Along with a bunch of other media folks, I’ve had the privilege of spending a day messing around with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, and now I’m free to tell you all about it. This article covers the Endwalker areas, the jobs, and the dungeon. That said, “all about it” is a bit of a misnomer because what we could actually see was limited, so let’s quickly go over how I’m dividing this up and what I won’t be discussing.
In terms of spoilers: if you’re up to date on current content and have watched the Endwalker trailers and reveals and so on, there’s not much “new” here except maybe the identity of the first dungeon. But I’m not going to be revealing unseen areas or important plot details. Obviously, if you want to stay completely fresh (or aren’t up to date), you shouldn’t read this. But if you’re caught up on content and know about the revealed areas and so on, you should be safe.
Next, let’s talk about how I’m doing this. Obviously, getting my hands on the new Reaper and Sage jobs was a big deal, so each of those jobs gets a dedicated article. The dungeon itself probably deserves an article, too. This article, meanwhile, is a more general overview where I’ll be discussing the Endwalker areas I saw, and how I felt about the changes and additions to the rest of the jobs I tried out. Which I might as well say now are mostly White Mage and Paladin, but I did deviate a little into others like the new Summoner.
And while I could post up all the tooltips and do a deep dive into what everything means for every class… well, there’ll be enough people doing that on YouTube and Reddit, and likely a lot better than I can. That, and we’re not a Final Fantasy XIV fansite, even if I make it seem that way every few months. So! I’m going to stick to my impressions.
Walking through areas in Endwalker
The preview slice we were allowed to muck about with (and occasionally break) gave us full, unfettered access to three areas. First was Old Sharlayan, one of the two hub towns we’ll have in Endwalker. Second was Thavnair — or at least one zone of it. Third was Garlemald, the home of the Garlean Empire.
Again, all of this stuff has been previously revealed, so no spoilers there. No spoilers in dialogue either, because hilariously, almost every single NPC was given the name “Unassuming Individual” and the dialogue “Hello!”
The areas themselves are a delicious slice of what we can expect, though, and are all gorgeous in unique (and strikingly different) ways. Old Sharlayan is the most “Final Fantasy” of the lot: an aesthetic that’s halfway between ancient Greece and a particularly fancy library; a gorgeous harbor; tall, elegant buildings supported with stone pillars and lots of purely aesthetic flourishes; walls and markers with engraved scrolls; huge and impressive statues. It’s beautiful in the way we’ve generally come to expect from Final Fantasy XIV.
Also, while there’s no real context for most of the locations, there are some tantalizing hints here and there. The Leveilleur Estate takes up a relatively sizeable chunk of the map and I’m looking forward to seeing how that ties into things (and if it ends up being our “inn” somehow, despite the events of the last patch). There’s a huge library off to the far west with a mammet that looks like it’ll be there to give us information — and of course, there’s the Rostra, the grand forum in which Y’shtola made her defiant appearance in the Endwalker trailer. All of them look kind of amazing.
Endwalker areas: Thavnair and Garlemald
But while that’s a place we’ll likely be visiting again and again if it’s our main hub town for Endwalker, it’s not the only place I visited. Thavnair and Garlemald deserve mention, not least because they’re so strikingly different that having them as the pair of areas we media types could explore was a mild stroke of genius.
Thavnair is possibly the single most colorful location in Final Fantasy XIV so far. It’s got heavy influences from both south Asian countries and places like Morocco, with vivid, bright colors literally everywhere. Forget the gloriously painted buildings and brightly colored tents: even the cliffs and hills are hued with purple.
This is a heavy, heavy contrast to Garlemald, which at this point is a snowy, ruined, and nearly monochrome landscape. It’s bleak, dour, and desolate, occupied primarily by monsters and automatons. Any flashes of brightness from your clothes or your skills feel eerily out of place here. Everywhere you look you’ll see snow and toppled buildings, and nearly everything is black and white, with occasionally tinges of red. Basically, it’s post-Brexit Tory Britain, and pretty much what I see out my window. Still, the difference is striking, and giving us these two areas to check out was — as noted — kind of brilliant. If the other Endwalker areas have this level of visual diversity, they’re going to be a sight to see.
As for when you’ll be visiting them: Garlemald is likely one of the first areas, with the enemies I saw mostly in the low 80s, while Thavnair may either be a bit later or might be (like Ahm Araeng and Kholusia) divided into different sections. Most enemies I saw were around level 85, but I admit I was mostly flying around ooh-ing at the views rather than taking copious notes on enemy levels. Then again, the dungeon seemed to be related to Thavnair, so…
A job lot: White Mage and healers
So aside from Reaper and Sage, what did I fiddle with? White Mage was first on my list, because it’s arguably my main job. There aren’t actually that many changes here, although it’s worth noting that the dungeon itself was synced to level 82 so it’s not like I was trying out level 90 abilities much in places that needed them. Before going into any details, though, it’s probably important to remember that this is an in-development build of the game, so basically everything is subject to change.
But since I said “change”… well, the change that drops the cast time for every healer’s direct damage spell to 1.5 seconds (in the case of WHM, that’d be Glare) is excellent. Less time fixed in one place, less slide casting, and more time being able to quickly react to mechanics and not cancel spells to rush out a heal. With the general role of healers often being “hit things unless anyone’s about to die,” this change to our DPS is very, very helpful.
The big thing at level 90 is Lilybell, which at a glance seems fun, though I’m not 100% clear on how it works and it may be a touch short-lived. Basically: you plonk down a spectacularly pretty blossom, and get five stacks of Lilybell. Every time you take damage, you lose a stack of Lilybell and heal yourself and everyone around you for a 400 potency (the same as Medica, after the number squash). If you still have stacks left when time expires, the blossom dissipates and heals for 200 potency per remaining stack. Free Medica on taking damage is nice, but 15 seconds isn’t a huge time for that; there aren’t usually that many unavoidable AoEs. I’m also not sure if the heals come from you or from the blossom, but I’d assume the blossom. If so, then that might actually have uses: plonk the blossom far away from you and it can heal anyone out of range of your own heals.
Other changes are also rather tasty, too. There’s a general upgrade to healing potencies and another level of Holy, for starters (amusingly, Holy upgrades directly to Holy III; there is no Holy II). More interestingly for something that’s not a shield healer, though, is that we get more mitigation. Divine Benison gets a second charge at level 88 — which is great for shielding DPS that won’t get out of AoEs, but makes me worry we’re going to see tankbusters in rapid succession later — and we also get Aquaveil at level 86.
Aquaveil is kind of a weird one. It’s closest to a mitigation ability on a tank, except we can slap it on anyone: it’s a flat 15% reduction to damage taken. This “mitigation for anyone” isn’t just limited to White Mages, though, as it looks like pretty much every healer gets an ability like this at 86, which kinda does something related to the other healer role.
There’s more. Astrologians get Exaltation, which is a 10% damage reduction (but also cures for 500 potency at the end of the effect) and Sages get Krasis, which increases HP recovery via healing actions by 20%. The Scholar one, Protraction, is possibly the weirdest. This increases the maximum HP of a party member by 10%, heals for the amount it increases, and increases HP recovery from healing actions by 10%. So the barrier healers get boosts to heals, while the pure healers get mitigation.
A job lot: Paladin
Paladin is another job I’ve been messing around with lately, so that’s the other “old” job I focused on a fair bit. Again, nothing much has changed here, but there are some nice quality of life changes and additions. I remain in love with the fact that Intervene (along with every other tank’s “leap to target” ability) now has a range of 20 yalms, for instance.
At 82, Sheltron gets upgraded to Holy Sheltron. Not only does the “block all attacks” last two seconds longer, this reduces incoming damage taken by 15% for four seconds, and grants 12 seconds of HP regen. Basically, more of a multitool of mitigation and self-protection. This is actually the theme for most of the Paladin’s upgrades, honestly. At 84, both Holy Spirit and Holy Circle get a self-healing component. At 88, Divine Veil also adds a healing effect.
That aside? At 86, Spirits Within is upgraded to Expacion, which turns it into an AoE attack with higher damage. And then at 90 there’s the Big Thing: the Confiteor combo, which you probably saw in the job actions trailer. This, thankfully, does not add buttons. Confiteor just transforms into the remaining parts of the combo, which hits one enemy for full damage and the rest for less, and ends by restoring mana and basically adding a better version of the Goring Blade DoT to everything it hits (though again: less potency to anything other than the target). And no, it can’t be stacked with Goring Blade.
A job lot: Summoner
Lastly, I want to talk about Summoner… albeit very briefly, because I don’t have a PhD and thus don’t actually play Summoner at a high level.
Summoner has changed a lot, to the extent that if it’s not a new class, it’s half of a new class. Again, I don’t play Summoner much, so I can’t tell you if pet jank has been fixed, but I can tell you that there’s something wonderfully empowering about summoning Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda to do your bidding. Not the real ones, obviously; we’ve spent too much time beating them up until they give us ponies. But reasonable facsimiles which change your skillset and give you a greater number of phases.
I didn’t mess with Summoner too much, but I can at least say that it feels good — and quite distinct from the Summoner of old. In the brief bits I tried, at least, pet positioning really didn’t seem to be nearly so much of a thing. Fingers crossed I’m right on that.
So, beautiful areas and some changes to classes that mostly broaden options and make things feel more powerful in general. Not bad at all. But if you’re interested in Reaper, Sage, or the dungeon we got to try out? Well, click through to those articles…
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is due out on November 23, with early access beginning on November 19.