Yoshi-P says that the Final Fantasy 14 team is taking aim at the game's same-y combat jobs and 2-minute-meta, but that'll come after Dawntrail tackles its encounter design

 An image of Krile, a lalafell in a kitty-cat hoodie, smiling confidently amongst verdant surroundings in Final Fantasy 14.
An image of Krile, a lalafell in a kitty-cat hoodie, smiling confidently amongst verdant surroundings in Final Fantasy 14.

Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail, much like how Endwalker tackled the new player experience, seems poised to start chipping away at some of the game's most persistent problems—namely, that FF14 is a little too straightforward nowadays.

That's not to say you can't find difficult content for your masochistic heart—Extremes, Savage content, Ultimates (and if you're really self-loathing, buying a house)—rather, Endwalker lacked a casual-to-midcore experience that offered much of any challenge. It's something I talked about in my retrospective last year.

That's down to a few things that are, in isolation, actually positives for the game. Telegraphs are very straightforward and have a shared vocabulary, and the game does a good job of teaching you how everything works over its big, stonking, hundreds-of-hours long story. However, once you get any kind of max-level competency, grinding out your dailies loses its lustre pretty quickly. You're either doing organised group content that requires all your focus, or brain-off dungeon runs, with very little in-between.

Fortunately, according to an interview with Multiplayer, it looks like director Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) is still interested in tackling that problem. I should note that the following quotes are machine-translated, though I've noticed very similar sentiments shared in other interviews with the game's director during the recent media tour.

"I've talked about it often … in general, we have directed development towards reducing player stress, and as a result we have made certain decisions," says Yoshi-P, referencing an increase in the size of raid boss 'target circles', which allowed melee classes to have a far easier time keeping up their DPS during Endwalker's raid tiers. "[They] eventually became too large … Likewise, when it comes to specific mechanics, we received feedback from some players that they didn't like [them], as a result we decided to no longer implement them."

Yoshi-P goes on to say that these responses were "defensive", adding that he'd instead like the team to consider why a mechanic is disliked before removing it—and when it comes to the thinning of boss target circles, he notes that easing up on the players in such a fashion "makes it much more difficult to express the ability and the talent of the individual player … our goal obviously shouldn't be to stress players for the sake of it, but at the same time we must take into account the degree of satisfaction they feel when completing content."

This, he says, is something the team tends to take on immediately during Dawntrail's post-release patches: "we absolutely don't want to wait until 8.0".

Combat jobs, however, have also suffered a kind of simplification over the years—go to any discussion forum, and you'll find the term "homogenisation" flung around a whole lot. In essence, most tanks play similarly, most healers play similarly, and while DPS are a little more diverse (owing to the fact there's more of them), each job more or less does its big damage burst every two minutes, with every job's toolkit lining up into one neat, but synthetic-feeling lasagne of buffs and boosts.

"Our desire is to create a situation in which each job is equipped with its own skills, manages to shine in its own unique way, and there is also a sort of pride in playing a particular job. By strongly differentiating the jobs, we will be able to reach the goal we have set ourselves. This is why we would like to take a step back and put things back to how they were before."

As for that two-minute window, "we chose to align the buff windows within a window lasting 120 seconds, because otherwise it would have been impossible to align the rotations of the different jobs. But, even in this case, the result was to make the job rotations extremely similar, and I don't think that's a good thing."

Final Fantasy 14 character
Final Fantasy 14 character

In other words, Yoshi-P has identified it as an issue and it's something he'd like to solve. However, Dawntrail probably won't be the expansion to fix it: "We set ourselves the challenge of refining the battle content and the battle mechanics first, and then focusing on the jobs [afterwards] … if we were to rework everything at the same time it would be extremely chaotic for the players."

I think that's a reasonable enough stance to take. Final Fantasy 14 does suffer from having a bit of a rote formula, that's true—and while job identity is definitely a part of that, I wouldn't say that any of the jobs feel overtly bad to play. On the contrary, they're generally well put-together: Dipping my toes into WoW on occasion, and requiring a bunch of WeakAuras to make sure I've got a handle on things, I'm reminded of how good we've got it. Sorting out the actual encounters first feels like the way to go. Besides, I'm just excited we're getting a field exploration zone again.