Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker – 26. Review Journal Book XXVI: In the Balance

 

Review by · May 3, 2022

When Endwalker was announced as a conclusion to the existing story in Final Fantasy XIV, director Naoki Yoshida was quick to assure players that the game was not ending; instead, patch 6.1 would mark the beginning of a new narrative arc. This is a first for Final Fantasy XIV, and as a result, anticipation for this particular patch has been understandably high. I myself wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came away pleasantly surprised by just how good this patch is. Indeed, Newfound Adventure is honestly one of the best patches the game has seen in a while in terms of story, content, and quality of life adjustments.

After having saved the Source from the second coming of the Final Days, Final Fantasy XIV’s Warrior of Light sets out to find a new adventure. Learning of a legendary vault filled with riches hidden somewhere in the waters near Thavnair, they team up with a few available Scions for a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. Said hunt unexpectedly leads to a discovery that could be the key to travel between the Source and its shards and a heart-breaking tale from a certain draconic ally. While the stakes are obviously much lower than in the previous patch, I thoroughly enjoyed the Warrior of Light’s return to being a simple adventurer; the implications left me excited to see how things will develop in future patches. There’s also a healthy dose of humor, bringing some much-needed levity to the main story after the existential dread of 6.0 proper. I’ll just say this: when the game gives you the opportunity to sass Y’shtola, take it

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker screenshot of Estinien holding a scroll up with a smile on his face.
Not pictured: the look of horror on Estinien’s face when Tataru learns he spent a ridiculous amount of money…again.

As you might expect from the above description of the main story, the new dungeon sends you in search of a treasure vault. Alzadaal’s Legacy is a lot of fun to run through for a couple of reasons. First, the environments are nicely varied: From a thick jungle to underwater ruins, each of the dungeon’s three areas feels distinct and lends to the experience of going on a journey. Second, the bosses are fun to fight, particularly the final boss, whose main mechanic involves spinning players around the arena like toy tops while placing various obstacles to avoid. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a patch dungeon quite this much.

Newfound Adventure also provides the first leg of the 24-man Alliance raid series, titled Myths of the Realm. When a random adventurer discovers the mysterious Phantom Realm, supposed home of the Twelve, the Warrior of Light is called upon to investigate. Things quickly get interesting when four of the Twelve show up and cryptically challenge the Warrior to a series of duels. These fights make up the four boss battles of Aglaia, the first raid, and boy, are they fun! Each boss has interesting mechanics that match their elemental affinity or weapon of choice, though none are overly difficult once you understand how they work. Every boss features voice acting, too, and you might recognize some of the actors from other roles in Final Fantasy XIV. The instance itself is also quite pretty, with massive structures and different themes for each deity. The music is perhaps the biggest star, though, and that’s saying something considering the other elements are all so good. Masayoshi Soken brought his all to bear here, so to speak. The final boss theme, in particular, is a fantastic earworm. As they say these days, it slaps. 

The final piece of major PvE content is the new 8-man trial, Endsinger Extreme. As is tradition for the first major patch after an expansion, this Extreme is a harder version of the final trial from 6.0. These fights tend to be the hardest of all the Extremes in an expansion, and the dev team hyped up Endsinger EX as being particularly difficult. However, aside from a few annoying mechanics, I didn’t find the fight exceptionally hard. To be fair, I’m an experienced Savage raider, so my evaluation of difficulty might be different from other players’. Even so, I don’t think most will find this fight to be on the same level as, say, Shinryu EX, but you can expect a decent enough challenge while you’re learning it. Thankfully, like Hades EX and Diamond Weapon EX, each clear nets you two totems, so you can buy your weapons or save up for the eventual purchasable mount twice as fast.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker screenshot of Byregot slamming his hammer to the ground as players around him attack.
This fight gives Byregot’s Blessing a whole new meaning.

Before moving on to more minor changes and improvements, I should briefly mention that patch 6.1 introduces a new PvP mode, Crystalline Conflict. I don’t play PvP myself, so I’m afraid I can’t properly evaluate this content for this review, but by all accounts, it is a fantastic upgrade and has re-popularized the mode for many players. The new job limit breaks are certainly flashy and have been very enjoyable to check out, even for someone like me who’s not really interested in competitive modes. The Feast has been removed from the game as of this patch, but if you’re into PvP, you should check out Crystalline Conflict.

Most of Final Fantasy XIV’s patches introduce a host of fixes and improvements. The first big patch after a new expansion is usually beefier than others because it includes major job adjustments. Newfound Adventure does both, but it also brings some much-needed quality-of-life changes, particularly to old A Realm Reborn content. There’s a lot to go over here, so let’s start with Endwalker additions. First, Newfound Adventure adds master role quests for players who have completed all five Endwalker role questlines. This is a fun little additional story involving all the city-state leaders and addresses a few unanswered questions left at the end of 6.0. It’s not terribly long, and most of the characters don’t do that much, but it does have a fun instanced fight at the end involving all of said leaders, somewhat similar to Stormblood’s Ghimlyt Dark.

As mentioned above, this patch also includes a host of job adjustments. From Living Dead getting a change that allows Dark Knights to do some self-healing — making it much easier to satisfy the Walking Dead mechanic — to White Mage’s lilies becoming DPS neutral and Summoner’s Searing Light no longer requiring Carbuncle to be present on the battlefield to use, there’s a lot of good stuff here. There’s too much to go over all of it in-depth, but the vast majority of the fixes are greatly appreciated, with a few quibbles here and there. 

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker screenshot of a player character running an ARR dungeon with Duty Support NPCs.
The NPC avatars are a little generic, but the Duty Support system is still a welcome addition to old ARR content.

After two expansions with the Trust system allowing players to run dungeons with NPCs instead of real people, Newfound Adventure starts extending this option to older content. Now, the system is called Duty Support, and players can use it for every main story dungeon and trial from A Realm Reborn up to Praetorium. Future patches will add content from the post-ARR patches through Stormblood, so almost the entire main scenario will eventually be soloable. Your mileage may vary as to whether you think this is a good thing, but I believe more options for new players (who may also be new to MMOs) are helpful. It doesn’t negatively impact me as an experienced player, and I think that had the option been available when I was new, it would have made the game far less intimidating.

Speaking of Praetorium, this “beloved” dungeon has finally received some much-needed updates. It is now a 4-man dungeon and has been streamlined to lower its runtime and remove some frustrating elements. You no longer need to remember to push a button to get access to a Magitek mount, for instance, and the dungeon ends after you fight Gaius on the elevator. In addition, the battle against Ultima Weapon is now a separate 4-man trial, and the joke of a fight against Lahabrea is now a solo instance. Castrum Meridianum has received similar treatment, meaning Main Scenario roulette is no longer such a drag to run if you’re like me and tended to avoid it because of the time commitment.

But it’s not just about shortening long dungeons. Almost every ARR dungeon you can run with Duty Support has seen significant changes to boss mechanics. This is ostensibly due to the addition of NPC party members, but some of these changes are frankly much appreciated regardless of whether you’re running the dungeon with the computer or real people. For instance, the first boss of Copperbell Mines is now just Kottos himself without the boring slew of mobs you used to have to sit through, and the final boss of Brayflox’s Longstop now drops poison bombs that explode into larger AOEs without leaving puddles behind that heal the boss. In addition, several bosses that essentially had no real mechanics are now proper fights, making them feel fresh even to longtime players. And one of the most annoying things about the Crystal Tower alliance raids has finally been addressed: stack mechanics now use the standard marker introduced in Heavensward. The days of watching sprouts run away when they get the purple marker during the Five-headed Dragon are over. (They may still run away, of course, but having standardized markers will hopefully make it easier for them to learn not to do that in future runs.)

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker screenshot of the new Ishgard housing district, Empyreum.
Ishgard housing is finally available, but the new lottery system got off to a rocky start due to some problematic bugs.

Last but not least, Newfound Adventure introduces a handful of small but appreciated UI changes. Most helpful is probably the checkmarks that now appear on any collectible drops you already have (like orchestrion rolls or MGP prizes). Crafters will appreciate the new color-coded gauge on the crafting screen that shows them when they’ve reached different collectability thresholds. Sightseeing logs now pop up on your screen when you complete an entry, and if you’re anything like me, this means you might actually read them. Finally, the Unending Codex has been added to the game, and progressing the main story quests adds several entries about key individuals and terminology from Endwalker. This should be useful for existing players who need to brush up on events or NPCs, but it could also be a resource for new players new to Final Fantasy XIV who might skip previous expansions.

Starting a new narrative arc after almost nine years of continuous story is certainly no easy feat. But then again, neither is rebooting a failed MMO and turning it into a critical and financial success. That Yoshi-P and his team at Square Enix Creative Business Unit III have managed to do both should not come as a surprise at this point. But I still found myself delighted and a little bit relieved that they pulled off the beginning of this new journey so well. And they managed to add a lot of quality-of-life updates to Final Fantasy XIV and maybe one of the best Alliance raids ever, to boot. In short, Newfound Adventure is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Pros

Great start to the new story arc, fun dungeon, fantastic new alliance raid, great new music, excellent update to ARR dungeons, lots of quality of life changes.

Cons

Some typos, bumpy rollout of housing lottery system.

Bottom Line

Starting a new story arc in an MMO is no easy feat, but Final Fantasy XIV does a fantastic job setting the stage for a new adventure in patch 6.1.

Graphics
90
Sound
98
Gameplay
95
Control
95
Story
95
Overall Score 98
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Caitlin Argyros

Caitlin Argyros

Caitlin joined RPGFan as a podcaster but has since expanded her collection of hats to include reviews, features, and proofreading. When she's not writing for the site, she's saving the people of Eorzea in FFXIV, slaying gods in the Xeno series, and globetrotting across Zemuria in the Trails games. Oh, and petting every sweet cat and good dog she comes across.