Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion, Endwalker, is finally almost here and according to producer and director Naoki Yoshida, it will be the biggest expansion to date, dwarfing even Shadowbringers.
At a recent digital media event, invitees were given the opportunity to explore a small sliver of what will be featured in Endwalker. Namely, we got to run around three new regions, a new dungeon, and also, take the two new jobs (Sage and Reaper) out for a spin.
During our hands-on time with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, we wanted to focus our time on exploring each of the three new areas, Garlean Empire, Thavanir, and Old Sharlayan, get some time game time in with the new jobs to get a sense of how they feel to play, while also taking a detour over to Summoner, a job that has received an intense rework to see how that turned out.
Let’s start by talking about the new areas.
A Tale of Three Cities – New Endwalker Areas
During the demo, we got to explore, to our heart’s content, two open areas and the new major hub city, Sharlayan. All three give off widely contrasting vibes and feelings.
Endwalker will finally take us to the Garlean empire which, by the time of our arrival, has completely imploded, as is the fate of most great empires. We don’t appear to be destined to march our way through a Garlean Empire in its prime, liberating cities left and right on our way to the imperial palace. Instead, Zenos, Fandaniel, and the infighting caused by their self-serving leadership have done the heavy lifting for us.
The Garlemald zone we got to explore showed the empire in complete ruin. Rogue magiteks wander abandoned city streets that are now nothing but burned-up rubble at this point.
Yoshida told Twinfinite that one of the major points that he wanted to hit home is that while we’re used to thinking of the Garlean Empire, their leaders, and their army as our enemy, it’s important to remember that there are lots of regular Garleans, only driven by a desire to live a normal life, that are now suffering through no fault of their own. This is something the player character and the Scions will need to grip with as they press forward into the Garlean Empire in Endwalker.
On the other hand, the media preview allowed us to explore Thavnair, which is a totally different vibe. X is bright, colorful, and teaming with life. It’s a beautiful zone that you wish you could just visit in real life. There are small trading camps set up, a majestic and massive temple-looking to gawk at, and everything on the surface seems idyllic.
However, Yoshida alluded to Twinfinite that while everything looks perfect here, the story will illuminate how not everything is what it seems. This is emphasized by the very ominous-looking tower that has sprouted out from the ocean and is the location of the Tower of Zot dungeon (more on that shortly)
Finally, we arrive at the big hub city, Sharlayan, which will likely be everyone’s new favorite cozy place in Final Fantasy XIV once Endwalker drops.
The ruins of the Sharlayan colony in the Dravian Hinterlands were just a small taste of how gorgeous and majestic the real thing is.
For much of my time there it was a snowy seaport town, with a very chill, relaxing soundtrack and vibe. It never felt like it was bitter cold there like it does in Ishgard, but just light snow that politely dotted the city. At any point, you could duck inside and enjoy the building’s warm, extravagant interiors, filled with comfy furniture, books, and other luxuries.
You’ll likely want to spend just as much time outside, though, marveling at Scholar’s Harbor, where a massive statue rivaling the Colossus of Rhodes looms over the glistening sea.
Although we couldn’t interact with any NPCs, likely to prevent spoilers, we could visit where the Forum will gather, Sharlayan’s elected body which will likely play a key part in the Sharlayan end of the Endwalker story.
Also located in the city is the home of Alisaie and Alphinaud. It’s a mansion, and perhaps the nicest place in the whole city; I’m going to guess that it will be a source of embarrassment for Alisaie and Alphinaud, who tend to live and act modestly.
Each of these three locations was very different from one another and gives me hope that Endwalker will continue Final Fantasy XIV’s excellent track record of providing diverse and interesting places to visit.
The Tower of Zot – New Endwalker Dungeon
As some people presumed, one of the new dungeons will feature inside one of the mysterious towers that have emerged all around Eorzea thanks to Fandaniel.
This particular tower exists in Thavnair (seen above) and is called the Tower of Zot, an homage to Final Fantasy IV which Endwalker is known to borrow from.
The Tower of Zot, as Urianger puts it, is a foul place. It’s wretched and twisted looking, and powerful magical entities will attempt to block you from reaching the top.
Without proper story context, it’s a bit difficult to pin down exactly what is going on in the Tower of Zot aside from presuming that the Scions are trying to learn about how to either destroy these towers, or at very least, learn more about their nature. However, Krile does remark that she wants to free “poor Nidhana” likely a new character that we’ll eventually meet in the story of Endwalker. To the bosses that you’ll come across, this place is sacred somehow, commenting on how we’re “desecrating this place.”
A fun easter egg for Final Fantasy IV players is that as you climb the tower you’ll come across each one of the Magus Sisters, and then, by the time that you reach the top, you’ll need to face off against all three in a chaotic final boss fight.
In the fight, you’ll need to fight against all three of them at once, each using abilities that you’re familiar with at that point. You’ll just need to find a way to dodge all of the attacks going off at once and whittle them down one by one.
It’s a classic Final Fantasy-style fight that at first, seems incredibly difficult, but as you defeat the sisters will slowly become easier and less chaotic.
Reaper & Sage – New Endwalker Jobs
In our limited experience messing around with Reaper and Sage in the new areas, the two jobs fell on two ends of a spectrum.
Sage, the new barrier healing job, felt very natural to jump in and figure out, even without prior healing experience. The most I’ve ever healed in Final Fantasy XIV was during the Stormblood-era. I capped out Astrologian and loved playing it before the dev team simplified the job with Shadowbringers. I haven’t healed since.
This job, though, is going to absolutely appeal to the (hopefully large) subset of players that understands and enjoys that Healers can and should DPS too. Sage rewards DPSing most directly considering it’s pretty much required for the job to function.
The job is heavily inspired by modern medicine giving its presumed connection to Sharlayan. Sages build up two different types of charges while playing called Serpent’s Gall and Serpent’s Sting.
The Gall bar will charge automatically and can be expended to gain access to powerful instant heals with damage reductions.
The Sting bar will charge as the shields you put on allies are broken down and will allow you to cast useful DPS spells to keep the battles moving quickly.
The Kardia ability is key to the job’s basic function as well. You can use Kardia on a single ally and cure them as you deal damage; a dream skill for any healers that love to DPS.
Eukrasia is another action you’ll be using quite frequently. After popping it, it will augment your basic healing and DPS attacks to have new effects such as applying barriers and adding a DPS effect to your basic attack, Dosis.
These basic actions form the foundation of the Sage job, allowing you to heal while doing light DPS, apply barriers, and as those barriers get knocked down, turn up the DPS even higher.
Of the two jobs we got to test, Sage feels the one most well-suited to newer or less experienced players. In fact, it seems like it may be a great first-time healer job. It basically demands that players mix in healing and DPS spells together in order to even function, and these learned skills can be applied to other healing obs where the DPS spells are a bit more nuanced and less intertwined with the healing.
On the other hand, Reaper is far more complex, at least going into it blind as we did in the media event. Unlike Sage which has a playstyle that experienced Healers at the very least should be able to settle into no problem, Reaper has a playstyle that is quite unique even among a crowded DPS category.
Reaper has a ton of actions and traits that evolve and get enhanced as you build up Reaper’s two gauges Soul Gauge and Shroud Gauge. On top of that, it has a decent amount of positional actions that are worked into the mix too.
You’ll need to use actions to generate Soul Gauge, the Soul Gauge can then be expended to perform powerful abilities that will eventually build up your Shroud Gauge. Once you’ve built up your Shroud Gauge enough, you can become the embodiment of the Reaper itself and turn into a DPS monster for a short period of time, giving you access to the Reaper’s most powerful skills.
The result is a job that is extremely busy and likely will have a fairly complex/long rotation with lots of little things to remember and consider as battles progress and the number of enemies changes. Personally, as cool as the job looks, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is still new to the game; someone that maybe just got into FFXIV over the last few months as it has grown exponentially.
In fact, I tend to recommend ranged/magical-DPS as they tend to be a bit more forgiving and allow players to get a more bird-eyes view of difficult fights instead of being right in the thick of things. This leads us nicely to what some may consider the “3rd new job” in Endwalker.
Summoner Rework – The ‘Third New Job’
I’m a Summoner main, so after spending a little bit of time with Sage and Reaper, it wasn’t long before I switched over to my favorite job. I needed to see what it was like to be an actual Summoner in Final Fantasy XIV and not a DoT job that calls out a Smol Ifrit, a man in a thong, and a chicken every now and again.
I joke around, but I never hated the DoT part of Summoner. It felt good to play… it just didn’t feel very Summoner-like. I hope that they repackage what Summoner once was and use it for a Onmyoji /Oracle type of class that has been tossed around by the dev team in the past. Magical DPS jobs are due for a new addition, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the route they go.
I digress, new Summoner felt great to play, but it’s definitely a bit simpler now than it was before. Before, Summoners had to not only work their way through a rotation that included Dreadwyrm Trance, Bahamut Phase, and Pheonix Phase, but also keep an eye on their DoTs, Ruin 4 procs, and more.
While the rotation is now even longer with this reworked Summoner, it feels more straightforward. You’re going to be cycling through all three of the original summons now: Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda. At level 90, they will spawn in, use an “ultimate” move, and then you can carry on for a few more actions in an elemental “phase” depending on your summon that will open up a few more actions such as single-target and AoE attacks, and special actions such as Ifrit’s charge which was shown in the job action live letter.
After you’ve cycled through all three summons you’ll be able to summon Bahamut and then Pheonix, who behave similarly to as they did before with a few new tricks for Bahamut in particular as it will change Ruin and Tri-Disaster into new, more powerful Bahamut-themed attacks. The time you spend in Bahamut and Pheonix mode is a bit tighter now, though, so you got to be quick about getting your Enkindles out before the phase ends.
Yoshida told Twinifnte that one of the key decisions Summoners will need to make now will be which order to summon each avatar in, as they each bring a few unique actions to the table, such as Garuda’s ability to lay down a powerful AoE, DoT, Slipstream.
Overall, I do think Summoners should be happy with the changes. I certainly am, as long as they didn’t feel married or overly attached to DoT management. It’s definitely been simplified, and some may not like that, but it feels like a small price to pay to actually be a Summoner. The job now has an identity in line with the job’s history in previous Final Fantasy games, and its foundation can be built on in future expansions to become more complex.
At this point, Final Fantasy XIV has a proven track record of putting out polished and beautiful expansions with top-tier story content. After going hands-on I have no doubt that Endwalker will follow suit.
It’s too early to tell how, if at all, the endgame loop will change, and how the new endgame content will feel to play. However, the meat and potatoes of Final Fantasy XIV, the leveling up and story experience, appear to be at the same high quality that players have grown used to.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker will release on Nov. 23 for PlayStation and PC. We’ll have even more Final Fantasy XIV content from our media preview hands-on time later this week, so be sure to check back.
Source Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Preview - Hands-on With New Jobs, New Areas, Tower of Zot Dungeon, & More