own weaker damage. Can shift between shields and regen effects as needed. Solid selection of off-GCD abilities to extend healing. Versatile healer and the most support-oriented of the batch.

Obviously, everyone’s expecting White Mage and Astrologian to be the “pure” healers while Scholar and Sage are the “barrier” healers (I don’t recall anything outright stating this beyond Sage, but considering barriers are Scholar’s whole thing, that seems logical). But there’s another distinction that seems relevant: Scholar is much more of a proactive healer, compared to how White Mage and Astrologian (especially Diurnal Astrologian) are more reactive healers.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you put a regen on an uninjured target, it’s essentially wasted healing. It does nothing. A barrier, on the other hand, is only useful if it goes on before damage is applied. It’s why Scholars can briefly turn off their barriers and get extra healing out of their spells: because tricks like Succor are most useful when you hit them before the room-wide AoE. Excogitation is a powerful trick, but it requires you tossing it on the tank in advance rather than after the damage would already pop it.

The natural thing to assume, then, is that Sage is going to be similarly about being proactive, and possibly even more so than Scholar. Because you’re not going to have a faerie. So what if Sage barriers work in reverse from how other jobs do?

Every current barrier spell works the same basic way. Either it applies a flat barrier, or it heals and then applies a barrier. What if Sage’s unique trick is that it applies a barrier that heals when it breaks, rather than one that’s essentially meant as an extra buffer after a heal?

Yes, I expect to be wrong at this point.

Right away, this would make the job more proactive and play differently. While the actual potency wouldn’t be wildly different, you’d have even more incentive to try to get barriers up before a room-wide effect rather than after. It’d also give you a different sort of window to get things done. While Scholars can toss on Adlo and Excog and then ignore the healing for a bit, Sages would want to toss on a barrier after the tank was a bit hurt, then go to town for a bit, then re-apply while there’s still some buffer space for the healing to work. It’d give you a different sort of resource to work with.

This would also allow for a distinct feel where the two barrier-based healers both have proactive effects and thus feel different from the “pure” healers without being strictly weaker than they are.

How likely do I think this is? Honestly, it’s a bit of a long shot, and if I had to bet on it, I’d say that it’s only about halfway likely. I do think it’s going to be more than “Scholar but without a fairy,” especially since I expect Sage to have more abilities to strengthen or reinforce barriers compared to Scholar. After all, Scholar barriers are essentially a bonus; Sage doesn’t have a fairy to serve as backup as it heals.

But I like the idea of a job that does something unique with how its barriers work and creates an interesting space wherein the rules are just a little bit different. And I think that’s a useful thing to speculate about. Not just to wonder about how the job is going to be similar to other healers, which it no doubt will, but how it can have its own unique flair that’s going to make it different, even if only at the margins.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Feel free to bookmark this so we can all share a good laugh at how wrong I was when the job actually comes out; next week, I’ll be doing the same thing for Reaper.

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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Knight Porter

I cannot overstate how irritating I would find it to play a healer that punished you for your party being at full health.

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Sean Walsh

especially since I expect Sage to have more abilities to strengthen or reinforce barriers compared to Scholar

What if they want all in on this? A kit with barely any direct heals, but instead, all about buffing barriers. So you have this 10k HP tank with a 5k HP barrier on them and the job is to keep that barrier topped off. With some new interactions around buffing the barriers instead of the characters themselves.

Frankly, I think the overall playerbase would be too scared of this sort of gameplay, so it seems unlikely, but sounds fun to me personally nonetheless.

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Erika Do

I loved Scholar before Astrologian came out. I still prefer its book-nerd flavor over astrology, but I play Astrologian because it’s way more fun. Really looking forward to seeing if Sage could be better in both ways.

Maybe they could have some lily-like limited resource that builds as their shields are fully popped. Maybe they could summon little mechanist-like bots to hover over someone and heal them after they take damage.

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Mark

These types of “barrier and then heal when popped” healers are also present in EQ2, so there’s some precedent.

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Ruby Lancer

Okay, this article makes a few assumptions on things that were already outright stated.

First off, back when they were doing the announcements and interviews for Shadowbringers, they had explicitly stated that they were going to be doing away with the idea of tanks being specifically Main Tank or Off-Tank. Yes, abilities still exist that favor one or the other, but none of the tanks are being designed or worked on as if they are meant for one role or other. This was further reinforced after the Announcement Showcase in an interview when asked if tanks were going to be similar divided up and Yoshi-P stated that it wasn’t going to happen.

I will note it took me FOREVER to find anyone even mentioning that it was stated they were making the tanks viable in both roles in Shadowbringers. It was almost like it was a minor thing, making all the tanks viable in any role. Granted all the other changes to tanks, though…

Secondly, we’re not expecting the pure healers to be White Mage and Astrologian, we KNOW they will be because it was stated out right during Sage’s announcement that Astrologian would be retooled to be such. They didn’t say much else about what they’ll be doing there to Astro, instead focusing more on touching on some of the highlights of what they are aiming to do with Sage.

Overall the speculations on how Sage will play sound nice and would further push for a proactive play style even more, but I also don’t see that working out too well with the player base. Outside of… most savage raiders (The party finder on NA is a bit of a thing here…), regens get used proactively so much and barriers tend to not get applied at all or tend to be late as it is. Having Sage play like that will end up with many folks just not liking it because it means they have to learn the fights, regardless of it being a Dungeon or a Raid or what, because if you apply the shields after the damage hits, and nothing else hits before the shields can pop and heal, then you’re going to end up with a bunch of dead players soon enough.

I really do like the more proactive style as it is being stated here, and honestly feel like it would actually play better with White Mage and Astro kits, certainly more so than Scholar’s own kit does with… well just about any other healer outside of coordinated groups. Heck, that kind of mechanic would even allow for more damaging attacks to go out so that way the damage would be enough to pop the shields and still do enough damage to require the heals to be there without just flat out over healing.

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clolton

i just hope sage’s core heals play more like current nocturnal astro (excluding cards ofc), hate scholar’s clunky bandaid fixes like emergency tactics and indomitability that attempt to make up for their missing skills

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Knight Porter

As a career scholar, I certainly know where you’re coming from. I’ll just say that, while it’s not easy, they *do* make up for those missing skills once you get used to using them. The expansion release had… a rather notable adjustment period for me to get used to the new stuff, but it feels like it’s in a good place after two years of practice.