Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker is doing something pretty unheard of in the MMO genre: It's bringing an end to the story. Since it launched in 2010 (and was later remade into the much-improved A Realm Reborn in 2013), Final Fantasy 14 has slowly been building toward a planet-sized showdown between the Warriors of Light (the players) and the complicated-but-mostly-evil Ascians—or what's left of them, anyway.
The story of previous expansions has typically bled over into the post-launch updates that release every few months after that expansion's launch. But not Endwalker. Everything will resolve during the main story campaign, and its post-launch updates will instead focus on a brand-new story arc. It's anyone's guess what is going to happen, and I couldn't resist the urge to ask game director Naoki Yoshida about it.
"With the 10 year-plus history, we were able to tie up a lot of loose ends and with the climax there will be more questions that are answered and people will understand the reasoning behind a lot of things that have been present throughout the story," Yoshida told me. "With that being said, there are areas within planet Hydaelyn where we haven't explored yet. There are continents that have yet to be discovered, areas that have yet to be explored. There's possibilities there. And with the story of Shadowbringers, we learned that the Crystal Tower acts as a portal not just to the distant Realms, including The First and those that have been divided by the Sundered, but it can also allow us to travel in time as well so we can go back to the past and future as well. So there's still a lot of possibilities left."
It's a vague tease, but as someone that's been playing FF14 for those 11 years, I find those possibilities tantalizing—especially the idea that time traveling to a different era of Eorzea's history might be on the table.
Because Endwalker's story is largely about an impending apocalypse, I was curious to know if the climax would lead to anything world-changing. When Final Fantasy 14's original version first went offline, for example, Square Enix wrote it into the story that the old world was obliterated by a giant dragon encased in a moon—a cool (and convenient) way to explain all the geographical changes in relaunched version. That won't happen again, Yoshida says. "You wouldn't see a case where right after Endwalker everyone is going to have amnesia or the meteor—Dalamud—comes down one more time and the realm is destroyed again. We won't have those incidents again, rest assured."
"We have no intention of negating all that has happened [in the story]," Yoshida added. "We don't want to negate the adventure that you went on, the characters that you met along the way, and the achievements that you've accomplished throughout your journey. So when we are looking to that transition and moving forward to the next chapter of that story, it's safe to assume that this is still taking place in the same universe so to speak."
It's exciting that Final Fantasy 14 is on the verge of such a major transition—not just because I'm anxious to see how it all ends, but also to discover what new story Square Enix wants to tell after. But, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Endwalker is also launching a few months behind schedule on November 23. That's a pretty long gap that players will have to wait, especially since the last of Shadowbringer's story patches is landing this week. To help pass the time, Yoshida strongly recommends replaying some of the main story from all the previous expansions and A Realm Reborn.
"We do have a newgame-plus mode," Yoshida says. "So you can go back and play the chapters of the previous expansions and the main story, so that it's fresh in your memory when you jump into Endwalker. I feel like that will help with the enjoyment."
"By now I'm sure you're familiar with characters like Lahabrea and Elidibus, but they've been around for a long time," Yoshida added. "Some of the dialogue that they said might carry a different meaning after experiencing what you know from Shadowbringers and going back and revisiting the earlier parts of the story. Maybe another key thing to look out for is when Hydaelyn calls out to you, and how many times she's called upon you. Also the job quests, some people might have skipped over them, but there are going to be a lot of characters that are going to make an appearance [in Endwalker] and that might be a good place to look at from a story experience as well."
Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker launches on November 23, 2021. People who preorder can jump in a few days earlier, though.