One of the things that excites me every time about Final Fantasy XIV is the way that the game can tell you up-front exactly what it’s going to be revealing to the point that you know the reveals beyond a shadow of a doubt going in… and yet at the same time it can still manage to keep you excited and interested and feel like a rush of new information. That definitely seems to be the case with the most recent live letter, which was just hype as hell unless, I guess, you were hoping for some grand new changes to Scholar.
If that was the case, you are less than hyped.
First and foremost, we have two totally new jobs on display from the live letter (Sage and Reaper) and two largely changed jobs on display (Monk and Summoner). Unfortunately, while Yoshi-P did his best to explain the Monk changes with a demonstration, the fact is that the explanation just… did not make sense, at least to me. Monk is getting a new resource and mechanical elements, but it’s not really clear to me how that’s supposed to work in rotation, so I think it’s going to just have to be something we see in action for a better explanation.
Note that I don’t exactly blame anyone here. It’s just hard to explain all of this stuff in a few minutes while also translating live. That’s a tricky problem to solve; it’s just complicated enough that the explanation didn’t make much sense this time, unfortunately.
On the bright side, Summoner was far more straightforward, and what a set of changes. Gone are most of the pet elements, replaced almost completely with a series of what amounts to Trances that can be staggered in multiple orders and allow for what looks like a more traditional summoning experience for the series. On the one hand, this means that whereas the job previously had four phases to cycle through it now has five and that isn’t necessarily an improvement; on the other hand, those cycles also have the advantage of no longer prioritizing different rotations but just offering different twists on the spells you’re already casting.
Sage, meanwhile, seems to be tailor-made to address the core disparity of healing jobs. Every job needs something to keep up with healing while it’s doing damage, based on the nature of how healing works in FFXIV. Scholars have the fairy, White Mages and Astrologians keep up regen effects, so how does Sage manage it? By healing through dealing damage. It’s an elegant solution, and it definitely looks like an interesting and involved but unique job.
It also seems to have what amounts to Dark Arts as a central job mechanic with its whole swapping between modes of spells, so that’s going to be interesting to play around with.
Last and certainly not least, we have Reaper, and contrary to my prior speculation, it’s actually leaning more toward pure DPS… but it’s also buffing and enhancing party members to some extent, so that’s going to be interesting to see in action. Its teleportation mechanic looks interesting as a way to alter your trajectory, especially when moving in or out of mechanics as needed, and while it’s not totally clear just yet how the rotation works with its job gauge there’s definitely some interesting after-effects with the job gauge and using avatar skills. I’m intrigued by this one and look forward to playing it.
And again, those are just the jobs that are either new or majorly revamped. That’s a lot even within those parameters, and it’s not counting the jobs that are by Yoshi-P’s own estimation in a decent place and moving forward more or less intact.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to note that Scholars are not happy with the announcements, and to an extent I get that; Scholar has definitely lagged behind Astrologian and White Mage for this expansion, and it doesn’t seem to be getting all of the new hot tools that Sage has as a barrier healer. What seems to be getting missed is that the two roles will be strongly advocated for both existing in Savage groups, which possibly shakes up the dynamics a bit further. It also notes that the job is getting new skills and most of the discussion was about changes to existing skills, which is a little bit different.
That’s not to say that Scholars are wrong to feel a bit neglected, just that you’re going to have to wait until the media tour and people start talking about how it actually plays before declaring the job outright dead. Give it a little more time to see what works and what doesn’t, you know?
I’m a bit surprised that it looks like Paladin is getting an overall extension of its casting phase, although it means that there’s likely to be less dead space as the job moves from casting to weapon rotations. In general, there do seem to be more skills that are meant to be used in AoE or single-target rotation than was the case in Shadowbringers, possibly as a response to some of the underwhelming rotational bits some jobs had for AoE. There’s also an interesting trend of removing positionals from some jobs, mentioned in a couple of places; there might be more excised than we know about.
Part of me is kind of sad about Astrologian losing its sect mechanics. It did feel pretty likely, even though I was cautioning against assuming that would be the case without confirmation; now we know it’s the case. For the vast majority of AST players it’s going to be not much of a functional change, but it does mean finally losing that unique sense of flipping between sects as needed, which could pay dividends in dungeon runs.
Last but not least, I find the whole “timing” aspect of defensive cooldowns for tanks to be an interesting added skill test for the role. I have no doubt that this will be an unnecessary thing; I don’t think that players who successfully hit these cooldowns on the right time intervals will be the only way to tank with the game’s usual dungeon philosophy, for example. Rather, it’ll probably be the difference between an acceptable tank and a good one, often making runs that much faster when the rotation is handled just right.
Honestly, I have more thoughts on what we learned, but at a certain point you have to just acknowledge that there’s a lot of neat stuff to look forward to and then move on. Feedback, of course, can be left in the comments down below or mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; next week, we’re going to talk about what the removal of HQ gathered items might mean for crafting and gathering.