The biggest issue that Final Fantasy XIV has with its casters, as a rule, is that casters in the series all basically work like Black Mage but have to work differently in the game. That isn’t a problem for adding new abilities, of course; it’s just an interesting fact to consider when thinking about the fact that you have to come up with a new job that’s undeniably a caster but also undeniably doesn’t feel like just Black Mage all over again. And considering that usually there aren’t a whole lot of those because there’s already Black Mages…
I put this one first because, uh… the trailer already told us something very clearly that Summoner is getting, so we don’t have to speculate. We clearly see Summoner dashing forward in a wreath of flame followed by what appears to be an explosion of fire around the destination area. Worth noting are the following: The Summoner does have Ifrit out at the time of using the ability, the Summoner does not dash to Ifrit during this move, and Ifrit is still visible after the move is completed. There’s also no visible cast time for the ability, either.
Did I watch that trailer on YouTube a few times while slowed down to get a clear picture of this? Of course I did.
Now, the biggest thing Summoner needs in the expansion is probably some cleanup. This isn’t the same as the rotation not working or anything; the problem is that Summoner rapidly cycles through four different phases of play (normal, Dreadwyrm Trance, Summon Bahamut, Summon Phoenix) that all have a different rotation and set of abilities and it’s just awkward. It’s not that Summoner can’t manage to hang with its DPS; it’s that four separate phases of play are just too many.
This was never something that was going to get changed during this expansion, but hopefully it will be now. Frankly, I think it makes the most sense to consolidate and rework the “trance” phases to coincide with the alternate summons.
What the job is actually getting that we see now, of course, is some sort of movement ability. It looks at a glance like it might be ground-targeted rather than a simple gap closer, but I’m curious how this is going to fit into Summoner’s rotation. Right now, the Summoner cycle is really overstuffed, but I’m curious to see what this is meant to ultimately do. I just hope it gets a bit streamlined.
I also hope we get more Egi glamours, darn it.
What do we see Black Mage doing in the trailer? Casting another big fire spell. What are we probably going to get? More big fire spells.
I’ve wound up talking a lot about removing pain points in various ways from the jobs that I’ve discussed up until now and shoring up weaknesses, but the fact of the matter is that Black Mage doesn’t really have egregious weaknesses like that. Its rotation isn’t simplistic, but neither is it overly complex; it requires just enough work that you always feel like you’ve got something to do, there’s always something going on, but you’re never overwhelmed with managing your different states. It’s a very solid and compelling rotation, and it works in both AoE and single-target impressively.
So what else is there to do? Black Mage is, functionally, complete. Adding new abilities and new explosions to generate is about all there is left for the job to get. While that risks throwing things off a little bit, it’s honestly pretty rinse and repeat. Whatever it is needs to have a reason to exist and create interesting gameplay loops so that you’re following a solid rotation and still have a reason to cast every spell that isn’t Blizzard II, and Fire V/Blizzard V makes logical sense as an extension to improve your rotation and refresh what the job is capable of doing while still keeping the core of the job in place.
I just don’t see much new in the way of utility or major changes coming here. What else do you get for the job that’s in a good place? New practical tricks. It’s a little bit boring in the sense that the job just keeps doing what it’s good at, but it’s also a case where the job is good at this.
By contrast, Red Mage kind of needs something new. We see it using some kind of new spellcast in the benchmark trailer, but the reality is that Red Mage has taken its fundamental solid rotation about as far as it can logically go. Its melee combo lasts for five hits and deals a ton of damage while looking stylish as heck, its core rotation works well, and the question is just how to extend that situation without making anything obsolete.
One thing that the job could definitely use is something other than Reprise, and I can think of a potential niche for new attack spells to fit into. Verwater and Verblizzard could easily serve as opposing copies that subtract one color of mana and add in the other, helping you balance things out as needed and possibly creating a reason to open off fights with a cast of those rather than with your melee combo.
There’s also space for some melee AoE options; right now it’s just one ability to spam, and while Red Mage AoE is definitely functional as it stands, it’s kind of boring and encourages a weird playstyle compared to single-target rotations. Nudging that along a little would be a good thing.
Last but not least, Red Mage could use some options for managing its MP in some capacity. Outside of Lucid Dreaming, it really has none, and while its attack rotation is priced low enough that it’s never really an issue, one of its major assets in terms of utility depletes its MP very fast. Moreover, it makes Red Mage struggle to get back on its feet after dying, while Black Mage and Summoner both have quick tools to get back up to speed.
Especially when Red Mages are often essential for getting a group back after a wipe or two or when things start going south, it’d be nice to see them get another tool to manage that.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible that they’re just going to get some upgraded spells and no substantial changes to their rotation, which was the case for Shadowbringers. And hey, as with the Black Mage, it’s not like the job doesn’t work. But it could use a couple boosts here and there.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to email@example.com. Next time around, I want to continue the alternating pattern between this and other topics to talk a little bit about the influx of new players, both as a greeting to new people and as a line reading for veterans.