There’s only one month to wait until the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, the expansion that will conclude the game’s first saga and the tale of Hydaelyn and Zodiark. The excitement surrounding the story arc is only getting more intense the closer we get to the release, but soon enough we’ll finally be able to experience the finale together.
Ahead of the launch of the expansion, I was invited to the Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Media Tour where I experienced roughly eight hours worth of content from the upcoming expansion, including the latest Jobs, a brand new dungeon, and several major new locations we’ll be visiting.
As part of his opening remarks, Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida gave a few words about how the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of those working on the game as well as those who play it. “Japan is also in a pretty tough situation,” he said. “However, even in such adversity, medical practitioners around the world are working incredibly hard for our safety. They continue their fight against the virus, which is extremely straining, both mentally and physically. It’s because of their commendable efforts that we’ve been able to continue development, and we’ve been receiving messages of thanks from players around the world.
“They’ve told us that they appreciate the opportunity to have fun through games as a form of entertainment. Moreover, with Final Fantasy XIV as an MMORPG, they were also thankful to be able to meet friends remotely in-game. This has only been possible thanks to the immense support of everyone in the medical community. Even if it is just through these opening remarks, through this media tour I’d very much like to express my gratitude to them. Thank you so much.”
Disclaimer: What I played was a pre-release build that has not undergone final adjustments. All content I experienced is subject to significant change.
New location: Old Sharlayan
One of the most anticipated locations to be introduced in Endwalker is Old Sharlayan, an isolated archipelago to the North. Plenty of times throughout the course of the game, the city blessed by the deity Thaliak, has been mentioned by characters who have personal links and history with it. It was also teased heavily at the end of Shadowbringers and will most likely be the first place we’ll visit in Endwalker. Whilst playing the demo, I had the chance to explore Old Sharlayan in all its glorious detail, and I’m happy to say I was impressed.
Its gleaming white structures stand out amongst the trees that surround them while citizens roam the cobbled streets living their everyday lives. Not only is this location stunning in its architectural design, but it’s also a sight to see in its scale as well; I would say it’s comparable to The Crystarium. I found multiple areas of the map that are dedicated to the Sharlayan’s accumulated knowledge, places that just seem to team with lore, such as its enormous library named the Noumenon and “the world’s most prestigious place of learning” called the Studium. Even more exciting, I discovered The Leveilleur Estate within the housing district, an ornate mansion with butlers and home to Alphinaud and Alisaie’s father, Fourchenault.
New regions: Thavnair and Garlemald
Throughout my time with the demo, I was also able to explore several zones within Thavnair and Garlemald, two of the major regions that will make their debut in Endwalker. After seeing the concept art earlier this year, the first place I decided to visit was Thavnair, a wealthy trading nation and the birthplace of Alchemy. Upon setting foot in Thavnair, I was blown away by its high contrast hues and its beautiful structures that stand out atop mountains. Even though I wasn’t able to explore Thavnair’s newest city, Radz-at-Han, I was allowed to tour the stunning landscapes that surrounded it. Like all open areas in the MMO, most landmarks were accessible to me as I traversed the environment, landmarks that I stopped to ogle at for far too long – if we’re being honest. Simply, the world feels alive, beasts roam hilltops while the people of Thavnair collect together within small towns by the ocean to go about their daily routines. It’s one of the most gorgeous locations the game has introduced thus far.
Then there’s Garlemald. Before reaching the zone, I already had preconceptions of what the capital of the Garlean Empire would look like. An imposing nation to the North we’ve only seen glimpses of before, in addition to the home to the Warrior of Light’s foe, Lord Zenos. But what I experienced during my playtime took me by surprise.
What I discovered instead was a desolated metropolis featuring remnants of urban living along with a modern railroad. The area is almost pitch black while a blanket of snow covers everything in sight while a black castle that looked like something out of a work of horror loomed over the city below. As I walked through the rubbled streets that were overrun by monsters, I discovered abandoned homes of ordinary citizens of the capital city while its survivors hid underground from the dangers above.
I would liken Garlemald’s tone to that of NieR: Automata with its post-destruction city you’ll never get to experience while it was bustling with people and accompanied by the most melancholic music. Whereas Thavnair made me excited to explore its vibrant lands filled to the brim with colour and life, Garldemald emanates the feeling of sadness.
New jobs: Reaper and Sage
Another expansion means brand new Jobs and this time around, Endwalker will introduce the Reaper, a melee DPS class and Sage, the latest support and healer. I spent around eight hours experimenting with both these Jobs, however, I personally spent the majority of my time with Reaper. This Job is honestly just exhilarating to play with its almost hack and slash gameplay style, and compared to previous melee classes, Reaper is definitely the most unique among them.
As a melee DPS Job, it relies on its basic rotation which will then offer even more attacks you’ll gain from filling up your Shroud Gauge. Alongside all this, Reaper is also able to summon an avatar with the Blood Stalk, Gluttony and Grim Swathe abilities, letting you deliver high potency attacks to one or more targets. This companion can be summoned by successfully pulling off combos and can aid you in a battle for a short time.
Reaper also has another ability called Enshrouded which allows you to “offer your flesh as a vessel to your avatar” and transform into an almost shadow version of yourself. While in this form, you’re able to go absolutely wild with your attacks for a certain amount of time. Unlocking this skill, which also requires you to strengthen your Shroud Gauge, is one of the most enticing parts of playing Reaper and is generally what made the Job stand out for me during my playtime – not to mention it just looks cool as hell. The multiple burst attacks that unlock while in this form are some of Reaper’s biggest damage dealers, granting you enough power to take down a single mob in just a few combos, pair that with its gap-closer ability, it makes it a vital part of the Job’s rotation.
On the other hand, there’s Sage which, in short, is by far the best support Job to be added to Final Fantasy XIV. Sage’s Gauge is called Addersgall which, when filled, can be used to execute certain healing and shield spells. The Gauge builds stacks of something called Addersting when the barrier effect of an ability called is absorbed, meaning you can use the Addersting stacks to execute two massive damage-dealing spells. Alongside this, we have the Eukrasia Gauge which can be used to enhance the effects of the Job’s three core abilities when active.
Sage’s healing combined with its damage proficiency is what makes the Job so engaging. At first, I found the abundance of healing abilities Sage has to be a little intimidating, but like most Jobs in Final Fantasy XIV, the more I played the more I understood the basics and the importance of its healing dependencies. It has a nice blend of direct and AoE healing as well as DPS spells, all of which will deal high potency damage. As someone who doesn’t like to play the Healer role too often in dungeons and raids, Sage is definitely something I can see myself levelling and playing at max level in the future – plus, every spell is as flashy as you might expect.
New dungeon: The Tower of Zot
We were also treated to a complete look at one of Endwalker’s first dungeons named The Tower of Zot. I first want to gush about how amazing the inside of the dungeon looks. My party and I agreed how reminiscent of H.R. Giger the interior structure felt as we travelled upwards in a spiral towards the final boss. At times, it felt as if I were inside the Derelict spaceship from the classic Alien film, recognisable by its nightmarish design. Now let’s get into the dungeon content. The Tower of Zot is a three-FF7stage dungeon and features the three Magus Sisters who are best known for their appearance in Final Fantasy IV. The first boss I encountered was Minduruva and, in all honesty, I was taken aback by how tough it was.
Compared to any other boss you may encounter in Shadowbringers, The Tower of Zot seemed to deliver a new sort of challenge by using more intricate mechanics, so it did take my party a fair few attempts to clear the first boss. But the challenge didn’t stop there. Although we had an easier time beating the second sister, Sanduruva, it was the final fight that was the real deal. We were pit against all three Magus Sisters, including Cinduruva. Along with brand new mechanics we had to learn, the previous Sisters showed up to throw theirs in the mix as well, making for a rather complex time.
The Tower of Zot was tough in the sense that the number of mechanics thrown at us really made us step up our game. Despite the fact that we wiped a whole bunch of times, that doesn’t mean the dungeon wasn’t also tons of fun. Later on, I even tried The Tower of Zot one more time by using the Trust System, which was a much more breezy time, and had just as much enjoyment.
After finishing up my time with the Endwalker preview, I can say for certain that my excitement for the upcoming expansion has only grown. Just from the small section of gameplay I got to experience, I can tell from so much care and attention has gone into creating the story’s final act. The gameplay feels polished, the stunning environments are swimming in history ready to be uncovered, and the single dungeon I got to play feels like an advancement on the game’s already unparalleled instance design. I can only imagine what else the finale has in store for us.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker launches on November 23 for PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.