Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Beyond Heavensward part 1: Job predictions for 4.0

 The Dragonsong War is over. Ishgard is finally starting to heal its wounds and Dragon and Man have formed a tenuous peace. Great job. You did it. You're the guy.

 So where do we go from here? Obviously Heavensward is not yet over. We have the finale of Alexander and the Void ark raids to complete and the Hildebrand and scholar questlines to complete. Theres still much to do in dravania before heading off to new destinations in the new expansion. But its always fun to speculate, isn't it?

 Already the seeds are being sown for Final Fantasy XIV version 4.0. We have no name, no information from SE at all. We can however infer from Yda and Papalimo's cutscenes that the next big story hook involves Ala Mhigo.
This had lead some people to groan because they take Little Ala Mhigo's location in Southern Thanalan and through not reading quest text so to speak assume that this will be a desert based expansion. Something after FFXII i would have no problem with but desert settings never really sit well with the MMORPG crowd that by and large balk at anything not traditional western fantasy in tone. Just go back and look at all the "i'm not racist, but-" comments after World of Warcrafts reveal for Mists of Pandaria where people hollered and screamed about how a world cannot have viking and asian cultures on the same world. Guess nobody ever pointed them to a history of our own planet but thats getting off topic.
Point is they have no need to worry because, much as i think an Arabian Nights style expansion would be rad Little Ala Mhigo is just a refugee camp. Ala Mhigo itself is not in Thanalan at all. It is between Gridania and the Garlean empire. It was the once great Uldah of the north. The human city built on craggy rock to crown the verdant forests and glades below. It is a land thriving with elemental power and ether. It's why you see the Padjals take in so many humans as students of the art of Conjuration. Like them they live in the woodlands of Eorzea, they are born and grow suffused with its energies and they also have the capabilities to take to nature magic with a natural aptitude races like the Lalafell or Roegadyn never could do.
Its an interesting place that for 5-10 years now has been completely taken over by the Garleans as their vanguard operating station/supply chain depot into the continent of Eorzea. So its going to be a blend of pacific northwest style forests and very anti nature magitek -knowing Yoshi i would not be surprised to see a Mako reactor or two as fan service with the VII remake on its way- which is a nice dichotomy which offers multiple story opportunities. Perhaps some Ala Mhigans stayed behind and believe magitek is the future and have joined up voluntarily much like people that joined up with the Nazis after being invaded in WW2? Perhaps the nature spirits are tainted by mining, drilling and pollution ruining this once pristine landscape? and surely there will be a resistance in the capital city fighting in the back alleys using guile and subterfuge to sabotage and slow down the Garlean war machine any way they can right?

 So what could you expect from such an expansion? well in the first of these short musing articles i am looking at potential Jobs for this expansion. Something we know is coming but not what jobs -or even how. After the "heres a new job crystal bro, get on it" nature of the HW job unlocks was not seen in a popular light as thought it was "too easy and lacking impact" i predict we shall see a return to the "Job unlocks based on existing classes leveled by the player" system from A Realm Reborn. It makes the player feel as though they earned these new jobs with a sense of exclusivity and time put in along with giving players another reason to level classes they may not have in the past once again serving to keep the queue times for leveling content high.
 But what jobs am i expecting? well given Ala Mhigo's theming and history as a blend of uldah and gridanian themes with a eastern culture with connections to Doma -which could have been reinforced by Doman slaves brought in by the Garleans teaming up with the native resistance front these are my guess for the Jobs coming in FFXIV vers 4.0

Job: Dancer
First appearance: Final Fantasy IV, The After Years
Role: Healer
Class requirements: Pugilist lvl.30, Arcanist lvl.30

Why: Well first off i still believe for at least one more expansion the rule of "1 per role" for new jobs will persist. Perhaps not for much longer than that but for now at least i expect this and honestly? not a lot of healer jobs left. Unless you start going really out there with things like Chemist (perhaps scholar and alchemist to unlock it?) or taking new SE jrpgs ideas like Bravely Seconds Exorcist Job there really isn't any solid new healer types for XIV outside of the Dancer.
 So what is a Dancer? beyond someone with the best moves to throw out down at the Golden Saucer? Dancers are in most cases an offshoot of White Magic. Just as Arcanists are an offshoot that focuses on the idea of calling the spiritual into the physical realm rather than asking to borrow its power like a Conjurer a Dancer is well versed in the old stories and tales that inspire and call on nature in a more primal fashion, almost like shaman. They are capable of low level White Magic like a Red Mage but unlike RDM a DNC can use their own unique skills to make them a rival to the best WHM jobs.
Getting in melee range and turning those graceful twirls and leaps into armour breaking kicks is one way they inspire their party and act as a buffer healer as WHM is outright healing and SCH is mitigation. AST is similar but a far back range version where a dancer blends the XIV gameplay of Bard and Astrologian together into a healer that is there in the fray buffing the attack speed and defence of friends and doing just the opposite to their enemies. As much support as healer they exist  as more than another bar filling whack a mole class but someone you are welcome to have at your side in a fight -literally- knowing they are strengthening the party for it.
 In lore terms there has been Dancers of a sort in XIV since the beginning. In Uldah Dancing girls -and later analogues to J-pop Idols- have been entertainers for centuries and everyone knows the ones who watch coin change hands and catch whispers in pubs, when nobody thinks the entertainment has a brain cell in their pretty little head, know all the secrets of the cities comings and goings that some people dont want the law to know about them. That makes them valuable. They can serve as spys, assassins and inspiring idols for world weary adventurers in equal measure. Over the years we have had a fair few questlines about how Dancing can heal the world weary heart including a questline towards the end of ARR where a new NPC taught the player multiple dances and promised to 'bring Dancing to Eorzea in a big way!" but where did this Human come from? Ala Mhigo. Who taught Dancing to Uldah so many years ago? the people of Ala Mhigo. So where could a player pick up such a job? well i think its safe to make a guess at this point and its probably not the Sundrop Dancers of the Sea of Clouds :p
Class wise i think it makes perfect sense for this to be another Pugilist Job like Monk. Only as Monk takes pugilists with martial prowess and teaches them the arts of chakra usage that same Adventurer adept in graceful movement and hand to hand combat is an easy fit for the Dancer job as well. It makes perfect sense. As for the second job? since Dancer is an offshoot of white magic as Ala Mhigo is a lesser magical culture than its Padjal neighbors making it require Conjurer doesnt really make sense, why bother when its technically a white magic downgrade lore wise right? But what about Arcanist? Scholar was already a case of taking your ability to call on the ethereal in a new direction as a healer so why wouldnt the same schooled Adventurer jump on learning a new Job like this again? Although its equally possible given the similar nature a Job like this could require Pugilist and Astrologian instead. After all Dancing has been used as a way of foretelling events in the past under terms like "Gyromancy" so its not impossible either, it just has less of a connection to Eorzeas immediate past and the grand companies.
So this is my Healer role prediction for 4.0 so what next?

Job: Geomancer
First Appearance: Final Fantasy III
Role: Dps
Job Requirements: Conjurer lvl.30, Gladiator lvl.30

Why: Also known as the Taoist, Elementalist or "Feng Shui Soldier" the Geomancer is the offensive side of Conjuration taken to its limits. As the Conjurer uses his Padjali taught knowledge of the elements mostly for healing the Geomancer understands that conflict is as much a part of the natural world as healing and growth and masters the arts of Earth, Water, Wind and Fire to imbue him or herself with strength and based on what terrain he or she fights on -and in some games even what direction they face when fighting the enemy- their elemental abilities take on new properties meaning the outcome of a battle can swing based on a changing your standing and looking at a fight from a new perspective. Using bells and chimes as a weapon and movement heavy gameplay the Geomancer would allow Conjurer players a DPS option whos movement heavy buffing and debuffing systems would make for a unique blend of MNK/DRG style movement and the Conjurers own currently lacking offensive magic capabilities.
Honestly beyond the idea of the Humans of Ala Mhigo taking the Padjali Conjuration in a new direction based on their similarly close home near the font of elemental power that is the great wood of northern Eorzea there is little in game lore that suggest Geomancer at this point. However Conjurer is the only Class in FFXIV that does not have a DPS option at this point and if we assume they return to the class requirements for the next wave of jobs it is the space that needs filling the most and the FFXI audience that jumped from Vana'diel to Eorzea have been pretty vocal about wanting this job in threads on the official forums for almost half a decade now. Again it just makes sense if we assume Ala Mhigo is the destination for 4.0 and like Astrologian it would fill the role of the 'spiritualism' based job for the expansion with a unique playstyle i think lends itself well to mmos. Perhaps you are in a dungeon like satasha and you can stand on a rock or in water and this changes the function of earth or water based spells based on which you choose to move into? instead of the MMORPG trope of "get out of the thing!" you are forced to notice your surroundings in a move thoughtful way and this feels like something that would fit in a story returning to the more verdant parts of the continent with a strong tie to the Elementals and as a fitting dichotomy for the magitek heavy enemies we would encounter in the Empires forces.
 And with Healer and DPS out of the way there is really only one place to go after that isn't there?

Job: Samurai
First Appearance: Final Fantasy V
Role: Tank
Job Requirements: Lancer lvl.30, Rogue lvl.30

Why: Decked out in plates of ceramic armour the Samurai are the vanguard of their Lords forces. Known for precision with bow, blade and spear and a willingness to lead the charge even into a situation that is very likely to lead to their deaths they embody the MMORPG Tank role as the armoured protector that favours offense based on none magical means unlike the Paladin and Dark Knight but also with reserved focus unlike the bloodlust of the Warrior. 
 Imagine that you are a Doman. Your culture has been completely curb stomped by the empire. What little of you did not escape to Eorzea with Yugiri's lot have been taken in as slaves as your own culture is stripped away and replaced. Why wouldn't they seek to join the growing Ala Mhigan rebellion? and perhaps an Adventurer both gifted with a natural aptitude with the spear and trusted by the Ninja of the Doman refugees has exactly the qualities they seek to entrust someone with keeping their warrior culture alive, for if the Ninja is the offensive tradition surely the Samurai is their defensive counterpart?
In HW Dark Knight served as the "something from outside" Ishgardian culture Job compared to MCH and AST and in this case where there is a strong possibility for Domans to play a part, perhaps even seeking to no longer live as refugees but settle in a free Ala Mhigo as their new home should the Empire be routed from it and then surely a Samurai would serve the same purpose here. Perhaps as a Tank focussed on mitigation and TP use over MP? This is a job that the userbase has been both demanding and expecting since rumours of its inclusion in ARR started doing the rounds in early 2013 and 3 years later people still crave a Samurai to accompany the Ninja. Given the nature of the story possibilities in front of us i feel this serves as the right choice.
For the Classes i expect Rogue with its connections to the Doman introduction feels right but with the Samurais in FF using spears as often as a Katana it also makes sense for Lancer to get some love and a Job thats not seen as the "oh great, get ready for the 'Goon to kill himself. Again" stereotype of choice. It would be a TP tank for TP classes thats not another blood hungry berserker but like Aaron in FFX they serve as a more stoic and tempered job ready to be the wall that protects the Dancers and Elementalists he or she fights besides in the Ala Mhigan resistance.

Of course this is all a complete asspull on my part and its likely we could get something so incredibly different and out of left field. Nobody expected Astrologian and Machinist after all. Though with a return to a more traditional FF setting i believe we will see the Job choices follow this theme. Though for now all we can do is have fun speculating of course, and speaking of next up i'll be talking about my expectations for changes and uses for current content in 4.0, so stay tuned! 

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