We've gotten our Job system in Final Fantasy XIV, we've got our classes to the point that they're at least somewhat balanced, and we've got a new version on the horizon. The question, then, is what we're getting next. What new classes or jobs can we look forward to? What do we need? What gaps are obvious within the Final Fantasy pantheon, and what is just lacking in terms of a traditional MMO setup?
The case for: To start, there's the simple fact that we already have the class guild in place, something that Yoshida has acknowledged. The Knights of the Barracuda sit in Limsa, clearly meant to be a guild for shooting things without the requisite guns. Beyond even that, there's the simple fact that guns of some sort have appeared in pretty much every Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VI or so, and their presence is part of what contributes to the feel of the world. Heck, it's a setting in which swords and guns are frequently combined into one thing.
The case against: In order to justify a Musketeer, you have to start by justifying how the class will play differently from the Archer. As it stands, the two have a similar overall stated focus, which means that the Musketeer needs to have a distinct mechanical identity while still working as a ranged class. It's a bit of a dicey proposition, especially when we consider that most games either feature one or the other, allow the same classes to use bows or guns, or wind up making guns just straight-up better than bows.
The case for: Oh, look, it's another class with a guild in place that's clearly meant to be a part of the game. More to the point, the Arcanist can fill a role that's currently rather lacking: debuffing and crowd control. Originally, the Thaumaturge had a lot of debuffs, and the Conjuror was a combination of White and Black Mages, but now that's all changed and we're in need of a good debuffing class a la Final Fantasy XI's Red Mage. It'd also do wonders to round out the rather anemic selection of Disciples of Magic.
The case against: Final Fantasy XI's Red Mage also had a lot of abilities shared with the other mages, and it's important to note that you were never really expected to solo heavily in FFXI. Final Fantasy XIV is a different environment, where debuffing enemies you're soloing against can be a losing proposition much of the time. The class would need to have straightforward punch and enough debuffs to be worth playing in that role, something that might require a bit more design time than it's worth.
Type: Job (probably)
The case for: It's summon magic. This doesn't really need to be justified. The only thing more iconic in the franchise is a moogle riding a chocobo.
The case against: Summoners haven't really had a distinct mechanical identity since Final Fantasy V. In every subsequent edition, summoning has either been universal to every character or been linked with white magic as the "offensive" side for that caster. As such, unless the devs start adding additional jobs for the core classes, it's hard to think what would serve as a base class, and Summoners seem too powerful to make a non-Job sort of character. Of course, there's also the fact that if you're summoning a pet, you're probably more of a solo-oriented class to begin with...
Type: Job (probably)
The case for: The Blue Mage is the most frequently recurring class that has the least uniform methods of execution. In some games, Blue Mages need to be hit by the attack; in others, they just need to be there when it's used. Sometimes they have to live, sometimes they can die, and sometimes they have only a slight chance of learning the ability. And yet everyone loves the class because the idea of using monster abilities on a regular basis is just plain cool. Who wouldn't like to be able to breathe fire on demand or use any insane buff skills meant to make a boss fight that much harder?
The case against: There's a fixed number of abilities allocated to each individual class, and there's no way that Blue Mages wouldn't either exceed that limit or be limited to a handful of monster-like abilities. The former would easily imbalance them or necessitate a whole new system just to support them, and the latter would mean you don't really feel like a Blue Mage as much as a guy with weird spells who looks sharp in blue.
The case for: Originally, I wouldn't have argued that we really needed the ubiquitous pickpockets in the game. After all, Pugilists had the requisite abilities, right? But that's no longer the case, and as a result, we could use another damage-dealing class with lighter armor and some control abilities. Heck, you could even go particularly crazy and dust off the Final Fantasy Tactics abilities like Steal HP. Give us a melee healer! Great fun for everyone.
The case against: The big role that the Thief managed in FFXI had more to do with just juggling aggro and controlling drops. The latter has an advantage in every game, but the former is not the same sort of issue in this much more solo-heavy environment. But the bigger issue is the fact that Thieves don't have a marquee weapon other than the dagger, and daggers are already baked into the Gladiator's arsenal. That'd be a bit counterintuitive.
And wait, there's more!
Of coures, I've barely touched on all of the possibilities for what we could see next. There are still classes like Samurai, obvious inclusions like Ninja, and templates made implicit by the game world such as wielding Garlean gunblades. But I think these are the frontrunners among the usual fan-favorite classes.
Watch me be totally wrong when the devs announce Samurai next week.
Feedback is welcome, as always, in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm going to talk about something that might not be immediately obvious from the outside looking in -- namely, just how different things are in FFXIV now versus a year ago.
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.