Over 10 years after its disastrous launch Final Fantasy XIV is one of the most discussed MMORPGs in the world today. The story, forged from the ashes of its very public meltdown, will be revealed in a matter of weeks with the release of the End converter Extension. It is the game’s most important release since its revival in 2013 to take the original residents of Eorzea even further around the world. It has big footsteps to fill, and if my diluted experience with a preview build is anything, I’m more certain than ever that the game isn’t exploring the world, but those who exist in it.
Though the bizarre camaraderie of Emet-Selch – the latest in a long line of Ascian adversaries – is everywhere Shadowbringers Refreshed our tolerance of the villains we have repeatedly defeated, the patches that came after that began to pull on rusted strings. To assure us that the End converter Launch is just that (the end of an arc and the first steps to the next), I’m confident the team has the pace to the tee for that pace. You could have dragged things out over another two year patch cycle, but with this release it will all come to an end and leave the preparation for the next expansion to set the stage for another potential 10 years of new storylines – hopefully without an Asian in View.
A stroll through the neighborhood
Everything in my day tour through End converter happened out of context. This wasn’t a foretaste of history. It was stripped naked. Spoiler warning for those who still catch on Shadowbringers, but the end of the expansion gives us a good reason to knock on the door of Old Sharlayan, a place of scholars who rarely want to have anything to do with the rest of the world. When you logged into the university town, a place emerged that was architecturally not surprisingly similar to the dilapidated ruins of the Dravanian hinterland and was practically just as sad to look at at that moment.
I spent a lot of time enjoying the little stone paths and huge doors, but other than the gimmick of seeing them before it was released, there was little reason to hang around. Unless we made friends with them on arrival, the NPCs were way too cheerful; everyone wished me a quick “hello” (or something like that) before setting off. It was clearly just placeholder text, but that’s not how I imagined my first time in this part of the world to be.
Although it was certainly a joy to roam the halls, which are many of the best and brightest Final Fantasy XIV Characters who used to call their home, the blatant omission of every important world building detail on my first trip was admittedly a wet towel on an otherwise exciting day with the future of the game. And the other two zones, Thavnair and Garlemald, reflected that experience. Without any kind of world construction, they are just large, mostly empty shells that ultimately show the age of the game more than we often want to admit. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel – my first taste of combat content.
The first was available in the preview build End converter Dungeon, The Tower of Zot. If you played Final Fantasy IVYou will recognize this as the name of a place with very little tradition. Final Fantasy XIV want to fix that. And we already know a lot about his place in this world. This glowing ziggurat looms over Thavnair and is just one of many that are in Eorzea as the Shadowbringers The story began to sing its swan song. It’s not the most exciting dungeon in the world, and it certainly doesn’t have the celebratory feel and urgency that its counterpart had in the last expansion, but it did provide a good taste of how exhausting the level 80-90 experience could be.
Some will be sad to see a certain group of enemies picked up this early in the story (assuming we see them last), but they put up a good fight and weave their skills together for a final showdown that is the game’s design 101 lesson before testing. Again, it’s not the most exciting place without the right context and final cutscene, but when I did a run with my new preview pals and another one with Trusts, the game’s AI companions, I was totally hooked mindful of those who wanted to try out new jobs and skills. I just didn’t have the time.
The main reason for the preview build, by far, was to test out the game’s new jobs and any new skills and gameplay changes that have been brought to its already massive class offering. Having played a white mage from the start, this was my first port of call and my first source of conflicting emotions.
On paper, End converter doesn’t bring a lot of big changes Shadowbringers brought before. The class-specific job posting will forever be the greatest example of that, and this extension follows suit. Most of the classes have been tweaked slightly rather than redesigned, mainly to add a new skill or two to their rotation.
The day-to-day work of the white mage has changed little, except for a skill that leaves a triggerable healing field in a chosen location to replenish distant teammates and the ability to save some skills like his shielding Divine Benison. They are welcome additions, but not very exciting. And when playing other classes like astrologer, scholar, and red mage, that was largely the case there too. We had major shocks and revisions in post-launch patches. If you expected your class to feel like new in a few weeks, you may want to curb those expectations.
What pleasantly surprised me, however, were the two main classes: The Damaging Reaper and the Barrier Granting Sage. The former completely lost me. It’s hard to get a grip on two dozen new skills in one time. But every time I squashed its buttons enough to maximize its display, it became an incredibly fast, fluid, and eye-catching Edge Lord that I suspect we’ll be seeing plenty of soon. As for Sage, a class in a role that I understand better, it wasn’t playing at all what I expected.
It took what felt like years for white mages to acquire skills at weaving between spells, but that’s all Sage is – a spellcaster, not a slinger. Most of the kit revolves around using one skill to improve a number of others and then using that in specific situations to prepare for other sets of context-based heals, shields, and buffs. It’s incredibly mobile and very refreshing. There has long been a controversy between veterans and newbies that a healer should help cause damage when he can, and Sage seeks to end that debate with a buff that allows him to heal a selected group member by being actually does harm to the enemy.
While my six hour stint in the newest accessible areas of one of my all-time favorite MMOs wasn’t as addicting as I’d hoped, it made me rethink how I first attracted the game and how it shouldn’t have an issue doing this in just one to do again a few weeks.
Designed to run on the now practically retro-styled PlayStation 3, Final Fantasy XIV is committed to making these early design decisions. As the zones have grown in size, they feel largely hollow compared to the early days. Flying mounts play a huge role in this, in my opinion, but in a game this size with content popping up here, there, and everywhere, they’re absolutely essential. But since the preview zones were completely devoid of ancient NPCs to go downstairs and talk to, I had no choice but to simply view the landscape from the sky. And it didn’t really do me much good.
Aside from the main story content, I can’t really remember the last time I really enjoyed the world of Final Fantasy XIV like in the first few years. The capitals will always be a great time to stay. Especially since they have the same facilities as the endgame player centers. But wandering through Dravania, Gyr Abania or even Kholusia has never, in retrospect, managed to regain the original sense of wonder and belonging that Camp Tranquil, Bronze Lake or Vesper Bay had all those years ago.
The way it looks after the preview event, I don’t remember how End converter will turn out to be anyone else in the world. Just like me Shadowbringers. And if the last expansion has proven something, the game’s strengths depend less on the world and more on the story it tells. Endwalker is supposed to be the best of both worlds: A fulfilling conclusion to a decades-long story arc at the start and the basis for the next 10 years.
There’s no telling what the future will bring, but as long as the landing is certain at takeoff, a deal just around the corner will make the outdated aspects of the game less of a concern. There’s a lot to do in a short amount of time, and while it feels quick in the end, it’s sure to be a hell of a roller coaster ride.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker will be released on November 23 for PlayStation 4, PS5 and PC.