Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV and the ongoing balance pass

It burns, burns, burns.

So how’s your job doing in Final Fantasy XIV right now? Mine are a mixed bag, and I know I’m not alone in this regard. Over in the tank side of things we’ve got problems with both Dark Knight and Paladin, healers are discovering that Scholar is actually really good and that Astrologian’s new minor arcana really blows, I don’t even want to start taking apart everything going on with ranged DPS (poor Machinists), it’s Reaper world in melee DPS, and casters… actually, casters seem to be fine. I think. I haven’t noticed as many people whinging about them, anyhow.

It’s fair to say that balance feels like a little bit of a mess, and some people are looking at how various jobs are now arranged, who’s doing what in terms of damage, and the overall split of jobs with some degree of incredulity. So today I wanted to piece together some of this discussion and talk about this, starting with the acknowledgement that balance is hard and the game generally does a pretty good job with it, but this is the start of a new expansion and things are always a bit out of sync for a while because that’s just how things are. So let’s address some balance issues.

Guitar solo!

Tanks: Dark Knight gets what it wanted, isn’t very happy

Dark Knight is the worst tank at the moment and also the highest DPS tank. This is kind of a weird position to be in. On the one hand, it’s out-damaging Gunbreaker on paper (by a small margin, but a respectable one). It is indisputably the tank dealing the most damage. And at the same time, when you look at all the mitigation and support tools that every other tank got, it’s easily the tank that got the least boost in overall survivability, and that’s kind of the root of the problem.

Paladins aren’t terribly happy, either. They spent most of Shadowbringers being pretty high in the DPS charts, but now Paladin lags behind other tanks by a significant margin. Yes, even with the ability to summon all of the swords, that feels wrong. On the other hand, Paladin’s sustain has gotten absolutely insane, and between that and Warrior many people have noticed that these two tanks can more or less ignore healers by being their own force of healing through content. That’s a little skewed and kind of a mess!

So first things first: I think it’s important to note that the rumors of Warrior’s invulnerability have been greatly exaggerated. Warriors have insane amounts of self-sustain on big pulls at this point, and that’s definitely the case, but it falls off a lot once you’re up to focusing on a boss. Their tricks allow them to soak up lots of healing in trash pulls, but that’s it. And honestly, as someone who has healed tons of trash pulls in Expert dungeons by this point, I can say that if you’re used to these pulls being by the skin of your teeth, someone’s not effectively rotating cooldowns. These have never been high-stress.

But Paladins? Paladins have always been particularly good at surviving in boss fights when the healer drops. Clemency is just Like That. A smart Paladin with smart DPS can turn a wipe into survival; that’s just how it is.

That isn’t to say there isn’t any problem here. Paladin potency is a bit too low, but that’s easy to bump up a little, but it runs afoul of how strongly supportive they actually are, which is probably why it seems to be lower priority. Dark Knight, on the other hand, has the problem that it needs some extra survivability somewhere, but it’s hard to figure out just where to put it.

Personally, I think there’s a clear answer available: remove the cooldown on Blackest Night and add a heal component if the barrier isn’t broken. It adds sustain and makes the job more durable, but it’s still limited by MP, and you still need to deploy it smartly. But that could also just be me. I think some of the issue here, like always, is down to player perception as much as any actual balance issues, and I trust that the developers are keeping a close eye on it.


Ranged DPS: Pour one out for the robots

It, uh… kind of sucks to be Machinist right now. Dancer is doing stunningly well at AoE and its usual support on single-target damage, Bard does well and its new buffs work out well, and Machinist is dealing bad damage and offers no party support, meaning that there’s just not much reason to take a Machinist with you in the meta.

This is why I’ve been advocating for years that Machinist kind of needs some more party support, something that has been roundly dismissed by people insisting that it makes perfect sense as the selfish ranged DPS. The fact of the matter is that ranged DPS and its mobility means that it always lags behind other jobs because that is a theoretical advantage, and here we are with Machinist looking cool and playing fine and also suffering in the DPS category.

Obviously, this is even more of a meta issue than with Dark Knight and Paladin; there’s nothing you can’t clear with a Machinist in your party, but when you’re assembling a group for Savage, you’re probably not going to have Machinist as a high pick. But then, that’s still a balance issue and something that needs to be taken into account. It’s not that Machinist is holding the group back; it’s that it doesn’t contribute enough net DPS to be taken over something else, and that’s a problem.

Bumping up that damage a bit is definitely part of it, but I think this is also a point where Machinist needs get some additional party utility. And I think the obvious answer is right there. It’d be too powerful to add in a big buff, but giving Chainsaw and/or Crowned Collider an attached debuff would actually go a long way toward making the job feel more powerful just by boosting the damage of the rest of the team.

Neither of these abilities has a short cooldown; it doesn’t drastically change anything to make a two-minute cooldown give a short damage buff for the party. But it does make Machinist feel a little more in-line with other ranged DPS, and it could easily be just enough to make the job feel a bit more desirable for its damage along the way. Just a thought.

Of course, I can also understand wanting to not add that in for various reasons, and it’s possible that the design team isn’t looking as closely at the meta compositions when determining how to adjust balance. Still, Machinist could use a bit of a bump. Not a major one, but a bump nonetheless.

Feedback, las always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week… well, I really expected to be finished writing about this this week, but I turned out to have a lot to say and this column sort of ballooned, so I’ll be taking a look at other balance issues next week.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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