Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Review

Fly me to the Moon, and let me play among the bunnies.
Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker Review Header

So we’re finally here. I’ve been on this journey now for more than three years, picking it up during the Stormblood era in 2018 on the recommendation of a friend, and Final Fantasy XIV has consumed my life since then. Playing Endwalker marks the end of the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark that began with 1.0 all the way back in the halcyon days of 2010. From the well-documented problems with the base game to the revelation that was and is Shadowbringers.

The story is most definitely the jewel in the crown that is Endwalker. You, as the Warrior of Light, go into this expansion with your allies for one purpose – to overcome an impending global calamity. This begins a truly globe-trotting experience as you visit new places on Hydaelyn and retread some old ground to find a way to forestall an unspeakable disaster, accompanied by the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.

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It really feels like the ending to a decade long tale. The payoffs to previous narrative threads, the returns of old characters, the callbacks to previous events, and the development of the characters we’ve all known and loved for years all feel so well earned. Resolving a story that has been so long in the making can be overwhelmingly difficult (see: Star Wars), but Final Fantasy XIV definitely sticks the landing. 

In terms of gameplay, this is Final Fantasy XIV as we commonly know it. You explore, absorb the story should you want to (and you definitely should), and beat up a variety of monsters with your weapons of choice. Various trimmings from previous games return, so expect the unique mechanics from previous instalments including everyone’s favourite – Aether Currents. However, this wouldn’t be a new expansion without new mechanics, and Endwalker’s sure are something.

The first, and the one that is used to an almost ridiculous degree, is the new escort mechanic. In this other characters will follow you around and losing these escorts will result in having to start again from the beginning. Now, in all honesty, these got old pretty quickly, but they aren’t without their bonuses. The main one being that wandering with an escort will occasionally give moments that you can ask for your companion’s input or opinions on certain areas, which is an excellent bit of world building and something I actively sought out.

It is good to feel like you’re truly part of a larger group this time as they’re almost always with you, the main drawback being the frequency of these escort segments. I could be wrong, but the amount of times this mechanic is used here feels a little too frequent when compared to the use of new mechanics in previous expansions. That being said, how much I was aggravated by these it isn’t a patch on the other new arrival: stealth segments.

I’m completely aware that this is a personal preference and many will have loved these sections, but I found that Endwalker’s stealth ground the flow of the game to a halt and were just not fun to play. Thankfully, these were used more sparingly than the escort segments, even if I quickly came to dread them regardless. These are the only two things even close to diminishing the brilliance of Endwalker though, so a couple of personal nitpicks is a small price to pay.

Especially when the new battle mechanics implemented in the instances are just so damn good. Several of them build on what you already know, just by subtly augmenting existing markers (which in my experience, players still don’t quite understand), and then giving you interesting new markers and movements to overcome. Honestly, I’m amazed that after all this time the team are still finding new ways to challenge the players, and I’m already looking forward to (and dreading) trying the Extreme versions of the Trials.

We can’t move past the new without discussing Sage and Reaper. Both of these new Jobs seamlessly fit into the array of Jobs in the game and are, understandably, absolutely everywhere in-game at the moment. Sage is a lot to manage to begin with, but once it clicks it becomes an absolute healing force to be reckoned with. Reaper, conversely, is far simpler to comprehend, but is so satisfying to play that every moment swinging that scythe is a joy.

But, of course, there isn’t just newness and all of the Jobs in Final Fantasy XIV have received new toys to play with. Some of them have barely changed at all, like White Mage, which got a few new actions to bolster an already strong moveset. Then there’s Summoner, which has seen a significant overhaul, reducing the considerable rotation of its actions down to a simpler set of abilities without compromising on the flashiness (oh, and giving them access to actual Titan instead of an angry chicken nugget).

FF XIV Endwalker Preview Sage

Visually, Endwalker isn’t a massive jump forward, but what the team manage to pull out of the engine they have been using faithfully for a decade is absolutely incredible. From the desolation of the city of Garlemald to the colourful city of Radz-at-Han, every area of Endwalker is beautifully realised. This also extends to other areas such as the dungeons too, with Endwalker continuing to tread the path begun by Shadowbringers. Oh, and they somehow made the Moon a gorgeous area explore, so there’s that.

The music too, continues the FFXIV tradition of being truly phenomenal. I’ll warrant that Endwalker doesn’t quite hit the heights of Heavensward or Shadowbringers, but the use of music in this game is a true example of the genius of Masayoshi Soken. With this being the final part of a long journey, the musical callbacks through full tracks or leitmotifs is absolutely flawless and gives certain scenes far more weight. Also, both new dungeon boss tracks is absolutely untouchable.

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Summary
Once you're past the horrendously long queues to actually get into the game, Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker was an almost flawless experience. This conclusion to a decade-long tale is told with a visual, musical and narrative artistry that isn’t often seen in any medium. Endwalker doesn’t quite reach the heights of earlier parts of the series, but it sure as hell ends the current arc with a bang and everyone involved with this game should feel damn proud of themselves.
Good
  • Practically flawless story
  • Breathtaking musical score
  • The Loporrits
Bad
  • Those stealth segments
  • Those escort missions
  • Outrageous queues
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