December 12, 2021

There’s not gonna be a game quite like this any time soon again. The culmination of a
decade’s thematic, narrative, and character weight alone is something that you cannot shortcut
to - and pulling it off with this much sentimentality, sincerity, and love is something that’s even
harder. There is a self-awareness that creeps into Endwalker at times, teasing ships between
Scions with the subtlety of a sledgehammer or confronting a villain for having ludicrously
half-baked and unchanging motivations. However, its awareness, far from self-conscious, is
rooted in a true understanding of FFXIV - one that understands that the world of Hydaelyn,
Zodiark, the First, and the Source is not the only world. The fannish glee to which Ishikawa, Oda,
and co. place Endwalker's cast in new and exciting situations that feel impossible to even
consider both transcends their own limits as much as they soar past the audience's wildest

Very little in this expansion is truly predictable - you probably could’ve guess two-thirds of
the trials, but you definitely could not have predicted their narrative context. While highly
enjoyable, this does bring with it some issues. The narrative, while thematically coherent and
emotionally resonant, is extremely unfocused in its villain writing, focused as it is upon the cast
as a whole. Its use of key themes from older parts of the game is extremely appreciated and is a
shortcut to making me cry, but it also dilutes the expansion’s own sonic identity. There is, of
course, the obligatory section at level 88 that serves almost no narrative purpose, has
inexplicably horrible quest design, and slams the pacing to a halt despite the music and plot
progression suggesting rapid development. Virtually every zone in this game could be an
expansion in and of itself, begging further development and elaboration. These flaws are
undeniable, but perfection was never my game, and it was never FF14’s.

This expansion ties up the core plot that has been worked on for eleven years straight,
and that is a long, winding road. Its relentless crowd-pleasing nature and blindingly sincere
message is buoyed by cutscene direction that is an absolutely unreal step up from where A
Realm Reborn once was, and it goes to no small length to remind the player how far the cast
has come, what the world has changed into, and how the Warrior of Light themselves have
grown. Anything of this length that you see through to the end is almost certainly going to be a
part of you. Living in another world alongside our own invariably forces comparison to where you
yourself have been since you entered Eorzea, and that journey will have its share of laughter,
sorrow, and tears good and bad. A preoccupation with my Shadowbringers review was concern
over whether this game, in its behemoth length, scope, and investment, was truly worth it.

Now, two years later, I can confidently answer. It was good, and it was worthwhile.