When it releases on November 23, Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker is going to be the most important of its four expansions. It is bringing to a close an 11-year story arc that involves dozens of characters and places as the nations of Eorzea finally take the fight to the evil Garlean Empire. If previous expansions are anything to go by, it'll be a stirring and emotional climax—and game director Naoki Yoshida says the development team is pulling out all the stops to make it happen.
In an interview last week, I asked Yoshida how Endwalker compares to the current expansion, Shadowbringers in terms of story and cutscenes. "In a simple comparison between the two," Yoshida replied, "I would say the amount has increased by 1.3 times more."
Elaborating on that, Yoshida says that there were times the development team thought it had bitten off more than it could chew. "When we were looking at it, I honestly thought it would be too big," Yoshida said. "It was too much, and it would become critical on our schedule. So I considered if we needed to shave off some of the plot that's being unraveled in there, but considering how we'd have to make more adjustments to shave off any parts of the story—that would mean even more work—I made the decision to push forward with what we have."
That extra weight isn't immediately apparent when comparing Endwalker's features to previous expansions, though. For several years now, Final Fantasy 14 has stuck to a template when it comes to major patches and expansion releases. Endwalker, like previous expansions, will add two new jobs, the Reaper and Sage, a handful of new zones to explore, two new raids and plenty of dungeons, and a new race to play as. But Yoshida hopes players will notice a jump in the quality of those features.
"Looking at the battle content and overall elements that are going into the expansion pack, the number of instance dungeons will not change—and we'll never decrease the number either," Yoshida said. "So the number of dungeons are the same as Shadowbringers, but the amount of work we put into it has increased for sure. From the background environment, mechanics, and some of the battle presentations, we've put more into the individual elements that go into this content. I feel like it's going to be, overall, a much more robust experience than previous installments."
But seeing as Endwalker serves as the finale to an 11-year-old storyline, it's the story quests and characters that Yoshida hopes will really blow fans away. "We definitely have put a lot more into the story too. We want people to get that experience and they're playing through the game, and there's moments that I hope will hit very emotionally as well. We've taken on a lot of new challenges in the system, the battles have new mechanics incorporated into them as an element of surprise, so I'm hoping players will try it out and see it with their own eyes. It's really difficult for us to not hold back, so every time the development team is putting in their all, we want to hit you with the latest and greatest. We're just really passionate about what we're delivering."
Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker launches on November 23, 2021. People who preorder can jump in a few days earlier, though.