Along with our most important Game of the Year Awards 2021, every member of the PC Gamer crew is shining a highlight on a sport they beloved this 12 months. We’ll publish new workers picks, alongside our most important awards, all through the remainder of the month.
Again in 2010, the considered Closing Fantasy 14 turning into one of many best MMOs of all time was laughable. The unique launch was a pitiful affair—poor quest construction, an absence of primary style options, unnecessarily detailed flowerpots. Whereas it might have been fairly to take a look at, it was borderline unbearable to play.
Sq. Enix did what few would dare to do: Rebuild the complete factor from scratch and combine the unique’s destruction into the brand new sport’s lore. Closing Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn launched in 2013, and a 12 months later, I entered the world of Eorzea for the primary time. I’ve largely been on and off with Closing Fantasy 14 since then, with this 12 months marking my first correct return since 2017.
What a return it has been, too. I got here again to seek out myself within the post-Heavensward questline, giving me two entire expansions to discover earlier than Endwalker’s launch. Stormblood’s cracking dungeon design was hampered by its weak story, whereas Shadowbringers rapidly cemented itself as my favorite Closing Fantasy 14 growth. I wasn’t positive Endwalker may prime it—however how fallacious I used to be.
Endwalker is a fruits of each misstep made, each lesson discovered and each small victory all through Closing Fantasy 14’s improvement. It does not simply really feel just like the closing chapter of the 11-year Hydaelyn-Zodiark narrative but additionally Sq. Enix’s, too, as gamers admire it greater than ever earlier than. Closing Fantasy 14 is one of the best it has been, and that is clear in each facet of Endwalker’s presentation.
The growth does not fairly begin with the identical bang as Shadowbringers does—it is extra of a gradual burn, and that is often to its detriment. But the story had me on hooks all through, with its peaks vastly outnumbering the valleys. It balances out the darker, extra dramatic moments with mild comedian reduction, by no means leaving you in despair for too lengthy. It does rely closely on emotional funding and data of earlier expansions so, in case you’ve story-skipped, it merely will not have the identical weight. I discovered myself reaching for the tissues within the moments when all of it acquired a wee bit nostalgic or introduced again outdated characters to tie up unfastened ends.
It is astonishing that an MMO growth left me so emotionally weak. Sq. Enix managed to do what so few video games have ever completed: It is made me give a shit about my authentic character. I am so totally enamoured with my lore-accurate miqo’te gal regardless of that over a decade later, essentially the most she will muster as much as her fellow Scions throughout an impassioned cutscene is a straightforward nod. Endwalker does a incredible job of constructing your Warrior of Gentle really feel like a fleshed-out character, even when plenty of that work is all the way down to my very own creativeness and notion of what my catgirl would do in every state of affairs.
Dungeon design has advanced hundreds since A Realm Reborn. Whereas they was bigger, with extra branching paths to encourage exploration, Sq. Enix’s method has advanced to encourage a extra tightly designed, linear type of play with fewer puzzles and extra stuff to kill in enjoyable methods. Whereas Endwalker’s earliest dungeons are the weakest, new mechanics and ones borrowed from outdated raids cement them as a number of the greatest the sport’s seen. The Stage 90 dungeon Smileton has rapidly turn into a favorite with its funky music, enjoyable bosses, and a much-needed break from the darker tone we have seen from dungeons over the previous two expansions.
Trials have nicely and really put me to the take a look at as a spatially challenged white mage, throwing tons of stuff that informal gamers like me might have by no means seen earlier than. It seems like Endwalker has boosted the problem of regular content material and made healers flex their magic muscle tissues a bit extra. I’ve by no means utilised my full package to the extent I’ve with this growth, and therapeutic has been a extra worrying affair than I anticipated. It has been a pleasant change from my earlier comfy Holy-spamming playstyle, and I am hoping to additional take a look at myself by leaping into excessive trials quickly—my first time doing them level-synced since Leviathan Excessive in 2014.
For me, few video games deserve recognition and credit score in the way in which Closing Fantasy 14: Endwalker does. Its success this 12 months even previous to the growth’s launch has been astronomical. It is proof of how nicely a sport and its group can thrive when the folks behind its manufacturing care and have interaction with suggestions. From growth to growth, Sq. Enix has listened to its participant base—even issues as small as including a controller rumble to PlayStation 4 controllers when the participant has queued right into a Obligation (any of the sport’s cases) got here from somebody merely asking director and producer Naoki Yoshida for its inclusion.
Closing Fantasy 14: Endwalker is a grasp class in constructing your sport alongside your fiercest supporters and largest critics, not despite them. Video games hardly ever come near perfection, however Endwalker is not far off. It is a thrilling conclusion to each a fictional and actual journey stuffed with hardship, loss, and new beginnings. It is troublesome to know simply how a lot increased Closing Fantasy 14 can soar, however I can not wait to seek out out.