After more than a decade, we are tantalisingly close to the end of a saga that was put into motion all the way back in Final Fantasy XIV Online back in 2010. The story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, and the culmination of 11 years of world building, character development, and more will end with the upcoming Endwalker expansion on 23rd November.
Quick note before diving into thoughts from hands on time with the expansion, we need to remind you 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. Also, there will be mild spoilers for an early game dungeon and for the new Jobs; Sage and Reaper.
The preview session dropped me right into the good stuff, already strutting around as the superior Eorzean race (male Viera), so removing the need to waste time with a Fantasia at the beginning of the session. They look as great in motion as you would expect from the Fan Fest trailer, but with the bonus that they are able to wear certain head gear, from the level 90 Artefact Gear at least. Speaking of which, all the level 90 gear looks absolutely stunning this time around with the Bard, Samurai, and Sage gear sets being particular highlights.
The beautiful hub city of Old Sharlayan continues the Final Fantasy XIV tradition of having gorgeous hubs that accompany each expansion. Sure, it was far emptier than it will be in the full version, and especially lacking in the plentiful quest markers that I usually have on the map, but there was access to a couple of Aetherytes on the island of Thavnair and in the imperial capital of Garlemald. Both of these have a different energy and atmosphere, unsurprising given that one is an island paradise and the other a city torn apart by civil war.
Getting to wander around all three of these areas, I soaked in the gorgeous scenery, and even tackled one of the A-Rank Hunts in Thavnair with a large group of other players. This monster was absolutely relentless, using mechanics that we had only previously seen being used by dungeon bosses, and even then, they were used in new and far more devastating ways. The monster design in general should be lauded here with the fantastic mix of recognisable creatures and a host of new creatures worthy of a period called the end of days in-game.
As we only had a short time to experience as much as possible, I only tried out three of the Jobs at level 90: the White Mage (my main) and the new Sage and Reaper. The White Mage is largely the same but with more things. It still feels like the most potent healer Job in the game at this point, but that is obviously subject to change and heavily subject to my own biases about it in general. Plus, I’m sure I’ll come back to raving about it some point soon.
The Sage is definitely a Healer and a somewhat finicky one at that. This was the more difficult of the two new jobs in Endwalker. In fact, this one requires players to sit down and properly run through all of the tool tips to even remotely understand how to play it. Once you get it though, this is possibly one of the flashiest Jobs in the game, with everything firing off with a satisfying flair. Also, once you get your head around the way it plays, it feels great to play this new healer and getting those clutch barriers up.
Reaper is a far simpler affair, but no less enjoyable. Using this job requires the use of two gauges related to the avatar demon thing and results in a kind of balancing act between attacking as yourself and supplementing your attacks with the avatar. What sets Reaper apart from most other Jobs, especially DPS ones, is how weighty it feels in its actions. Every swipe from the scythe looks like it hurts and has beautifully edgy visual design to match the equally brooding Bloodborne-like aesthetic of the class.
The final part of the preview session led to the imposing Tower of Zot, one of the earlier dungeons and quite possibly the first one of Endwalker. As a group, we played this both with the Trust System of NPCs and players and even made the mistake of healing it with Sage, a Job that I’d had roughly 15 minutes with beforehand. Brimming with a suspiciously similar demonic aesthetic to that which I remember vividly from the Void Ark raid series, the Tower of Zot houses the terrifying Endwalker versions of series mainstays – the Magus Sisters. The mechanics of this dungeon do not mess around and there were several full party wipes on our runs.
You can’t really talk about Final Fantasy XIV without bringing up the work in Endwalker from the legendary Masayoshi Soken, and it would seem that he has outdone himself once again. Every track in the preview was phenomenal, from the beautiful songs that play in Old Sharlayan to the incredible tracks for both the battles in the field and the boss battle theme for the dungeon. The only lacking thing for us in the music department is that I wanted more of it, and the wait that I have to endure to experience more of that amazing score with the expansion’s release.
It should go without saying that I am are really looking forward to 23rd November now. What I played in the preview was a phenomenal taste of what’s to come and certainly left me wanting more. All of the new content looks and sounds amazing, the new Jobs are enjoyable to play, and that dungeon was absolutely exquisite, still managing to be a challenge in spite of how much of the game I have played. Even though it’s only six weeks away, Endwalker cannot come soon enough.