I’ve been pretty quiet the last couple of weeks, but I promise there’s a good reason! As many of my fellow Warriors of Light know, December 7 was the official launch of Endwalker, the latest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, with early access starting on December 3.
As is our tradition, Shane and I both got early access and booked time off work so we could play together—and play we did. We made it our mission to beat Endwalker’s MSQ before the official launch to avoid any spoilers we might run into.
I knew going in that my blogger’s heart was going to want to do a review of some kind. After experiencing it, though, I wasn’t sure. I spent about a week trying to figure out how I could write a review without accidentally ruining anything about the story in Endwalker, but I couldn’t think of any.
So instead, I decided to do something a little different, and take you through our journey from the first moments of early access to the final scenes of MSQ.
So here’s the tale of our adventure, starting with early access!
Day 0 (December 2)
Technically, this is the day the game was down for maintenance while they installed Patch 6.0. It was down by about 4 a.m. local time and was scheduled to be back up by 4 a.m. the next day, so we decided to practice getting up early enough to play as soon as FFXIV was back online.
In theory, we’d be tired enough to fall asleep by 8 p.m., so then we’d be well-rested when we woke up that early again on Friday. In practice, though, it just made us tired—and then we couldn’t sleep anyway because we were as excited as a pair of kids on Christmas Eve.
We woke up bright and early after a restless night, loaded up with coffee and energy drinks and ready to see what Square Enix had in store for us. We were some of the lucky ones.
Unsurprisingly, FFXIV was plagued by queues for the launch of its most highly anticipated expansion yet. We downloaded the patch right away and started playing as soon as it was ready. It couldn’t have been more than half an hour after launch.
Even at that ungodly time, we ended up in a queue of about 500 players. From what I’ve heard, it only got worse throughout the day and over the weekend.
We played most of the day, and eventually reached a level of exhaustion after completing the first chapter of MSQ.
Our set of early mornings left both of us much more exhausted than we’d expected, and we slept in until about 8 a.m. Even then, it didn’t take us long to get up and going, and this day saw us through at least two dungeons.
I won’t say anything to spoil them, but let’s just say I’m glad I play ranged physical DPS and can scoot around when things try to hit me!
We also managed to progress far enough to unlock the main crafter and gatherer missions for this level tier, which I was very excited about.
By this point, the energy drinks were starting to run out, but that didn’t matter. We were about halfway through Endwalker’s MSQ, and it would be an understatement to say we were hooked.
Because even though the story might have started a little slowly, it was now enthralling, if you will.
By now, though, stories had started coming out of people who’d already beaten the entire expansion. Shane even discovered one screenshot of someone who’d already gotten all crafters and gatherers to 90.
I couldn’t believe it! The only way I could imagine someone being able to do that would have been by skipping a goodly amount of cutscenes. And with a story this good, that’s just blasphemy.
This was our last day before launch, and we were on a timeline for the day because of a dinner with my parents in the evening. Though we made a grand effort, we didn’t quite manage to finish everything and left off at the start of our level 89 quests.
Of course, my parents knew what we’d been up to all weekend, and bless their hearts, they were very excited for their nerd daughter and son-in-law that we’d almost reached our goal!
Actual launch day!
If we’d thought queues were bad before, it was nothing compared to the actual launch day. Unfortunately for Shane, he had to go back to work this day—so my task, aside from my goals of leveling up my crafters and gatherers, was to make sure I got him into the queue early enough that he’d be signed in by the time he got home from work.
Though we didn’t have nearly as long to play in just the time after work and before bedtime, we did manage to finish up most of the level 89 quests.
So fun fact, this was my birthday, so I was still off work! And after my requested sushi and cupcake, we got very close to finishing the story. We made it to just before the final mission in the last map before bedtime.
One thing I haven’t mentioned too much so far is just how emotional the entire story of Endwalker is. There were several points throughout our journey where I just could not contain the tears; so many that I don’t even remember specifically when they happened.
This is something Square Enix is known for doing with its Final Fantasy stories. I knew about this going in because Shane, dedicated fan that he is, warned me before we signed up back in 2017 that it would hurt my heart at times. I always assumed that I’d experienced this throughout the earlier expansions, and certainly, some story arcs definitely got me bawling—but even the roughest of those moments felt like nothing compared to the gut punches Endwalker had in store.
This particular night, the story managed to hit me so hard that I must have gone through half a box of tissues. Sorry if that’s an overshare, but it’s true! And it’s worth knowing if you’re also the empathetic type who cries over heartbreaking moments. You’ll want to be prepared.
Today was a bit of a break because Shane had his mandatory holiday dinner at work. Just as well, because I don’t think my heart was ready to face more of what was to come yet.
Today was my own mandatory holiday dinner at work, so again, we got a little bit of a break. But by now, I was ready to face the music, so we made a graceful early exit and headed home to finish the story.
And so we did—but it took us until 4 a.m. It seemed poetic, in a way.
Naturally, I’m not going to give anything away, because it’s my deepest belief that every player deserves to experience Endwalker for themselves. It has its joys and its triumphs, its losses and its heartbreak—but it’s an absolutely beautiful story that transcends Yoshi-P’s award-winning success with Shadowbringers, delivers an entirely new level of nostalgia for fans of the franchise’s older games and art styles, wraps up the story of Hydaelyn in an extremely satisfying way, and leaves absolutely no room for misunderstanding:
Though this is the end of a story, it is by no means the end of a game.
Or, in the (abbreviated to avoid spoilers) words of one particularly well-known love-to-hate-him character: