If you’ve been following the Final Fantasy XIV drama over the past weekend, and there was plenty of it, you have obviously heard by now that FFXIV’s Shadowbringers expansion will not be adding a new healer job.
This news came in spite of leaks saying there would be, and a widespread fan assumption that because tank and healer were skipped over in Stormblood, that they would return with new jobs in those archetypes for Shadowbringers.
Many, many fans (including myself) assumed that Shadowbringers would introduce a healer version of Dancer that would perhaps resemble Final Fantasy XI’s take on the job which was a designed to heal. That obviously wasn’t the case, and Dancer was instead revealed to be a physical ranged DPS at the latest fan festival.
The outrage over the Tokyo Shadowbringers fan festival was, and still is, intense. Fans were extremely confused and angry that yet another DPS class would be added to the pile. There are already nine DPS jobs, not including Blue Mage, and five of them are ranged/magical.
Coupled with the choice to gender lock the new races, even though there’s lore/evidence to support both sexes of Hrothgar/Viera, nothing that was announced over the weekend at the Japanese fan-fest appeared to make any sense.
That was until producer Naoki Yoshida had some time to conduct a few interviews and explain these choices. While one could still disagree with him, I’m at least beginning to understand why the decision about not adding a new healer was made.
Across multiple interviews, including this one from prominent FFXIV YouTuber Mr. Happy, Yoshida has made it clear that they consider each job grouping that you see in game (Healer, Tank, Melee Physical DPS, Ranged Physical DPS, & Ranged Magical DPS), to be distinct.
In other words, he and the rest of the dev team don’t see it as nine DPS, three tanks, and three healers; they see four Melee Physical DPS, three healers and two Ranged Physical DPS, etc.
While many, probably a large majority of the FFXIV community, felt that healer was the most underrepresented archetype after Gunbreaker was revealed, in the FFXIV dev team’s eyes, it was Ranged Physical DPS that needed a new job.
So for them, one of the main reasons that explains why there is no healer in Shadowbringers is simply this: They have time to make two jobs for an expansion.
They wanted to do a tank because there was only three, and they wanted to have a 2MT/2OT balance, and the second one was obviously going to be a Ranged Physical DPS because there’s only two of them, Bard and Machinist.
That’s the first piece of it. The second, and more logical reasoning, has to do with the current, and extremely stale, state of healing in Final Fantasy XIV.
Right now, there are two ways of healing: high HPS (healing per second)/regen healing [WHM] and shield barriers to prevent damage [SCH]. AST is able to flip between both styles, and adds its own personality through support buffs. Great… except not so much actually.
The issue that seems to be going on behind the scenes, based on how Yoshida describes the state of healing whenever they discuss it, is that they are having a really hard time coming up with a way to break that paradigm and offer new and creative ways to heal.
Based on what Yoshida told Mr. Happy, it looks like a significant part of the reason why they didn’t want to add a new healer for Shadowbringers is because they were not prepared to add something that would have felt different enough from what was in the game already.
Their focus right now appears to be shattering the HPS/barrier meta through dramatic rebalancing of the three current healer jobs already in the game. Likely, this is a task that is just as hard, if not harder, than adding an entirely new job.
In a perfect world, if the FFXIV dev team succeeds, the three healers will be so invigorated by the balance changes that they will feel like brand new jobs that can better mixed and matched based on preference/needs like tanks and DPS jobs are now currently; instead of trying to cram a new job somewhere in the extremely rigid higher heals vs. barriers, and good for literally everything AST, paradigm.
With these handcuffs off, the development team could then find a way to add an exciting new healer the next time around that does not have fit into heals vs. barriers, and has its own unique style.
I’ll admit, that’s a lot of big ifs, and I’m skeptical about how exactly they will go about breaking up this healer meta in Shadowbringers. It seems so deeply ingrained into the DNA of the game.
Even if they do pull it off, it definitely sucks if you’re a healer main to have to likely wait years for this plan to fully play out and finally get a new job to play with.
It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow but I have to admit, I do at least feel better now that I understand the plan. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to like it, but it’s a lot better than just saying they wanted to make Dancer a Ranged DPS because it was easy, or that the dev team just hates healers.
In fact, this could be categorized as tough love, and hopefully it ends up being just what the game needed for healing to remain interesting for the long term, beyond even just Shadowbringers.