Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is a Masterpiece.
Man, what an incredible journey the last 4 days have been. Even more than that, what an incredible journey it’s been over the last several years I’ve spent playing this game.
Honestly, going into this I didn’t think there was any way they could top Shadowbringers.
To me, it just wasn’t a realistic expectation to have – Heavensward was such an upgrade over A Realm Reborn, Stormblood was a disappointing sequel to Heavensward, and Shadowbringers hit me as hard as Wrath of the Lich King back in 2008, going on to be one of, if not my favorite MMO expansion of all time.
Endwalker, though? When I started the expansion early Friday morning, and spent several hours running back and forth listening to cutscenes I felt like this was going to be a repeat of Stormblood. Slower–good, but slower.
What I came to realize though, was that Endwalker is just a slow-burn on the way to one of the most unbelievable conclusions in the history of the game.
With that being said, let’s talk about my general experience over the course of the first several days of Early Access.
The game launched early Friday morning for Mrs Stix and I. So we woke up early, set ourselves to log in, and were greeted by a queue of approximately 1,300. This wasn’t bad and we honestly expected pretty lengthy queues given we play on Gilgamesh.
After going for an hour walk and coming home, we were at around 300 people left in front of us in queue, so we showered, came back, and shortly after logged in.
We proceeded to play for 10 hours straight on Friday. There was no lag, there were no disconnects. Zones were filled with an exorbitant number of players everywhere. Since I main Warrior and Mrs Stix mains White Mage, we never had queue times for any content in-game.
Overall, the first day went over without a single issue.
Day 2? We woke up around 11:30 in the morning, got out of bed at around noon, went to log in, and were greeted by 7,000 player queues. Again, expected. That wasn’t an issue. We were glad to go work out, go to the grocery store, get some stuff done for a few hours.
Fast forward 3 to 4 hours later, we’re at around 1,700 players left in queue, and we get hit with an error 2002. We get kicked from the queue, proceed to log back in, and have a queue over over 7,000 again.
At that point, I was frustrated, but Mrs Stix NEEDED to get back in-game and continue playing, even if it meant we played until 5am the next morning. So we requeued. Several hours later, we get error 4004. Then error 2002. Then we can’t even connect to the game for the remainder of the evening.
We were slightly irritated by this, for sure, but we chose to play during such a congested period so that’s our choice.
This continued for part of Sunday and Monday, but after several hours of queueing repetitiously and getting repeated 2002 errors we eventually made it in.
Getting into the game proved to be a more challenging boss than any of the dungeons or trials. But once in-game, it ran flawlessly.
After getting into the game I noticed that whoever was in charge of quest-direction absolutely LOVED having you both escort your NPC Scions around every single new region, unable to mount lest they cease following you, but also.. the quests that have you slowly stalk NPCs embracing your newfound powers of stealth.
Something that I came to realize many people did not possess, as chat was constantly spammed with “I hate this quest,” and “why are there so many escort quests in Endwalker?”
Personally, I hated those. I know that escorting NPCs around gave valuable insight into the area, the quests and at times their personalities, but being forced into those scenarios repeatedly definitely got to be trying after a time.
Admittedly, while I do and I’m sure many players appreciate the additional depth to characters, I haven’t spoken to a single person that enjoyed having to do either.
Apart from those 2 quest types, I can say that every single facet of Endwalker was unbelievably high quality.
There were so many emotional scenes between characters new and old. The new areas looked beautiful. Some of the new areas looked better than anything present in-game up until this point, actually.
Unfortunately as I main Warrior – or tank in specific, I didn’t get the opportunity to experience neither the new Sage nor Reaper classes. They both look highly appealing, but I hate healing in games, and playing DPS is a no-go for me since as a tank if I mess up a mechanic, I don’t insta-die.
So it leaves room for mistakes. And allows for me to recover from them without bringing down the group.
I did get multiple new abilities on my Warrior, though, and feel like they gave me back some of the self-sustain I had pre-Shadowbringers.
I won’t talk about the Trials because… you kinda need to experience them yourself. Suffice it to say, though, the first one was a little difficult, clocking in at around 15 minutes to complete, the second trial took us 45 minutes and the third trial took us 18 minutes.
Now this is likely dependent on your group more than anything else, as different players learn mechanics at different rates. But man those were some absolutely sick encounters.
Dungeons were more or less what you’d expect. Fun, interesting, and a struggle to get DPS to not stand in telegraphed AoE circles.
And I know I said I wouldn’t spoil anything pertaining to the story, but I do want to talk about it overall. This is a game that people play BECAUSE of its story after all, right?
As noted, it started off very slow. It took hours for it to pick up and I was concerned for a little while because I saw no signs of it doing so.
After several hours though, and more so after making it half way through the game it does a complete 180 and turns into such a deep, complex narrative. Takes you places you never thought you’d ever go.
I mean this in the most complimentary way possible, but towards the end it felt as though we were playing through a Shounen Anime. Just one with a competent story.
I don’t recall Mrs Stix crying like she did during Shadowbringers, but the emotion you feel during the game – both happiness, sadness, is definitely triggered repeatedly.
I feel like Final Fantasy XIV – or more specifically both Shadowbringers and Endwalker have taken much more of a “JRPG” approach. They look and feel like they’re designed as JRPGs, and allow for hundreds of players to occupy the same space concurrently.
And personally? I couldn’t ask for a better direction for the game. Being an enormous fan of JRPGs and JRPG franchises like the Dragon Quest, Tales of, Suikoden, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Golden Sun games and just.. so many more.
Some that never got sequels but deserved them like The Legend of Dragoon. Which to date is my favorite JRPG – or rather, RPG of all time.
Endwalker, though. This was something else. Shadowbringers, and then Endwalker have turned Final Fantasy XIV into what is arguably the pinnacle of the MMORPG genre right now.
These 2 expansions have allowed for Final Fantasy XIV to take the crown from World of Warcraft as the most popular MMORPG online right now.
It has proven that narratives in MMOs don’t need to be absurdly convoluted. Or, on the other side of the spectrum: Absent all together. That a story with a focus on a single “hero” can feature many “heroes” all occupying a world together.
That you can become enthralled in an online game, with online features and a focus on co-operative play.
We’ve grown attached to so many characters in this game – Hoary Boulder, that one NPC that happens to be confused as to whether cucumbers are fruit or not.. this game has become a part of our life.
Something that Mrs Stix plays every day, and has played every day for 2 years now. She has completed the majority of the Extreme Trials, Savage Raids and is working on finishing the final Ultimate fights.
I don’t have the capacity for that anymore, given that I have a Youtube channel to work on full-time every single day. And I’m proud that she’s achieved so much in what is arguably the first MMO she’s ever tried to tackle competitively.
Nevertheless, we play this game more often than any other – this has become, to us, “THE” MMORPG. Just as it has for many others.
Seeing the large surge in popularity over the course of the last year has been ridiculous. I know that’s partly in response to the criticism ActiBlizz received and people’s frustration with WoW.
Thankfully, Final Fantasy XIV is probably the closest “quality” title to WoW you can get, so this was an easy title to migrate on over to. And given the immense amount of coverage from streamers, Youtuber’s, social media influencers, it’s only natural that this would happen.
But if you think about it for a second: Even if people bring additional exposure to a game, if it’s a bad game, nobody will play it.
Seeing server queues in the tens of thousands, seeing all the error messages arising, seeing Square scurry under the pressure in an attempt to address everything they can.. while it’s easy to look at all of this and complain, it’s a positive sign.
It means there are that many more people interested in a game you genuinely love. More players equates to more money for the developers which means more money to reinvest back into the game.
I know it’s frustrating being in queues, I do. I’m also aware you may have taken time off for this – and you’re getting repeated errors. I know it’s easy to point fingers and say “But Square, you should’ve known better!”
But at the end of the day they’re doing what they can.
And likewise, at the end of the day, this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in an MMO since back in 2008 with Wrath of the Lich King.
Endwalker, no. Final Fantasy XIV is the closest thing to a masterpiece you’ll get. Endwalker is an incredible expansion, and a fantastic follow-up to Shadowbringers.
I never expected to be as satisfied as I am by the end of the expansion, but man. Color me impressed.