Anyone who has read my columns for a long while knows that I put my predictions front and center and both admit when I’m wrong and don’t give myself credit for every time that I’m right. This was certainly the case when Reaper was announced for Final Fantasy XIV ahead of Endwalker’s launch. I guessed the name ahead of time, but I didn’t really pat myself on the back for it, simply because… well, Reaper is not a job in the way that its predecessors (mostly) had been.
I don’t mean that mechanically; I mean that there is not a tradition of precedent of Reapers.
This is one of those things that is at once a simple concept and also kind of abstract in weird ways, so it take a little space to really explore. The short version, though, is this: FFXIV is going to have to do some searching for any further jobs, and any further jobs are going to take some work in order to fit into how the game works. And it’s for that reason that I say things like noting that our future healing jobs are going to take some real effort or that new jobs are just hard to find in general.
So let’s start off with something that’s obvious. It is not hard to think of jobs that have a significant presence in the series as a whole which are not in FFXIV at the moment. Off the top of my head, Geomancer, Knight, Ranger/Hunter, Mystic Knight/Rune Fencer, Chemist, Beastmaster, and Berserker are all jobs with series history that are not currently in the job. (If you’re about to point out that Knight is Paladin’s name in Japanese, that is correct, but “Knight” and “Paladin” can coexist and be different jobs in the same game. The point stands.) And those are just jobs that have shown up pretty often. It’s hard to look at the sheer number of jobs the series has had over the years and not come up with a few more possibilities.
However, for better or worse, FFXIV has established a very specific pattern in that each job is meant to play in a notably different fashion from other jobs, which is difficult when many of these jobs not only are in a similar thematic space to other jobs but often outright use the exact same weapons.
Rune Fencers and Knights traditionally use one-handed swords, for example. In fact, while Knight has different historical abilities from Paladin (focused more on applying heavy debuffs), it’s hard to see a situation wherein it’s meaningfully different from Paladin insofar as it uses a one-handed sword and shield. Geomancer is not only usually based on the terrain you’re standing on, but the Geomancers in game are functionally the Othardian version of White Mages (or Conjurers, more specifically). Rangers use bows. The list goes on.
And that’s not getting into things like how Rune Fencer is often a way to use the elemental magic your character has learned in a melee class… which doesn’t really apply in this situation at all. Final Fantasy XI makes the job more about imbuing your sword with elements… relying on an elemental damage wheel FFXIV specifically does not have.
I’ve said before that one of the things people asking for Blue Mage to be just a normal DPS job are missing is that if there is a precedent of that, it’s a precedent of Blue Mage functionally being a different flavor of Black Mage. Oh, sure, the difference is that you’re casting Aqua Breath or Trine or Delta Attack or whatever, but if we were going to just get jobs that have the same basic mechanics of “stand back and cast” we would have more than one job doing that. Indeed, Summoner, Black Mage, and Red Mage all have very different feels and designs.
That’s the reason why I’ve said for some time that the new magical DPS is likely to have a DoT-heavy playstyle because the Summoner rework in Endwalker very much was based around finally splitting the two parts of the job design that had always been at odds. Instead of having half the job be about channeling your summons and the other half being about DoT spells, now it’s all about the former; that opens up plenty of design space for a job focused around the latter.
If you enjoy the basic Black Mage playstyle, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s what Black Mage is for. The designers do not want to make every magical DPS be slight variants on Black Mage any more than every melee DPS is a slight variant on Samurai. The goal is that these jobs should each feel distinct.
More importantly, many of the existing long-running jobs have a style that is at best not really compatible with FFXIV’s structure and at worst actively antithetical, as mentioned above. While it’s certainly too soon to say we’re never going to get Geomancer, for instance, it would require a lot of work and almost certainly take even more than it took for FFXI’s version of the job to make sense. It’d probably look pretty different, in other words.
Does that mean that if your favorite job isn’t already in the game, you should give up? Of course not. That’d be silly, for one thing, and as I just said there’s no reason to assume that we’re not going to get any given job. We could get Berserker if the developers wanted to do so, and remember that Berserker’s usual gimmick is that you have no control over the character whatsoever. (I don’t think that we will get Berserker, but we could.)
Rather, what it means is that whatever we get from here on out is going to require a fair bit of work to differentiate it. You can say that Scholar and Sage are very different from prior incarnations in FFXIV, but they are keeping broadly in step with the previous identities of these jobs if you squint a fair bit. But that’s kind of necessary because how many other jobs exist that are meant to be healers first and foremost? Usually that list is one job, maybe two, and then you slap White Magic on another job so your party still has a healer that can do something else.
Most people seem to have accepted that Corsair will be our next melee DPS. But remember, Corsair in FFXI (its only prior appearance, really) was a ranged support job, essentially a more gun-focused version of that game’s Bard. It’s just that guns and swords and piracy all go together very well, so it’s not much of a cognitive leap. And every game is a little bit different, and the concepts getting remixed for new places is kind of like the whole point of what makes Final Fantasy as a series.
But hey, that’s the fun part. We’ve finished with the low-hanging fruit and the things that everyone would expect. Whatever we get in Dawntrail and beyond will be more surprising.
Feedback, as always, is welcome by mail to email@example.com or down in the comments below. Next week, let’s do a bit more Dawntrail speculation by looking at things people are already expecting but have yet to be even hinted at coming.