By William Haderlie / August 10th, 2019
To read Part 1 of this 2 Part Review for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, click here.
Like with Stormblood, there are two new Classes/Jobs added with Shadowbringers. This time the two new ones are a new Tank, Gunbreaker, and a new Ranged DPS/Support, Dancer. I’ll start out with talking about the latter. Ranged Physical DPS occupies an interesting subset of skills in Final Fantasy XIV. They tend to have lower overall damage than pure DPS classes (ideally), but they add overall Party and Raid utility by adding buffs to other people, particularly damage buffs. This is even more true for the Dancer. When you successfully complete a Dance Step Routine, you will add a (up to) 5% damage buff on yourself and (after level 60) one Dance Partner of your choice. The buff lasts long enough for you to continually keep it active during any combat situation. Additionally at level 70, you will gain the Technical Step Dance Routine which will add an additional DPS buff to any party members in a 30y range. These dance routines also do massive damage to a single target, with diminishing returns on enemies surrounding it. Beyond the dances themselves, you throw chakra weapons from a ranged distance while looking very stylish doing so. You have a lot of AOE moves (attack over environment) from a very early level that will do some pretty good damage to crowds. It is a very fun class and is extremely maneuverable, the only real issue is how much RNG (Random Number Generator, colloquially the random chance that something will activate) there is to their major burn DPS phases. There are long cooldowns you can use to mitigate some of the RNG, but it does lower their DPS significantly compared to other classes at the highest levels. But because of their constant 5% buff to someone with much higher damage than you do, and your 120sec cooldown raid wide damage buff, they are a very popular support class. The leveling process was fun and the story was engaging, but overall the highlight to the class was just how much fun they are to play and how maneuverable they are.
While Dancer did surprise me a bit with how enjoyable it was, Gunbreaker didn’t really surprise me that much. But that is not a negative, it is just because it feels more like a hybrid of the other 3 Tanking classes in Shadowbringers (Paladin, Warrior, and Dark Knight), only with a slight upgrade in DPS. That being said, it is quite fun if a bit squishy as you are leveling. Once you get to 80 a lot of the extra damage goes away and you can just concentrate on doing the best DPS rotations. Where the class mechanics themselves lack in surprise, the story is actually quite a bit more interesting than Dancer was, in my opinion. Part of that is because we have seen Gunblades for a long time in the game, they were always just part of the Garlean Empire. And you get a lot of backstory for why that is and why it is now changing. Also I generally think the main NPC’s in the Gunbreaker storyline are a bit more interesting. Between the two new classes I am probably going to end up playing Gunbreaker more, but that is because I have always been primarily a tank, no matter what MMORPG it is. For now I’m still a Dark Knight main, but after I get my next DRK tanking achievement, I’m thinking of switching to Gunbreaker (Paladin has been my previous most common main class).
During the process of my Shadowbringers review I leveled up Dark Knight to 80, Dancer to 80, Gunbreaker to 80, White Mage to 80, and Black Mage to 80. Dancer and Gunbreaker start at 60, but the rest I already had to 70. In fact, the only class/job that I have under 70 is Blue Mage, but that’s because their level maximum is fixed to 50 until a future update (later during this expansion). I did also at least mess around a little with every class to check out their new feel and new rotations. There was a major combat rebalance with this expansion, much more thorough than we have had since A Realm Reborn. The previous change to add major Job actions in Stormblood was interesting from a UI perspective, but really didn’t change the class operation all that much. And it was all additive in that circumstance. But with Shadowbringers, they have taken away a lot of previous skills and combined other ones in order to make the combat a bit more streamlined and also to reduce some skill creep. Paladin still has more skills on a skill bar than any other Job, but if they wouldn’t have combined skills, it would have started to be a real issue across the board. That does change the way some roles perform however, so it does take some getting used to. Two of the largest changes are that healers don’t have access to Protect anymore, and tanks don’t have access to a mass taunt. But to counter that, healers have more healing skills and especially more instant heals, and tanks have much better AOE aggro skills. That being said, healers do require a bit more talent to bring out the best, not only to be cognizant of spike damage, but to get in DPS when it is safe. The Jobs that have changed the least are Crafting and Gathering, but their major additions are coming later on in the Expansion when they start getting Story Quests to restore Ishgard (from the Heavensward expansion events). They will also get a Beast Tribe series of Daily Quests later on, so while you can level up those Jobs to earn a lot of money, I would really advise you wait a while and focus more on the combat classes. Overmelding and Master Recipes will take a while to become a major focus of the end game as well, so there is plenty of time for those Jobs later.
My largest concern going into the new Shadowbringers expansion was when it was announced that they would be forgoing individual Class Quests and instead transitioning to Role Quests. Previous to Shadowbringers (and still from levels 60-70 with the two new classes), there was an individual quest line for your class. This gave some extra story and experience while you were leveling, and at the end of that particular quest line you also got some high level gear. Originally you would also earn special Class and Job Skills from the quest giver that you would be unable to obtain until completion. That part of Class Quests was removed, however, and now you can earn those skills just by leveling. Role Quests have taken the place of all those separate quest lines now, and they are split up between 4 quest chains; Tanks, Healers, Physical DPS, and Magical DPS. Given how many different Jobs there are in the game, that is a pretty obvious reduction in quests and writing. That becomes even more apparent when you level up a second Job of that type, and you don’t have access to that continuing quest line or the bonus experience (such as when I leveled Gunbreaker after doing the Role Quests with Dark Knight). However, what they lost in overall story, they more than made up for in depth. Each of the Shadowbringers Role Quests are designed around a hunt for a Sin Eater that is the reanimated body of one of the Warriors of Darkness. You briefly got to know them when they were on the world of the Source, but these Role Quests really allow you to dig into their story and their personalities. So even if the quest structure change was ostensibly to lower their work load in that area and concentrate it elsewhere, I think they ended up bettering the game story overall. I will be very interested to see how it will change in the future now that you won’t have those 4 pillar stories to rely on. But it is fairly obvious that they want to continue with this style, they even give you a close out story quest at level 80 where you go back and tie up any loose ends from your previous 1-70 Class/Job storyline.
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