Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

With the main campaign completed, we are ready to take stock of the Final Fantasy XIV expansion that concludes the story that began ten years ago

Perhaps there are no games that have had the same history as Final Fantasy XIV. A product that, after being reborn against all odds as the proverbial phoenix, has even managed to become a victim of its own success: by now you will all know of the belated, but highly deserved visibility achieved last summer due to a peculiar set of circumstances – in case on the contrary, we advise you to read our recent in-depth analysis on the subject – which brought the work of director Naoki Yoshida, for friends Yoshi-P, on everyone’s lips.

Long the inconvenient alternative to its direct competitor World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV is now an MMORPG that has forced Square Enix to stop digital sales and free trial to ease the squeeze on servers, congested by an impressive number of players.

Compounding the situation was the release of the Endwalker expansion, perhaps the most ambitious Yoshi-P’s team has worked on in all these years. If for the curious and the players of the last hour it is an add-on rich in contents, for the veterans of Final Fantasy XIV it represents instead the closing of the circle and the conclusion of a story that began years ago, even before the reboot A Realm Reborn.

Our Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker review comes only now for this reason. We wanted to complete the campaign, also known as Main Scenario Quest, and try the Trials at Extreme level that are unlocked at the highest level, which we have reached with three Jobs, one of which is completely new added in this expansion.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

Main Scenario Quest

Unlike many other MMORPGs where the narrative is subordinated to the progression of the character and gameplay, Final Fantasy XIV is a game that has always focused on history. Endwalker, in this sense, represents the most important creative effort of Naoki Yoshida’s team. We have said it and repeated it many times: Final Fantasy XIV is played above all for its Main Scenario Quest, the main campaign that can be faced as in a single player role-playing game, except for some clashes that require the participation of eight players. We won’t tell you anything about the plot, it is so full of unexpected twists and turns. Suffice it to say that it begins exactly where the previous expansion, Shadowbringers, ended, with the Scions looking for new allies to face the apocalypse promised by Fandaniel, the last worshiper of the diabolical Zodiark.

Endwalker effectively closes the game between Hydaelin, that is the personification of our planet, and its antithesis Zodiark: a clash with ancient roots in which we, the Warriors of Light chosen to save the world and its “reflections”, have been entangled.

The story of Final Fantasy XIV, however, was never that of the Warrior of Light. Although indicated as the absolute protagonist, guide and reference point of a large cast of characters, it has always been the latter, and in particular the so-called Scion of the Seventh Dawn, to occupy the stage. Endwalker dwells on them, leading to a natural epilogue all the subplots cast over the years. Their superfine characterization, and the paths taken over time, mark the development of the story, which reserves the right space for each of them, including memorable twists, touching introspective dialogues and moments of relaxing everyday life.

Unlike other MMORPGs in which the supporting actors are literally this, and therefore subordinated to the great deeds of the player, Final Fantasy XIV has dedicated years to the growth and evolution of the various protagonists – in particular Alphinaud and Alisaie – who go to constitute a sort extended family: the script often plays on the bond that the player has established with these imaginary friends, yes, yet so well characterized.

The narrative draws heavily in previous expansions, and the player who has followed the plot up to this point cannot help but feel a strong sense of nostalgia and accomplishment as they scroll through the credits at the end of the Main Scenario Quest, aware that a story is over and a new one is about to begin. Let’s be clear: the Endwalker storyline reaches skyrocketing peaks. It is the best for detachment in the field of MMORPGs and if it is easily seen on an equal footing with the most famous chapters of the Square Enix franchise. The merit is not only of an even more cinematic staging than in the past, but also and above all of a cultured, intelligent and never banal writing. The texts completely in English could be difficult for those who have a barely scholastic command of the Albion language, but there are such solemn dialogues that it is impossible not to be enchanted by the localization to which Michael-Christopher Koji Fox belongs.

It must be said, however, that the new Main Scenario Quest isn’t exactly perfect. There are unforgettable moments that would not have had the same impact if the game had only relied on dialogue and direction: Masayoshi Soken’s extraordinary music contributes decisively to the success of the narrative, and Naoki Yoshida has a real talent for their placement. . It almost seems to hear him gloating while we are witnessing an already particularly engaging scene of him, when he also places a significant song or musical track that puts the load on the whole experience by one hundred.

Were it not for these very high quality peaks, that of Endwalker would have been a Main Scenario Quest all in all inferior to that of the last expansion, Shadowbringers. The flaw is all in the balance of the narrative. Endwalker’s Main Scenario Quest tended to appear longer due to the fillers, literally the “fillers” designed to artificially prolong it. I’m certainly not new, but we had the impression that Yoshida and his people have structured them in a less careful way than in the past: a little for the power of the narrative, a little for the sense of urgency that characterizes the main storyline, these fillers often clash with the rhythm of the story, diluting and slowing it down forcefully at the wrong moments.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

The initial part of the adventure, in particular, is extremely slow and measured, but after a few hours the situation unlocks and the progression becomes smoother, except to trudge here and there before some new breathtaking descent.

All in all, the matter could be summed up like this: At its best moments, Endwalker significantly outperforms those of Shadowbringers, which has so far been the benchmark for the expansions of Final Fantasy XIV, but at its worst, Shadowbringers is a more fluid story. and cohesive. Aided by an unexpected, courageous and important turn at about a third of the Main Scenario Quest, Endwalker veers in an unusual direction that holds many surprises.

It’s just a shame that the narrative suffers the weight of a now more than obsolete graphics engine: the art direction is superb, but it can’t hide the ugly low-resolution textures or the rigidity of the animations in the cinematics. The general glance is always satisfied, but we cannot help but think that a more sophisticated Endwalker, from a purely technical point of view, would have been an absolute masterpiece.

Gameplay progression and variety

Endwalker is an expansion so committed to telling a story, it sometimes forgets that we should also play. Most of the missions are solved by interacting with an NPC or a point of interest and it can happen that you face hours of dialogue before entering one of the six dungeons that punctuate the campaign. Every now and then it happens to have to defeat one or more enemies, but more often we find ourselves leading an NPC to their destination: a new routine means that some NPCs can follow us as in a traditional JRPG; the idea is very interesting, but the Main Scenario Quest abuses it, as well as abuses of a new type of assignment to be completed by stealthily moving without our target seeing us.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

Fortunately, Square Enix has made some changes to the structure of the secondary missions, which are many and, while paying much less experience points than the most important ones, have been extremely simplified: now they are solved in a few steps and are distributed more organically on the map. The maximum level is easily reached without resorting to these optional missions, which however often reward with pieces of equipment or other useful consumables.

However, the progression remains linear and there are no choices that can deviate from the predetermined route in the Main Scenario Quest, although some multiple-choice dialogues change the immediately following bars, guaranteeing the player a marginal level of personalization in the representation of his alter ego.

Honorable mention deserves some Duty, that is the instanced missions in which we will often find ourselves controlling another character for a short period of time, and the maps themselves, but for a slightly more complicated reason. On the one hand, we really appreciated the new maps, which are vast but not dispersive, full of details and sufficiently diversified not so much in the obvious geometry, but also and above all in navigability: thanks to a series of narrative or logistical tricks, it is impossible explore them completely right away, and you have to progress in the story to be able to discover the whole map. The problem, however, is that there is no reason. Now that the Aether Currents are also distributed more organically and closer to the objectives of the main missions, unless you want to tap into the collection points there is no reason to explore the maps, which continue to suffer from the absence of collectibles, points of interest and the like.

The introduction of special FATEs in remote points, to be reached only by flying, is not enough to customize the maps, which are truly splendid and scenographic, but in practice they offer nothing more than a few panoramas to photograph. It is a sharpness that Final Fantasy XIV has always dragged on and that we hope will be filed down in the future.

The same could be said for the dungeons, which tend to be even more linear and shorter than usual, but also extremely refined both from a scenic and content point of view. We really appreciated the tweaks made to the Trust system, which allows you to face these challenges together with three Scions without resorting to the Duty Finder and therefore to the other players. Already featured in Shadowbringers, the Trust has been revised to ensure a more fulfilling experience. Scions deal more damage, which greatly speeds up Duty completion, and chat to each other, making dungeon navigation more engaging.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

Bosses are, as usual, the flagship of the combat system. Those we faced in the dungeons were quite simple, if only because they resort to visual or sound signals that we now know perfectly well and that the designers of Square Enix have learned to recombine or reinvent creatively: faced blindly, without any preparation, these encounters turned out to be so well designed that we rarely lost on the first engagement for not having understood a mechanic or a strategy on the fly. The same concept can be extended to the eight-player bosses in the Trials, but in this case, Yoshi-P’s team has definitely outdone themselves. The bosses we faced in these arenas were not only among the most scenically impressive, but also among the most challenging, if never frustrating.

We went through the expansion by playing two Jobs at the same time. We have chosen the Summoner, a revised and corrected class for the expansion: perhaps trivialized and simplified in its rotations, the new Summoner is nevertheless very fun and spectacular, especially once the new Enkindle has been unlocked which guarantee specific spells to the three basic summons. While being able to access the Scholar, the only class that increases in level alongside the Summoner, we played as healers as the Sage, one of the two new classes added in Endwalker. It is a Job that has given us great satisfaction, but which perhaps would require some adjustments in terms of output: while it can heal a chosen target by inflicting moderate damage to enemies, it lacks direct spells powerful enough to get rid of a companion in difficulty.

More or less, each Job has gained or lost something in the transition from Shadowbringers, and as is normal, Square Enix will make the necessary changes in the next updates. The first is scheduled for December 21: despite the critical issues faced from launch to today, which have forced the company to give, so far, twenty-one days of subscription to all players, the Yoshida team intends to follow the roadmap for not leave the players who have already completed the Main Scenario Quest on their hands. The two level 90 dungeons to be repeated to improve equipment, and the two Extreme difficulty Trials that guarantee rare weapons, accessories and mounts, will also be joined by the first wing (Asphodelos) of the new eight-player raid, Pandaemonium. On January 4th, the Savage difficulty of the same wing will be introduced. Yoshida has promised a stream of regular and constant updates: whatever they say, the story isn’t really over, and fans of Final Fantasy XIV old and new can rest assured that there will be a lot to play in the coming months. Queues permitting.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker
Square Enix

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker review

Pros

  • A fantastic story that will thrill old and new players
  • Extraordinary soundtrack
  • Bosses that are rewarding to face and spectacular to watch

Cons

  • Some fillers tend to slow the pace of the narrative excessively
  • The graphics engine now feels the weight of the years

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