Endwalker is fantastic. I’ve just landed on the moon and I’m ready to explore the lunar landscape before I buckle down and save Eorzea from potential ruin. Square Enix has surpassed all expectations with this expansion, even if I’m stuck queueing for hours on end just to have a chance at playing it. The wait is worthwhile, especially once I’m finally free to progress the main scenario quest and explore each new zone with unparalleled freedom.
The thing is, that freedom is stifled somewhat by the devilish presence of Aether currents. You will find these glowing green whispers of air across each new zone, and they need to be examined before your mounts can earn the ability to fly around without restriction. Before you find all of them or progress through the main quest, you better get used to glacially slow walks across the Moon’s surface or needless backtracking through the snowy plains of Garlemald. Ever since the release of Stormblood I’ve hated the existence of this mechanic, because it doesn’t encourage exploration in a way that feels necessary or rewarding.
Some currents are earned through optional missions or the main scenario, offering a small reminder that these pesky collectibles are out there waiting to be claimed, although the game gives away very little about their exact location or how many there even are to find unless you pilfer through the menu for a handful of precious seconds. Like I said, it’s just a little tedious and frustrating when certain quests require traversal across locations you’ve seen time and time before. Fast travel isn’t always an option either, and the sprint cooldown is just long enough that this is easily one of FF14’s weakest elements.
I play Final Fantasy 14 for the narrative, I’m not the type of gal to spend hours and hours grinding through classes and seeking out each piece of optional content. More power to those who do, I love how Square’s golden child is able to have such enduring appeal, but for me, I’ll do the main quest, raids, and look adorable doing so. Because of this attitude, I feel the ability to fly in certain zones would be better served as a reward for completing major character arcs and questlines instead of requiring exploration that feels like a chore. Most people will just look up an exhaustive guide instead of wasting time trying to remember where they’ve been or need to go in order to progress. It’s just annoying busywork.
This is especially true with Endwalker where the variety of each new zone and their accompanying size is almost staggering. There’s so much to see and do, and while you’ll unearth most of the map through the main quest, stepping away from the beaten path is required to find each and every Aether current. So good luck exploring with little idea of where they are for several minutes until resorting to a guide like I did. I understand restricting flight while the main story is unfolding, the joy of natural discovery and major plot revelations would be nullified if you could just yeet into the air right away. Yet once those moments are over, just hand the ability over instead of making us jump through hoops.
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