By Leah McDonald / January 20th, 2022
Role Quests return, this time with a separate ranged physical and melee DPS and offering. Combining them was always a bit of a confusing choice in Shadowbringers, so it was nice to have them separated. It also means more time with characters we’ve come to know and love throughout our journey in Eorzea and beyond, and the Role Quests this time around return the Warrior of Light to previous zones, including Ishgard for magic DPS; Ul’dah and Gyr Abania for healers; Doma for ranged physical DPS; Limsa Lominsa for melee; and Gridania for tanks. Having the chance to go on adventures with old friends was such a nice touch and wrapped up a lot of loose ends that created a really satisfying ending to these stories.
The basics of the game remain the same: we still have the Duty Finder and Raid Finder; leveling through roulettes and FATES; and an assortment of MSQ and sidequests, both of which offer enough experience points to level two jobs easily to 90. Dungeons were on the whole a bit under-tuned, but I enjoyed several of the boss mechanics, particularly in the first and last story dungeons. I’m hoping later dungeons offer a bit more complexity and difficulty, but this expansion provided a lot of variety in combat encounters and I appreciate that. Plus, as a healer main, there are some actual heal checks and I always love those.
Music and Sound
As anyone who has played Final Fantasy XIV knows, Masayoshi Soken is a god and so his music and sound design get their own entry. Endwalker absolutely hits it out of the park in terms of sound. Square Enix cannot sell me this soundtrack fast enough. Please, let me give you my money. Of all the game’s expansions, Endwalker feels the most robust, with an assortment of themes and motifs that run the gamut in terms of musical styles. Each zone has such a distinct and vibrant sound. I’m especially a fan of the music in Thavnair, with its reliance on groovy beats, bouncy woodwinds, and vocals to create an energetic and funky sound that I just love. I don’t think there’s a piece of music I dislike in Endwalker and all of it is eminently listenable. I’ve had the main theme, “Endwalker,” and its trailer variation “Endwalker: Footfalls,” on loop for months now. They are, by far, my favorite expansion themes, and rank right up there with “Answers.”
I’d be remiss not to mention the sound design for both RPR and SGE, which compliment the feel of both jobs wonderfully. SGE especially shines with its mechanical, zippy robotic lasers that would absolutely feel at home in a Gundam show (fittingly, of course). RPR’s scythe connects to enemies with a satisfying schink that’s hard to convey in words but sounds instantly appealing. Sound design is easy to miss when it’s done well, but it deserves credit for giving jobs that extra oomph, and both RPR and SGE deliver.
The elephant in the room is, obviously, the server issues that continue to plague Endwalker, though not nearly to the extent they did in those first two weeks. The dreaded 2002 error, coupled with 90ks make for an aggravating queue, especially during prime-time hours. I don’t wholly fault Square Enix for this, considering the lengths they went to try and shore up their server infrastructure before launch, but this also isn’t the first time they’ve severely underestimated interest in their own game. That being said, the team was clearly aware of the issues and did what they could to stabilize the servers, going so far as to finally fix a bug that’s been in the game since 1.0, and I appreciate their continued efforts to make Endwalker a fantastic experience for as many players as possible.
Other issues I have, include some potency tweaks, especially with SGE and SMN, as well as a few concerns with the story, which I don’t want to touch on too much here for spoilers. I overall really loved Endwalker‘s narrative, but I did feel some themes could have been handled better, there were some pacing problems, particularly in the back half of the game, and I really wanted to see some characters get more time to shine. The overuse of new gameplay elements is a trend with every new expansion and this was evident here, too. The game also suffered some really strange bugs when using the companion system, and there were a few times when playing, where animations would clip or end abruptly, which was jarring. One of the more annoying issues also comes from sound popping and cracking, as well as cutting out all together.
Despite any issues I had with the game, though, Endwalker was an experience I cherish, not only as a longtime Final Fantasy XIV player, but as someone who loves the power stories have to explore difficult subjects, but still affirm the beauty of humanity. Endwalker made me angry, sad, joyful and everything in between throughout its runtime. It’s been absolutely brilliant, and I am forever thankful for the chance to experience this story and this world.
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