Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker Is Already The Master of Narrative Hype

You’ve probably heard people hyping up Final Fantasy 14 to an endless degree by now. I wasn’t convinced of its majesty at first, but after finally relenting a couple of years ago and deciding to plough through the main scenario quests, I was greeted with one of the greatest storytelling triumphs in gaming history. While the MMORPG is still underpinned by an ageing engine and technology, Square Enix has done a beautiful job at constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with the game.

Endwalker is poised to be the crescendo of this technical achievement, bringing the Hydaelyn and Zodiark storyline to its long awaited conclusion as the Warrior of Light and their companions move onto an entirely new chapter in the realm of Eorzea and beyond. I’m personally not ready for it to end, having invested far too many personal feelings into the fate of these characters and what exactly Naoki Yoshida and Natsuko Ishikawa have planned for them.

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Last week saw the arrival of Patch 5:5 Death Unto Dawn – well, the first part of it anyway. The second instalment is set to arrive next month, placing the final pieces into position before the debut of Endwalker later this year. The stakes are immeasurable, as one might expect from the final expansion in a major narrative, but Square Enix has made everything feel truly alive in a way I honestly didn’t expect. Everything matters, with core characters from all past expansions reuniting to tackle the greatest threat our heroes have ever faced.

We aren’t even sure who the big bad is yet. There are a few grand players in the mix such as Zenos and Fandaniel, but their motivations are murky at best, written in such a way that things could be turned on a dime to keep us guessing or introduce an entirely new villain waiting in the wings to sink our world into oblivion. I’m personally convinced that Zenos will pull a Jason Statham from Fast and Furious and turn good before the end, realising the error of his ways before getting bodied in a cutscene.

I want to be surprised, to have my heart broken into a million pieces by a tragic plot revelation that upheaves everything we’ve been building up to. But above this, I want the heroes to stand tall at the end, triumphing over obstacles they once thought insurmountable. It’s a bunch of quirky characters saving the world, so a bit of melodrama being thrown in for good measure only seems right. The smattering of quests from the latest patch immediately hurls things into overdrive, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn no longer concerned with minor political foibles across the land that need to be addressed.

Instead, they get to work on releasing Tiamat, an ancient dragon, from the shackles of the Empire. It’s a difficult task, but one that is required to dispatch a new iteration of Bahamut that has emerged to assist Garlemald in their twisted goal to destroy the realm. The only way to kill a dragon is with more dragons, so much of the latest patch revolves around making this possible before culminating in one of the most visually spectacular dungeons the MMO has ever seen. I’ll delve into that another time, but I can already feel the narrative building to an inevitable tragic showdown between good and evil.

I’m convinced that one of our main characters will bite the dust, sacrificing themselves for the greater good or finding themselves bested by an enemy with no concept of mercy. So long as it isn’t Alisaie or Alphinaud, I could probably deal with it, but I don’t think Square Enix is afraid of emphasising the severity of Endwalker’s threat like this by killing off a beloved Scion or two. It will spur players onward, igniting a personal investment of virtual vengeance as we seek to take down those who wronged us. It’s all still a game in the end, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to care.

The second part of Death Unto Dawn will not mess about, planting the final seeds for what’s to come in Endwalker. I sincerely hope Square Enix leaves us wanting with a devious cliffhanger, teasing us with just enough narrative intrigue to keep us guessing. I remember watching the reveal trailer with friends before I’d even finished Shadowbringers, my face alive with joy alongside them as they learned exactly where this adventure would take us next. I don’t think many of us were expecting the Moon, since it’s still unclear exactly how we’re even supposed to get there. Ancient technology or some shit, the usual.

I think the lack of knowledge about Endwalker’s narrative circumstances are the most exciting part. We can theorise and critique the latest main scenario quests however we like, but Shadowbringers has taught us to never take anything at face value. Emet-Selch was far more than a traditional villain, subverting tired tropes and ending the expansion as a figure we could sympathise with, one whose motivations and purpose had noble intentions, but ones we couldn’t let come to pass.

The villains at the heart of Endwalker wish to usurp this vision, morphing it into something far more sinister – but even then, I think there’s more to it than meets the eye. Now, if you need me, I’ll be watching the reveal trailer for the thousandth time. It won’t make the next patch come any faster, but I can dream. 

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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.

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