The specialized, party-friendly job system of Patch 1.21 has infused Eorzea with progression, lore, tradition and fun.
Nearly two years ago, just after the release date for Final Fantasy XIV was announced, I knew right away that I wanted to be a paladin in Eorzea. When the game’s starting classes were finally unveiled, the gladiator job seemed like the natural choice for playing a paladin-style role.
So imagine my disappointment when axe-wielding marauders were more highly regarded for tanking than sword-and-shield gladiators. You can also imagine all the confused mages who couldn’t discern between thaumaturges and conjurers, or the various damage dealers who shared from the same pool of marginally effective abilities. After years of playing specialized, meaningful roles in Final Fantasy XI, we arrived in Eorzea to find the various classes mired in mediocrity.
That’s all changing with the implementation of the game’s new job system introduced by Patch 1.21. With one fell swoop, the job system -- which is in addition to the original class system -- has infused the game with lore, purpose and progression.
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Unlike the game’s original classes, each of the new jobs represents a specific role in combat made to help players excel when battling in parties. Jobs are unlocked after reaching certain milestones in related classes; for example, a player with gladiator at rank 30 and conjurer at rank 15 can unlock the paladin job quest. Then, more quests allow players to access new job abilities and the long-awaited release of job-specific artifact armor.
Seeing traditionally geared black mages, dragoons and other classic Final Fantasy jobs bustling about Ul'dah has done more to affect the mood of the game than the growing orb of Dalamund hanging ominously in the sky.
Some people on the forums – both here and on the Lodestone – have criticized the new job quests for being too short. However, the only way to get through the quests quickly is to blow through them with the help of seven other people who are all level 50. These job quests are meant to start at level 30, the point at which the new jobs become available to be unlocked. A new job quest becomes available every five levels, providing much-needed progression for newer players who are coming up through the ranks. The easier quests involve traveling to chests hidden in common areas of the map. The more difficult quests require infiltrating rank 45 dungeons and fighting powerful bosses.
Overall, the difficulty level of these quests is just right. Finding a party can be difficult, and this could become more of a problem as the rush to complete job quests winds down. I feel Square Enix erred by requiring players to finish the quest “Into the Dark” before gaining access to some of the areas where job-specific gear is found. My biggest concern prior to the launch of Patch 1.21 was that the limited size of Eorzea would make the quests seem trivial. However, the development team did a great job of spreading these quests throughout every nook and cranny of Eorzea. The slow rate of anima regeneration is currently a much bigger problem than the lack of zones.
By the way, I am pleased to announce that I’ve finally fulfilled my goal of becoming a paladin. I started my job quests Friday, and through a 10-ish-hour play session Saturday, I managed to complete "Into the Dark" as well as obtain four of my five gallant armor pieces. On Sunday, I shouted in Ul’dah and quickly built a party for the last two paladin quests. We won our last two battles on the first tries. Soon after, several of us were celebrating in Ul'dah equipped in our new, shiny armor.
Early in the paladin quests, there was some NPC dialogue that would have been better shown through a cut scene. Overall, the cut scenes in the quest were fantastic. Although many gamers these days love voice acting, I’m much more partial to reading my dialogue along with great music and stunning visuals. These cut scenes deliver on both of those fronts, leaving me eager for more as I eventually level other jobs. While I can’t speak to the specifics of the other quest lines, the paladin quests introduced interesting characters while leaving room for more chapters to the story. I could see Square Enix building on these quest lines to add more abilities, items and lore to each job.
There are many things to like about Patch 1.21. The changes to crafting and gathering highlight the need for producing quality items and materials. The new instanced dungeons bring more depth to the endgame experience, with the Aurum Vale adding some new elements of danger to help adventurers stay frosty. The ability to buy chocobo armor is nice, as is the ability to teleport around town using small aetheryte crystals. Building up rested experience in your private Inn room will be an asset when raising lower-level classes.
All of that pales in comparison to the jobs system. I can’t think of another change that’s been so vital to the game, other than the patch that significantly reduced server lag. This job system allows players to be more effective in parties while leaving the original battle classes superior for soloing and duoing. Doesn’t this relationship between jobs and classes remind you of Final Fantasy V? Rather than scrap the class system and remake jobs from the ground-up, the development team found a way to introduce a new job system in a way that actually redefined the existing class system – a gutsy move that will be helpful for new players. There are still many features of this game that really need to be fixed, such as the lack of a delivery system and linkshell management tools. As of Thursday, though, the job system can be scratched from that list.
On the topic of new players, I don’t expect Patch 1.21 to bring droves of people back to the game. In fact, I don’t anticipate Eorzea’s population to rise much before Version 2.0. Although FFXIV producer Naoki Yoshida is planning a couple more large updates this year, he has indicated Patch 1.21 might be the last of the major system improvements we’ll see before Version 2.0 goes live. For players who had every job at max level and blew through the job quests on the first weekend, the long-term impact of the job system may seem small. For new players starting from scratch -- or for veterans who don't normally play for hours on end -- the job system could provide months of goals, gear and stories to strive for.