There’s a usual pattern I follow when discussing Final Fantasy XIV jobs, and this time I wanted to break it. We’ve already talked about tanks, so this week we’re going to talk about ranged DPS. We know that Endwalker is going to bring new tools to every job, that’s just inevitable; the question is what those tools will be and what new abilities will be added. And I think that’s kind of an interesting question when it comes to ranged physical DPS because it’s a category that has a unique issue, of sort.
A robot friend! Wait, no, that already happened. All right, then, some utility!
Look, it is not in and of itself a gigantic problem that Machinist is the “selfish” ranged DPS in the same way that Samurai and Black Mage are for melee and casters, respectively. That’s a perfectly valid design standpoint. The problem is simply the one I already noted: The job doesn’t do enough damage to replace either of the aforementioned jobs, and it doesn’t have any utility to make it more useful than bringing the above. Its major advantage (dealing damage while on the move) is something that is rarely as much of an advantage compared to other jobs, which means that outside of dungeons it is, well… lacking in some ways.
Obviously, Machinist used to have some more utility, but the major redesign kind of gutted all of that. And the fact of the matter is that what we have at this point is not a bad job – I want to stress that point. Machinist is fun to play! It does solid damage for a ranged damage dealer! But based on what it deals compared to other ranged dealers, it’s not quite as attractive from lack of utility. Getting a little bit more into the mixture probably won’t break the value equation.
That’s not to say that it should have as much as Dancer or Bard, of course. Just… more.
From what we can see in the benchmark, it looks as if Machinist has gotten some kind of explosive attack (perhaps an AoE equivalent to Wildfire, which could be nice) and a shotgun. That isn’t necessarily the whole of it, although it could help bulk out its existing damage capacity… and really, buffing its damage a bit would work too.
There’s one thing Bards want. All right, that’s a lie, there are lots of things that Bards want, but there’s one thing Bards want that actually feels like a fair change for the job, and that’s an ability to work akin to Bane for Summoners, something to spread the ever-so-vital DoT abilities the job has to other nearby enemies.
Add that and an AoE use for Wanderer’s Minuet, and that would be kind of enough.
Bard has been in a kind of messy place throughout the expansion. Not as messy as Ninja at launch, no, but it’s suffered somewhat from having a really simplistic AoE rotation, a whole lot of weaving based on cooldowns, and just a general sense of moderate jank in its overall playstyle. A big part of that is, I genuinely believe, that while the job strictly works, it doesn’t deal big numbers like one of the other messy jobs (hi, Summoner) and doesn’t deliver enough utility to really make up for that fact. The thing is that a lot of this comes down on the side of just smoothing out pieces here and there; it’s not as if the core rotation of always having a song running is itself overcomplicated.
The benchmark trailer has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with a Bard delivering a salvo of arrows, which may be that AoE Minuet option but might also just be a new ability altogether. Of course, I could also see some other changes coming; having three distinct rotations during every 30s window is a bit daunting anyway, and the main reason to keep that around is simply to have the same three core songs present in the job. Some revision to the overall song flow could do a lot of good, too.
Like most new expansion jobs, Dancer just hasn’t yet had the time to develop much in the way of irregular flow. It was designed for its level 80 incarnation from the ground up, and thus it feels very complete and balanced at that point. So it’s kind of the hardest job to find any major issues with; it sure doesn’t do much damage, but it makes someone else hit notably harder, so it’s kind of a swings and roundabouts sort of moment.
We do see some kind of new AoE flourish in a similarly brief moment from the benchmark, but heck, Dancer barely even needs more AoE tools at this point. Adding an additional one feels like gilding the lily. (Of course, we don’t know for certain that it is an AoE, but that’s definitely what it looks like is happening from the quick snippet of footage we get.) So Dancer isn’t lacking for utility or AoE or smoothness of rotation – heck, it’s not even lacking for mobility! What could it get?
Well, now that you mention it, a bit more party utility would be nice.
The thing is that Dancer is very much balanced around having a dance partner. In dungeon runs, this isn’t a big deal. You have one other DPS, you boost that person, life is good. In larger content, though, having one of your four DPS slots taken up by someone who’s just boosting one DPS most of the time and doesn’t contribute much DPS is… well, it’s a dicier proposition. Not an impossible one, just dicier.
Offering a bit more in the way of party-wide buffing would preserve Dancer’s overall identity just fine while also making the job a bit more involved in larger content. It’d be a way of keeping the core flavor more or less the same, instead of just tacking on some more damage. It’d probably also be a bit of a bear to keep all balanced, but that’s part of the struggle with any job. It’d certainly be nice.
Or more AoE would work, too, I suppose.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, I want to take another break from this particular series to speculate about the future cadence of new jobs. Yes, I think I can make a reasonable guess at those not just for the next expansion after Endwalker but even beyond that.