Does Endwalker Lack Meaningful Gameplay Content?

A thought has been invading my brain lately when I contemplate my engagement with Final Fantasy XIV as of late. Because we’re basically waiting for the next major content patch at this point, I’ve been raid logging – and that is fine, to be clear. I like FFXIV a lot still, and I enjoy the time I get to spend in it, but the game just hasn’t offered me a hard sell to stay in it for longer than a few raid nights a week. In the scope of being respectful of my time, I rather like that – but it does make me curious about what could be if things were just slightly different.

Endwalker started a trend where the development team has decided to have each major patch last for around 4 months. 6.2 launched in August and was replaced after a holiday break in January by 6.3, just over 4 months later. We’ll be seeing 6.4 next month at some point, I would wager later in the month, but by the end of May almost certainly. This means that we won’t have our last major patch of Endwalker until late September or early October, and that lines up with the expectation of an early 2024 launch for 7.0. This schedule is fine – more than fine, really – but it comes with an additional challenge – if the content tied to those patches isn’t substantial, players might start to drift. My theory of FFXIV in Endwalker is that the game is dealing with a similar issue to the one WoW faced in Cataclysm. Most of my readers probably already know, but I want to lay out the argument for the sake of clarity – Cataclysm is a maligned expansion in WoW’s history because a not-insubstantial amount of development time went not into brand new endgame content, but instead was put into revamping and sanding the sharp edges off of legacy content. In Cataclysm, WoW’s entire original two continents were drastically reshaped, with new regions and landmasses added for endgame players and the opportunity taken to reshape Azeroth to match a new narrative, to make it flying-compatible, and to generally present new players with a sharper quest flow that was more indicative of the game in 2010, smoothing out the rough, old MMO style questing in the original 2004 launch.

Cataclysm was an expansion for WoW I liked, and I think it was a decent amount and quality of content, but the idea that development time spent on revamps was “wasted” is a perception that persists to this day. I bring this up because I fear Endwalker is doomed to this path.

Now, I think Endwalker is a good expansion. I’ve enjoyed the gameplay content a great deal, a lot of the story beats have hit successfully for me, and as a package, I think it is an interesting reflection of the honed vision of what FFXIV fundamentally is from the development team. However, I think it is suffering from an overlap of two different priorities that I think are both valuable, but also causing the content on-offer to feel less substantial than that of Shadowbringers – the newly elongated patch schedule and the need to revamp old content to modern standards and ideals.

Shadowbringers got to be all new content, with the biggest revamp only being the streamlining of ARR questing and the expansion of flight to old Eorzea that came in patch 5.3. Other than that, everything Shadowbringers was new content, with a lot of side content included alongside that – the trial series being optional content with its own, robust side story focused on major characters, Bozja for the Resistance Weapons which gave us two large field zones and two interesting mini-raid styled combat areas, and it had extra side content like Ishgard Restoration. The only place where it arguably faltered was in Ultimate raid content, with only The Epic of Alexander released in the expansion, compared to two Ultimates in Stormblood and two now in Endwalker.

Endwalker has felt…a bit sparse for me. The MSQ content has been very good overall, but by integrating the trials into the MSQ, I feel like we’re getting a similar-length MSQ to before but then there’s no side content, no side story to pursue outside the MSQ. We haven’t had content to mirror Ishgard Restoration, which means that crafters and gatherers are on the same basic subsistence cycle of Custom Deliveries and a Tribe per job type, with glowy tools quests starting to come in. The Alliance Raid series of Endwalker has been more interesting in terms of story implications and lore, but similar in terms of content depth and time spent. While raid design has been overall decent in my eyes this expansion, even I, fresh to the FFXIV scene, am starting to question if the two-minute metagame has been a negative, as it pushes fight designs in a bad way where the team throws up forced downtime at even minutes to try and peel players off a DPS check, a design puzzle that is not particularly hard to solve.

But where I think Endwalker has suffered the most is in side content. The trial series of past expansions was a fun treat to go back for later, or a fun way to gate you off from the next expansion if you wanted to try and challenge the content roughly on-level, and it was additive to the overall story and content of the expansion. In Endwalker, adding the trial series as a part of the MSQ has hurt, I think – because it feels subtractive, like we’ve lost those side stories and extra hours of content, because the base MSQ doesn’t feel substantially more fleshed out or uniquely expanded for it. A lot of Endwalker’s best and most interesting additions are also kind of intended to be one and done. Variant and Criterion dungeons are great concepts with a lot going on…but once you do all the Variant routes and collect the full roster of rewards from both the Variant and Criterion flavors of Sil’dihn Subterrane, you’re just kind of done with it – no real reason to ever look back. Eureka Orthos is a great deep dungeon and brings that flavor back to the game after it took Shadowbringers off, and I think it is very cool to have for people who like deep dungeons – a genuine win, but maybe one of a smaller number of such wins. The sidequests like Tataru’s Grand Endeavor and Omega: Beyond the Rift are cool – but also one-shot affairs, with Omega being a single quest chain and Tataru expanding for small bits of new content every major patch.

I’m not always a big fan of side content, to be fair and honest. I was not a Bozja fan, I’m not a big deep dungeon guy in FFXIV, and I only really started taking trial series’ seriously this expansion, where I have pushed the EX of each one to completion and might starting going back through to mount farm my lynxes while they’re current-ish. However, I think the big theme of Endwalker that has troubled me slightly is that there is just less raw, replayable content on offer that will persist into the future. Eureka Orthos will, and that is good. But there’s not going to be anything extra that commands the attention of a new player after a fresh MSQ playthrough about Endwalker, nothing that demands you go back and get lost in the side content. FFXIV’s greatest asset during the WoW player exodus that started majorly in Shadowbringers was that it has this robust library of stuff you can go back for AFTER the main scenario is played. You can do the whole gripping story and stay on that track nice and tightly, and then still have a few dozen hours of side content that you can wade back into at your own pace from each expansion, You have trial series, relic weapons, Eureka from Stormblood, the two existing deep dungeons, Ishgard Restoration, unlocking all the Custom Delivery and Tribal quests, normal side quests, FATEs with rewards, sightseeing log, optional dungeons, and the normal MMO grinds of appearance acquisition, mount farming, and the like. Shadowbringers already did away with optional dungeons by removing additional patch dungeons after Stormblood already decreased the count of these, leaving us at one dungeon per patch, and that trend has continued into Endwalker with other content being ground down further.

I think another big part of this centers on the Relic weapons for Endwalker. The Manderville Weapon quests are fun and interesting, but they’re also just not that big a deal and offer little actual content. The grind being tomestones with no other ways to go for two straight steps is bland and uninspired, and while I wasn’t a Bozja fan, at least Bozja gave you a reason to do something different. The Manderville Weapon quests ask you to do…roulettes, and not just any roulettes, but specifically stuff at level cap, so you can’t level an alt job while you’re at it. To be fair, it isn’t necessarily bad this way either, but I think one of the things FFXIV has done really well in the past is leaving a trail of long-tail goals you can chase after for really cool stuff that’s largely cosmetic and thus has persistent value throughout the game’s lifetime. I wouldn’t say the older relic weapon quests are exactly amazing, sure, but they encouraged a lot of different ways you could engage and some unique stuff you had to do like Light farming. Of course, there’s also the Eureka Weapons and Resistance Weapons of the last two expansions, both of which have large amounts of bespoke content – Eureka Weapons with four zones and a unique pseudo-raid that you can tackle in Baldesion Arsenal, and the Resistance Weapons with the Bozjan Southern Front, Zadnor, and 3 unique duties to tie in, assuming you count Castrum Lacus Litore alongside Delubrum Reginae (and that instance’s Savage version) and Zadnor’s Dalriada. These bespoke zones and dungeons tied to relic content make the game’s growing back catalog feel massive, and on a per-expansion basis, Endwalker has less of this than any prior expansion.

In terms of playing it currently without legacy goals to chase, it feels a bit sparse. like there’s something a bit more missing. What is there is good – sometimes even great! – but there’s just a lack of side content and goals to chase within the Endwalker structure with their own unique gameplay to them, and what does exist there is single-use side content.

To be fair to the development team, I think they have their priorities in order in some ways. I want them to have a healthy job that gives them time off and withholds burdensome crunch to meet arbitrary deadlines, and revamping legacy content in a way to help keep new players interested and match the gameplay options given to us with Trusts in Shadowbringers is a good way to help the game’s long-term health – it acknowledges that some people come in expecting that single-player epic Final Fantasy experience and now you can play almost the entire game that way, minus most level 50 and up trials. As with WoW’s Cataclysm expansion, there’s a certain amount of new player whiplash you can try to avoid by redesigning content around the margins to fit better to the modern game, and while FFXIV’s approach has been far less destructive, there’s still a substantial amount of legacy content that needed a refit to match the modern game. In FFXIV’s content model, this means that veteran players will still see and benefit from the changes, too – a part of the fun of the Endwalker process has been seeing how old dungeons have been reshaped and fit in with the modern landscape of the game’s content. At the same time though, it does cause a curious question – what impact has this had on what content we could have had? And in truth, I don’t know that we can truly answer that. A lot of the revamps have been discussed as passion projects or overtime work from the team between other tasks, which seems to imply that nothing else was planned or started and dropped. However, that won’t stop some number of people from assuming that content was lost due to this decision, and since we have no way of actually knowing the full truth of what happened within the development team in design and planning, no one can ever truly prove that idea right or wrong – the best we can do is take the dev team’s word on it.

But the content we have received with Endwalker, as good as it has been, has felt a little less substantial, with fewer unique gameplay ways to chase after long-term goals and more things made to be done once, or a small number of times, and then never looked at again. Given how FFXIV has traditionally handled its content, that is kind of a disappointment, however minor and small that disappointment is.


3 thoughts on “Does Endwalker Lack Meaningful Gameplay Content?

  1. Personally, it’s my first expansion that I play from the start, so I don’t have previous relic weapons to compare. Surely, a new mode would have been a welcome change from roulette grind.

    They added and develop islands for ultra casual gameplay and criterion dungeons for hardcore wing (alas, neither of them is my piece of cake). Besides, they’re revamping old graphics – character models was announced, but maybe old zones as well?

    I’ve a lot stuff to catch up with, so in a sense I’m glad that expansion’s forgiving in content terms/ When I have all jobs leveled on 3 toons, I’ll be more demanding to 7.0. and on, I guess 🙂


  2. Lead here from MOP, I’ve appreciated your articles from time to time. Thanks for your bloggin’!

    I think the best treated this expansion have been the top end raiders and the casual players who are not at odds with logging off for longer spells. As you mention, the various one-and-done things on offer aren’t inherently issues and the things that one could invest themselves in over daily logins are catering to specific players (Island Sanctuary, fresh Deep Dungeon, Ultimate Raids). There’s a gap then (summarizing your point probably) in terms of new content where people who are mid/hardcore in terms of the time they wish to invest playing FFXIV as they’ll find a lack of new things to really sink into.

    It’s easier for me to say this as a longtime fan of Squaresoft, Enix, now SquEnix, but despite the companies various questionable business decisions (especially of late), at this point I have a lot of trust in FFXIV, Creative Business Unit III, and Yoshi-P. It’s known via the first post-Endwalker Live Letter that there’s a graphical update on the way, and that key staff from CBUIII has been busy working on Final Fantasy XVI. The overall expansion content that was announced in that aforementioned Letter looked as though it was likely to be the slimmest pickings yet, but another massive game and a next expansion major overhaul seem like a reasonable explanation for it in broad strokes. I’ll also be enjoying FFXVI when it launches so for me it’s like a delay in gratification only. I’ll be more concerned if we didn’t see the return of more robust Eureka/Bozja style content as well as adjacent-not-incorporated Trial series return next expansion.

    This said, if someone’s primary engagement with Final Fantasy and Square Enix is just FFXIV, depending on someone’s playstyle, Endwalker could be a toughie content-wise. For many, I’d wager the impact of the end of the journey will outweigh the lighter content, but I can’t blame anyone this time around for their ennui.


  3. My experience with FF14 was getting into it near the tail end of Shadowbringers, playing through to the end of Endwalker some months after it released, then puttering around, realizing I didn’t know or particularly care what to do, and then unsubbing, probably permanently. It was kind of fun, but not really worth spending any more of the finite and rapidly depleting hours of my life on.


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