I’ve been spending most of the summer trying to catch up in Final Fantasy XIV, because I want to be there on day one (ish, server issues notwithstanding) for Endwalker. The fourth expansion and the end of a ten-year storyline, it feels impossible for a MMORPG to ever reach this level of hype again.

I’m not quite there yet, but I did get to peek ahead a little during Square Enix’s Endwalker “Media Tour.”

Two years ago, I flew to San Francisco to play a demo slice of Shadowbringers by purple-tinted candlelight. It was one of the more surreal moments of my career. This time, sadly, my demo slice of Endwalker was beamed to my desk at home via ParSec.

To the credit of everyone who set this event up, it went incredibly well and was a lot of fun considering the pandemic-y circumstances. It was the closest to the “real thing” yet for me, of all the COVID-era press events I’ve attended. And hey, it helped that the Endwalker hype, from our ragtag groups of writers and influencers, was palpable.

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Preview

I got around six hours of time with Endwalker, although the way these demos work is a little different than one might expect. I had access to two large field areas, Thavnair and Garlemald. Devoid of story content, this was largely an enclosed sandbox sort of environment.

I could explore the terrain, fight random mobs and participate in FATEs as they popped up. It’s all context-free, with NPCs even equipped with placeholder dialogue. I’m also obligated to mention everything I experienced was content in active development, meaning everything you see here and elsewhere from the media tour could easily change.

Aside from admiring these areas’ impressive architecture, I had access to one dungeon, the Tower of Zot (yes, that one). I was also able to play every job at level 90 as I wanted, even the new Reaper and Sage jobs.

That said, I was so excited to try out the updates to Gunbreaker that I didn't actually use the new jobs at all. I did see them in action however, from fellow attendees beating up training dummies to running the Tower of Zot with my groupmates.

The Tower of Zot was a fairly linear dungeon, but with some really twisted-looking evil interior design. The previously revealed Magus Sisters were the baddies of the hour, and we had to take on each one individually before going up against all three at the end.

This is far from the first time we’ve seen Final Fantasy IV content appear in XIV, but with Endwalker’s heavy emphasis on the moon, it just feels right here. For me, as a one job kind of person, playing as the slightly beefed-up Gunbreaker was a hoot.

The changes were announced before the media stuff, but actually playing with them was baller as hell. There are three major changes to Gunbreaker: ranged attacks no longer cancel combos, there’s a third cartridge available, and the Gnashing Fang combo only takes up one spot in the Hotbar!

As a controller player, this stuff made my day. Going back was truly painful, but the anticipation to get those sick upgrades back is alive and well. 

After beating the dungeon and watching some colleagues struggle to decipher Sage and Reaper (the latter was really well-received, albeit said to be hard to wrap your head around), I went out to explore.

Thavnair’s vaguely Middle East-slash India vibe makes for some gorgeous scenery, with a massive beach, colorful buildings and massive elephant deity statues tucked away all over the map. I also participated in a “save the baby turtle” FATE, which was hilarious and adorable at the same time. 

Garlemald was a very different kind of experience. I don’t know the context at all, but Garlemald as presented in Endwalker is a post-apocalyptic graveyard of a city Fist of the North Star style, with ruined piles of skyscraper strewn throughout a cold and dark hellscape.

Behind all the rubble was a massive castle or fortress, covered by bizarre structures such as building-sized satellite dishes. I really can’t wait to figure out what the deal with this area is.

I didn’t dive into every little detail, because that’s for the YouTubers to handle. Instead I was content to just let this little taste of Endwalker wash over me, giving myself just enough license to cruise around and explore without doing all available activities or poring through numbers and skill lists.

I’m as much of a fan as I am a “journalist,” and that means I want to be as fresh as possible for when Endwalker is finally completed and out.

I will say that if you’re playing Final Fantasy XIV and loving it, there’s more of this stuff on the way. The new areas are full of detail and personality, and the game balance and mechanic updates are sure to please.

For new players or folks considering starting, as hype as the Endwalker talk will be, don’t rush ahead. Thavnairr will still be there waiting for you as you make your way through the story thus far. You’ll still be able to make a bunny boy.

Related: The Best Parts of Final Fantasy XIV are Between Expansions

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is set to launch on November 23, 2021.