Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers is facing a dearth of healers at the moment, as players adjust to job and skill changes. The expansion has one more day until its official launch, but some players have already had a chance to feel how every job is in patch 5.0. Not every player is enjoying the changes, leading some to switch away from the Healer role.
The issue comes from two different directions. The first is that Shadowbringers is offering two brand-new jobs, Dancer and Gunbreaker. Not only are these jobs shiny and fresh, they're also likely overpowered; the team at Square Enix tends to let a new job start strong and then pull the balance back as the expansion rolls on. Dancer in particular has some very strong attacks, including Technical Finish, which is a powerful area-of-effect attack that scales upward depending on how many dance steps you've completed.
The problem is Dancer and Gunbreaker are DPS and Tank-role jobs, respectively. Stormblood offered Samurai and Red Mage, both of which are DPS. Heavensward was the last time Final Fantasy 14 received a Healer job with Astrologian, with the other two jobs, Dark Knight and Machinist, being Tank and DPS respectively. Of the 18 jobs currently in Final Fantasy 14, only three are Healers.
The second thing feeding into this Healer shortage is the change in two of those jobs and healers overall. Astrologian was one of the jobs that was rebuilt for Patch 5.0. Previously, the job drew a random card from a deck of eight Arcana, each with a different ability. This meant that Astrologian was a job with low lows and high highs depending on the Arcana you had drawn. With Shadowbringers, these Arcana are all damage boosts for preferred targets (either Melee DPS and Tank, or Ranged DPS and Healer), with slight differences depending on what's been drawn. For many Astrologian players, this means a large part of the class flavor, relying on perfect card combinations and chance, is now gone. There are also complaints about specific abilities, like Celestial Opposition, being far too weak in comparison to other heals.
"They worked really hard to get it right during Heavensward and completely shattered class depth in Shadowbringers. I spend my time having all three seals and sitting there with nothing to do with them for at least two minutes in between Divination's [cooldown]. What was unique is now flat," wrote FF14 forum user Tonjiar.
Scholar was also revamped, partially due to the way pets now work in Shadowbringers. Previously, pets had their own bar and were able to be targeted by players; this allowed for more micromanaging and some interesting uses of their abilities. Now, all pet abilities are folded directly into the Scholar's abilities. Scholars are also unhappy about the rejiggered Aetherflow mechanic; Aetherflow is a gauge that allows the use of certain abilities, but stacks of Aetherflow can now only be gained in combat. Attached to the Aetherflow mechanic, Scholars used to have an ability called Energy Drain, which allowed players to dump extra Aetherflow stacks for damage. This ability was removed with Patch 5.0, adding to issues with the mechanic overall.
Part of the changes to Healers are an overall shift in design for Final Fantasy 14. The original intention for the jobs had White Mage as the game's pure healer; all heals with very little additional fuss. Scholar and Astrologian were there to provide different flavors, including shields, pets, and additional damage. The latter actually made Scholar and Astrologian more desired in dungeons than White Mage, leading to a bias in player and party choice. The changes in Shadowbringers bring all three Healer jobs closer together, but lose some of what makes them interesting.
"When looking at the history of healing jobs, making strong balance between three jobs has been tough. With a fourth, the balance might get even worse. Instead of doing this, we want to prioritize balancing them better this expansion. We really think we need to restructure the way healers are handled. We can't keep this strict division between pure healer and barrier healer," said Final Fantasy 14 director Naoki Yoshida in an interview with YouTuber MrHappy. (Edited for clarity.)
A number of the changes to all three healers saw many of their damage abilities weakened or removed completely. Their damage rotations are much shorter, and in many cases those abilities are less potent. Healing has also been adjusted to be more necessary in Shadowbringers' dungeons, with increased damage frequency and fewer tank cooldowns.This means healers have to focus more on healing, rather than having some downtime to do something else, like buffing or damage.
Combined with the adjusted skills, Shadowbringers is pushing healers in a certain direction that some players might not enjoy. Neither Scholar or Astrologian are outright broken and unusable in their current iterations, but for players that have been enjoying them for a long time, they're potentially underwhelming. Players liked the unique abilities and chance to make more strategic decisions outside of simply keeping the tank and DPS topped up.
"I don't think the new Scholar is bad as a healer. The job isn't broken and it will most likely still continue to do well. But the main drawback is that it isn't fun anymore. Any form of control and decision making has been mostly removed," wrote FF14 forum user Miiu.
Queuing up for Duty Roulette and a main scenario Trial last night, I was surprised to find a rather long wait for a full group, given the fact that I'm a tank. Every time, I found that a healer was the missing key. These are the early days of the Shadowbringers expansion, so things might change with further patches. The influx of Gunbreakers and Dancers might lessen as players return to their previous jobs, and Scholar or Astrologian might see some adjustments to their overall kit.
As it stands though, there seem to be fewer healers currently playing in Shadowbringers, something that Square Enix probably wants to keep an eye on. While the Trust System, which lets players run dungeons with AI companions, will paper over some of these issues in the short-term, role balance can't be ignored forever. The community has been wishing for another healer for some time now, and making two of the healers less interesting likely isn't the outcome they wanted.