Out of all the different roles in Endwalker, I’d argue that ranged physical DPS is the easiest one to understand. Not in the sense that none of these jobs got new toys to discuss or even that these new toys aren’t interesting in some sense. No, it’s just that Final Fantasy XIV has three ranged physical DPS jobs, and if you’ve played them during Shadowbringers, you’re not going to be stunned by how the jobs work in Endwalker. They’re pretty similar.
The biggest thing that Bard has gotten in this particular update is a bit more party support. It’s not the only thing that Bard has acquired now, of course, but Bards will be happy to know that there’s now a party-wide damage buff available once the job has sung at least one song. The song gauge now tracks which songs have been sung, and the more different effects you unleash, the more that Radiant Finale boosts overall party damage. So there’s now more reason for you to cycle through your songs, with a big burst of damage boost awaiting if you cycle through all of them with an effect that has a 90s cooldown.
“Hey, that’s as long as running through all three songs takes!” Yes, it is! Don’t you feel clever?
Players also have more motivation to let the Soul Voice gauge build up, as Bards get another attack if Apex Arrow is executed at or above 80 on the Soul Voice gauge. You already had motivation to let that build up as much as possible, but hitting higher values also lets you unleash a second attack of equal potency back-to-back.
Bards also will be able to acquire a second charge of Bloodletter and Rain of Death, thus giving you a second chance to unleash damage and smoothing out some of the rotations with Mage’s Ballad. You therefore wind up with a very similar rotation to the one that’s already in the game in Shadowbringers, but with at least one particular pain point minimized helpfully. Unfortunately, Bards don’t get the DoT-spreading effect that they’ve been hoping for more or less forever; you’ll still have to settle for just hitting one target with DoTs or manually hitting all of the enemies in a group with it.
Still, the goal seems clear that Bard is supposed to occupy the middle space between party utility and individual damage on the overall ranged setup.
A lot of the new tricks that Dancer is getting are, ironically enough, new tools for dealing damage rather than new utility tricks. A new fan dance has been added to deal another burst of damage when you use Flourish, and the new Starfall Dance is triggered when Devilment goes off to give you an automatic hard-hitting attack. You also have a new additional finish after Technical Step, ensuring that your dance partner gets the same effects refreshed in addition to the party-wide damage buff. Useful!
Improvisation has also been changed a bit; rather than improving healing done while it’s active, it now heals over time as long as you’re dancing away and grants you stacks of the new Rising Rhythm buff. Those stacks can then be absorbed to put a barrier on the entire party, thus further buffing Dancer’s existing party support options a little more and making Improvisation even more useful during phase transitions on bosses by allowing another healing buffer to be put in place.
Beyond that, the biggest new change is that there are not four individual buffs to trigger the “additional” weapon skill combos, but two. Those buffs cover both your single-target and AoE weaponskills, so you’ll find it easier to swap over from your area abilities to single-target ones and vice versa. It also means that Flourish triggers slightly less than it currently does, but it feels more organized as a whole.
Beyond that? Well, Dancer is Dancer. You boost your dance partner, you shield and boost the party, you dash around while throwing things at the enemy. It’s going to have a very similar cadence to what it offers now with its dancing and opening up a window for burst damage, being more effective as a buffer than Bard but also dealing less personal damage. I suspect that gap has closed a little bit with the addition of Bard’s party-wide damage buff, but that remains to be seen, and it shouldn’t change the fact that if you like Dancer now, you’ll probably enjoy it in Endwalker.
Chainsaw chainsaw chainsaw.
Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right, Machinist. I’m a bit sorry to report that if you were hoping Machinist would start pulling out some more utility options, you will be sorely disappointed; the job remains with its minimal utility and thus serves as the “selfish” DPS for this particular role. On the up side, the job does get a few additional damage options along the way, although it is largely going to feel identical to how it plays in Shadowbringers because the only real big addition is the aforementioned chainsaw.
The chainsaw is notable, though! It’s a straight-line attack that boosts the battery gauge and qualifies as a weaponskill, meaning that it’s not part of a combo but should be thrown in there with a nice Reassemble to make the most of out if. Fortunately, that’s made a touch easier by Reassemble now having two charges, letting you make the most out of its critical direct hit properties.
Beyond that? Well, the shotgun simply replaces your prior conal AoE, and you get a minor potency boost to your main weaponskill combo. Also, there’s a new action that’s added to the end of the Automaton Queen’s rotation which deals another nice chunk of damage, but it’s still just a “let the Queen go and you probably don’t need to worry about it” mechanic at the end of the day. So your rotation and how you play the job is likely to remain pretty much the same.
At the same time, if you like Machinist’s overall cadence of play and how it works, this is going to feel like the opposite of a problem.
That right there should tell you a lot. All of these jobs still feel very complete and functional all the way through, with the most significant changes seeming to mostly reduce jankiness along the way and/or make the rotations a bit easier to execute in practice. These are evolutions, not revolutions. You shoot at things and move around a bit. That hasn’t changed much at the end of the day.