Last month, I began my journey through Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, the latest expansion of Square's Enix popular MMORPG. This expansion is the climactic finale of the Hydaelyn Vs. Zodiark saga that has been waging for ten years. It features a new race to play as (the male Viera), new Jobs, significant changes to existing Jobs, and more.
My early impressions of Endwalker were positive. The story's premise had me hooked, the new Reaper Job was a blast to play and the changes to Warrior and the Summoner Jobs made them more fun to play. Since then, I have completed the main storyline quests, delved into post-game content, and experimented with more job changes.
How does Endwalker fare a month after its release, and should you play Final Fantasy XIV in 2022? Let us find the answer together. This is our review of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker on PC.
Bottom line: Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is a fantastic expansion that pays homage to the series' legacy and is a beautiful send-off to a ten-year-long story arc. The plot me had engaged throughout its entirety, the characters are memorable, and the new dungeons and Trials are satisfying to conquer. While some Job changes could be improved with future patches, many of them are welcome additions to the game.
- The storyline is a gripping adventure.
- The new Jobs and Job changes are fun to play with.
- The new dungeons, boss fights, and post-game raids are tough yet rewarding challenges.
- The presentation from sound, graphics, and music is outstanding.
- One of the main villains is not as developed as they should be.
- Some Job changes have a decent foundation, but they still need some improvements.
- Some parts of the main storyline do drag on for a bit too long.
Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker: Graphics, Sound and Performance
|Category||Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker|
|Title||Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker|
|Minimum requirements||Windows® 8.1 64 bit / Windows 10 64-bit|
Intel® Core™i5 2.4GHz
NVIDIA® Geforce® GTX750 / AMD Radeon™ R7 260X
|Play time||100+ hours|
|Platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5|
Let's start by discussing Endwalker's visuals and art. Square Enix games are known for putting in major effort towards the presentation of its games, and Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is no different.
This game features a variety of unique locales you will explore over the course of your adventure. These include the idyllic, isolationist nation of Sharlayan, the war-torn winter fields of Garlemald, the cold, barren surface of the moon, and beyond. Every biome is rich with detail and atmosphere that is on par with modern games despite running on a game engine that is 10 years old now. The same could be said for the new dungeons you will be fighting in. Without going into spoilers, the new dungeons in Endwalker contain some of the most cinematic, beautiful (and sometimes disturbing) backdrops to date in Final Fantasy XIV.
The game's character designs are also top-notch. Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker's character designs manage to strike a solid balance between detailed realism and high-concept fantasy without coming across as jarring. Not to mention, the new armor sets you can acquire for your character are oozing with so much detail and personality, you'll feel good simply wearing them, even before considering the stats.
And what Final Fantasy game's presentation would be complete without a memorable soundtrack? Every expansion of Final Fantasy XIV features an incredible score that remixes classic tunes from the Final Fantasy franchise while creating whole new tracks that stand on their own merit. Endwalker's musical treatment continues that pedigree with some of the best overtures I've heard in a Final Fantasy game in years.
The new battle music for the dungeons and raids heightens the tension with bombastic orchestral scores and rock tunes that conveys the feeling that this could be your final battle. And when the story slows down for character development and plot revelations, the soundtrack cuts deep into your heartstrings with emotional melodies that will paint past expansions in a new light. Plus, there are soft, atmospheric hooks for when you are exploring new areas to get you immersed in the setting.
To round out Endwalker's presentation would be the sound design. The attacks for the new player Jobs have crisp and impactful effects that make them feel powerful and satisfying to use. And when enemies use their attacks on you, you really feel it as the crunching, and otherworldly distorted sounds cut deep.
The voice acting is also well-done as everyone brings their A-game in Endwalker. Backed up by a strong script filled with memorable lines, the actors give it all their all to add pathos and personality to characters they have been voicing for years.
As far as performance goes on the PC version, on my rig, it maintains a smooth 60fps frame rate with a 1080p resolution even in more intensive battles. My modest PC sports an Intel Core i5-9400 CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, and makes short work of FFXIV, which has enjoyed ongoing optimizations over the years. This MMORPG is over ten years old, so you won't need to track down the latest, cutting-edge graphics card or processor to experience Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker at its optimal performance.
The only issue I have with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker's presentation is a problem that's been a part of Final Fantasy XIV since day one — the color contrast. A lot of the areas in Final Fantasy XIV have a washed-out colour palette which makes exploring them feel a little dull at times. Granted the desaturated color scheme makes sense for some areas like the bureaucratic nation of Sharlayan and Endwalker's later areas do have brighter and more vibrant contrasts. Still, I wish there was an option in the graphics settings to increase the contrast to brighten up some areas. Players have actually built mods specifically to address this, but it would be nice if Square Enix provided options themselves.
Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker: Story
The story of Final Fantasy XIV has you assume the role of the Warrior of Light, a hero chosen by the Goddess of Light, Hydaelyn to defend the world from the forces of Darkness. Throughout your career, you have saved the world from tyrannical empires, rampaging demi-gods, and evil conspirators, among others. Now, Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker pits you up against your greatest challenge yet — "The Final Days."
"The Final Days" is a cataclysm that almost destroyed the world eons ago and two villains are attempting to recreate it. Zenos, the bloodthirsty prince of the Garlean Empire who desires a rematch with you after his defeat at the end of Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. And his cohort, Fandanial, a mad Ascian (villains who have plagued FFXIV since A Realm Reborn) who desires the end of the world.
As the Warrior of Light, it is your mission to defeat these foes, discover the truth behind "The Final Days," and prevent it from happening again. However, the plot starts relatively calm, all things considered, as it sets up the new areas and characters you will frequently revisit. Once the stage has been set, the plot becomes a rollercoaster of emotions and high stakes. It careens back and forth between methodical world-building and character introspection to action-packed set-pieces that had me on the edge of my seat.
Without going into spoiler territory, the story gradually builds to an epic climax of biblical proportions. Fan-favorite characters get a chance to show off how far they have grown. Questions that have been on the backs of fans' minds for years finally get answered. Endwalker explores themes of nihilism and finding the will to live in the face of world-ending despair.
My only major problem is with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker's narrative is with one of the main villains, Zenos. Zenos was criticized in Stormblood for being a simplistic warmonger who kills for fun and, without revealing spoilery details, that sadly doesn't change much in Endwalker.
His single-minded obsession with fighting the main hero at the expense of the world gets old after a while, and it isn't as interesting compared to the madness of his partner-in-war crimes, Fandaniel. Fandaniel is a fantastic villain that commits atrocities with such maniacal and sadistic glee, that I couldn't help but be entertained by it. Not to mention, Fandaniel has tons of intriguing character development devoted to the mechanics of his insanity. By the time I learned all there was to know about him, I both pitied and despised Fandaniel and was fully motivated to lay all his plans to ruin.
That isn't to say Zeno was a bad villain. He does get some character growth and a few great moments that got under my skin. It's just unfortunate that Fandaniel stole the show and screentime that could've delved into Zeno's backstory — which to this day is only available through a book compilation of short stories called Final Fantasy XIV: Chronicles of Light, not the the game itself. As it stands, despite being built up as our hero's evil counterpart for years, Zenos still feels too underdeveloped to earn that right.
There are also some points in the story that I won't spoil that drag out for too long. I understand that these moments of downtime are needed to give the players a much-needed break after a climactic showdown. Yet, given the gravity of the situation, it would've helped the pacing if we could've sped these plot points along.
Nonetheless, these sticking points don't detract from the rest of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker's well-written story. It was a fun, heart-breaking, cathartic, and satisfying send-off to a storyline ten years in the making. Even the world-building had me intrigued enough to explore some of the optional side quests to find more lore about the new areas despite offering little experience points. That's a sign of a good story if I went out of my way to engage in the side-content out of curiosity instead of necessity.
Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker: Gameplay
The gameplay structure of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker follows the same routine as its predecessors. You progress through the story and unlock content by completing Main Scenario Quests and Role Quests. There are side quests between these Main Scenario Quests to complete, aether currents to attune to so you can fly with your mount, optional world events called "FATES," which offer experience points to level up your character and much more.
At specific points in the Main Scenario Quests, you will have to form a party with other players using the matchmaking systems known as the Duty Finder or Party Finder and fight through dungeons populated with hordes of enemies and bosses. On top of that, you will undertake Trials that involve joining a party of eight players to take on a massive boss with multiple phases. You can also tackle a few dungeons solo with NPC allies using the Trust system.
I enjoyed the gameplay of the main questline just as much as the story. The dungeons and Trials of Endwalker are an excellent culmination of every mechanic, and gimmick players have weathered throughout all the expansions. At the same time, FFXIV Endwalker tosses in new attacks to catch long-time players unawares.
The boss fights are particularly challenging in this regard. They will toss out tons of aoe (area of effect) attacks down on your friends, obfuscate their senses with status effects, and unleash mighty spells that can break the laws of physics. Learning how each boss fight works and determining which attacks are best avoided or mitigated to save the party feels rewarding for my efforts. Like a choreographed fight scene in a movie where if you follow the script to the letter, the scene in question can be majestic spectacle for both players and viewers watching online.
The Main Scenario Quests also feature some interesting quests to break the routine of Dungeons and Trials. Without getting into nitty, gritty spoilers, these include special solo dungeons where you have to fight unique bosses and enemies alongside NPCs. And some main quests are semi-escort missions where you must take NPCs on tours around hub areas.
These were fun missions that added variety to the main questline. Even the semi-escort missions were engaging, given that some of them aren't about protecting NPCs from enemies. They're more reminiscent of early Final Fantasy games where party members follow you around a town and offer extra character moments and lore when you interact with the environment.
However, there is one issue I had with the structure of the game. Remember when I said earlier that I enjoyed doing the side quests despite offering little experience points? Well, it doesn't change the fact that these quests offer little tangible rewards to warrant investment from most players. The EXP needed to level up beyond Lv.80 is in the million digits and sidequests barely offer a tenth of that. Running through a dungeon once was enough to level my character much faster than clearing out two areas worth of sidequests. There's a balance issue with regards to the value offered by questing when compared with other activities.
The only sidequests worth doing from a pure gameplay perspective are those that unlock new content, such as the Raids or Role Quests for example. It's a shame the regular sidequests offer little gameplay benefits to the player because they contain interesting side stories and lore about the world. If these quests rewarded more exp or other rewards, it could incentivize more players to pursue them. This way, they get more immersed in the story and have a good alternative way of leveling up their characters if they don't feel like queuing up for a dungeon/trial/raid or if the queue is taking too long.
To help you overcome the new dungeons, Raids, and Trials of Endwalker, every Job (the character classes of Final Fantasy XIV) has been given new abilities and updates to old ones. There are also two Jobs to play as — the scythe-wielding Reaper and the laser-blasting Sage.
The new Reaper Job was a major highlight of my time in Endwalker. This is a DPS Job ("damage per second" for short, Jobs that focus on dealing damage) that summons an ominous creature known as a Voidsent Avatar to fight alongside you in battle. You mix scythe attack combos with attacks from the Voidsent Avatar to deal massive damage to the enemy.
At higher levels, you gain the ability to fuse together with your demonic companion to become Death itself. In this form, you can reap a whirlwind of destruction with enhanced scythe attacks and volatile dark magic. I absolutely adored playing as a Reaper. The multitude of attacks at your disposal coupled with mobility and party enhancing abilities made me feel like I was playing an action game half the time.
While I haven't been able to experience every Job change personally, the ones I have, for the most part, have made some Jobs more fun and accessible than before. For example, the Warrior Job has received new health regeneration and damage mitigation abilities so potent that they feel like a nigh-immortal berserker, and I love it. The quality-of-life improvements such as ranged attacks no longer breaking melee combos (which applies for all melee Jobs) and applying my attack buffs during crowd-focused melee combos immensely improved the flow of combat. And with the new brutal attacks learned at max level, Endwalker has sealed the deal on making Warrior my new favorite tank Job in Final Fantasy XIV.
The Summoner Job meanwhile has been reworked from the ground up to function more like a traditional Summoner from older Final Fantasy games. All of its damage-over-time spells and pets-based actions have been replaced with new attacks where you summon Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda in between summoning Demi-Bahumut and Demi-Phoenix to unleash explosive magic attacks. And at higher levels, you will be able to perform new attacks based on which creature you summoned. Even Carbuncle, your very first summon, has been given new utility abilities to assist the party with defense and attack buffs.
Endwalker's changes to Summoner have made this Job faster-paced and more mobile than the previous version. Not to mention, Summoner is more versatile in that it can choose which of three elemental summon spells in any order appropriate for the situation. Ifrit's spells for big damaging spells with long cast times, instant-cast Titan spells to keep attacking while avoid getting hit, and AoE (area of effect) Garuda spells for crowd control. You can even store these spells for moments when a boss has left the arena and use them when they come back, so your tools aren't wasted.
When I first played Summoner months before Endwalker's release, I thought it was slow and awkward. Having to constantly maintain damage-over-time effects and commanding my pet to get in position to deal damage was tedious work. Now, I'm having the time of my life blasting enemies to bits with my squadron of summons and I can't wait to reach to max level to be able to summon Ifrit, Titan and Garuda in their true Primal forms.
However there is one Job I have played that I feel the changes could use more fine-tuning — Monk. Monk has been given the Masterful Blitz ability, allowing them to perform powerful fighting techniques after completing melee combos under the effects of the Perfect Balance ability. I was intrigued at first because Masterful Blitz feels like a call-back to the Blitz mechanic used by Sabin from Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo.
However, once the initial hype faded, I noticed this change made Monk too simplified for its own good. Namely, nearly all of Monk's Off-Global Cooldown attacks (Tornado Kick and Elixer Field for example) are now locked behind Masterful Blitz. For those unaware, in many MMORPGs, abilities often have two kinds of recharge timers — the Global Cooldown (or GCD for short) is a recharge timer shared amongst all abilities that have it. And the Off Global Cooldown (or OGCDs for short), is a timer that is only tied to one specific ability unless it specifically says it is shared with another.
Using OGCD abilities in between GCD abilities adds extra spice to the combat system and makes some Jobs exciting to play such as Reaper, which has a ton of OGCDs to use. Monk in Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand, is a Job that has always been been focused more on fast recharging GCDs melee combos with having a couple of OGCD attacks to mix things up. But now, they have been stripped of nearly all of them (except the ones related to the Chakra Gauge).
Having to wait 40 seconds after using both Perfect Balance charges and doing the required GCD melee combos to activate Masterful Blitz in order to use attacks that were once used freely in previous expansions makes Monk feel clunky and slow. It's like the equivalent of playing a beat 'em up but you're not allowed to use your regular heavy attacks in combination with light attacks unless the game says you can. If Monk had more OGCD attacks to mix in between the moments when you're waiting to use Masterful Blitz again, it would make the Job feel more exciting. In a way, it feels like Monk has stepped backward, rather than forwards in Endwalker.
Once you have completed the Main Scenario Quests, a whole new world of content is waiting for you. These include Pandaemonium, an 8-man Raid series where you explore the depths of a gothic dungeon filled with magical experiments gone hideously wrong. The Excitatron 6000, a luck-based dungeon where you get to fight enemies with random modifiers in a bid to win special prizes. High-level gear to obtain from the new Allagan Tomestones of Aphorism and Astronomy currency. And a plethora of new mounts, minions, crafting materials, and housing items to collect, amongst others.
For those looking for a challenge, there's the Savage Raids and Extreme Trials. These are harder versions of Raids and Trials intended to push hardcore MMO players to their limits. The bosses in these modes hit harder, most of their regular attacks have indicators removed, and will feature brand new attacks and even new phases to the fight.
And if that's not enough, there will be even more content coming soon for Endwalker. Such as Myths of the Realm, a 24-man Alliance Raid series that will involve the patron gods of Eorzea known as the Twelve. There will also be more player Job adjustments, new dungeons, new storylines, and so much more. So, this game has no shortage of endgame content to keep subscribers playing long after completing the main story.
However, there is a caveat to some of the endgame content. There is a weekly limit on how many Tomestones of Astronomy you can acquire. And the tokens you acquire from the Pandaemonium Raid (both normal and Savage modes) that you need to trade for gear are limited to one token from each floor, per week. The Treasure Coffers that reward high-level gear in the Savage Raids can be obtained as many times as you want to depend on how many players there are in the party who haven't done them yet before the weekly reset.
Time gating is a double-edged sword, and hard to balance in MMOs. While it does artificially slow the pace of progression down, which may be frustrating for some players, it also allows more casual players to keep up with the pace of gearing. It contributes to a more level playing field in terms of gear power levels for postgame content, so no one gets left behind — at least in theory. Also, the gear will be made readily through other means in future patches once new raids get added into the game. Thankfully, there's a decent amount of content outside of raids even after you hit the weekly caps.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker was an amazing game filled with laughs, tragedy, triumphs, and ultimately, closure. It had an engaging story, tight gameplay, and a gargantuan amount of worthwhile content to keep players coming back for more. It has problems for sure but compared to the number of positives this game has, they're minor speedbumps in an otherwise fantastic adventure.
If you're a fan of MMORPGs or Final Fantasy fan looking for a good story and fun gameplay, then Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is for you. And if you are a returning player of Final Fantasy XIV, then you will be in an epic welcoming home party.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. Not only has Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker secured Final Fantasy XIV's place as one of the best multiplayer games on PC, but it has also cemented itself as one of my favorite Final Fantasy games of all time.
The Final Days are here
Bottom line: Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is a satisfying conclusion to ten years' worth of stories. It is rife with hundreds of hours' worth of content, tight gameplay, and a fully realized world to explore. MMORPG and Final Fantasy fans will not want to miss out on this epic finale.
Alexander Cope is a writer for Windows Central and iMore that has been gaming since the 16-bit era.
Is this game only on PC or is it on consoles?
It's available on both PS4 and PS5, It was thought as both a PC and Console MMO so the control scheme on console is top notch and should be the industry standard imo
Thanks for the clarification... 1 more question if I may: Can you explain the pay structure?
Monthly subscription fee. Don't bother with the free trial, you'll never be able to actually log in.
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