It was only a few short days ago that we got the first look at Endwalker combat design, through a long live letter dedicated to discussing the changes coming with the expansion. I’ve already taken a peek at the Sage stuff, which was my immediate desire to write after the live letter because I am very geeked up for that job. Today, I wanted to touch on the other news that came out from the live letter – I’m going to keep this high level and not get too much into the weeds on each individual job or ability, but rather to summarize as best as I can.
The Endwalker Title Screen: It’s cool, it’s dark, it has the moon turning into the Endwalker logo (as if you had any questions), and it’s a nice mellow opening after the bombast of the Shadowbringers title screen (which I loved).
The Big Design Notes On Combat: The team spent a lot of time advising that the goal is to build up on the foundation of Shadowbringers rather than being a wholly new paradigm unto itself or a complete revamp across the board. Specifically, Yoshida was hitting on the idea that they are not going back to the Heavensward designs and ideology, which might be disappointing to some, but Shadowbringers has been exceptionally well-balanced for the most part and so as someone without the Heavensward nostalgia gland (I played it late to get into Stormblood, I know) this is appealing to me. I think for the most part, looking around, it’s fairly positively received by most of the playerbase, so I think this went over pretty well.
Synced Cooldowns to 60 or 120 Seconds: Without specific changes per ability, this is hard to quantify right now, but it’s a big quality of life improvement at the very best. If this means that players will be able to lineup a bunch of group burst DPS cooldowns like Trick Attack, Battle Litany, Embolden, and various others like favorable Bard songs, then it will be great, but it will also have an interesting impact on balance as that will likely mean boss health pools will need to be adjusted to ensure adequate challenge. Again, until we see a comprehensive list of class changes, it’s hard to paint a comprehensive picture of what these changes mean in total, but it sounds quite promising and it shows the team working diligently to make sure that the gameplay feels good and interesting and is less about micromanagement of buffs for things like the Trick Attack window.
Combo Breaker Adjustments for Melee: Tanks and Melee can get stuck in an unfortunate situation, needing to use a ranged attack to keep uptime on a target but being mid-combo when a movement mechanic hits. This adjustment will allow combos to keep rolling if you hit a ranged attack in the middle, so you can keep your damage output rolling with ranged attacks and then close the gap and pick up your standard melee combo where you left off, with full Potency bonuses. This is a great change!
“Using Defensive Enhancements At Optimal Times Will Grant Greater Benefits”: What this means is a little unclear, but generally speaking, if it means that FFXIV is going to get something akin to WoW’s old Active Mitigation model for damage reduction, it could be good or bad. In WoW, a change like this functionally meant needing a core AM ability ready for certain mechanics to reduce both incoming damage but also usually a nasty effect from not mitigating, like a DoT or debuff. In FFXIV, the wall-to-wall pull strategies in most dungeons mean a tank is cycling CDs constantly and rarely saves defensives between pulls, using the bosses and travel time between pulls to recharge abilities. My hope is that this means tanks will be getting defensives that can be used more regularly, like on a sub-45 second recharge and with charges to hold in order to keep things flowing. If boss design in Endwalker dungeons necessitates having defensive CDs for certain boss abilities without such a change, wall-to-wall pulling could be problematic. It’s been a while since I’ve played all the tanks (GNB for most of the last year!) so there’s the possibility that everyone has enough short-duration, short-recharge defensives to be okay, and I hope that’s the case because the dungeon pacing in Shadowbringers is something I’ve learned to enjoy a lot.
Balacing Physical and Magical Damage Attributes on Weapons: FFXIV weapons have two damage values on them – physical and magical. Certain abilities draw on one or the other when determining damage, and there has been inequality between these forever, which was accounted for in job design and balance. In Endwalker, the values of damage on weapons at the same item level will be equalized, and ability potency is being changed for affected abilities to compensate. All this means to us right now is that some ability potencies will change but should remain equally as effective.
Feint and Addle Changes: Currently, melee DPS and caster DPS jobs get the role actions of Feint and Addle, respectively, which lower physical potency and magical potency stats on a target, also respectively. These are great little cooldowns that can help in a prog scenario, where you’re pushing hard against incoming damage while also trying to meet a DPS check, because they’ll reduce the possible number of healer GCDs spent on healing. These buffs will remain mirrors of each other, it sounds like, but now do so by reducing both damage types, with Feint being more effective against physical damage and Addle more effective against magical. The assumption is that they’ll continue to work via being cast on a single target, which means they’re ideal in a boss scenario, like a trial or raid. These changes should mean that they can both be woven into a damage reduction cooldown cycle more regularly, and not only against specific mechanics, while continuing to have a favored damage type to impact.
Healer Changes: Sage aside, because I already gushed about that previously, but healers are in for some substantial changes. All healers will gain new actions that apply single-target buffs – what that will actually mean remains to be seen, and Media Tour is likely to give us our first real look at these in context of an existing toolkit. The cast time for offensive spells is being reduced to 1.5 seconds, which will be interesting given the GCD remains at 2.5 seconds. Theoretically, this will be better, but it may pose some new challenges to some healers. Astrologian currently has a 1.5 second cast time on Malefic, their main nuke, and because it remains tied to the GCD, you have this hangtime after it casts where GCD-locked spells cannot be cast. In theory, it should make weaving easier (and my suspicion is that this means more oGCDs coming for all healers in the 80-90 stretch), but it won’t increase DPS output much if any, unless we also get an oGCD DPS spell that can be woven in. If that happens, that would probably be pretty cool if done well! The limit break radius is being expanded to 50 meters, so it should reliably hit a whole room regardless of positioning, which is a nice change. Lastly, for group comp purposes, Raid Finder matching for Savage will ensure groups include one pure healer (WHM/AST) and one barrier healer (SCH/SGE).
Party and Duty Finder Updates: In addition to Savage matchmaking taking healer type into account, there will be a new option for players who have yet to receive weekly completion rewards being added, presumably to get you into a group faster to try and clear for some benefit. Search results in Party Finder will now exclude parties you cannot join due to the one player per job setting, which is a nice QoL change.
On the loot side of actual duties, trials that drop weapons today will now drop their current weapon rewards plus a weapon coffer. This added coffer reward will extend to the fourth turn of high-end raids up through Heavensward – so Coils normal/savage and Alexander on Savage only. All 8-player raids from before Shadowbringers will drop their gear and accessory rewards as coffers, which is modeled after the Eden Savage drop system of today.
UI/HUD Updates: Outside of new job gauges and tweaks to existing ones, there are a few cool UI options. One is that you’ll be able to split out “conditional enhancements” from normal buffs, so if you have a proc as a part of your class rotation, you can divide it out and see it elsewhere to create a better focus. There is an improved ground targeting reticule, which allows you the option to press the action button again once the circle is placed to cast while preventing the circle from being moved outside of the range of the action being used, which should prevent backtracking to cast something due to overaggressive targeting. Both changes are more useful to controller players, where placing an AoE circle consistently and accurately can be a bit cumbersome and frustrating!
On your party frames, you’ll now be able to see the target of your allies’ actions, denoted either with a letter target for hostiles or a numbered target for friendlies. This is a nice change that should help with raises during or after combat. Speaking of raises, the default setting for the UI will now show health bars for friendly targets even when they are KOed, which should make identifying placement of a player to get in-range for raising much easier.
Belt Removal: Besides being the most suggestive sounding thing in the live letter (me-ow), the eradication of belts in Endwalker raised some questions about specifics that are now mostly answered. Belts will no longer be equippable or obtainable as of 6.0 launch, and all belts a player is in possession of on patch day will be shuffled off to a Calamity Salvager to retrieve, except for belts in your basic inventory, which will still have its belts (and now Tetsuya Nomura can exhale). The Eureka Speed belt can be exchanged post-patch for a ring with the same effect. On the more complex side of belts, there is a list of actions that can be done now and then a smaller list that will remain available post-6.0, which is better explained with a graphic:
So if you want to extract a new materia from a fully-soulbound belt, shoot your shot before Early Access maintenance!
The Stat Squish: The part I was most waiting for as a WoW player – what happens with the stat squish?
Well, firstly, we saw the character level 90, item level 560 average stats for a couple of DPS jobs and Sage. Sage was around 40k health, and the DPS jobs were right around 45k health, which represents a squish down to around 33% of today’s item level 520ish values at level 80. Tanks remain an open question and will likely stay that way until Media Tour.
The specifics that Yoshida and co were willing to share in the live letter were more promising than the vagueness of the Endwalker announcement and Fan Fest. The squish is specifically targeting a reduction in gear attributes from level 50-80 – so the squish should function quite similarly to the original WoW stat squish in that item levels will remain as-is and gear will simply be squashed down once it crosses the level 50 threshold. There was a line that “overall HP and damage values will be reduced” which is in-line with a stat squish, and was visible in the gameplay demos shown for certain jobs. With the gear squish also comes similar squishing for meals, medicine, and materia – to what extent all of this will be, we are uncertain, but the level 90 early endgame values are pretty far down. If they’ve flattened the value of an item level, this might stick for a while, but the problem WoW ran into that necessitated the second and third squishes is that item level in WoW is a percentage modifier – so 1 item level is 1% more power, which means it stacks up to be more valuable as the item level of a piece of gear increases. It’s why a 100 item level increase in Wrath of the Lich King was worth 10k health and the same climb in Legion was worth around 1 million health – things multiply up rapidly as that item level climbs. I haven’t seen enough theorycrafting in FFXIV to say that it behaves similarly, so it may be fine, but my suspicion having watched stat creep for a few expansions now is that it is similar.
With these changes, a few fixes were needed. The first is for old raid and duty farming, which is done via Undersized Party for soloing or small group comps. When doing these, you’ll receive an Enhanced Echo buff that balances against the squish, with the value varying based on duty level. Basically, it should, in theory, mean that old duties will still be farmable solo on schedule as you’d expect, but the difference is being made up by the buff. The second is an experience change – with EXP values being downscaled. The slide said “EXP gains” so I am slightly nervous that leveling may get more lengthy, but I suspect that EXP requirements will also be squished, as WoW has also done with prior such squishes. They’ve also noted that EXP previously earned from standard dungeon enemies will now be earned from dungeon bosses. This is an interesting note, because it seems like the team has been slowly moving to change the fountain of dungeon EXP gained from unique pulling strategies. In Shadowbringers, the chain bonus for rapid pulling was removed in dungeons and the potential gains of chain pulling were moved and rebalanced across mobs. This change will now push all dungeon EXP to the bosses, and the way it was described sounds like dungeons should still remain viable for leveling, but it may change the pulling patterns in dungeons – potentially to add skippable trash? FFXIV is weird to me as a longtime WoW player in that dungeons not having tightly optimized routing that skips pulls is strange, but it isn’t bad – and honestly, one of the things I hate in WoW is when dungeon groups will do something needlessly complicated to avoid pulling two extra mobs when running on lower difficulties – no one needed to hop the cliff in Everbloom to skip 90 seconds of trash pulls, especially when the specific jump usually took longer to setup.
The Big HQ Change: We got almost no crafting or gathering news in this live letter, with the promise of more to come next time. However, what we did get was huge and potentially quite confusing, so here goes: in Endwalker, the way that HQ items work are changing. Currently, you can receive HQ items as drops from some enemies, you can exchange tomestones or other tokens for crafting materials in NQ and HQ variants, and you can gather both NQ and HQ versions of gatherables as a DoL job. In Endwalker, gathering HQ items is dead – no more two storage slots per item, all down to NQ base gatherables, with actions affecting quality instead affecting quantity gathered. This sounded really strange at first, but here’s the gist – gatherers can no longer gather HQ items and will instead invest in quantity gathered, so storage should work out favorably for them. Meanwhile, crafters can still craft HQ items as before and gear, including intermediary materials. It seems the gameplay design is simplified in some ways then – a Disciple of the Land is looking to gather as much as possible, and it would seem likely that Perception on gear will go from affecting quality to quantity. Meanwhile, for crafters, the change seems to mostly make skillful rotation usage more crucial in making an HQ item – you’ll need to plan the spending of your Crafting Points, ensure steady increases to quality, and that will likely mean new macros and fresh new rotations, since you can no longer lean on feeding a recipe a fat stack of HQ ingredients to force the quality boost.
With this change, existing HQ items will remain, but they will not offer their bonuses to crafting quality, delivery bonuses for turn-ins, and cannot be sold on the market board or traded until they are reduced to NQ. Waiting on the next live letter to say more about this, but I am curious and I think it could be a good change. At the very least, it means gathering should be less bag space intensive, as you’ll now effectively be down to a single stack per item and you can instead focus on quantity, which means that you’ll still get something of value (since the market won’t skew so heavily towards HQ base gatherables). I’m optimistic on this one!
Aethernet and Aetheryte Updates: The easy description first – the city Aethernets are getting an overhaul, with a new visual interface to show you a city map with the Aethernet hubs marked for easy movement around.
As for the Aetherytes and teleporting, there is a big change coming there. The gil cost cap of 999 on teleports is being removed, replaced with a new distance-based pricing that can exceed 999 gil. The cost will be based on where you are and where you are heading, and while the cost can exceed 999, the costs shown are still pretty conservative, with the most expensive teleport being just shy of 1,500 gil. All in all, not a huge increase, although the logic in one case is a little odd (teleporting to Shadowbringers zones is often cheaper than going to Stormblood zones because the Crystal Tower’s location in Eorzea is used for the distance calculation instead of representing a journey through to what is, effectively, another planet). This has me filled with dread about how much teleporting to Mare Lamentorum is going to cost (although if getting to another world only costs 527 gil, I suppose the moon would be cheaper if anything). With these changes, the Aetheryte ticket system is being overhauled, with a tiered implementation that will have cost reductions if the cost of a teleport exceeds the value of the ticket and will allow you to match tickets to your most frequent teleports. This sounds…needlessly complicated, to me, but given the wide array of QoL changes for the better, I am willing to let this one be for now!
Lastly: Wild Speculation
The job action trailer is exceptional and good, and as expected, we got a reasonably good mix of music types from the new content mixed in and new zone previews through a few different angles on each zone as the various jobs wailed on target dummies, pegasuses, and tigers (?!).
Here it is:
What I want to point out is a zone that we were shown concept art for, but that hasn’t been named and was sneakily shown in the trailer twice.
Once for Bard:
And again at night for White Mage:
I wanted to point this out because there are a lot of zone previews elsewhere in the trailer and in the benchmark for Thavnair, and this is decidedly different. No purple rock, floating islands, different flora and fauna (as opposed to the tropical flair of Thavnair, which rhymes) and a generally different aesthetic. I’ve seen little speculation about where this is – some people theorizing something to do with Sharlayan, others speculating this is inside the moon and would thus serve as a surprise finale zone after we land on the moon and explore the (very publicized) Mare Lamentorum zone. However, neither Azys Lla nor The Tempest were spoiled in this fashion prior to the launches of their respective expansions, so there has to be more to this here than we know for now. One exciting prospect I’ve seen people note based on the concept art is the comparison to the Kingdom of Zeal from Chrono Trigger, which would be quite neat. It’s actually a little unnerving to have this zone in plain sight but also not described, explained, or listed in any promotional materials. WHAT IS IT? WHERE IS IT?!
And that wraps my thoughts on the Live Letter.
Oh, I guess one more – Summoner and Monk reworks, but especially Summoner, look very cool, and I want to try them both. I’ve played a bit of Monk but almost no Summoner (thanks Scholar for getting me to level 80 there!), so it would be fresh to me either way and it looks like a lot of fun!