I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV on and off since 1.0 launched way back on September 30th, 2010. If you told me then, 11 years later to the day, I would have the honor of playing the latest expansion early for media coverage, I would have laughed in your face. If you continued and said it would be alongside some of my favorite creators like Jesse Cox, Larryzaur, Shenpai, Work To Game, Mizzteq, and more, well at that point I would have kicked you out of my house for getting my hopes up. This game means so much to me, I’ve met some wonderful people through it and it’s one of my favorite pieces of media ever made. With that being said, Final Fantasy XIV could not have continued development in a pandemic as smoothly as it has without the efforts of the medical community the world over, so take a moment to appreciate them as well as the developers. Also keep in mind that this article is based on play of an in-development build of FINAL FANTASY XIV: Endwalker, and content in the final version is subject to change.
We started off in Old Sharlayn, one of Endwalker’s cities, and it is absolutely stunning. As an isolated nation focused on academic study, it feels like a fantasy version of a college campus. Sure there is a housing district where you can visit Alisaie and Alphinaud’s childhood home, but most of the town is dedicated to learning with classroom buildings as well as a library. Many of these locations are staffed by mammet-like creatures, retrieving books and giving directions. At the center is the spiral council room seen in the pre-rendered trailer, which is very cool to see in game.
I couldn’t speak to any NPCs in this build, most likely to avoid spoilers, but even without conversations Old Sharlayn feels lived in and is a nice place to hang out. I imagine it will become a very popular G-Pose spot, with tons of fountains, a dock, some gazebos, and the way the sunrise crests over the hills. It’s a beautiful place and feels unique.
The Media Tour had two other locations we could visit, one open world area in Thavnair and another in Garlemald. Thavnair is mostly a grassland with some rocky outcroppings, seemingly inspired by an African savanna. It’s very colorful, which stands in stark contrast to Garlemald which is almost entirely gray. It was already a snowy location before we got there, but any city or town-like location has been completely decimated and blackened with ash, with monsters roaming where people would have been. There are military camps and a train station, but the area feels very lifeless and somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI.
I spent most of my time in Thavnair and Sharlayn testing out the job changes, and as the title of this article suggests most jobs feel like a slight tweak from their current incarnations in Shadowbringers. As someone who really enjoys where combat is now, I really liked this. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, just make it a little stronger. With regards to the stat squish, which isn’t entirely done yet as Yoshida-san and crew are still checking the content, I didn’t really notice it all that much until I was reviewing my footage. Numbers are certainly more manageable, but I didn’t feel anything off from typical progression. Before we jump into a dungeon though, let’s talk about each job and how they feel in Endwalker.
The removal of sects has shifted Astrologian into a pure healer along with White Mage, and while I’m still not entirely sure about this split the core of the class has remained the same. You have access to new skills and upgrades to Malefic and Gravity, but you are still drawing and playing cards while healing and doing damage. New abilities include Exaltation, which reduces party damage and heals when the effect ends, and Macrocosmos, which does AOE damage. While Astro is now focused on pure healing, you can still use Neutral Sect to create barriers for a short time. It’s a very fast moving job, and what’s new here fits right in with its already existing kit.
Just like Astro, White Mage’s changes simply add a cherry on top of what was already in Shadowbringers. You gain access to Glare III and Holy III as you level, with the two entirely new skills coming in closer to 90. The first of these is Aquaveil, which reduces damage taken by the target by 15%. That will most likely be used in your normal healing rotation along with Divine Benison as both are instant cast skills, but more interesting is Lilybell. This ability has you place an object on the field which will send out healing within a range every time you take damage. It’s not exactly a place-it-and-forget-it healing bubble, but instead more active in its execution and will likely be very helpful to keep up with healing if the Tank dies. I’ll be interested to see how this comes into play in high level content.
Many people were expecting something of a rework for Scholar in Endwalker, but again it’s basically the same as it was in Shadowbringers if a bit more powerful. Their big new skill is Expedient, which essentially gives everyone sprint for 20 seconds while reducing damage taken, but they also have Protraction which actually increases the target’s max HP. There’s not many things that do this in the game, so I imagine it will be very useful for big dungeon pulls or tank busters. Healing still remains more passive for this job, with you applying shields and the fairy supplying most of the actual healing, so I would have enjoyed some more offensive skills. Even so, if you like Scholar now you’ll still like it in Endwalker.
One of the new kids on the block, Sage is a barrier healer along with Scholar. I don’t entirely understand its intricacies yet, but it is mostly offensive focused with attacks providing passive healing and most of your heals utilizing the job gague. Their shields and DOT are activated with a separate skill and used with the normal heal and damage skills. It’s a very fun and rewarding job, but can be very difficult to grasp initially.
Paladin is the poster child for Endwalker, and even without many changes it feels more complete than its current incarnation. I’ve always found the physical and magical rotations awkward to go between, but with the new Confiteor combo capping off the magic phase it feels a lot better with a more equal amount of time spent in each. It also gets an upgrade to Sheltron, Holy Sheltron, and their new skills like Expiacion and the aforementioned Confiteor combo restore MP so you can swap phases quicker. I’ve always wanted to see a mage tank in XIV, and Paladin feels like it’s coming close to that.
Dark Knight has a skill called Shadowbringer now, so it’s basically perfect. Jokes aside, Dark Knight’s additions seem focused around relying less on MP, with skills to deal and reduce damage. Instead, their two new abilities Shadowbringer and Oblation have charges, and Salted Earth can now deal damage to all foes standing in it when the action changes to Salt and Darkness. It’s still a very fun job to play, and is more active than it already was in Shadowbringers.
Gunbreaker has a few more hotbar slots to work with having their entire continuation combo reduced to a total of two buttons. It took me a sec to get over my muscle memory, but it overall feels better to use especially with the new continuation to cap of the combo, Hypervelocity. Much like Paladin’s Sheltron, Heart of Stone is upgraded into Heart of Corundum, which adds several more effects including a heal if the target goes under 50% HP. With a total of three cartridge slots now, they also gain Double Down which uses up two cartridges for devastating AOE damage. While Gunbreaker already felt like more of a DPS than a tank, these changes have them dipping their toes into the healer role as well with Aurora gaining charges and their already existing suit of damage mitigating skills.
Warrior mains, do you love damage? Because Square put more damage in your damage. Upheaval’s new AOE counterpart is Orogeny, and they both share a recast timer to deal some free damage between GCDs. Primal Rend, which can only be executed under the effect of Inner Release, delivers a critical direct hit to all enemies nearby and by the twelve it is incredibly satisfying, with your character jumping in the air and spinning their axe until they collide with the ground. In addition to having even more powerful damage skills, they also receive Bloodwhetting, which shares a recast timer with Nascent Flash while healing, reducing damage taken, AND applying a shield.
Red Mage is almost exactly the same, but with a new action after Scorch. Resolution is a straight line AOE dealing unaspected damage with some cool looking rose stems and petals. Along with the usual upgrades to their black and white spells, they get Magick Barrier, which reduces damage taken by nearby party members and increases healing received. Manafication has also changed, now increasing black and white mana by 50 instead of doubling them. The job was already pretty much perfect, so these changes mostly just broadened their skillset.
I’ve always had a problem with Enochian falling off in dungeons, so thankfully Black Mages no longer have to worry about that as the skill has been changed to a trait. Moving between ice and fire phases feels a lot more natural now, with an unaspected spell called Paradox becoming available when you swap, granting a bonus depending on which phase you’re going to. They also acquire High Fire II and High Blizard II, which are both AOE spells, as well as Amplifier which can be used to gain a stack of Polyglot every two minutes.
For the very first time, Summoner has finally clicked with me. The job has received a substantial overhaul in Endwalker, and it feels really good to play now. While the Bahamut and Phoenix parts of the rotation haven’t changed much, in between you’ll be summoning Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan for sort of mini-phases. Whichever of the three you summon, certain skills change to that primal’s aspect allowing you to do certain things like use a gap closer with Ifrit or crush a foe between stone hands with Titan. Much like Sage, I’m not entirely sure how it’s supposed to work but it feels incredibly good even if you’re just pressing the highlighted buttons randomly.
Physical Ranged DPS
Bard has been my go to class since A Realm Reborn, but something felt off about it since the Shadowbringer changes. Cycling through songs to buff the party and building up to Apex arrow just didn’t feel as satisfying as other mechanics in past expansions. Aside from an AOE upgrade in the form of Ladonsbite and the Apex Arrow combo action, Blast Arrow, their actual damage rotation hasn’t changed in any significant way. However, each song now gives you a Coda, and when you have all three you can execute Radiant Finale which increases the party’s damage including the user by a certain percentage, up to 5. This makes it feel like it’s leaning back into its support roots, which is great as that’s why I picked up the job in the first place.
While Bard has been my “main” class, I played Dancer in Shadowbringers because of its more support focus, and that hasn’t changed in Endwalker, however their new skills are damage focused. Fan Dance IV can be used after Flourish and is a conal AOE, while Starfall Dance is a line AOE used after Devilment. Tillana is a circle AOE, but also grants Standard Finish and Espirit upon execution. I wasn’t entirely sure how to get this skill to activate, as it can’t be assigned to a hotbar, but I suspect it will essentially replace Standard Step in the rotation.
Machinist gets a chainsaw! Apart from being very cool, this skill is basically free AOE damage since it doesn’t share a recast timer with any other actions. Their only other new action is Scattergun, which replaces Spread Shot and serves the same function while being all around better. The Automaton Queen, however, gets some love with a new skill, Crowned Collider, which increases in potency the further your battery gauge goes beyond what’s necessary to summon her. It’s still a very fun and fast job, with great sound effects and visuals.
With Blood of the Dragon becoming a trait, Dragoon’s rotation feels as smooth as butter. Your single target and AOE combos loop on themselves continuously, allowing you to focus on weaving in jumps and buffs. Because of this, it doesn’t really get any new actions, instead upgrades like Chaotic Spring and combo abilities like Draconian Fury. Simply following your rotation will grant you stacks of Firstmind’s Focus, which you can then spend at 2 stacks to use Wyrmwind Thrust. This is a line AOE, so while Dragoon may not be able to pole dance anymore their AOE potential at high levels fels much more complete.
Samurai follows the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality of most of the other jobs, with more abilities to spend and gain Sen. Shoha II is essentially and AOE for of Shoha, with Hyosetsu comboing out from Fuga so you can more easily transition from AOE to single target. Finally, after using Ikishoten you can activate Ogi Namikiri which is a powerful conal AOE. Samurai feels more well rounded as a result of these changes, with nothing too huge to disrupt how it already plays.
Ninja is a job I learned a lot about while leveling it up in Shadowbringers, but I found it very hard to understand before that with all the Mudra combinations. Hopefully the learning curve will get a bit easier with the new level 60 skill Huraijin, which grants their buff Huton and deals damage. This frees up some Mudra charges for attacks, some of which will grant you Forked Raiju Ready to use Forked Raiju and Fleeting Raiju for some extra damage. In addition, while under the effect of Bunshin, you and your shadow clone can perform Phantom Kamaitachi as a special AOE skill. The Ninja changes are aiming for a smoother experience, which is very much appreciated.
Monk has been changing so much, it almost feels like it’s going through puberty. First we had an additional stack of Greased Lightning, then that mechanic was ditched all together and now in Endwalker it has an entirely new mechanic. To be honest, this job felt the most clunky out of the bunch; I had no clue as to how the rotation is supposed to work. Starting small, at level 35 Monks acquire Thunderclap, which rushes them to the target party member’s location. At 60, they unlock Masterful Blitz, which is where things start to get weird. You see, Perfect Balance (which now has 2 charges) allows you to use any of your skills which will then grant Beast Chakra only in this state. Depending on which three types of Beast Chakra you’ve built up, you can execute a different type of Masterful Blitz. It generally feels odd to use anywhere you try and put it in the rotation, so maybe go check out other content creator’s coverage on the job, such as Mr. Happy, I’m stumped.
The other new kid, Reaper is an absolute blast to play and pretty simple to pick up. You focus on building up your Soul Gauge to attack with your avatar, which in turn builds up the Shroud Gauge to enter their burst phase where you can spam special Avatar attacks. It’s essentially a reverse Red Mage, with a melee combo building up to a magic combo along with their ranged skill being a spell called Harpe. Also, don’t forget to refresh your debuff once in a while, which allows you to deal more damage to enemies that have it. While I was going to go with Paladin for Endwalker’s main story, I think Reaper has won me over in terms of sheer joy to play.
All in all, I had a ton of fun playing Endwalker and am somehow even more excited for when it launches this November. I’ll be counting the days until Early Access, so look forward to our full review of the expansion after that. If you have any questions about Endwalker that I can (within reason) answer, please feel free to reach out on our discord. Until then, farewell Warriors of Light.