Published on March 26th, 2022 | by Stephen Heller
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Review
Summary: Endwalker will go down in history as one of the best moments in storytelling, and now the stage is clear for a new era of FFXIV.
I’m not going to lie, my initial feelings about Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker were pretty sour. The lovely editorial team at Impulse Gamer sent me a code for the long awaited expansion, urging me to get started as I had a long road ahead of me. The code refused to work. Using the clunky MogStation interface, trying to redeem it on Steam, no matter the process it simply would not unlock. So we waited, and another code was sent, and yet another code didn’t work. This happened three or four times before we eventually were able to get a working redemption, and then the next hurdle was ahead of us – getting into the flaming wreckage of servers as the flood gates opened. For weeks Square Enix did the unthinkable – they stopped selling the game at the height of its popularity, and suspended the EXPANDED FREE TRIAL WHICH YOU CAN PLAY THROUGH THE ENTIRETY OF A REALM REBORN AND THE AWARD WINNING HEAVENSWAR EXPANSION UP TO LEVEL 60 FOR FREE WITH NO RESTRICTIONS ON PLAYTIME FOR THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED MMORPG FINAL FANTASY XIV.** So there I was, defeated. No access. Impossible queues. A crippling anxiety that I had let down the editorial team who work tirelessly to deliver timely criticism on the newest of video games. I did what every responsible person would do – I quickly replaced that feeling with anticipation for Elden Ring, and waited a month before trying to jump in again.
I want to be clear. I’m not upset that this happened. I think it’s beyond commendable that the FFXIV team suspended sales of the new expansion, and the free trial that has hit legendary meme status, all in order to deliver the best experience they could for their fans. When you remind yourself that the publisher is the very same publisher who constantly says that their games sell at a disappointing rate, and are wanting to jump deep on that NFT gravy train, it really shows just how much of a juggernaut FFXIV has become.
Endwalker not only goes down as one of the finest moments of story-telling in the Final Fantasy universe, it cements FFXIV’s redemption arc as one of the most incredible that will probably ever grace this medium. But if you’re reading this review right here, chances are you have already heard all about that, so let’s get to the expansion.
Endwalker kicks on from the final moments of the Shadowbringers expansion, with the Telophoroi committed to bringing around the end of the universe. They have constructed dark and twisted towers that are transfixing those who enter their vicinity, except for a handful of hearty adventurers which conveniently includes you. So off you toddle with the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, as you search for friends who will join you int the fight to stop the end of the world.
You know, pretty standard fare really.
But Endwalker does it with such gravitas, with the constant butting of heads between the impending doom, and the promise of salvation. I’m firmly in the camp that most story telling in this franchise is not overly compelling, often more interested in explaining every minute detail to make sure that you “get it” than allowing your mind to wander. While Endwalker does at times fall into that familiar trap, the constant surprises and truly shocking moments is enough to forget those short lapses of excellence.
Endwalker has something that most games simply do not – history. Throughout the years of FFXIV, the characters have been through a tremendous adventure together, so here as they stand on the precipice of failure, your connection to that shared history really delivers true weight. It’s almost like a cheat code, but it’s brought to life through some of the best games writing you’ll likely see in a AAA budget title, or at the very least, the absolute best that we’ve seen in an MMORPG. Endwalker sets the precedent that the genre doesn’t have to all be dances and mounts and hotkeys, but can deliver a compelling and memorable narrative.
When it comes to gameplay however, Endwalker is more like a fresh coat of paint rather than a reinvention. Existing jobs have been tweaked, some more than others I am told, but the stars of the show are the two brand new jobs that made their debut with the expansion. The Sage is a healing boon for any party, which the Reaper is an unstoppable melee master that has some of the coolest attacks to have graced the game thus far. In the dungeons that I took part in, it was easy to see how these new classes fit into party composition, allowing our group to create some dynamic new strategies that felt as though they were balanced. This is important, because it keeps the flow of the game on even footing, and to my surprise, the new jobs were not always the first choice from my friends who were far more experienced with the game than I.
Much like the jobs, the gameplay loop of Endwalker is relatively unchanged. Explore the open zones, fulfilling tight sidequests and move along through the main story which is where for me personally, the focus was always drawn. The new dungeons offer the same considered design that players have expected, each with intricate boss fights that demand communication and poise. I’m willing to admit that my inexperience did let down some of my friends on occasion, but whenever we rolled out of the depths after defeating some truly unique enemies was always my favorite part of the experience.
But ultimately, Endwalker is more of the same. That’s definitely not a bad thing. It’s more of the award winning, fan favorite formula that has seem FFXIV rise from the ashes to be one of the most popular video games available today. But what Endwalker does and should be praised for, is wrap up the threads from years of questing, of fighting, of exploration, and does so with such success that it completely eclipses 90% of story telling in any other genre out there.
If you didn’t like FFXIV before now, Endwalker will do nothing to change your mind. But if you’re in, this emotional rollercoaster will be rolling towards a satisfying conclusion, that absolutely will not disappoint.