Hey! Hey listen! This review is spoiler-lite. I’ve done my best to not talk about plot points, storylines, and instances – all the things that are exciting surprises along the way! There may be some screenshots of game areas or cutscenes ahead and there will be some general talk of the expansion, mechanics, etc.
Final Fantasy XIV’s history itself is almost as improbable and magical as the story it weaves – poorly received at release, XIV eventually was later recreated into the aptly named Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. These days, FFXIV is wildly popular, and only seems to be becoming more so, despite having been out for a number of years already. The game has even gone through a huge player increase prior to the release of its most recent expansion, causing plenty of queue issues (which, thankfully, SE has been working hard to fix!).
When it was announced that the most recent expansion, Endwalker, would be the finale to the tale of Hydaelyn and Zodiark which Final Fantasy XIV has revolved around for so long, players braced themselves for a hopefully fitting conclusion. A Realm Reborn placed us in a world where the Ascians – ancient worshippers of the god Zodiark – stood in opposition to Hydaelyn, goddess of the light. Over time, this world and story grew bigger, bolder, and more nuanced – we entered a war between dragon and man, explored other worlds where a call for light against the dark left dangerous imbalance, and freed stolen lands from their captors.
Endwalker, really, is a love letter.
Endwalker brings us back to the mystery of the Final Days – we saw what became of previous worlds, and it seems like we’re in danger now too. Unfortunately, we have few answers to what is happening, and the ever-present threat from Garlemald, where Fandaniel and Zenos have become a twisted partnership that may destroy the world as we know it before the final days ever have a chance to come. What follows is perhaps our grandest adventure yet, exploring space and time to uncover not only ancient mysteries, but safeguard our own future.
Endwalker, really, is a love letter. A love letter to us, the players, who have traveled distant lands and stars to protect the world we love. A love letter to a story that’s grown over years and years. A love letter to those we’ve met, fought, loved, and lost along the way. And, most importantly, a love letter to life itself – the sorrows, the miracles, the hopes and dreams and wonders that make it all worth doing, no matter what lies ahead.
The callbacks to our previous adventures and to our allies and enemies alike is impressively thorough, finding a way to remind the player of nearly everyone who has had an impact on us through these long years. Along the way we’re forced to consider time and time again – was the journey worth it? It feels like such a personal adventure, and was one I was so happy to have taken by the time it wrapped up. In truth, FFXIV started so much smaller than it became, and wrapping all the stories, people, and places into a sweeping epic must have been a challenge, but that challenge was certainly well-met in Endwalker, which manages to cover an incredible amount of both small and big stories in one expansion.
It’s a beautiful story, punctuated by the equally beautiful maps we get to visit this time around – you’ll find plenty of gpose inspiration here, I promise. From the loud, boisterous streets of Radz-at-Han to the libraries of Old Sharlyan, Final Fantasy XIV has finally given us places we’ve only heard of in lore, and they are all well-worth the wait.
It also presents us with some wonderfully dynamic instances to play through, including perhaps our widest array of dungeon layouts yet. Many mechanics have been streamlined, creating new and clearer markers for multiple-hit stacks and tankbusters, which is a nice quality of life addition. Endwalker also features plenty of fun fights, in dungeons, trials, and even solo instances – for the most part, players familiar with the game should be able to puzzle out what’s happening in each fight. They are well-paced, present new and unique mechanics in every battle, and feature some exciting bosses that I loved challenging.
So far, I’ve played only white mage, dancer, paladin, and gunbreaker, but all of these classes feel like they’re in a good place, particularly with paladin getting quite a bit of love this expansion. Some adjustments have been made to combat button bloat on hotbars, which helps make the one or two new moves you’ll get to be more manageable, but overall there are fewer new moves than in previous expansions it seems. The role quests this time around do a good job at forcing the player to pay attention to how their class works and some of their skills (I appreciated the silence in the tank quest!), which is refreshing considering the game hasn’t always done a good job of helping players to understand their kits and role expectations.
Perhaps my only real complaint is one story twist that I didn’t like (which I won’t go into detail because of its importance) and the fact that we really did not need so many quests that involved sneaky following or walking along with our comrades. On one hand, I liked the immersion of these quests – it is nice to interact with the world and have our fellow scions feel less like npcs in the corner and more like living companions walking alongside us. However, it was just a little too much, too often – especially if you make an error and need to restart (those “gotcha!”s in the stealth quests were my main enemy through most of the storyline).
Honestly, Endwalker is better than I hoped it would be. Square Enix took plenty of risks in the story writing that might not have paid off if left in less capable hands, but which worked wonderfully here. This expansion gives us the chance to really look at life – its struggles and triumphs – and consider how our experiences weave a tapestry of stories that can’t be untangled, but which together create something beautiful. Incredibly, it also left me feeling less sad that this long adventure is over, and more excited about what’s coming down the road. We’ve already been promised the game will continue with new storylines, and it leaves us ready for those journeys.
If you’ve played and enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV, Endwalker is a must-play – it’s a lovely wrap-up to a story we’ve all invested so much time and emotion in. If you’re considering starting Final Fantasy XIV (once sales resume, that is), now is a perfect time to join us and catch up on this incredible adventure before the next one begins. The game is busier than ever, and plenty of adventurers will be here to join you along the way.