Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker on PlayStation 5
Final Fantasy XIV’s final expansion in the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, Endwalker, has a mountain of pressure on it. For starters, it’s trying to neatly wrap up a decade-plus long story. Ask around some of the other publishers in the industry like BioWare how difficult it is to end a long-running story in a way that makes everyone happy.
Endwalker has to follow Shadowbringers, easily the strongest expansion to an MMORPG in recent memory, and for my tastes at least (and I will wager many others), one of the best video game stories ever told, full stop. So yeah, no pressure!
Let’s jump right to the end of Endwalker. It may be a strange place to start off the review, but it’s without a doubt the most critical part of the success of this expansion. It doesn’t matter how pretty the areas are (they are all very pretty), how amazing the soundtrack is (the score is absolutely incredible), or anything else; did the development successfully stick the landing of this ending? Yes, they did.
Now, it’s pretty much impossible to talk about the ending of Endwalker without spoiling anything, obviously, but I’ll do my best to give you the gist. The ending is very safe but still incredibly satisfying.
The story as a whole, ending including, doesn’t really take a bunch of huge risks. There are some surprises, twists, and dark moments, to be sure, but they don’t amount to anything super impactful in terms of how things ultimately wrap up. What the story lacks in risk-taking, however, it makes up for in thoroughness.
The amount of fan service is off the charts. So many familiar faces make their return in this expansion, some that you haven’t seen in ages. Fan-favorite characters get extra time in the spotlight, and every major plot thread that I can think of gets tied up nicely. You may be able to see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn’t mean it still won’t put a smile on your face and leave your cheeks wet from tears.
That said, as a whole, Endwalker’s story highs don’t quite reach the level of Shadowbringer’s. Shadowbringers was able to masterfully tie the story to that point together and push it forward while also developing an identity of its own. In particular, Emet-Selch, the primary antagonist of Shadowbringers, will probably go down as Final Fantasy XIV’s best and most tragic villain.
Endwalker does all those things really well but doesn’t quite do it as well as Shadowbringers. The threat for most of Endwalker is more ambiguous. Fandaniel, as he did in the patch series prior to the launch of Endwalker, kicks the expansion off as the Scion’s main focus, but that focus shifts quite a bit throughout the expansion.
Eventually, the plot gets re-focused on a singular, obvious threat that ends up being the final boss. This boss doesn’t get nearly as much development as Zenos or Fandaniel, nor is it as complex as either of those characters, much less Emet-Selch from Shadowbringers. The final boss, while interesting, is fairly one-dimensional and predictable in its motivations.
The locations also feel a bit disconnected. In Shadowbringers, the plot was very focused on pushing deeper into this unfamiliar land to bring the Scions back together, and the progression felt natural. Endwalker feels jumpy in comparison.
Often times it feels like you end up somewhere, you do stuff until someone says something to the effect of: “oh wait something is happening over here now, we have to go there now.” It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s just not nearly as smooth as Shadowbringers. It’s likely a necessary evil considering you are going all over the place, geographically speaking, in Endwalker: Garlemald, Sharlayan, Thavnair, hell, even outer space.
Aside from the final area, which I’m not going to spoil at all, my favorite area/section of the story was probably Garelemald. It’s great to finally be able to shine a light on the Garleans. I wish we could have seen it before it completely imploded, but oh well.
The Garlean people, so used to being at the top of the food chain, are humbled and embarrassed by being brought so low. Some are capable of handling it, and many are not. That dynamic is a key element, and aside from the ending, it’s the most memorable part of the plot and handled very well.
While the story is definitely the main appeal of Final Fantasy XIV for myself and many others, there are also all of the new gameplay features added in as well. The most notable, of course, is the addition of two new jobs Reaper and Sage. We spoke about them quite a bit about them in our preview, but they are worth going over again.
Both jobs hit the ground running and fit in very well into the current mix. Reaper right of the gates is one of the strongest DPS in the game. It’s complex, fun to play, and very rewarding. On the other hand, Sage almost feels like a second DPS class. It’s perhaps the most DPS-oriented Healer in the game – at least in terms of how tied together damage and healing are – and anyone that loves to push as much damage as possible before being forced to heal should have a blast.
Summoner is kind of the secret third new job in Endwalker as it was completely overhauled to be more or less unrecognizable from its previous iterations. While this may upset some players that really enjoyed the old DoT playstyle, anyone that wants to actually be, you know, a Summoner that focuses on summoning bad-ass avatars, will likely be pleased with the new direction of this job.
As someone that is a Summoner main in every Final Fantasy game I can get my hands on that has the class, I can confidently say that Summoner in Final Fantasy XIV is the closest to fulfilling the fantasy of the job that I fell in love with from Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s really not a pet job anymore.
I mean, technically, Carbuncle will sit around and watch you do stuff, but for the most part, you’re temporarily bringing out massive, bad-ass-looking summons for a brief moment and letting them unleash some super awesome-looking attack. It’s satisfying and should be a sustainable way to grow the job going forward – no complaints from this summoner whatsoever.
As usual in Final Fantasy XIV, the areas and soundtrack are top-tier. Every zone is absolutely stunning and gorgeous in its own ways, particularly in the back half of Endwalker. The composers continue to bat .1000 and deliver another soundtrack filled with memorable and emotional songs to perfectly set the mood in each area and dungeon.
This is, unfortunately, the point where I have to make my semi-regular rant complaining about the lack of incentive to explore the open-world of Final Fantasy XIV as Endwalker does nothing really to address that. It’s not that there’s no reason to spend time in the open-world areas. You can gather, do quests, FATEs, etc., there just isn’t enough.
So much effort is put into crafting these stunning zones with soundtracks that I just want to listen to for hours. Still, at least for me as an average player, as soon as the main story is over, I’m just zipping through for a quest marker and continuing onto my next destination.
Endwalker, if anything, exasperates this since it feels more generous with the main quest and dungeon EXP while leveling up my first job. I barely needed to do a single FATE or side quest for extra EXP; my character kept up just fine level-wise while doing the main quest. It really is a shame, and I wish the developers at some point would come up with a creative way to perhaps make leveling up on the open-world more viable in addition to FATE spamming.
It’s also about that time for me to complain about the totally functional but stale state of Final Fantasy XIV’s endgame. It’s not that the raids and dungeons are bad. They are well-designed and mechanically fun to play. But geez, would it kill the developers to mix up the routine, even just a little bit from A Realm Reborn? I’m tired of doing expert roulettes. At least if I have to suffer through the same unchanged dailies, at least could the dungeon structure get mixed up? A little variety such as alternate paths, or maybe RNG boss fights would really go a long way towards making things feel fresh.
While Endwalker fails to eclipse Shadowbringers in most areas, it succeeds in what is by far its most important mandate: properly ending this extremely long storyline in an incredibly satisfying way. It’s a solid tale from start to finish. The expansion adds beautiful new areas, well-constructed new jobs, and all in all, ticks off everything that you want a Final Fantasy XIV expansion to do with the level of polish that players have come to expect. So take a deep breath Final Fantasy XIV fans, Endwalker is fantastic.
- Amazing visuals and musical score, as always.
- An extremely safe, but satisfying ending to the Hydaelyn and Zodiarc saga.
- A wonderful story filled with lots of tear-jerking moments.
- Sage and Reaper are solid additions to the job roster right out of the gate.
- Endgame routine continues to be beyond stale.
- Areas still just feel like pit stops than zones that you are compelled to spend meaningful time in.
December 7, 2021
PS4, PS5, PCs
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