At this point, of course, we can confidently say that part was a lie. A Botanist is about as useful in combat as an actual botanist in a fistfight. But Naoki Yoshida has gone on record that the former part is a lie as well -- that if you want to take part in the main storyline, you really do need to level a combat class. It wasn't something that was really highlighted, but it was still there, and it's worth unpacking as we look forward to another year of the game's ongoing development. If you came in expecting to only craft and gather, you're no longer going to have your run of the place.
Of course, the real culprit here isn't Yoshida; it's what the original team seemed to think taking part in the storyline meant for players who went with a crafting or gathering class.
What had originally been said about the various classes was, I feel, rather misleading. The original statements, either due to poor translations or just bizarre early design versions, seemed to imply a game with eighteen classes that each had a spectrum of abilities useful for other functions. A Culinarian was at her best when cooking, but she still had traits and abilities that could prove useful if you brought her along in combat, and she would be able to offer some of those abilities to a combat class if you leveled one. Similarly, a Lancer wouldn't be a very good crafter (obviously), but there would be Lancer-related abilities that would prove beneficial for crafters.
Instead, there are basically three ways of playing the game -- crafting class, gathering class, and combat class. Disciples of War and Magic may as well be under the same aegis, and there's no real cross-pollination between these three categories, which is, to be fair, probably a lot more sane than the version originally suggested, since I don't think getting Ultima when you hit Botanist 50 would be satisfying to anyone. But it does mean that the classes all have very different ways to approach content and different sort of content that they would find satisfying.
None of these things, however, is reflected in the main story. To be fair the original team, I'll argue that the story is not content that's meant to be fought through. To be much more unfair, I'll also argue that the story is not content that's really designed for anything, and that makes it a lot less interesting.
Seriously. Every single story quest during which you actually have to fight something, the fights are weaksauce and give you plenty of other ways to clear the battle or give you NPCs to do all the real work. Or both. And the alternatives, rather than involving your Miner's desperately mining at a wall, usually center around the Parley minigame, which has absolutely nothing to do with what your character does most of the time.
It's unsatisfying for crafters and gatherers because they're placed at the center of cool stuff and then told to chat with people. And it's unsatisfying for combatants because they're not pitched into desperate battles -- they're pitched into rather lackluster fights that can be easily avoided. If you've spent all this time leveling as a crafter, you want your high-end content to involve more crafting.
Yoshida seems to agree, in principle. In practice, he's said that he sees the game's not having combat classes as an optional path. You're going to miss out on a big chunk of the game if you don't want to take part in battling fierce beasts. There will be high-end stuff for crafters and gatherers, but the main storyline is going to require players to leap into the fray.
Now, getting endgame stuff for non-combat classes that amounts to more than just tacked-on options to a combat mission is a good thing. At the same time, however, it means that the relevance of these non-combat classes is being diminished in a big way. One of the unique elements of the game was the concept that these other classes were still fully featured, that crafting and gathering weren't sideline activities. By removing physical levels, the designers made these classes even more marginal; without any main story unlocks, there's almost no reason not to just have a pile of tradeskills in lieu of the classes.
But the other version isn't going to happen. There's not really a way to make three different main storylines or create several scenarios in which you can solve conflicts equally with crafting, gathering, or battle. Letting the non-combat classes have some combat chops is a kludge at this point, and it's also a slippery slope toward forcing players into a class they don't enjoy just for one or two abilities. We're left with either continuing the trend of missions that are basically non-content or marginalizing the non-combat classes... and while it's not an option that I'm totally thrilled about, it's also the option that has the fewest downsides at this stage of the game.
And really, I'll be happy to never again have a mission hinging upon a weapon too stupid to differentiate between friend and foe. This is Final Fantasy XIV, not Sonic Online or something similar. Although I'd probably play that.
As usual, feel free to mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your thoughts in the comments down below. Next week, it's back to the class mill for Final Fantasy XI; I'll be covering some classes that have all had a rough time in the game's environment.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.