Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Impression
At the end of September, Square Enix started its Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker media tour. As a big fan of everything Final Fantasy XIV has achieved as first an MMORPG and secondly a game as a whole, I was delighted to be able to partake in an early build and get a look at some of the early parts of the expansion, as well as the changes and advancements to all the job classes. Final Fantasy XIV first released in 2010 and had a troubled first few years, but its 2014 A Realm Reborn overhaul and the wealth of new content it has received since then has seen it become one of the genre’s shining beacons of an experience that can be open to many forms of players and the stories they create. Endwalker — which releases worldwide on November 23, 2021 — brings about an end of many of the current story elements that started back in that original incarnation of the game, while leading players towards its future endeavors.
The press event started with an introductory presentation by Final Fantasy XIV developer and producer Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi-P. He started off by giving credit to all the medical professionals out there, how he has received so much feedback about how FFXIV has given them a place to come and relax. A person who works in the medical field, I was greatly appreciative of this and share the thoughts of those who reached out. From there he went into the current state of the game. Final Fantasy XIV is currently considered a core business asset for Square Enix and is currently boasting a player count of over 24 million from its 11 years of service. A lot of this is thanks to its very passionate community and the general welcoming atmosphere that it has for new and returning players to the game. The game even currently boats the world record for the longest credits in a video game.
As for content coming in the expansion, Naoki Yoshida said Endwalker would feature the most content put into a base expansion in comparison to previous expansions. Additional points specifically touched on included male Viera, the additional housing coming to Ishgard, the new housing lottery system, the Oceania data center, and data center travel. He did say there would be a future Live Letter presentation that will go into even more detail about aspects that have yet to be fully revealed.
A big portion of the introductory message was spent on the number scaling that is being done for Endwalker. This is being done for four different reasons: number overflow, the amount of scrolling combat text on screen, the enmity limit threshold, and the amount of health the bosses were getting (current end-game bosses have 440 million). All these big numbers were stated to have an effect on the stability of the game. The plan right now was to put all the numbers to about one-fifth of their current values, for example a black mage casting Fire IV for 100k damage would see this number reduced to 20k. This change is also going to be affecting experience values as well.
The Trust system, added in the previous Shadowbringers expansion, will also receive many adjustments and improvements. The plan was for the Trust system to receive further advancements and to be even further expanded into 6.1 and beyond. Naoki Yoshida implied that this system may be instituted earlier in the game so that players who are very uncomfortable partying with others may be able to use it to experience the story of the game, as that is one of the main focuses of Final Fantasy XIV.
After this introduction, it was time for everyone to log in and get started with the hands-on portion of the preview. We all had pre-generated characters to play with everyone starting as a male Viera but having Fantasia potions to let them change races. Pretty much everyone did, which became a bit of a laugh among the participants. I changed to an Au Ra and proceeded to go straight to my favorite job class, Red Mage, to get a sense of how the changes affected something I was familiar with.
Red Mage received some pretty big overhauls in regards to how the Mana Gauge timing works, as well as its ability rotation. The change of VerHoly and VerFlare, as well as its follow-up ability Scorch, to being AoEs is smooth. The new ability that can now follow from Scorch is a line AoE called Resolution. Square Enix has also reduced the melee combo’s total mana usage from 80 to 50, which allows it and the chains off it to be used much more frequently. The melee combo also now grants charges that lead into the use of VerHoly/VerFlare, Scorch, and Resolution. This lets players be more flexible and not need to always do all three abilities back-to-back as before. Manafiction also gets one additional stack (increased from 5 to 6), which allows for a bigger burst window. The last big change to Red Mage was a party defensive buff called Magic Barrier, which provides a reduction of party damage taken by 10% and increases healing received by 5%.
Following Red Mage I tested out Reaper. I didn’t do quite as deep a dive into Reaper as I had with Red Mage, only because there is so much to unpack for a new job and trying to figure out how all its abilities interact with each other was interesting. What I was able to figure out is that it is a class built around heavy cleaves. Nearly all its attacks are either AoE or cleaves, which which be very handy in killing enemies in a group. I think the most interesting area where it acts differently to most other melee classes is that its one single-target ranged ability is actually a cast and not an instant ability like those of others. This class, along with Sage, feels like it is geared towards more skillful players with its play style, especially when one adds in its Enshroud ability, which causes the class’ Voidsent “companion” to possess the player. Repear is not a pet class though, as the abilities that involve the Voidsent are all part of its toolkit at all times.
Next, I tried out Sage. Sage is the new healer and falls into the new barrier healer group. It’s very interesting in how it combines healing with offensive abilities. It clearly gets full utilization as part of a party, and will be another class with a pretty high skill ceiling. One of the most interesting aspects of Sage is that one of its abilities will only function once its barrier has been destroyed. The class as a whole though is very flashy with both its heals and offensive abilities.
The last class I played around with was Summoner. This class is getting a significant overhaul in Endwalker from its current iteration as it forms part of the pure healer group. The changes allow for the summoning of versions of actual Primals fought in Final Fantasy XIV (Garuda, Titan, Ifrit) instead of just images, or Egis. The summons act much like they do in many of the classic Final Fantasy games where they appear for a one-off big attack. Summoners then gain access a couple of abilities that do damage in a style similar to that summon for a short period of time. Some things remain, however, and players still have access to both Bahamut and Phoenix in their current incarnation. Between those changes and the removal of damage-over-time abilities from the job it felt more responsive and easier to follow as there’s no longer a need to keep track of three different things at once. My one big hope is that with this new implementation will allow the development team to work in more actual summons to be used later, but that is just a personal desire.
After setting up classes and testing out abilities, it was time to hit the part of world that was made available to us. We had three places that we could visit: Thavnaria, Sharlayan, and Garlemeld. The initial spawn point when we first logged in was in Sharlayan. This is one of the major hubs for the expansion. Walking around the pathways was pretty straightforward. Buildings all gave the sense of majestic beauty being created with white marble slabs. Of course, we have seen this architectural style before during Heavensward in Heavensward’s Idyllshire; however, seeing it in pristine condition was impressive.
The cost of teleporting is being uncapped from its current 999 gil, so players will see an increase in fast travel costs. However, the costs aren’t too restrictive as going from Sharlayan to Thavnaria cost about 1200 gil. The change to also make travel between points within the same zone only 100 gil per teleport is welcome, although we were provided with flying mounts so getting around the non-city zones was actually pretty simple.
The next area that we were able to explore appeared to be one of the first zones players will visit in Endwalker, Thavnaria. This island is often referred to “the near east”. This island has a lot of lush plains and jungles, with mountains providing a layered effect and color variation. This was also where we primarily tested out abilities with training dummies. The area gives off a lot of vibes reminiscent of India and Sri Lanka, though no quests were in the build that we played so understanding more of the zone will have to wait.
The last zone that we had access to was Garlemeld. This zone appears to be a mid-expansion zone, based on the monster levels I ran into. The landscape is very desolate, with lots of ruins and decay all over the area. Looming over the entire zone was what I can only assume to be the castle now being occupied by Zenos. This area is a desolate snowfield everywhere you look, giving it an aura of bleak foreboding. There is still some life here, including an underground train station that has been converted into a town.
Several Hunts were available in the preview build. However, with the limited number of people participating, some of the Hunts saw the tables very quickly turned on those of us who were allegedly “hunting”. I saw two in Garlemeld, a White Treant and a Mecha Ape enemy, and one horse-like creature in Thavnaria. These fights were indeed a challenge — in one case with nearly everyone managing to be one-shotted — but they were also a lot of fun.
The last thing we had access to during the preview was the first dungeon of the expansion. This dungeon is one that was briefly shown during Fan Fest and looks like the inside of a living organism. I wasn’t sure what I was initially expecting before going in but this dungeon definitely plays with some of the dungeon design philosophies we saw during Shadowbringers. It uses a lot of areas that only open up after killing groups of enemies. This will also be one of the first instances where the last boss is multiple enemies taken on at the same time. I won’t give away the name of the dungeon or who those bosses are, but I know people will be super excited when they encounter it and its bosses, as it all ties into the theme of the dungeon.
I did the dungeon using the Trust system where NPC characters join the player for story dungeons. Although there has been discussion about improvements to the Trust system, the only notable change I could feel was whomever was designated as the healer, which for this instance was Alphinaud, was doing more AoE healing and single healing to the player. The Trust system still feels like a a great way to be introduced to dungeons and how each bosses mechanics work as the NPCs that are with you do a great job of telegraphing upcoming threats or necessary actions.
I am super excited for Endwalker’s release next month. From my experience with all the previous entries in the Final Fantasy series and all the time I have spent in Final Fantasy XIV up to this point, I am expecting to see both references to Final Fantasy of the past but also the future direction for Final Fantasy XIV. Noaki Yoshida was already indicating that they have an idea of how the game will continue for the next ten years, and if the last ten years is anything to go by, the new vision of Final Fantasy XIV is one to be very excited about seeing come into fruition.
Disclosure: This article is based on an in-development build of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, content in the final version is subject to change.