I had spent fifteen years in World of Warcraft. After getting tired of seeing a great game go downhill, I decided to take a break from MMORPGs in general. Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen came along and re-sparked my interest; however, that game was still a long way off from being finished. I wanted to get back into MMORPGs and decided that since I owned every other Final Fantasy game in the mainline series, it was time to complete it and get into Final Fantasy XIV.
With Endwalker coming out in a few short months, I did my best to get through A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringers. I wanted to be there on day one of Endwalker to enjoy the expansion alongside all of the other players in proper fashion. Since I sped through the expansions as fast as possible, I never really sat down and reviewed them; however, I did sit down and experienced every bit of Endwalker so I can finally do a proper review!
Title:Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Platform: PC Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Release Date: December 3, 2021 Price: $39.99
Endwalker is the conclusion to Final Fantasy XIV’s first major story arc. When Square Enix first announced this, many people were confused as they thought that this would be the game’s final expansion period. That is not the case as the next expansion, according to Producer Naoki Yoshida, will begin a whole new story arc. With the way that Endwalker ended, it is quite evident that things were set up to continue with a brand-new journey!
Don’t worry about that last line as this review will be as spoiler-free as possible!
As it was stated in numerous interviews, Endwalker picks up at the end of Shadowbrinders where we see the rogue Ascian, Fandaniel, teaming up with Zenos yae Galvus. Fandaniel has erected towers all over The Source and it is up to you to figure out what he’s doing and to stop the Final Days from happening.
This; however, only encompasses the beginning of the expansion as things get much deeper once we figure out what the Final Days truly are and what is required to stop them from coming. Tied into all this, as promised by Yoshi-P, is the conclusion to the Zodiark and Hydaelyn story as well.
The story will have us explore brand-new areas such as the culture-rich nation of Thavnair to the studious and respected nation of Old Sharlayan. Heck, we even head to the moon as was quite evident from the opening cinematic. There are more places than that to discover, some of which may even surprise you, but we’ll leave those places up for you to discover on your own.
Overall, without giving anything away, I was actually a bit disappointed with the story… at least, at first. A lot of that disappointment came when things didn’t play out as I had imagined. Throughout the entirety of the game, they had built up this story with the Ascians, the Garlean Empire, the Primals, Zodiark/Hydaelyn, and everything else in between, and while the story that we received was, indeed, good, it just didn’t go the way that all of the previous build-up had us imagine that it would and for me, that was kind of a letdown.
I will also admit that there were a few Deus Ex Machina moments in the story that really took me out of my suspension of disbelief. One of these was set up during the game’s second of three major trials. The way that trial ended played a part in the story right before you face off against the game’s end boss. If you remembered that moment, then it was easy to see what was coming once the events during the final zone played out which I thought kind of dampened and nullified the gravity it brought and its overall significance.
However, things would seem that way on the surface to just about anyone. What you end up truly appreciating about the story are the many layers that certain parts exhibit on top of the symbolism that some of these events represent. Endwalker’s story isn’t one to take at face value. Once you sit and let it stew inside of your head meat for a bit, things begin to make more sense and you begin to realize just how intricate and well-told the story really was.
As far as gameplay goes, I can’t really speak on most of the jobs as I focused on playing a Black Mage. I was a Mage for fifteen years in World of Warcraft so I figured I would continue spell-slinging my way through enemies here in Final Fantasy XIV. The Black Mage didn’t really get much in the way of changes but it really did make the class feel smoother in its playstyle.
Making Enochian a passive talent rather than a spell allowed me to focus on my rotation a bit more without having to worry to see if it was on cooldown should I accidentally drop the buff. The new level 90 spell Paradox transforms Fire I into Paradox automatically whenever you switch between Umbral Ice or Astral Fire. Figuring out when to weave it in isn’t very hard and it feels very good whenever you land it. Outside of that, we had our Fire and Ice AoE spells upgraded along with some more perks to our toolkit like a second charge to Sharpcast!
Black Mage feels great but… come on… it wouldn’t be a new expansion unless you tried the new jobs and while I haven’t tried Sage as of the time of this review, I did try the Reaper class and I have to say… I found it very easy to pick up and very fun to play. So much so that in my spare time, I’m going to be leveling this up as my official second job.
Outside of the jobs, everything is still the standard fare when it comes to fighting out in the world or in a trial.
Stay out of the orange indicators, stack up on the yellow inward arrows, run out with your AoE circles, stand far away from the epicenter of a proximity AoE, and learn to do all of that in Savage mode without any of the on-screen visuals. Nothing new has really been added in that regard but, then again, if it’s not broke… why fix it!?
I once saw a comment on YouTube that said “I didn’t know Masayoshi Soken’s new album came with a video game!”
I don’t think that you could sum it up better than that. Soken hit it out of the park with this OST and the love and attention he gave it come through in spades! The titular track, “Footfalls,” is amazing to hear and parts of that song then play into other songs such as “Close in the Distance.”
One of my favorite tracks has to be Dungeon Mid-Boss Battle theme. It’s absolutely epic by mixing a hard and driving rock beat with amazing string instruments and an even more amazing chorus that borrows from the chorus of “Footfalls.”
I also love the standard battle theme when you’re out in the world… mainly because it went away from that odd, out-of-place rock theme that they used in Shadowbringers and went with something that sounded a bit more in line with other battle themes from the previous expansions. Also, I won’t say where or what songs but thanks for the Final Fantasy IV throwback themes! Those were a nice trip down memory lane!
Now that we talked about Story, Gameplay, and Soundtrack, let’s get into some of the expansion’s features.
The AI Party feature is back from Shadowbringers when it comes to the game’s dungeons. Of course, this only applies to the dungeons you encounter during the MSQ (or Main Scenario Quest). You can choose to go in with all of your favorite characters or use the Duty Finder to get a more human element to your experience. I opted for the AI Party route as I had a great time with it in Shadowbringers and I felt that it helped me learn the mechanics of each fight without having to worry about being a nuisance to my other teammates.
Also… slight spoiler… Endwalker tests out this AI Party feature with the second trial, meaning that we could see 8-man AI content either in the post-MSQ patches or in the next expansion!
The two level 90 dungeons were phenomenal! There was a bit of innovation in each of them that really raised their replayability factor! In fact, I ended up farming one over and over again for tomestones to get msyelf geared up for the Pandaemonium raid!
Outside of that, systems from previous expansions such as diving from Stormblood, make their return here once again. There are new Triple Triad cards to collect, and the aforementioned Pandaemonium raid which came out in Patch 6.01 and a Savage mode in 6.05.
The first raid, Pandaemonium (Asphedelos), is split into four wings or circles. Each circle only has one boss and tells an arcing story in one of the game’s new zones. Without revealing too much, each fight has a lot of interesting mechanics that keep you on your feet but also bring a level of excitement that makes you want to do them over and over again.
Of course, when you giveth, you also taketh away. Endwalker squishes your stats and tells the belt slot to take a hike; however, for me… I didn’t even notice it. Maybe it’s because I had only played the game for six months and plowed through all of the content but the transition didn’t seem to hit me as hard as some of the other veteran players. However, I still think that it’s due to good design. When you just play the game and do the content as the creators intend for it to be done, you don’t really end up noticing or missing your bigger numbers or your belts.
Another welcome subtraction is the loss of high-quality crafting materials. Since I reached the end of Endwalker, I decided to start leveling my profession jobs. I hit 90 on my Fisherman and my Miner and am now working on my Botanist and Goldsmith but to hear that I no longer need to worry about HQ materials made me a bit happier I was taking this journey now rather than earlier.
As an aside, and this has nothing to do with Endwalker, but I really LOVED fishing. Fishing was my most-hated profession in any other MMO I had played but here… this was an amazing experience and I loved the Spearfishing minigame. Apparently, Endwalker also changed that up so I can’t really comment on what it was like before but as someone who experienced it for the first time, I have to say that it was pretty good.
Overall, Endwalker wasn’t my favorite expansion, but it wasn’t a bad expansion either. I’m a sucker for dragons so Heavensward is at the top of my list. Shadowbringers was the first expansion where it truly felt like a Final Fantasy game that I’m used to playing, and then there was Endwalker in the pecking order.
I do think the game wrapped things up nicely and I’m excited to see where things go from here. The art, gameplay, music, and everything else in between came together to take us on a great journey.
If you haven’t gotten into Final Fantasy XIV yet, I highly recommend that you do. From beginning to end it is an incredible story and one of the series best!
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker concludes a near 10-year storyline and does so in a layered and symbolic way.
Tried and true gameplay
An album that comes with a video game
Good story elements
The new Reaper class is very fun and easy to pick up