Checking in with Red Mage and Samurai
When Stormblood came out, the very first thing I wrote about was Samurai. New jobs excite me more than anything else, and both SAM and Red Mage have changed FFXIV for the better. It’s been about four months now, and with 4.1 — the first major content patch — coming out on October 10th, I thought now would be a good time to check in with the new additions now the dust has settled and people have (mostly) figured out how jobs are going to play from here on out.
The good news is that neither turned out to be a gimmick job. I always felt weird playing the ‘new’ class in an MMO; whether it was Revenant in Guild Wars 2 or Death Knight in World of Warcraft, being the new guy never felt very natural to me, and I was always worried I’d just be playing an expansion-themed flavour of the month. But Samurai and Red Mage feel like they’ll be the most enduring aspects of Stormblood. Just as the Heavensward jobs are as relevant as they’ve ever been, people will be playing both jobs long after Rhalgr’s reach gets mothballed.
Beyond a few hours as a Machinist, I’ve spent the entirety of 4.0 maining Samurai. It was partly motivated by the fact that it’d give me a fresh perspective to write from, but, as I said at the time, it’s a fun and straightforward job that’s great for learning fights. Given the job’s fundamentals, my feeling in that regard hasn’t changed at all, and I doubt it ever will. The job doesn’t make people feel awful when they don’t nail positionals, you don’t need to drill maintenance buffs into muscle memory in order to be decent, and everything lines up really well.
Most content plays like a dream. Whether it’s expert dungeons, primals or raids, Samurai rarely feels like it’s not suited to the task at hand. Couple that with excellent DPS output, and it can really pull its weight. If you’re in a group with some weak links that might otherwise struggle to hit enrage (as I’m sure we’ve all been in from time to time), a mediocre Samurai can be a good 1,000 DPS ahead of their peers without really trying.
I’ve been in a couple of pug groups where there was a serious gap between me and the person in second place, and we finished as just enrage started or moments before. I don’t think we would’ve managed those kills if Samurai didn’t quite hit so hard (a 30k crit is not that impressive for a SAM), and statistically, it pulls higher DPS numbers than any other job. But this is also its downfall.
High personal DPS doesn’t necessarily translate to higher DPS as a group, and that’s the problem with SAM. It’s the most selfish job in the game by quite some margin — even Black Mage has something in manashift. Now people are starting to settle into the sorts of groups they want to play in, Samurai is starting to look a little like 3.0 monk, in that it has awesome personal DPS, but not enough utility to make them worth bringing along.
Of course, group composition doesn’t matter at all to casual statics and duty finder, and for content you can queue for Samurai is a dream. But getting into a raid team as one is difficult, and it’s not hard to see why. With Samurai, all you bring are numbers, and you have to be really stellar for that to be enough. I’ve seen lots of groups looking for Ninjas and Dragoons — not so much Samurai, and I suspect demand will only get worse as the months go by.
Red Mage is in a different — and much better — position. The job has not only has excellent DPS but utility to boot. Embolden is a solid boost to melee DPS, but it’s Verraise, the job’s resurrecting ability, that really makes the difference.
The job has an innate ability, Dualcast, that means that every other spell is instant. In layman’s terms, that’s a swiftcast every few seconds. That, coupled with being able to resurrect people in combat, makes Red Mage a one-man sustaining machine. It used to be the case that combat resses weren’t that useful because rez sickness seriously impacted max HP, but with the changes to the system in Stormblood, all it does is lower outgoing DPS a little.
A lot of raiders who finished Savage in the first week or so praised RDM for its ability to keep a fight going that would have otherwise ended in a wipe. This is true even in casual content, where the ability to just pull a swiftres out of nowhere without blinking is insanely handy when things unexpectedly go bad.
It’s a lot easier to play than people expected, too. Using job skills to jump in and out of combat isn’t all that difficult (it feels easier than managing a Dragoon’s jumps), and balancing White and Black magic bars doesn’t require too much forethought — you’ll do it naturally if you do the rotation correctly.
This is probably the job’s sticking point: while it’s useful in content people aren’t comfortable with, once you’ve got into the swing of things and nobody’s dying any more, it becomes fairly routine. I’ve heard of a few players finding it pretty boring once they’ve got a fight down, as they believe there’s not a huge amount of difference between a good RDM and a REALLY good RDM when it comes down to it.
For my part, as a Samurai main, I find SAM pretty routine, too. Perhaps SE were worried they’d introduce something on the same level as 3.0 Machinist, which was overwhelmingly complicated and required an obscene amount of study and practice to get good at. There’s part of me that feels like both RDM and SAM go quite far in the other direction and risk feeling a bit too easy., While I wouldn’t want to see a return to the sort of skill bloat and arbitrary complications introduced in Heavensward, I think both might benefit from more to think about.
But still, both jobs bring a great deal to the game’s overall experience, even when you’re playing alongside them. Red Mage in particular feels like it’s really found a place in XIV without infringing upon either of its fellow casters. In the long run, Samurai might be face trouble if it can’t carve out a place for itself, but it’s hard to see how it can do so without being overpowered; giving it utility or more damage would make it frankly obscene, but it feels like it’s missing something as it is. Still, it’s early days — and it’s easy to forget what the job is missing when it’s just so damn enjoyable to play.