Shadow Hulk and I, we've been through a lot in MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV. I've learned to love his run, and together we've been largely been taken aback at just how nice everyone in the game is. Right now, though, we've hit a bit of a wall. We're deep in what I've dubbed the 'Filler City' quest line, as we attempt to reach the game's first expansion, Heavensward. Motivation has dipped considerably as of late.
But you should have seen me at the Endwalker hands-on preview, Final Fantasy XIV's upcoming fourth expansion. I played as a tall bunny boy, not Shadow Hulk. I was suddenly at the highest level cap, not the foothills of the early-mid game. I soared over new zones and wrestled through a new dungeon in a state of delirium. And now, writing this in the present, I desperately want to go back. Motivation? Renewed.
As an FFXIV sprout, I'm still lacing up my walking boots. Before this hands-on, I viewed Endwalker as this content summit I wasn't sure I could reach. Or at least, reach within the next four years. I don't have time to play the game day in, day out, you see, and this Filler City quest line I've been trawling through has slowly siphoned the enthusiasm out of me.
But having returned from a fairly lengthy look at Endwalker, I can safely say I'm going to stick with FFXIV, one of the main reasons being that the new areas were genuinely stunning. Like, properly lovely. There are also humanoid elephant NPCs, who are fun. The bunny boys are great too. Okay, there are many reasons.
Endwalker will introduce bunny boys - otherwise known as male Viera in formal speak - as a playable race for the first time. FFXIV has had female Viera for a while now and they've now popped the lads in due to popular demand. Like the ladies, male Viera are tall, slender, and have long floppy bunny ears. They look like they'd run a thirst trap account on Instagram, basically.
Crucially, bunny boys feel great to play. Not that your chosen race grants you any advantage at all, by the way, but aesthetically the Viera are pleasing to the eye. A nice ratio of lankiness and muscle tone, to delicate bunny-wunny-ness. Strong customisation options abound as well, including an all-important ear straight or ear flop option. Perhaps the best thing of all, though, is that their running and sprinting animations are extremely good. We're talking a run with solid ratios, a perfect mixture of arm swing to leg swing. Imagine Neo's run from The Matrix, but angle the elbows outwards a bit and slow things down; business casual. I never once swapped off my bunny boy because I felt so comfortable in his fur. Sorry, Shadow Hulk.
It's just as well, because I spent the vast majority of my time sightseeing. Namely, I strolled around three areas: the city of Old Sharlayan, the tangled jungles of Thavnair, and snowy Garlemald. Old Sharlayan will feature as Endwalker's main city and it certainly seems like it'll live up to that title. It exudes importance, with white stone structures that tower into the sky, vast libraries, and extravagant water features. And it's situated by the sea, so it's permeated by a lazy atmosphere that's reflected in lovely tunes. We've got a rhythmic pad of drums, overlaid with upbeat piano and strings. The perfect soundtrack to crack a book open to, basically.
Next on my trip was Garlemald, a region marked by snow and ruin. The sense of scale here is outrageous, with a huge burned out city creating a field of black against a white backdrop. But easily the highlight of my tour was Thavnair, which was a colourful region filled with lush jungle, jagged peaks, and lots of elephant people. I adored the Indian influence in the architecture here and it was easily the highlight of the preview for me.
Endwalker also introduces two new Jobs: the Reaper and the Sage. One's a scythe-wielding damage dealer and the other is a healer who uses little robot things to shield allies and top up their health. As you've probably gathered, I'm no expert on Job matters, but I know when something is fun to use, and I've concluded that the Sage is beyond my intellect but should provide plenty of tools for those cat-boy medics out there. Meanwhile the Reaper, who was also beyond my intellect, was serious fun to play, slicing and dicing all over the place. There are a bunch of combos, plenty of self-healing, and the ability to go all dark and spooky to unlocks some mega-powerful moves - although God knows how you activate this latter intentionally. Just imagine the Reaper is Ed Truck from The US Office and I'm Michael Scott and we're shaking hands and I think it's all going very well.
I took this reaping prowess into the new dungeon, which was named after someone called Zot. Like the word for zit, but make it robotic; fleshy, with a hint of cyborg. It's easily the best dungeon I've played through so far, with an interesting mixture of robo-enemies and bosses with loads of area-of-effect spells that seriously demand your full attention. One false move and you're dead, mate. It's all a work in progress, but it's great fun diving in and out of cover as bosses ramp up the heat. The last boss is also an absolute nightmare in the best possible way. I can't say much, but you better bring a decent party along when the time comes: it ain't easy.
Shadow Hulk and I have plenty of work to do now if we want to reach Endwalker in time for its launch on 23rd November. Whether or not we'll actually get there is another matter, but I'm more determined than ever to get stuck into the expansion the moment it arrives. I know all this new content will stick around forever, and much of it will alter existing stuff, but I want to see these new areas lit up by excited bunny boys.