Over the last week we have had quite a bit of exciting news released about the upcoming Heavensward expansion. From this information we can begin to glean what Square Enix is intending for the approach of any new content they build. Initially in looking at the information that was released during the May 22nd Live Letter, it seems as though they are intending to buff any class weaknesses while at the same time giving players more control over what they can do to directly affect their performance. For lack of a better term they are trying to raise the skill ceiling for each class and make sure there is something the player can do at any given moment to improve the outcome of each encounter. I thought I would take a few moments this morning to expand upon the changes that have been released. While none of this is necessarily set in stone, we do at least have the final Japanese to English translations for the Live Letter so hopefully it will show the intentions of the development staff a little more closely than some of the early translations.
One of the big challenges with playing a Mage is mobility and the long cast time. As such they are often put in dangerous situations as they try and get that last spell cast before moving. While the intent is not to give them greater mobility, they are getting some help from the casting speed standpoint. A new ability called Ley Lines is being introduced that places a stationary buff on the ground. While the caster is standing in this circle they gain 15% haste allowing them to cast spells faster. The skill will be in trying to place this in a good location that the caster can keep returning to while avoiding telegraphs on the ground. Additionally, since several abilities like Thunder and Fire have important procs, they are introducing Sharpcast as a way of guaranteeing the next attack with proc, that should allow Black Mages greater control over their rotation.
Another new mechanic is Enochian which is a 30 second buff that allows for the casting of the new Fire IV and Blizzard IV spells. In order to cast a given spell you will need to already have the Astral Fire or Umbral Ice buffs respectively. This means the timing of Enochian will have an extremely high skill ceiling as to finding the best possible moment to use the buff, and since casting Fire IV or Blizzard IV will not cause you to gain additional buff stacks. There are supposedly ways to keep Enochian active by casting Blizzard IV but each time you do this the buff duration shortens by five seconds. You can expect a good deal of complex juggling to happen around maximizing the amount of time the Black Mage has this buff active.
Up until this point the primary rotation for a Paladin was the one ending in Rage of Halone. With Heavensward they are introducing a combo involving Riot Blade. This combo will still not be the heavy enmity combo that Rage of Halone is, but will introduce a damage over time effect that will be useful to mix in between enmity generators. Especially in the off tank role when combined with Sword Oath, this will give Paladins a low enmity route to generate a good deal more damage.
Since Paladins are known as the protective juggernauts, they are also gaining a new ability called Divine Veil. This will set a protective barrier around the target that causes healing over time during the length of the effect. Additionally, any nearby party members will receive a barrier effect adding even more utility to the Paladin. There was also discussion about a new mechanic that causes you to block enemy attacks and will also allow you to utilize shield swipe more effectively. However this ability was not named in the demonstration so we will probably be hearing more about this in future presentations.
Warriors are getting a brand new stance called Deliverance which gives them a much needed dps stance similar to the the Paladin’s Sword Oath. In addition to this, Wrath becomes Abandon while in this stance and the stacks generated will be maintained allowing the Warrior to switch between the stances and utilize both resources. There will be new abilities put in place that consume the stacks of Abandon as well as adding new self-healing abilities. This greatly improves the utility of the Warrior as off tank and gives us an avenue other than stacking dps jewelry to improve our damage when not the primary tank during swap mechanics.
One of the weaknesses of the Warrior is the fact that the array of cool-downs were not nearly as formidable as the Paladin. This has always been offset by the fact that Warrior hitpoint scaling has been so much greater. That said they are adding a new cool-down to the rotation called Raw Intuition that will guarantee a Parry when receiving an attack from the front. However to offset this, when the Warrior is attacked from other angles the attacks deal critical damage. While this reinforces the mechanics that Warriors are already used to, it does create a severe weakness if not handled correctly.
There has been a lot of rumor and excitement surrounding exactly what sort of tank the Dark Knight will end up being. The abilities that have been highlighted so far paint a picture of them being a middle ground between the highly defensive gameplay of the Paladin and the more brute force gameplay of the Warrior. The first ability that was highlighted is the Darkside stance which is similar to that of Sword Oath. You take on an aura-like effect that will slowly deplete your MP and make you immune to MP regeneration effects. It will however buff your attack damage and they stated there will be specific attacks that will cause you to regain MP. It will be a juggling act to properly use these abilities to maintain the amount of time you can stay in this stance.
On the other side of the coin is the Grit stance, which is the more traditional tanking role. The key focus of this stance is to help you gain Enmity at a greatly increased rate. However, they stated that it is going to be extremely important for the Dark Knight to switch between their two stances effectively. The most interesting thing about the Dark Knight gameplay that has been shown is that they are the first tank to have an active engage attack. It was stated that a common strategy is going to be opening with this “leap” attack and then following up with an Area of Effect ability to pull aggro on all of the targets in a pack. From a purely defensive standpoint, they also have an ability called Living Dead which apparently will work very similar to the existing Holmgang attack.
Honestly I was surprised that the news about the Dragoon was a bit light for being an expansion extremely focused on their job as a whole. They have already shown us the amazing new limit break attack during the Heavensward benchmark but news has been a bit limited on what new abilities we can look forward to seeing. They did mention that Dragoons will be gaining a new ability called Blood of the Dragon. This becomes the fourth stage of both the Full Thrust and Chaos Thrust combos. While they did not go into any information about it, there is apparently an ability that will consume this Blood of the Dragon effect for additional damage.
They also mentioned that they would be looking into making further adjustments to the animation lock for jump attacks. While they have made significant strides to improve these effects, they are still very much an attack that you hit and then pray. If something goes off while you are animation locked there is simply nothing you can do to react quickly. This is the primary source of the running meme within the Final Fantasy XIV community about the Dragoon always being dead. The reaction from the community has been to simply use jump attacks extremely sparingly and it seems that Square Enix want to change this and give us back the full range of Dragoon abilities.
The biggest strength of the Bard is that they have the ability to attack while on the move. However as a result they have a version of the traditional mmo “hybrid tax” in that because of their mobility many of the individual attacks themselves hit for less damage. Heavensward, it seems, seeks to change this by giving them the ability to increase their damage but at a fairly hefty cost. This expansion introduces a new sort of Bard song in the form of The Wanderer’s Minuet. This song consumes no MP and can be thought of as a sort of Bard “stance”. While in this stance, the Bard loses the ability to auto attack but your individual actions will deal significantly more damage. The cost however is that you will not be able to move while attacking.
This is going to be situationally amazing for Bard damage, but since they are so used to being able to attack while moving it is going to greatly change their gameplay. Additionally they outlined a new ability called Sidewinder that will increase the effect of damage over time abilities that are currently on the enemy. It is uncertain what this effect is at this time but I am secretly hoping it will be a way to refresh the dot timers making juggling these things less tedious. The way Bards play will be forever impacted by these changes, so it will be nice to add in a few quality of life features as well since they are effectively losing some of the “carefree” nature they currently enjoy.
They started the discussion by mentioning that they had not really made any drastic changes to Ninja however, after a few minutes in the presentation they mentioned that they would be adding “positioning” to several of the weapon skills. Currently the Ninja has no modifiers tied to their abilities and can dps equally effectively from any facing. This is apparently changing and they will be introducing a system that both the Dragoon and Monk are familiar with in that abilities gain added potency when executed in the correct position. Since Ninjas already suffer from a reputation for being more squishy than the other melee dps, I am wondering exactly how this is going to affect the class as a whole. Granted, this simply brings them in line with the rest of the melee in the need to constantly be dancing around the playing field.
It seems they are gaining some quality of life changes in making it easier to maintain Huton through combining certain weapon skills in your rotation. There was not a great deal of information about this, but they were concerned that a number of Ninjas were defaulting to Huton more often than not to make sure it was maintained fully. They stated that now players should be able to mix in other Ninjitsu more safely. Other than this, they mentioned adding some utility to the class in allowing it to somehow adjust another party members enmity. This seems like we might finally be getting a “misdirection” attack in Final Fantasy XIV. If used properly this would allow all dps to give it everything they have from the moment of the pull rather than holding back slightly on their rotation in order for the tank to establish solid aggro.
Monks are often considered the melee class with the highest skill cap in that they desperately need to be able to maintain the various stance buffs and transition between them at the correct moment to effectively dps. The problem being that there are moments when the Monk needs to move, and losing Greased Lightning III can be a significant problem. It seems Square Enix has seen this and is going to offer some support in the form of a way to extend this buff. The goal is to eliminate the downtime during phase shifts or when the mechanics of a boss keep you from performing any actions. Hopefully more information about this will be given at a later date.
In addition to this quality of life change, Monks are gaining a stacking buff resource similar to the Warriors Wrath called Chakra. This resource stacks to five and upon reaching the maximum amount, the Monk will be able to execute a high damage weapon skill. Additionally, you will be able to consume Chakra in order to store TP to yourself further reducing potential downtime. It seems there will also be a way to use this Chakra to change forms but the wording of the translation here is a bit vague. There are also apparently new weapon skills that will come in place that consume Greased Lightning, but no further information was given on this. While getting some quality of life buffs, it seems that Monk will still be an extremely high skill cap class which should please the players that chose it for that reason.
Just like the Dark Knight, there has been an overwhelming amount of excitement about this Job but little hard data to go around. Unfortunately after the live letter we are still left with precious few details to go on. Yoshi P stated that the Machinist role would be very similar to the Bard in that they will be in the “support dps” niche. The playstyle and “awareness” of the job will differ, but I am not entirely certain what was meant by “awareness”. I am wondering if this was a strange artifact of the translation. The focus of the job will be to use a buff called Ammunition, and by using these stacks it will add various additional effects to weapon skills. The sound of this is that it will be similar to switching ammunition types in other games.
To manage this need, Machinists will have an ability called Reload that causes them to add five stacks of Ammunition. You can use this of course when you are completely out of stacks, but you can also use this to refresh your stacks early if your rotation calls for it allowing you to dps more efficiently. Weapon skill combos will apparently work slightly different than what we are currently used to. There will be combinations where shot 1 gives a 50% chance of boosting shot 2, and similarly shot 2 a 50% chance of boosting shot 3. By using your Ammunition correctly, you can level out these chances and guarantee that the boost happens when you need it. The Machinist also has unique actions like Wildfire which will charge the damage and attacks at once, and turrets which will affect party members as well as buffing themselves.
Tri-Disaster is one of those abilities that is fabled in Final Fantasy history, the problem being that the Final Fantasy XIV version was never as effective as the ones in previous games. As a result, they are changing the name to Tri-Bind. While the translation here is a bit odd sequentially it sounds like Tri-Disaster is becoming a brand new ability that will apply three dots at the same time in exchange for consuming Aetherflow. The abilities that will be cast at once are Bio, Bio II and Miasma giving you a quick way to drop all of your dots on one target. They also mentioned two new abilities at level 60 that will change up the rotation, but did not elaborate on either.
During development, they apparently considered entirely new Egis for the expansion. However, looking long-term they felt it was better simply to give new Summoner abilities rather than spending the time developing new pets. They are looking at adding a system in the future to allow players to change the appearance of their Egis including the reintroduction of Carbuncle but the stats would remain the same. The biggest change for Summoners is the introduction of Dreadwyrm Trance, which is a buff that allows them to channel the power of Bahamut. While under the effect of this ability you will gain stacks of Bahamut Aether which you can then spend on an action. No firm details were given on what exactly these Bahamut actions would look like.
While it has long been assumed by the community, Yoshi P reiterated that the White Mage is designed as the “pure healer” job. As such, they are introducing additional healing abilities and other abilities which they are currently lacking. One of these abilities is called Asylum which creates a healing field around a group of players. Another ability called Assize would allow the White Mage to heal and deal damage at the same time. Additionally, Benediction was the only healing ability that could heal instantly. As a result, they are introducing another single target instant healing ability with a greatly lowered effect.
As you might expect, White Mage will be gaining Stone III and Aero II which will make up their main attack spells. They mentioned a new ranged damage over time spell but did not go into further details. Previously White Mage was the only class that could increase the magic defense when they cast Protect, however with the addition of a third healer job, they are now giving other jobs the ability to cast a fully buffed version of the protect spell for balance adjustments. While this will take something unique away from the class, it also makes it so that the raid is not waiting on the White Mage to run back and protect the party which should be a nice quality of life change.
Scholar has always been an extremely high skill cap healer because they heal in a manner that is less traditional than the casting of cure repeatedly. It seems that Square Enix likes this aspect of the class and instead of simply increasing their abilities they are also adding actions that require the Scholar to really think about their use and the best time to utilize them. The majority of these new actions are focused on boss battles, so the normal flow of dungeon healing should not change that much. One of the new abilities that is useful in all situations however is Indomitability which is a new area of effect heal. This has long been considered a weakness of the class and they stated this would go a long way in improving that.
In addition to this new aoe heal, they are gaining abilities that will buff their strengths as well. Deployment Tactics is a new action that will extend the effects of Adloquium and Eye for an Eye that is on one target player to the other party members in range, allowing what has traditionally been a tank saving tactic to shield the entire party in certain circumstances. Emergency Tactics on the other hand modifies Adloquium to give additional healing power for the amount of the effect of the barrier making this a significant single target heal. Another extremely exciting change is that Scholars are getting Dissipation, an action that allows you to dismiss your fairy in exchange for a boost in magical power.
The last class they talked about during the Live Letter was the Astrologian, a class which we had previously heard next to nothing about. We’ve known for some time that the class would somehow heal through the use of cards, and that they would be a stance-based healer, but thankfully Square began fleshing some of these details out during the Live Letter. The two stances are: Diurnal Sect which will be for primary healing, and Nocturnal Sect which will focus on shielding. They mentioned that the “healing stance” will feel like a White Mage, and the “shielding stance” will feel more like a Scholar. The coolest feature mentioned however is that the Astrologian apparently gets the massive shield ability that Y’shtola displays during the main story, which is easily one of the most impressive looking effects in the game thus far.
It appears that the card drawing effect will give the class different buffs and depending on the card drawn that buff might be attack power, haste, or even damage reduction. There will be an ability called Royal Road that allows you to return the card you just drew which will then enhance the ability of the next card you draw. There will also be an ability that allows you to set aside a good card you drew to use at a later point, and an ability known as Shuffle that will redraw a card. The skill cap for the class will come from swapping stances and the ability to use the correct card at the right time. It sounds like it is going to be an extremely interesting healer but we will have to see it in action to really be able to judge that.
A Bigger World
The biggest takeaway for me from this presentation is that while many of the classes will be changing, it seems like they have a firm understanding for what makes players like each of them. I personally spend most of my time playing a Warrior and everything that was mentioned are features that I have really wished the class had. Similarly I know there are many Bards out there that had longed for a way to ditch the “hybrid tax” and do full damage, but of course this will come with the cost of losing their mobility.
While today’s post has been an extremely long one, I feel like I only just barely scratched the surface on what was shown during the Live Letter. The full twitch stream can be seen here and it runs for almost three full hours of Yoshi P and crew showing off new features. I have not been as excited about an expansion since my very first one back in Everquest so I cannot wait to step foot inside this new realm and experience all of the new content. We are stepping forth into a bigger world, in every sense of the word.Related: Classes, Column, Eorzean Evening Post, Expansion, Final Fantasy XIV, MMORPG