Naoki Yoshida, the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV since its stunning second lease on life in 2013’s total overhaul A Realm Reborn, has always come across as a friendly, funny, and warmhearted guy. Seeing him take the stage at the Final Fantasy XIV Announcement Showcase on Friday night, all of that charm was on full display. He looked proud of what he and his incredibly talented team at Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit III have accomplished over the years. As well he should; this is a title with one of the most astounding turnarounds in the history of this industry. He also looked more than a bit relieved to introduce the next expansion as “the end of a 10-year saga.” I can’t say I blame him. More than anything, Yoshida — or “Yoshi-P,” as he is often called — looked exhausted.
Quite like the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and their heroic Warrior of Light, Yoshida himself has been through the wringer. He’s been at the helm of three big expansions since A Realm Reborn. Tonight’s reveal is the fourth. Each of these expansions is rather akin to a complete Final Fantasy game in its own right. Together, they tell a tale with the type of scope that even Final Fantasy VII Remake and its upcoming sequels cannot entirely rival. Sure, the graphics are a tad more outdated with each passing year (though more on that later). But everything else is sublime.
We didn’t just learn the name of Final Fantasy XIV‘s next expansion tonight, nor its monumental importance as the grand finale to the saga of Hydaelyn and Zodiark. But hey, that’s a good place to start this breakdown. Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is our latest ominous compound word. It kind of sounds like something that a Babylon 5 character would say. If you don’t know what Babylon 5 is, read on; as much as I want to tell you to go watch it, it’s not at all important to this article, so I’ll merely insinuate that you should instead.
Have you been following FFXIV‘s plot up through Shadowbringers? Then you already know that the pieces are lined up for something huge here. If not, then surely Endwalker‘s reveal trailer does a fine, fine job of pushing the point.
Hello, Alphinaud. Is that a new job class you’re seemingly sporting, or are you just unhappy to see the monster right in front of you? (Yes, it’s a new job class. It’s called Sage. More on that shortly.) Hello, Alisaie. Spunky as ever; never change. Hello, Zenos. You think of the Warrior of Light as both your enemy and your friend. It’s at this point that I must mention Yoshida’s cheeky, self-aware, input on that front — “Not a lot of you think he’s your friend but he most certainly does.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
And hello, Warrior of Light. When last we saw your cinematic depiction, you were all clad in darkness. Now you’ve got the look of a paladin to you. That’s for the best, then, because in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker we’ll be heading to the moon together. Yes, the moon. Just as Final Fantasy IV paladin hero Cecil Harvey did long before us. It’s been a long, strange journey, this chronicle of good people seeking to stop those pesky Ascians from doing very bad things. In true Final Fantasy fashion, it’s about to get even stranger.
In case Yoshida’s words alone didn’t emphasize it enough, the production crew brought along a handy image demonstrating what each stage of the Final Fantasy XIV series has represented in the context of a metaphorical day. A Realm Reborn was sunrise. Heavensward, a cold blue sky. Stormblood brought us crimson twilight and Shadowbringers, blackest night. Endwalker, which eschews the traditional FFXIV approach of telling much though not all of an expansion’s story at launch and then concluding it with patch support, will instead lay down its every narrative card as soon as it’s released. What this means is that its “new dawn” moniker isn’t simply because the Hydaelyn/Zodiark war will be over. Beginning with Patch 6.1, an entirely new adventure will unfold. While we’ll doubtless still be the Warrior of Light, and our surviving friends and allies will factor into the equation somehow, this will be the first time we’re moving into something truly fresh. And that is quite enticing.
The moon isn’t the only place we’ll explore in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. Thavnair has long played a bit part in FFXIV‘s expansive lore but we’ve never seen the tiny kingdom with our own eyes. Soon, that shall be amended. A city called Radz-at-Han encompasses the bulk of the entire island that is the nation of Thavnair, and players will be able to explore that island’s every nook and cranny.
I’m getting Mediterranean vibes. Final Fantasy XII vibes. Good vibes.
Not everything’s sunshine and rainbows. In fact, another new location is something that’s been built-up for years — Garlemald. Indeed, the Garlean Empire will, at last, be within reach. But whereas many of us expected a technological dystopia, few among us could have anticipated seeing things all gone so, so wrong by the time we get there. From the quick and dirty glimpses offered of the imperial powerhouse during the Announcement Showcase, either something rough has befallen the Empire or they’re willfully aping from the ruins of Ishgard’s Firmament. You guys do realize that’s something to be fixed, not some sort of fashion statement, yes? Sincerely, an Eorzean savage.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker is adding two new job classes. One of them, as I alluded to earlier, is represented in the reveal trailer courtesy of the combat antics of one Alphinaud Leveilleur. It’s called Sage, and it’s a healing class that’s heavier on the barrier side of the equation rather than more straightforward cure spells. What that means is that there will soon be four healing classes; two of which will be considered purer healers whilst Scholar and Sage focus on slightly more roundabout, buff-savvy, rescue plans. Astologian will be tweaked to stand alongside White Mage as the pair of purities.
Check out Sage’s snazzy, jazzy, intro video for all manner of theatrics.
Now let’s talk Raids. We got a glimpse of Endwalker‘s offerings as well as a name; long-time Final Fantasy fans should recognize Pandaemonium as a nod to the endgame dungeon in Final Fantasy II. Could this be tied to Garlemald somehow? If shoe fits, wield it, as I’m sure Emperor Mateus Palamecia would say.
But wait. Isn’t that…? Is it just me, or is that…? Surely, that can’t be him, can it? It’s Final Fantasy XIV. Of course it can be.
We don’t know anything about the Alliance Raids other than a nod to their existence and that this time around they will be a purely original story and not an Ivalice or NieR-style crossover. So I reckon we’ll hear more at the Digital Fan Fest on May 14th and 15th. Speaking of which, it will be streamed completely free of charge! But none could blame you if you decide to pay up, anyway, since doing so affords you the Lunar Whale, FFXIV‘s first ever eight-person mount. Yeah, these FFIV references are everywhere.
Now for some random and very much welcome asides. The Trust system will be getting an overhaul in the near future, with unspecified new Trust-based content and the addition of fan-favorite “husbando” Estinien joining the roster of characters. Does this have story implications? Almost certainly. Oh, and belts are on their way out. As in, equippable belts. They’re going the way of the dodo soon. Most of us won’t care one bit. Yoshi-P even shared a humorous anecdote about players begging him to stop them from dropping at the end of dungeons.
If there’s one man in the world who won’t be pleased, it’s Tetsuya Nomura. You saw that joke coming from a mile away, I presume. [Editor’s Note: I did, but I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t been here.]
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker will also include new beast tribes. Much like the job reveal, we only got a glimpse of one of two tribes being added: The majestic Arkasodara. How could you not want to befriend them?
Also, can we talk about the inclusion of FFX‘s Anima? This positively terrifying new rendition of the summoned monstrosity is notable, as Anima is one of the more underused summons in the series—outside of copious appearances in FF mobile titles, it has still only appeared in Final Fantasy X and its sequel. The Endwalker version below was designed by the original artist (since this artist has already been part of the XIV team anyway!). So that will be a fun fight. At least we won’t have to look at Seymour’s hair.
(Also, really quickly, something “big” is coming to The Gold Saucer. Yoshi-P wouldn’t commit to it being blitzball, but he wouldn’t say it wasn’t blitzball, so clearly it has to be blitzball, right? Right.)
If you’re in the mood for relaxation, might I suggest Animal Crossing: New Horizons? Wait, no, that’s not an RPG. OK, what about Stardew Valley? We’re getting closer, but that has nothing to do with Final Fantasy XIV. Or does it? No, it’s not a crossover, as funny as that might be. It’s Island Sanctuary, a place where us hard-working adventurers can do some farming, sell the fruits of our labor, chill out with friends, and — this is aces — let our horde of minions roam freely as if this is some kind of My Pokémon Ranch sequel.
The Announcement Showcase just kept on delivering. On the technical side, we’ve learned that stats and damage calculations will be down-scaled significantly as of Endwalker. While this might sound drab on paper, in reality it’s vital; the numbers were getting so absurdly large that the development team has been patching band-aids on a growing number of bugs. In order to help future-proof Final Fantasy XIV, values across the board are being shifted downward, but that doesn’t mean we’re becoming weaker. Since all our foes are being statistically down-scaled as well, we’re all meeting again on an even keel. This time without bosses that sport 440,000,000 HP, which, let’s face it, really just exist to one-up Yiazmat.
Ishghard’s long-awaited residential district will open up with patch 6.1. At launch, Endwalker will merely allow you to tour the district’s open plots and prepare you for your inevitable sacrifice to some eldritch god in order to ensure yourself a fighting chance at purchasing a house soon thereafter.
Recall that I mentioned aging visuals. The art design of Final Fantasy XIV is still stellar, but there’s no denying its execution is becoming a bit rough around the edges. To help alleviate that, PS5 support is on its way, starting with an open beta on April 13th. Existing PS4 owners will not have to pay a dime for the upgrade, which will tout 4K visuals, improved frame rate, a terrific reduction in loading time, and more.
Just, you know, good luck snagging a PS5. Add it to your bucket list right alongside that house in Ishgard. (Just kidding. PS5s ought to be easier to acquire by April, right? Right? Guys?)
Last but not least, Yoshida revealed upcoming support for play across data centers. Currently, players can hop between worlds within a given data center. Now, my friend out in Scotland can join me for a rollicking good time grinding for relic weapons anytime I demand it. Yoshida did caution that there will likely be greater restrictions on data center cross-play but was unable to go into details at this time. In any case, I’ll take what I can get.
By the time Naoki Yoshida (and his ever-faithful translator, Koji Fox) were finished with their two-hour presentation, exhaustion was practically screaming from every pore of their skin. The mad lads did not appear to have water on-hand, and with Endwalker serving as the culmination to plot threads of an almost Robert Jordan-like degree of complexity, I can’t imagine just how tired our wonderful FFXIV savior must feel. As for yours truly, I’d gone from expecting a packed 20-30 minutes of news to blinking at all the time that had gone by. To be sure, every minute of it was just as packed. This was one heck of a night for Final Fantasy XIV.
And this was the tip of the iceberg for Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. We have so much more to learn between now and the autumnal months of its alleged release (like whatever that other new job will be). Naoki Yoshida has many more sleepless nights ahead of him. And we here at RPGFan will deliver you article after article on the hotly-anticipated next expansion as we spiral ever closer to the end of one of the best main stories in role-playing game history.
Just don’t worry that Yoshida is going anywhere after this. He’s probably signed a blood pact.