This particular role is the easiest one to fill up whenever there’s any column about the various roles getting stuff added in Final Fantasy XIV. With four jobs already occupying the melee role and another one slated to come along in Endwalker, there’s just more to talk about than there are for other roles. Yes, I think about these things when I’m writing columns and thinking through the work needed for any given week. Sometimes it really is just that cynical.
We’re starting with a job that is, honestly, in a pretty good place overall. The trailer for the benchmark seems to show what might be a new sort of jump or dive for Dragoon, but the reality is that Dragoon doesn’t need a whole heck of a lot. It flows pretty well, the five-hit combo it has going with its bonus damage for executing properly is fun, and it doesn’t suffer from a grindingly slow startup like it did during Stormblood, so there’s not really a whole lot that Dragoon needs to have added right now in a vital sense. The job is in a good place and can keep its buffs going while dealing solid damage.
The one thing that Dragoon could use is a quality-of-life increase for trash pulls in dungeons because it’s the one job that has a self-damage buff which cannot be maintained via its AoE rotation. Most jobs either don’t have that kind of buff or can maintain it with AoE, but Dragoon has to keep re-applying the same two-hit single-target combo to keep that damage buff up. Changing that fact would definitely help Dragoons out quite a bit, and it’s not a weakness of the job but seemingly an oversight.
Other than that, though, Dragoon is in a really good place in terms of overall balance and ability lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if it mostly just gets another improved dive for Life of the Dragon and otherwise keeps doing what it does for the most part.
The overall Monk state of affairs has been in a weird place for most of Shadowbringers. It’s not that Monk is terrible, but Greased Lightning buildup and maintenance was a problem and remained a problem until it finally god moved to just being a straight-up trait instead of a buff to maintain. The slight redesign involved in that has given things like Tornado Kick a direct use in Monk rotations, which is good, but it also has left the job’s playstyle in a bit of an odd spot where it’s still kind of build around a flow of maintenance that no longer requires maintaining anything.
Another element that’s worth considering is how Monk has a lot of associated vestigial features that have never really been defined well. There’s a paucity of reasons to swap stances, for example, with Fists of Earth and Fists of Wind having minor applications but generally being inferior options for most of your gameplay. In other words, Monk is kind of a mess of things and is ripe for a bit more loving care and some redesign, which it’s likely to get in Endwalker. Probably not to completely revise it, and I don’t expect anything as severe as what we got for Machinist in Shadowbringers, but I think we’ll see something more Greased Lightning-like but not quite as vital pop up again.
The result is that it feels a little hard to predict what Monk will look like when all is said and done. Hopefully with a clearer identity and some fun new tricks, though.
If Monk has been a car backfiring and stuttering all the way through this expansion, Ninja started the expansion with the Check Engine light flashing. It was bad enough that a big revision was needed for Ninja almost right away, and while the changes allowed Ninja to recover from its original spot of uselessness, Ninja still has the fundamental problem of requiring some of the most complicated play in exchange for just keeping up with other jobs and still dealing less damage.
The reason for this is understandable; Ninja’s vulnerability-up debuff is powerful and it’s a defining aspect of the job. But the sheer complexity of Ninja’s rotation works against it, and so it seems likely that one of the big changes will be a reduction in some of the more fiddly bits going on with the job’s overall rotation. Things like Ten Chi Jin and Meisui aren’t useless by any stretch of the imagination, but they feel like leftovers from a different era of the job’s design that we can move beyond.
Of course, you could argue that Ten Chi Jin is fundamental to the idea of the job being a melee job with spellcasting, functionally the inverse of Red Mage. So that’s ambiguous.
We do see at least one new Ninja ability pretty clearly, what appears to be launching a ghostly double at your target in an air-elemental attack with the signature posing of a new sort of Ninjutsu. Whether this will be another replacement ability similar to what Kassatsu does or something altogether new remains to be seen.
Gosh, all of these melee jobs required a little tweaking, didn’t they? The big problem with Samurai was just a mismatch of when to use Meditation, so a little tweaking got the job to where it needed to be. And Samurai has, on a whole, been in a pretty good place. While it can’t out-damage Black Mage on the regular basis (which is a little weird, given that they’re both selfish DPS and the latter has the benefit of range), it’s definitely not a bad job and deals solid damage all the way through, complete with a satisfying and functional rotation.
What little we see of the job in the benchmark trailer appears to be a new AoE, which would make a certain amount of sense as Samurai has always had a very potent and satisfying AoE rotation. Some overall tweaks to how the Sen gauge works wouldn’t necessarily go awry, as it’s been one of the most fixed part of the job since its introduction; then again, changing it now might involve some pretty major tweaking.
Ultimately, Samurai is much like Dragoon in that it has a pretty solid foundation and a firm rotation; rather than needing large-scale changes it can do fine with some new tricks, a balance of numbers, and more or less bringing the same basic mechanics forward to another tier of content.
Feedback, as always, is welcome via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or down in the comments below. Next week, I want to talk about Trusts – how the system has worked on a whole, what areas it could use to improve, and how much it has benefitted the game as an aggregate.