The hour is come, the Final Days are upon us. The machinations of the Telophoroi proceed apace, and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn must needs take decisive action. In the final chapter of the tale of our star, our heroes will take the stage one last time before the curtain falls.
The Endwalker expansion for Final Fantasy XIV serves as the finale of a story that’s been going on for a decade. While it’s been a bumpy ride, the game has only been getting better and better with each update or expansion. I’ve been the friend who’s been constantly trying to get you to play the game for years. To say I was excited for its release would be an understatement. And somehow, by some strange magic, it has surpassed all of my expectations.
Endwalker picks up right where the Shadowbringers patches left off, which is behind several dozens of hours of video game, so if you’re just tuning in now skip ahead a paragraph… Having returned from the First after the defeat of the last unsundered Ascian, the Scions find there is no rest for the righteous. While the unsundered may be gone, Zenos is back, hungry for a rematch, and joined by Fandaniel who wants to die and take the rest of the universe with him. To accomplish both of these goals, they’ve erected towers around the world which are siphoning Aether from the land and using the locals as batteries to summon more primals. All of this serves to bring about the Final Days; Fandaniel gets his apocalypse, and Zenos gets to fight the Warrior of Light once more as she tries to foil their plans.
The stakes are high, and they only get higher as you progress through the expansion. There’s very little downtime here after you reach the first dungeon, making this expansion feel like an appropriate climax. Speaking of climax, while Shadowbringers could serve as a standalone story, I feel like Endwalker is its polar opposite. There are a ton of returning characters, themes, and even moments of payoff for things foreshadowed so very long ago. There are new faces as well, including some very, very adorable ones, and they’re all great additions to the cast. The game certainly doesn’t dwell on the past, however, it’s a big part of the themes here, and the main cast gets to explore a lot of novel parts of their characters. As unexpected as it is, Urianger almost steals the show here with an incredible portrayal of long term grief and learning to be more open with your feelings. I’d be remiss to not mention the twins, Alphinaud and Alisaie, who have been with you for literally the entire adventure. Even your avatar, the Warrior of Light, gets some bold character development that will make you love your weird OC even more than you already did, something I didn’t think was possible.
The story explores relevant themes, ideas, and is impeccably well written. This is an emotional rollercoaster that lasts at least 50 hours just following the main quest with no deviation. You are almost constantly bombarded by revelations and emotional story beats the whole way through, with some jokes thrown in for good measure (shoutouts to my boy Puddingway). It’s very close to being a perfect RPG all on its own, not even counting the side quests or MMO elements. The blemishes that are there are mostly nitpicks, like quest objectives forcing you to slowly follow an NPC or textures that look noticeably low quality either up close or within a reasonable distance. I’ve complained about textures and the like before, so I’ll spare you my rant on those, but no one likes following NPCs for an extended amount of time, literally no one. Especially when you have to maintain a certain distance to not be spotted. I get that the developers want to shake things up occasionally and use different gameplay styles to convey the story, but this isn’t the way to do it.
While I’m complaining, something called the Immerse Gamepack was added with the release of Endwalker which, in theory, adds 3D sound to the game with any pair of headphones by simply taking a picture of your right ear and Square was kind enough to also provide me with a code for this. It’s… hit or miss. Almost all of my time playing was spent with this turned on and at first the effect is pretty neat. It might not be all that useful with the cacophony of sounds you hear in combat, but it certainly adds depth to the soundscape and, at the very least, gives the music some time to shine. However, it comes with one big caveat: sound effect quality can take a decent hit with this enabled. It’s basically impossible to showcase this in a video, so I’d highly recommend you try the two week free trial, but you can definitely hear a difference. I also noticed that the voices would cut out for the smallest of moments after a camera cut so the audio could reposition itself relative to where the camera is now. It also screws with Orchestreons a bit, with the sound being loudest by the housing item and more difficult to hear further away. These are tiny, tiny problems, but as I said they are noticeable, so I’d say you should judge for yourself and… play it by ear.
Circling back to the music, it’s fantastic. Endwalker goes heavy on the leitmotifs, using familiar tunes from every expansion as well as creating its own. The main theme, Footfalls, is a big highlight and used fairly frequently, but there’s a song called Flow you’ll hear bits of in many, many other songs until it’s finally played in its entirety in the ending. Even after beating the game, I still get chills listening to this particular track. While those are the highlights, all of the myriad songs added are pretty dang good. I don’t think it’s as consistently great as Shadowbringers, but the highs of this OST do reach much higher.
Shadowbringers also replaced Job Quests with Role Quests, and Endwalker continues that tradition. While I think the Role Quests in the former were a novel idea and allowed you to learn more about the strange new world they took place in, I find Endwalker’s to sadly be pretty boring. Since I played as a Paladin, I’ve only done the Tank Role Quest and some of the Melee as Reaper, but from what I’ve seen they’re shockingly dull. Seeing as this is the way the game seems to be going, with Job quests having been declared over even though some of their stories weren’t finished, I’m disappointed. To further compound this, the job quests added for Sage and Reaper’s introductions are fantastic, with gripping stories and actual tutorials to teach you their intricacies. Again, I’ve only done one and a half of the five role quests so far, but I don’t have high hopes.
Speaking of Sage and Reaper, both new jobs are novel additions to XIV’s already bursting roster. Sage is described as a barrier healer along with Scholar, focusing on preventing damage with shields as opposed to healing after you get hit. We went over the job’s specifics in more detail in our preview, but only time will tell how Sage plays in high level content and evolves over the years. For now though, while it can take some time to come to grips with how it works, once you know what you’re doing it’s a very powerful, offense focused job with tons of OGCD heals to keep your party alive. The only issue is managing MP, as all of its spells cost quite a bit, but it’s nothing Lucid Dreaming can’t fix.
As the newest melee DPS, Reaper feels like a combination of Monk and Dancer. You build up its red gauge to use special attacks which have positionals, which build up the blue gauge, which you then use on Enshroud for a flurry of damaging attacks. It’s a ton of fun and very, very fast paced, and you even have a spell for ranged attacks! The only complaint I have about the job, which is really more of an issue with me than anything, is that I often forget to use Soulsow outside of combat for the extra attack – it just doesn’t really mesh as well with the rest of the kit.
As for the other jobs, Paladin’s changes take it from one of my least favorite tanks to my absolute favorite. The loosened window for the magic rotation along with the rain of swords finishers feel fantastic. While I haven’t leveled other jobs to 90 yet, having looked over the changes and spent some time with them at the media tour there are a few jobs I’m worried are losing their identity. For one, Bard has been feeling less and less like a support class since Shadowbringers, with its peak in my opinion being in Stormblood. It felt like it had a response to just about every situation, whereas now most of its “support” skills simply increase damage for the party. I love Dancer, but that job stole most of Bard’s support options.
I can also see where they were going with Monk, having the Masterful Blitz moves serve as “passwords” for attacks much like Sabin in Final Fantasy VI, but it just feels clunky. The removal of positionals, in my opinion, also removes something that grew very satisfying to pull off in the heat of battle – like a Monk keeping a cool head to put full force into their martial arts.
I have heard some complaints about Ninja as well. Most of the new skills added are GCDs, which simply makes the rotation longer without adding anything truly new or unique, and I’ve been told the AOE damage is falling far behind other DPS and even tanks. Those GCDs seem clunky, and on top of all that the job is overall much slower than it used to be. It’s not as bad as my other complaints, the core idea is still there, it just needs a bit of polishing to really shine.
Finally, Dark Knight just… has some very weird changes. Paladin and Warrior especially feel like they could survive just about anything, and what Gunbreaker lacks in self healing/protection they make up for in damage, but Dark Knight simply lacks many of the tools it needs to just do its job. Again, these are just my first impressions on the jobs and I’m sure more changes are incoming, but DRKs seem to be the hardest to keep alive in level 90 content. For example, for whatever reason Carve and Spit and Abyssal Drain now share a cooldown, so you have to choose between HP or MP restoration. I’m also not sure what the job fantasy they’re going for here is. Dark Knight’s first appearance was technically in Final Fantasy II, but in XIV it’s more based on the job in III and IV where it was something of a sturdy physical attacker with some magic spells. Here, you use special OGCD skills which consume MP (one of the few jobs to use MP that’s not a spell caster) to increase their damage. That’s certainly still the main concept of the job in Endwalker, but it doesn’t really feel like it does all that much damage, and feels like it eschews one of its main uses in FFIV: dealing more damage the less HP you have. Obviously no healer wants to let their tank get too low on HP, so XIV is using MP as a substitute, but you also need a substantial amount to use their main damage mitigation skill, Blackest Night. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what the job needs, because on the surface it’s unchanged from Shadowbringers. A simple boost in power or reduction in MP cost would put it closer to where the other tanks are now, but as I said I feel its problems run a bit deeper than that. It’s still viable, just like all other jobs, but I don’t think it’s in a comfortable position at the moment.
On the flipside, Summoner received a complete rework and feels fantastic now, possibly overtaking Red Mage as my favorite caster (which still feels great to play). Unlike many other jobs, the rotation seems to have a bit of wiggle room in terms of what you summon first. After summoning Bahamut or Pheonix, you have your pick of Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan who each grant you two special spells along with dealing damage upon summon. For example, Garuda and Titan’s single target spells deal less damage but are instacast, allowing you to be more mobile, while Ifrit’s has a lengthy cast time but deals a ton of damage. You may want to save summoning Ifrit for when you’re safe for a moment, and use Garuda and Titan when you need to move around a lot for mechanics. You’ve also got a substantial amount of utility, with a shield in the form of Radiant Aegis and Searing Light increasing party damage by 3% (more than Bard). It’s just a lot of fun to play, and unlike most jobs I still have plenty of room on my hotbars without having to utilize the WXHB on the controller.
In all honesty, any and all of my problems with Endwalker either don’t matter all that much or will definitely be changed in the future. I’ve been enthralled every second I’ve spent with Endwalker so far and look forward to putting even more time in basically as soon as I’m done writing this. It’s been a long road getting here, but it was more than worth it for one of the best RPGs of all time.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker caps off a lengthy story arc in the best way possible. The main quest has tons of unexpected twists and turns with satisfying payoff for fans both new and old. Sage and Reaper are a ton of fun to play and the new dungeons and trials will put your skills to the test. If you’re not already playing, you should be.