Towards the beginning of Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker, an unnamed soldier hands a man from the opposing side a coffee-filled mug. After dealing with countless hardships throughout the story, filled with destruction and death, the soldier tells the man, "It's the little things that make life worth living, don't you think so?" This single statement was enough to bring me to tears. Final Fantasy 14 is one of those little things in my life that has brought so much joy and comfort in the past two years of hardships around the world.
I started my journey in Final Fantasy 14 at the beginning of the pandemic, not unlike many other players in the MMORPG. A good friend of mine over in England had suggested I play, seeing that I have been a huge fan of other popular RPGs such as Dragon Age, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Final Fantasy 7. Since then, Final Fantasy 14 has fast become my favorite game to play, and having just finished Endwalker, I can honestly say that Final Fantasy 14 has one of the best storylines I have ever witnessed in a video game.
While there has been some trouble with queue times since Endwalker has come out, it hasn't been too much of a hassle for me over on the Crystal Data Center. Final Fantasy 14 has seen a massive rise in popularity since July this year due to many popular streamers promoting it on both Twitch and YouTube. The highest queue I had seen was when early access first dropped for Endwalker, which was around 5,000 for my data center. Despite this, I have found that playing the game in the early morning or later part of the evening has much smaller queue times of around 50-100 max.
It's perfectly understandable to know why so many people want to play FF14: it's simply that good. The third expansion, Shadowbringers, is certainly a testament to powerful storytelling. While I will refrain from giving out any spoilers, Shadowbringers' story was enough to bring me to tears in the end (I will never get over the "remember us'' quote). Heavensward and Stormblood both had their moments, but for me it was Shadowbringers that truly made me love and appreciate the game.
Now having finished Endwalker, I can say that the developers over at Square Enix took the new expansion and turned it up to eleven. There were so many moments in this expansion where I saw myself crying during cutscenes and feeling so many emotions that I felt the need to keep carrying on through my Warrior of Light's journey to the end.
The cutscenes are so prominent that they have similar running times of major TV shows. It took me around 50 hours to complete the expansion, and it had significantly more cutscenes than the previous expansions. I personally felt that Shadowbringers had some of the best moments in the franchise, but Endwalker was consistently one phenomenal cutscene after another.
Like many have said online, I would consider Final Fantasy 14 to be more of an RPGMMO rather than an MMORPG. It's mainly driven through the story, with the ability to unlock jobs, zones, and endgame content coming from completing the main story quests. Square Enix does give you the option to boost up to the latest expansion; however, the FFXIV community has said time and time again that it's worth experiencing the whole story yourself instead of boosting up to the latest endgame content.
Endwalker is a culmination of ten years of story, and it is certainly worth playing through the game to see everything leading up to it. When I first started, I struggled to get through the first section of A Realm Reborn but stuck with it to fully grasp the beauty that is Heavensward. After experiencing the Dragonsong War in Heavensward, I went onto the battles and fought for freedom in Stormblood, followed by becoming the Warrior of Darkness on the First in Shadowbringers (Dark Knight actually ended up becoming my main job/class because of this expansion).
The story of Endwalker continues back on the continent of Eorzea, where the Warrior of Light is now working with the rest of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to defeat the Ascian known as Fandaniel, who is determined to destroy the world. Endwalker further dives into your relationships with fellow NPCs that you have been with since the early days of A Realm Reborn. The beauty of Final Fantasy 14 is that while you may be the "hero" of the story, nothing is ever black and white in the game. Those who appear to be villains also have their stories told (no matter how tragic they may be), turning the world of FF14 much greyer than your standard RPGs.
One of the best parts of Endwalker are the conversations you have with your fellow Scions and other NPCs throughout the expansion. There were so many characters, both past and present, that I felt connected to during my journey. From speaking to the twins Alphinaud and Alisaie in their hometown of Sharlayan to traveling to Thavnair and Garlemald with the rest of the Scions, the adventures you have with the characters make you appreciate the story that has led them up to this point. Everything in the story has meaning, whether it be conversing with minor NPCs to fighting on the battlefield.
Villains throughout the franchise and Endwalker also get their stories told in a manner that makes you just as invested in them as you are with the heroic characters in the Scions. I will refrain from saying any spoilers regarding the villains of Endwalker, but if you've played all the expansions up to this point, then expect to feel many different emotions during significant cutscenes when it comes to villains (don't even get me started on how much I obsess over the character Emet-Selch from Shadowbringers).
The music throughout Endwalker only further drives the story, with Masayoshi Soken continuing to bring more beautiful musical compositions in every zone and cutscene. When I first heard the theme Footfalls in the Endwalker trailer back in May, I knew that this expansion would have music as grand as it had in Shadowbringers and previous expansions. The night theme in Zone 5 (which will remain nameless due to spoilers) has quickly become my favorite piece of music in Endwalker for its subtle piano that makes you feel as if you're entering a dream in deep sleep. The entirety of the music in Endwalker is enough to make me hope that we will get a soundtrack for the expansion sometime in the future. There is so much content in Endwalker that it is hard to say anything without it being spoilery. What I will say, however, is that nothing in the story is left unsaid. The notable questions that are brought forth from the last ten years of FF14 are wrapped up in Endwalker, with many of them being answered in their own unique way. There were endless times throughout the expansion that I found myself crying in front of my PC screen over events in the game, or saying, "I can't believe that just happened!". If you're also asking, "what's going to happen after this?", do not worry. Even though Endwalker is wrapping up the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, it leaves us with a new beginning that I cannot wait to explore in the future.
Since concluding the story, I have found myself going back and watching cutscenes to fully grasp the epic tale of Endwalker. The only downfall currently is that Endwalker is not included in New Game +, so if you're wanting to replay the game, you will have to do so on an alternative character. Another word of advice is that a couple scenes after the final trial are not included in the "Unending Journey" journal in game, so I recommend recording this so that you can watch it in its entirety if you wish to revisit at a later date (or until the devs add them).
If I could say one thing that defines Endwalker, it's that life, through all its hardships and joys, has meaning. Despite all our troubles and hard times throughout the course of our lifetimes, there are still moments where we find happiness with those around us and the memories we make along the way. Like the unnamed soldier had said, it's the little things that make life worth living, and I can certainly say that Final Fantasy 14 was one of those things that came into my life when I needed it most.
I will not deny that I still have plenty more to do in the game such as leveling all my jobs up to 90 as well as preparing for the new Pandaemonium raids. With that said, the ending of Endwalker has made me excited to see what else the Final Fantasy 14 franchise will bring to life in the never-ending journey of this exceptional game.