How Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker decided on Reaper and Sage

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When Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, Endwalker, releases on November 23, players will get access to two new job classes: Reaper and Sage. But how and why did Square Enix choose these two concepts?
I got to ask Naoki Yoshida, the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game’s director and producer, about the formation of both during a recent interview through a translator. The Reaper is a new melee damage job that focuses on fast-paced combat with a scythe. The Sage is a healer with a futuristic tech aesthetic that can shoot lasers out of floating cannons (maybe I would have become a doctor like my dad wanted if real medical professionals got magic lasers).
“In Final Fantasy XIV, before we even choose the specific job we’ll be adding for an expansion, we look at the role it’s going to fill,” Yoshida told GamesBeat. “We look at the overall balance of the jobs that are available, the number that are available. We look at how many people play the DPS (damage-per-second) role or the tank role or the healer role.”
He added, “We say, okay, where do we want to fill in next for the upcoming expansion? But then, when we’re determining that, there’s an important point that comes from a business perspective as well. When we look at the overall player base, we notice that a lot of players tend to lean toward the DPS role. Whenever we’re looking at adding two jobs to a new expansion, we try to make it so that at least one of them would be in the DPS role.”
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DPS jobs focus on dealing damage, whether that be at ranged, up close, with magic, or with weapons. Being a tank, which is in charge of absorbing damage and keeping the focus of enemies, or a healer can seem daunting to a lot of players. That’s not to say that people don’t like playing as tanks or healers, but you’ll find more who prefer DPS.
Above: The Reaper in Endwalker.
“That being said, with Shadowbringers we introduced a new tank, and when that happened, players around the world were raising their voices about, “Why wasn’t it a healer? We were expecting a healer!” Since the release of Shadowbringers we knew we would need to add a healer next for the 6.0 expansion,” continued Yoshida. “And as mentioned before, we typically add a DPS anyway. So the two roles for the two job slots were determined fairly quickly.”
So that’s how the Final Fantasy XIV team decides what roles its new jobs will feel. But how does it zero in on specific ideas?
“Our biggest challenge is figuring out what kind of weapon we want to have these jobs equip,” noted Yoshida.
Each job in Final Fantasy XIV can use its own kind of weapon. Dark Knights, for example, use greatswords. Machinists hold guns. Bards attack with bows. So when picking a new job, it’s important to consider its weapon. The FFXIV team can’t just pick something that would use a lance, for instance. Dragoon already has those locked down.
“But thankfully, with the Reaper, this kind of ties into player feedback,” continued Yoshida. “There were a lot of requests for a two-handed scythe to be a featured weapon for Final Fantasy XIV. So we took that idea, and it was pretty straightforward. Giant scythe, Reaper, that makes sense.”
Above: Final Fantasy XIV director and producer Naoki Yoshida dressed as a Reaper while announcing the new job class.
For the Reaper, the weapon came first. For Sage, it was the other way around. The team wanted a healer, and Sage is already a concept that we’ve seen in past Final Fantasy games. However, it’s often just another magic user, not too different from the Black or White Mages already in Final Fantasy XIV. So Yoshida and his team had to think of a hook and a unique weapon for its FFXIV iteration.
“We had a hard time trying to figure out what kind of weapon we should have for the Sage,” Yoshida told GamesBeat. “With any weapon in Final Fantasy XIV, we also have to anticipate some of the drops and loot weapons that you can get in different battles and raid content. We don’t want it to be too complex, because it would require additional bandwidth to design it. At the same time, we wanted it to be unique and cool-looking. We had to really rack our brains. We had some of the craziest ideas. Somebody said, “Okay, the Sage will meditate and they’ll have this crystal ball that they’re holding! But it can’t just be a regular crystal ball that you’d see a fortune-teller use. It has to be this giant ball that they’re carrying around.” It was pretty crazy, the ideas that came about.”
OK, so how did we get from a giant crystal ball to floating lasers?
“The XIV team and the battle system team, they have a bookshelf they go to for reference materials and whatnot. You’ll see a whole bunch of manga volumes there in those shelves. Whenever they want to get inspiration for one of the moves or the actions, they’ll go there and read manga for inspiration. I remember one of the team members, when they were trying to find an inspiration for the Ninja, they would read Naruto. That kind of sums it up.”
Above: The Sage can heal and deal damage at the same time.
As soon as players first saw the Sage and its lasers, many compared it to something that you’d see from a mech anime or manga like Gundam. Yoshida’s story here makes it likely that the job’s inspiration did come from a source like that.
During a special preview event, I got to try both new jobs. I played as Reaper and Sage in a dungeon and while fighting some random enemies in the open world.
I enjoyed both. Reaper is fast-paced and flashy, kind of reminding me of a melee take on the gun-based Machinist. Sage, meanwhile, offers a new healing experience to Final Fantasy XIV. You can restore your allies’ health while dealing damage at the same time, a concept familiar to any MMO fans who ever played a Discipline Priest of World of Warcraft.
I’m excited to spend more time with both of them once Endwalker launches.
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