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.
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?
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 email@example.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.