One of the things I’ve been interested to explore in Final Fantasy XIV since returning to the fold is the Blue Mage job. So this week I decided to set aside my continuing New Game+ efforts — which are still underway, but slow going due to having to juggle them with some other commitments! — and give it a go for myself.
For the unfamiliar, the Blue Mage job in Final Fantasy XIV is a bit of a special case in that it is known as a “limited job”. This means that it’s geared mostly towards solo players, can’t queue for multiplayer stuff (though it can join dungeons and raids as part of a pre-formed party) and has a lower level cap than all the other jobs. You may wonder “well, what’s the point of all that?” Read on, and let’s explore together.
The main aim with Blue Mage, as with many significant new additions to Final Fantasy XIV, is to provide a new way to enjoy the game. Yoshi-P and the team have been great at adding all sorts of new ways to play Final Fantasy XIV as the patches and expansions have rolled by — some of them have worked better than others, but the players have always appreciated having the option to try something new.
A significant part of Blue Mage is the fact that it makes Final Fantasy XIV’s open world much more relevant than it is for most other jobs. For most jobs, you proceed through the game’s beautifully crafted open world while you’re doing the main story for an expansion — and from thereon, for many players it might as well not be there as they spend the majority of their time instances on the never-ending gear treadmill.
Blue Mage is different, though. Blue Mage is set up in such a way that it gains a significant amount more experience from combat in the open world than any other class — and also many of the abilities it learns come from enemies out in the open world.
Oh, yes; if you’re not familiar with Final Fantasy parlance, a Blue Mage is a type of mage who, rather than learning spells as they level up, learns skills from enemies. First seen in Final Fantasy V, it’s been a regular part of the series for many installments at this point, and provides a fun “collectathon” sidequest for those who enjoy tracking things down, making copious notes and/or following walkthroughs.
Traditionally in Final Fantasy, a Blue Mage has to be hit with an enemy’s skill in order to learn it — this meant that in the case of beneficial enemy skills, you’d have to manipulate an enemy into casting it on you somehow. In Final Fantasy XIV, however, a Blue Mage simply needs to witness an enemy using a learnable skill; if you then defeat the enemy, you have a chance of learning it. It’s not 100% certain that you will learn the skill under all circumstances, but there are ways you can improve your chances; for example, when attempting to learn a skill from a dungeon boss, you’re more likely to succeed if you run the dungeon with a full party of friends, and with level sync turned on.
This makes for quite an interesting balancing act, because although Blue Mage is a very self-sufficient class out in Final Fantasy XIV’s open world, and the levelling experience is best undertaken solo, the act of chasing down a significant proportion of entries in the Blue Mage spellbook all but requires the cooperation of people willing to help you out. And because you can’t use the Duty Finder as a Blue Mage, you’ll need to either make arrangements with your friends and Free Company members, or rely on the game’s Party Finder to assemble a group of like-minded strangers — which is not to everyone’s taste.
Of course, the other alternative is to severely outlevel the dungeons or Trials you’re attempting to learn the skills from, but you can only do this up to a certain point; even a level 70 Blue Mage will likely struggle to solo Final Fantasy XIV’s tougher challenges such as The Binding Coil of Bahamut and the Alexander raids. That said, it can be a fun challenge to see exactly how far you can push things; there are stories online of Blue Mage players successfully soloing dungeons intended for four players of their level simply by preparing appropriately with the right lineup of abilities. (Pro-tip: Mighty Guard, White Wind, Acorn Bomb and 1000 Needles are all very helpful.)
What we actually end up with in practice is a situation that reminds me somewhat of old-school Final Fantasy XI, where you could feasibly get a certain amount of levelling done by yourself if you stayed in regions that were appropriate to your level — but you could significantly accelerate your progress if you teamed up with others to take on more significant challenges. And in Final Fantasy XI’s original incarnation, your only real option in this regard was to actually find other players, ask them if they’d mind you joining them, and working from there.
As such, what we end up with is a job that, although solo-friendly so far as gathering experience points is concerned, still relies on cooperation between players, but in a markedly different (and arguably heavier) way to the rest of the game. For the majority of Final Fantasy XIV, you can automatically matchmake with other players through the Duty Finder and get things done without really needing to communicate all that much. High-level raids are, of course, an exception to this, but it’s certainly true for most of the casual player-friendly content in the game such as dungeons, normal-level raids and story trials.
With Blue Mage, though, you’ll need to communicate. You’ll need to communicate what it is that you need help with — and why the person you’re asking should bother helping you out, if they’re a stranger. You’ll need to communicate what skills you have access to and thus what “roles” you’ll effectively be able to fulfil in a party. And when you’re working with other people, you’ll need to communicate to ensure things run as smoothly as possible — because while levelling and gathering skills, no two Blue Mages are going to be quite alike, unlike most of the other jobs in the game!
I’m not far into my Blue Mage journey as yet and I suspect my own social anxiety will likely preclude me from asking strangers for help — but I do have a good Free Company who are willing to help me out, and I’m enjoying the experience grind and “collectathon” aspect of the job so far, so I’ll definitely be playing it some more! And then when I’m far enough, there’s the Masked Carnivale to take on… but that’s a story for another day.
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