I remember my first time booting up Final Fantasy XI back in 2006, I saw a Summoner almost immediately after I left the city of San D’oria and thought they were the coolest thing. They had big majestic summons, and a wide variety of them at that. Now, four years after the release of A Realm Reborn, I still have difficulty finding any desire to play the job in FFXIV, as it is far from that glorious image I remember from my days of FFXI.
The Summoner in XIV has not been as fortunate. The development team has had many opportunities (including two expansions now) to improve on and even fix this lackluster job. Sadly, while certain things have been improved on such as now having the ability to finally use Bahamut, a summon traditional to the Final Fantasy franchise, the job still lacks much of its identity. The job also just requires so much effort for so little reward, as it does subpar damage compared to the other dps jobs. This has constantly been the case throughout its lifetime in XIV. This wouldn’t be so bad if the job was at least fun, though. Say, if it felt like you were actually playing the traditional job of a Final Fantasy Summoner.
As such, I think Summoner could use some help finding its roots, and I feel the development team completely changing how it works each expansion is proof enough of this. Such as with the introduction of Bahamut and Dreadwyrm trance back in 3.0, and now in 4.0 having so many skills revolving around only Bahamut, as well as losing many of its DoTs despite being known as the DoT mage. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Bahamut was a step in the right direction, but that they got a bit overly attached to him instead of doing things with the other primals. So, what do I feel could make Summoner a desirable job again, that also fits well in the FFXIV universe?
Let’s start with the obvious: the egis. Sadly, they’re not going anywhere, but we need to stop obsessing over them. The development team has clearly given up on them, as not only have we never had new skills revolving around them, but they have been promising us a “glamour” system for them since before Heavenward, where we would be able to make them look like the different primals, or at least look cooler. Yet, the best we have so far is being able to change them into different colored carbuncles through some obscure text commands. Oh, and let’s not forget how they took away Sustain, the only way to reliably heal your own egi.
Rather, I believe to save Summoner at this point, more moves such as Deathflare need to be implemented. For the ability Deathflare, Bahamut comes out for a split second to cast his famous attack, and then disappears. This is reminiscent of how summoning works in the majority of Final Fantasy games, the exceptions including X, XI, and XIII. It is still relatively new to the Final Fantasy franchise that summons stay out and fight alongside you for an extended period of time, and since the egis clearly aren’t going to be changing, I think going back to the roots of the summoning system can still save this job.
This way, when a new expansion comes out and we get 3-5 new moves, each move can represent a different summon - this would provide the variety that many may find themselves desiring when playing a Summoner, while also keeping true to the nature and form that Final Fantasy veterans have come to expect from the job.
Imagine being able to summon Shiva just long enough for her to do her iconic Diamond Dust; or Alexander and his Timegate. They don’t need to come out and fight alongside you like the egis do, but they would still offer the variety and feeling of power that a Summoner deserves and that I feel it has lost in XIV. It’s a simple change, but I feel that Summoner deserves to be able to actually summon more things than just Bahamut, and bite sized Ifrit; Garuda; and Titan egis. I mean, after two expansions, doesn’t it make sense that they’d get more than just Bahamut added to their arsenal? Especially when there’s such a wide variety of primals to work with.
Hopefully, in two years, come 5.0, we’ll see Summoner regaining its identity and being a more desired job, one iconic to the Final Fantasy series. Until then though, I imagine the best we can expect are some buffs to their current arsenal so that they’re at least more raid viable. Guess we’ll just have to look and see what Patch 4.1 brings us in a couple of weeks, although I expect any major balances won’t be happening until 4.2 when I expect the next tier of the Omega raid will be released.