Let’s talk a little bit about the Save the Queen content in Final Fantasy XIV, but perhaps not in the way you might be expecting. I come here not to review the content or to offer guides to playing it, but to look at this content as a potential path forward for the game offering more customization for various jobs in a purely speculative piece.
To make it absolutely clear, this is entirely meant to be speculative. I don’t think that this is what the developers intend to do or any sort of long-term goal for the overall game, nor do I think this is necessarily the only possible way that customization could be added to the game moving forward. Rather, the idea here is to look at a particular confluence of actions and specialized items provides an option that can puncture the idea that customization can’t work for the game, or that it would somehow take away from the bespoke nature of the game’s rotations. Everyone on board? Great. Let’s start with the speculating.
If you’ve played any amount of Save the Queen content, you are no doubt familiar with the essences. If you’re not, you are missing some fundamentals and should stop playing it until you have done the research required to find out how a basic gameplay mechanic work. Essences are potions that you pop that give you a long-standing buff that persists through death and never wears off until you leave the instance or use another essence to apply a different buff. They are also pretty core to your play experience and massively increase your ability to do things, to the point where some content is hard only if people forget or don’t bother to bring appropriate essences.
There are a lot of essences, even aside from varying grades of the same basic type, but for the purposes of this particular exercise I want to focus on a handful of them. Not counting utility things like Breathtaker or Bloodsucker/Beast, you have four basic categories of essence:
- An essence that basically just makes you better at what your role is “supposed” to do (better healing for healing jobs, more damage for DPS, more durability for tanks).
- An essence that makes you better at what your job traditionally does not do (more damage for healing jobs or tanks, or more durability for DPS) without shutting down what you normally do.
- Two essences that each allow you to basically take on another role by shutting down your “normal” abilities or massively weakening those abilities (for example, making healers basically unable to heal but massively boosting damage) while giving big bonuses for another role, expecting you to take up the slack with lost actions.
The specifics of which essence is which varies. For example, for tanks, Martialist adds damage, Guardian adds durability, Savior is for healing, and Irregular hacks up your health and defense for massive DPS boost. In other words, the first two let you be two different flavors of tank; the last two let you be a healer or a DPS, respectively. By contrast, magical DPS has Skirmisher for more damage, Ordained for more MP and healing (and a bit more damage), Veteran for tanking, and Savior for healing. But you get the broad idea.
Of course, the essence alone doesn’t make up your full toolkit. After all, in addition to that, you pick up your two lost actions, which further allow you to make a customized build. A caster, for example, can make some big blasts with Ordained combined with Flare Star and Chainspell. Tanks can get quite aggressive even in Guardian with Banner of Honored Sacrifice and Font of Power. You get the general idea.
Now, part of what makes FFXIV combat work is that every job has a bespoke rotation and build, and that’s important. But lost actions provide a glimpse into what could be added to provide some customization while still keeping that core rotation intact.
Consider the following as a possibility: For each job, you pick a specific essence for it in the same basic build. If you want your Dragoon to pick up a healing essence and be more of a healer, well, now you’re a healer. Moreover, each essence in question also gives you four lost actions to choose between, which can be changed inside of a rest area. Your essence, however, cannot be changed without a somewhat more arduous process; once you make your Dragoon a Savior-essenced job, you are stuck with that for a while.
You might think at first glance that, for example, there’s no reason to choose a Guardian essence on a tank when you could just pick Martialist, but that’s why you also get a suite of lost actions based on your essence, so that Guardian essence gets more aggressive actions and Martialist gets defensive ones. The idea would be, of course, that you’re choosing between being more defensive by stats but capable of more aggressive play… or being more aggressive in damage while having more conservative actions to use.
And by making the choice of essence at least somewhat longer-term, you have a reason to think about what you want each job to be doing and why. You’ll be at a disadvantage for raw healing as a Savior-aspected Red Mage, but you will have Chainspell to help you… is that enough? And you still have a reason to use multiple different jobs, since you might really enjoy Gunbreaker as DPS but still want a tank elsewhere.
Now, before you hop down to the comments to point out that this is rife with balance problems, let me point out that I’m well aware. For one thing, it would necessarily flatten a lot of healing toolkits down because most healers have a lot of spells to heal things compared to just using two for all your heals; your healing Dragoon would probably kind of be awful at everything but a damage rotation. For another, essences are not perfectly tuned anyhow, and many lost actions are built around expiring after a certain number of uses.
In other words, this proposal is not meant to be a case where you could just slap this into the game and it would all work perfectly. You’d need to do a lot of design work to get some of this stuff working properly. Some of it might never work properly, and it works in part because Save the Queen content can flatten things down to the point where a Dragoon tanking is actually a realistic proposition.
But that’s also why I’m proposing this as a hypothetical and pointing out the concepts around it. I don’t think this is necessary or even likely; rather, the point of this particular thought exercise is to demonstrate that even with the bespoke aspects of job rotations, you still can make this work if you’re so inclined. There are options to be explored, if the developers want to.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or by mail to email@example.com. Next week, we’re going back to what we talked about before and discussing what could be added to the game’s various ranged physical jobs.