by Derek Heemsbergen
Spoiler warning: This speculative article makes use of all available narrative material for Final Fantasy XIV up to Patch 4.55.
Its final threads thinly wound 'round the skein of history's spindle, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is set to conclude in a matter of weeks, ushering in a new era of adventure for players around the globe. The July 2nd launch of the popular MMORPG's third expansion, Shadowbringers, looms large, its mysteries piling high in the wake of dramatic events that portend a thematic shift into darker territory. What events will propel the Warrior of Light to become the Warrior of Darkness? What will rouse the soulless Scions of the Seventh Dawn from their preternatural slumber? And what potent powers might our mighty hero wield in the upcoming battle to save Hydaelyn once and for all?
Rather than provide an extensive account of Hydaelyn's history and geography, which is skillfully detailed elsewhere (including at the Final Fantasy XIV Wiki, itself informed by Square Enix's own Encyclopedia Eorzea Volume I and Volume II), this article aims to recount the events that immediately precede Shadowbringers, as well as the information revealed about the expansion thus far. The result is intended to be good-natured speculation as to what players might be able to expect in their latest journey as the newly christened Warrior of Darkness.
The Warriors of Darkness, as seen in Patch 3.4: Soul Surrender.
Following the events of Heavensward, in which the Warrior of Light helped put an end to the millennium-long Dragonsong War in the Holy See of Ishgard, they turned their attention toward a new crisis in the making. Five heroes hailing from a realm beyond — a "reflection of the Source," perhaps better conceptualized as Hydaelyn on a different dimensional axis — made a bid to trigger a catastrophe that would send the Warrior of Light's world into an era of ruin. These so-called "Warriors of Darkness" claimed to have thwarted the designs of the mysterious Ascians in their world so thoroughly that the power of Light spilled forth in an obliterating torrent of destruction. Their aim? To produce an Umbral Calamity in the Warrior of Light's realm, the Source, ultimately breaking down the barriers between Hydaelyn's splintered faces and rejoining them together. Yet this rejoining would come at the cost of innumerable lives, and thus did the Scions of the Seventh Dawn intervene. A climactic battle between the Warrior of Light and their darkened counterparts culminated in the combatants entreating Hydaelyn Herself for divine intervention. Taking the guise of the Scions' missing leader, Minfilia, Hydaelyn swore to stem the abundant tide of Light in the Warriors of Darkness' troubled world, and the group vanished, likely never to return. Thus was another calamity averted, at least for a time.
Not long after their encounter with the Warriors of Darkness, the Warrior of Light turned their attention toward liberating the lands of Ala Mhigo and Doma from the yoke of Garlean subjugation. Across a stage spanning Eorzea and the Far East, the Warrior of Light became embroiled in a revolution that would demand no small price in blood. Contending with foes like Yotsuyu, villainous viceroy of Doma, and Zenos yae Galvus, wicked slaughterer and prince of the Garlean Empire, their campaign ended in the successful recapture of those two lands terrorized by imperial might. The specifics of that tale are better saved for another time.
In the wake of the Stormblood revolution, several truths surrounding the Empire would soon surface, plunging the Warrior of Light's world into chaos once more. Zenos, once confirmed dead at the hands of the Warrior of Light, reappeared in the imperial capital. Yet despite his physical appearance, the soul bound to that body was not Zenos, but the enigmatic Ascian called Elidibus. Elidibus sought to reignite the longstanding conflict between the Empire and the world at large, once again leading the realm down a path toward newborn calamity. It also came to light that the Empire's entire history was of Ascian design, its purpose to sow discord with the goal of reviving their dark god, Zodiark. Suddenly, the conflict with the Warriors of Darkness held more weight than ever. Our hero is now fated to take up their ill-fated rivals' cause and finish what they started. But how might we deliver their world from an onslaught of Light whilst contending with an unfathomably resourceful Empire rooted in Darkness at its core? These answers and more await us in Shadowbringers.
The figurative and literal expansion of Final Fantasy XIV's world is accompanied by myriad new additions to its lore. While much about Shadowbringers is being kept under wraps, a few key points serve as food for thought in considering how the Warrior of Light's adventures will develop over the next couple of years.
The Pixie beast tribe and new playable race Viera debut in Shadowbringers.
The Viera, Shadowbringers' new playable race, are lithe rabbit-people who hail from the Golmore Jungle in Dalmasca. Dalmasca itself is located in the southwest region of the continent of Othard, which is part of the Far East. The Golmore Jungle is more specifically located in Dalmasca Inferior, the half of the region not ruled over by the provincial government of Rabanastre. Resistance forces seeking to liberate Dalmasca from the Garlean Empire count the Viera general Fran among their number. Curiously, while male Viera have been confirmed to exist on Hydaelyn, they are described as being comparatively feral and reclusive, leading many players to believe that only female Viera will implemented as playable characters in Final Fantasy XIV.
The Nu Mou beast tribe hail from the Rak'tika Greatwood, a lush forest with treetop dwellings set to be introduced in Shadowbringers. Its geographical location within the world of Hydaelyn is currently unknown. Given their propensity for seeking wisdom, their relation to Ivalice, and the confirmed existence of other espers on Hydaelyn, perhaps they worship a primal along the lines of Exodus, the Judge-Sal from Final Fantasy XII. Quetzacoatl from Final Fantasy VIII is another intriguing candidate, should the Nu Mou display any particular affinity for lightning.
Pixies, the second of Shadowbringers' new beast tribes, live amidst the idyllic meadows of Il Mheg. They pay homage to the primal Titania, queen of the fairies. Known to be tricksters, these diminutive creatures are likely to be a great source of frustration for the Warrior of Light. (This author anticipates fetch quests. Lots and lots of fetch quests.)
Blue Mage is available now, and Shadowbringers will introduce Gunbreaker and one more mystery job.
Blue Magic, the newest discipline available to adventurers, has its roots in the New World. The New World is located across the Indigo Deep to the west of the continent of Aldenard. This land, settled by the Whalaqee tribe (native practitioners of Blue Magic), is also home to the Mamool Ja beast tribe, who live in "masonwork cities nestled amidst lush verdure," according to the Encyclopedia Eorzea Volume II. The New World is the surprising origin of many Eorzean imports, including popotoes and several varieties of chocobo feed. Whether Shadowbringers will allow players to experience the New World's wonders firsthand remains unknown.
The first new job revealed for Shadowbringers is the Gunbreaker, a tank that uses a gunblade to defend their comrades. With enchanted bullets and specialized slashing effects, Gunbreaker is an interesting addition to the Final Fantasy XIV job lineup that calls back to (the now-contentious) Final Fantasy VIII. Thancred, a key member of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, was shown wielding a gunblade in the Shadowbringers teaser trailer, so perhaps he'll teach the Warrior of Light a trick or two should they adopt this new discipline.
At least one more new job has been confirmed for Shadowbringers. While Gunbreaker was cheekily teased by Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida prior to being unveiled, everything about the other new job(s) is being kept under wraps. So what educated guesses can we make? For one, Geomancer can safely be ruled out, given the established link between Far Eastern Geomancy and the existing discipline of Astromancy. Jobs like Puppetmaster and Beastmaster are likely to be shepherded (heh) into the new Limited Job format due to their unusual, hybridized concepts, which don't fit neatly into Final Fantasy XIV's rigid role system. What remains, then? Dancer seems a likely bet, given the fervor surrounding the job after the first Stormblood teaser trailer infamously led players to believe it was in development. It is also likely that no more tank jobs are in the pipeline for Shadowbringers, leaving the door open for new DPS or healer jobs. Perhaps the world will finally see the debut of Chemist, a battle-savvy medic who uses Garlean technology to mend wounds. Stranger twists of fate line the margins of history's pages.
Thancred gets to try out Gunbreaker before we do, just because he's part of the game already.
With only about one month to go until the release of Patch 4.56, which includes the decisive conclusion of the Stormblood storyline, players won't have to wait long for answers to many of their burning questions. But two stand out above the rest, and these are unlikely to be answered until Shadowbringers arrives. For one, who is the child Thancred refers to as "Minfilia?" After her rebirth as the Word of the Mother, speaker for Hydaelyn herself, Minfilia departed to a Star seemingly beyond the Warrior of Light's reach. The presence of a vulnerable child bearing Minfilia's name is surely more than a coincidence, leading this author to speculate that she has been reborn following the fulfillment of her promise to the Warriors of Darkness. If Thancred is protecting her, then she is likely being targeted by a malevolent entity — most likely of Ascian origin. She is all but guaranteed to play a pivotal role in the events of Shadowbringers. Will she be the key to saving every iteration of Hydaelyn once and for all?
The other big question in the air concerns the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. By what means are its (currently indisposed) members conscious once more? This author has two prevailing theories. Given the existence of beings who can possess others' bodies, perhaps the Scions we see in the Shadowbringers teaser trailer are actually different souls altogether. Were Master Matoya to transfer her consciousness into Y'shtola's body, for instance, it would presumably be a simple task for her to wield black magicks with ease. The same goes for Urianger, whose proficiency with Astromancy was heretofore unknown to even the Warrior of Light. An alternate theory leads this author to speculate that the Scions we see might be parallel versions of the people we know so dearly, each hailing from a different Shard of Hydaelyn. Now that the existence of other realities has been substantiated as fact, anything is possible in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.
Our long-standing Warrior of Light seemingly must become this star's Warrior of Darkness.
As the Warrior of Light grinds their heel into the lingering embers of war, a catastrophe that threatens the world's very existence brews on the horizon. But that horizon stretches far into the distance, and within it, one can glimpse the storm of adventure brewing once again. So long as players around the globe embrace the world of Final Fantasy XIV, the trials and travails of the Warrior of Light will continue indefinitely.
These last few months until Shadowbringers are the time to gather our strength for the conflict that looms darkly ahead. Until then, may you ever walk in the light of the crystal.
A copy of Encyclopedia Eorzea Volume II was provided by Square Enix to facilitate feature coverage. This article is a work of speculative entertainment and is not informed by sources at Square Enix.