Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker Game Review – a brilliant finale of a ten-year history
It is unlikely that after the release of the original Final Fantasy XIV, anyone could have predicted that the game would not only survive – it would be successful and would compete with the great and terrible World of Warcraft for the throne among MMORPGs. After the previous add-on, Shadowbringers, Released in December 2021, the Endwalker add-on proves once again that Square Enix did not spend a lot of effort in vain on reworking an initially half-dead game.
In previous episodes
The history of Final Fantasy XIV can be briefly described with a cliche – “from rags to riches.” In 2010, when version 1.0 was released, the game turned out to be a terrible failure: the Metacritic rating was in the “red” zone, and the fans cursed literally because of everything.
But in 2013, the project was reborn under the name Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and gradually the fourteenth “Final” began to win over the audience: it got better with each addition.
Realm Reborn was not just a reboot for the project – it continued the storyline started in the original FF14 about the confrontation between the Harlean Empire and the inhabitants of the Eurasia continent. The first stage of the war ended in disaster: one of the imperial generals brought down a satellite on the planet, inside of which the dragon Bahamut was imprisoned. The monster that broke free provoked a monstrous cataclysm, the consequences of which have not yet been resolved.
A Realm Reborn continued this story: the events of this version unfolded several years later, and as the story progressed, the players finally stopped the advance of the Garleans.
The first expansion, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, was dedicated to a completely different conflict – the Millennial War of the Dragonsong, in which the northern kingdom called Ishgard was mired. In addition, the authors changed their approach to the plot: there are many more voiced cutscenes in the game, the level of staging has increased, and the number of filler tasks has greatly decreased.
In the second addon, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, the narrative returned to the confrontation between the Empire and the Eorzians: some tried to maintain their presence on a foreign continent and launch a counterattack, and the latter ignited the flames of war against the invaders around the world. In this addon, the authors added many new regions – including the Far East, with its own culture and mythology – seriously improved the gameplay and introduced several characters at once, whose history was fully revealed only in subsequent additions.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood review
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers takes the story even further, finally revealing the true nature of the mysterious antagonists behind most of the world’s disasters, and allowing the hero and his companions to enter a parallel world. In it, thanks to the intervention of all the same Ascian villains, the forces of Light once won, because of which the world almost died: due to an imbalance, the Light flooded almost the entire world, leaving only a small piece of land suitable for life. The Warrior of Light, the hero of Eorzea and the player’s character, having arrived in this world, was forced to restore the normal order of things and return the night to people. However, the main thing that was in this edition was the acquaintance with key persons in the ranks of the antagonists and their history.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers review
Returning from another world with a victory, the hero discovers that everything has gone topsy-turvy at home. The Garlean empire is falling apart, the villains are planning to resurrect their dark deity, and soon the real apocalypse will overtake the world. It is during this turbulent time that the events of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker kick off.
What Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is about
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is the culmination of a decade of story and storytelling over 500 hours. The add-on puts an end to all the main storylines of the game, capturing, it seems, absolutely all the stories and all the characters that flashed in the plot of the fourteenth Finale. Events from previous expansions; decisions the characters made hundreds of hours ago; heroes who might not be remembered in other games – all this one way or another is in the plot of Endwalker.
But calling the story some kind of super original or unusual will not work with all your desire: certain details will definitely seem familiar to you, and the topics have been found in many other games. But at the same time, the game manages to squeeze everything out of even rather banal scenes.
The warriors of Eorzia have finally invaded the territory of the Empire, which, due to the actions of the villains, is in ruins – and none of the local residents believe in their good intentions, in general. They view the intruders as barbarians seeking to destroy the Imperial way of life, and misunderstandings and tragic situations regularly arise.
The heroes trying to stop the Crown Prince of the Empire Zenos and the last Ascian Fandaniel are forced to work on several fronts at once – they need to deal with the villains, help the surviving civilians, and look for ways to prevent the end of the world. Of course, not everything goes smoothly, and sometimes the characters make mistakes, some of which only aggravate the situation around them.
Endwalker unfolds very gradually: the game does not hesitate to slow down in some places where it would be more logical to increase it, and give the player a short respite after an exhausting fight – and then throw him into the abyss of despair. Natsuko Ishikawa (the main scriptwriter of the game) succeeds in playing in contrast perfectly – however, this was clear from Shadowbringers, on which she also worked.
For someone, perhaps, such an approach to the scenario, on the contrary, will seem like a minus: what kind of respite can there be in the midst of the end of the world? In part, one can agree with such claims, but these few moments of calm turn out to be very important for history.
For example, towards the end of the expansion, the authors do not just change the situation – they send players to the past so that they can personally learn about what led to the current conflict. This episode lasts several hours, consists almost entirely of dialogue, and allows you not only to understand how it all began but also re-acquaints you with several key characters of the game. And at the same time, it gives almost the best cutscene of 2021 and demonstrates how well the authors remember their game (spoiler: they remember it wonderfully, and even managed to tie the main theme of the original game to the plot of Endwalker).
How Final Fantasy XIV is played
The fourteenth Finale is a classic MMORPG: run around the world, exterminate monsters, do quests, and clear dungeons. For the most part, you will play alone, groups are needed only in dungeons, raids, and “trials” – special mini-dungeons where there are only bosses. Moreover, starting with Shadowbringers, the game allows you to go through dungeons with a team of story NPCs, which, even without your participation, can perfectly close everything.
Activity in dungeons depends on your class. Tanks hold opponents; healers – heal; damage dealers, respectively, are busy beating up monsters. But all members of the group should deal damage, not just damage dealers. That is, tanks should dodge AoE attacks so as not to add work to the healer, as well as regularly burn special skills to reduce incoming damage. Damage dealers must be able to position themselves to deal maximum damage, while healers are simply required to monitor the health of not only the enemy but allies.
The game can be divided into several large blocks. The first is the plot, which will keep you busy for 400-600 hours (depending on how fast you read). The second is third-party activities, like completing raids. They are not required to understand the plot, but some of them provide an additional portion of information and reveal more deeply what is happening. The third is the leveling of all possible classes, including crafters and gatherers.
Add to this the ability to build your own house, a huge casino with a bunch of mini-games, PvP, and bagel dungeons – and you get a huge amount of content for the most demanding taste. Final Fantasy XIV has plenty to do for those who just want to play through the story, as well as hardcore MMORPG fans who love raids and challenging challenges.
How content has changed
Everything is pretty standard for an MMORPG addon – the authors added six new large locations (a couple of them are guaranteed to surprise you), several dungeons and trials with key addon bosses, two classes – a healer and a damage dealer – and a rebalance of existing characteristics and skills. For example, the authors cut the values of health and damage several times; almost completely remade the summoner (Summoner); rebalanced all other classes (somewhere good, somewhere not so good – the dark knight, my key, and favorite tank, in addition, they were very offended by new skills).
Dungeons came out cool, trials too; and after the first of them, which opens at level 83, I want to ask if this is the final. By this point, players should be able to handle the selected class at a normal level – know the rotation of skills, be able to position themselves, and not stand in AFK at all, pressing a couple of buttons once a minute. For such behavior, you will not be patted on the head, and they will swear: the bosses in Endwalker are not simple.
The locations also want to be exclusively praised, not least due to their diversity: the Moon, the Indian-inspired Tavnair, and the snowy expanses of the Garlean Empire – each map is made in its own style and you won’t be able to confuse it with something else with all your desire.
Some of the content, however, is not yet in the add-on: both raids, for 8 and 24 people, will appear in post-release patches, new dungeons, trials, and a new storyline will appear there, which is no longer connected with Heidelin and Zodiark. As before, the patches will stretch over the next year and a half (for a major update every 3-4 months), so if you want complex content that will require all your strength and skills, then come back later. In the same case, if you need a story from FF14, then you can start right now because the story has come to an end.
Traffic jams from players
Square Enix has had a real “suffering from success”, resulting in hell happening on the servers. To play at a European data center, you need to get in line either early in the morning or at two o’clock in the morning – during the day and in the evening the queues are too huge, and you can also fly out of it by catching a connection error to the server.
New Square servers cannot be purchased due to a shortage of semiconductors, as a result of which the authors decided to prohibit new players from buying the game and trying the free starter version.
However, sooner or later the excitement will subside, the queues will become smaller and the players will be able to enter without any problems – and then it will be possible to start their journey through Eorzea.
Endwalker is both the best entry point in FF14 and the worst. The best one is because this is the finale of a ten-year story, after which a completely new story arc will begin. Many hours of fascinating history, wonderful characters, interesting trials – it’s all here and captivates in earnest. The worst is due to access problems. But there will most likely not be big rebalances in the next year or two – so you will have time to get used to the classes you need and learn how to play them.
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