Since A Realm Reborn 2013, Final Fantasy XIV has received a new expansion every two years. Each of these huge updates introduced a plethora of new content for the Square Enix MMORPG, with each release being akin to a stand-alone JRPG. Everything full of exciting stories, new regions, missions and impressive boss fights that continuously expand the fantastic setting of the game, Eorzea.
Last week Square Enix introduced the fourth expansion. Like its predecessors, Endwalker promises new jobs, new areas to explore (we’re going to the moon!) And much much more.
And as with the redesign and subsequent expansions in 2013, Endwalker development is led by Naoki Yoshida. The director and producer has transformed Final Fantasy XIV into a critically acclaimed MMO giant over the past eight years. This latest version marks the end of a decade-long history that dates back to the original version of the game, which was released in 2010.
Yoshida-san is a very busy man. Not only is he responsible for one more expansion of Final Fantasy XIV, but he was recently announced as the producer for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI. But between juggling two Leviathan-sized projects, he found the time to answer our burning questions about this amazing Endwalker reveal.
Endwalker will complete the 10 year story arc of Final Fantasy XIV. How does it feel to finally close such a long chapter? When did you first imagine how this chapter of FFXIV would end and how much the final version would have changed from that original premise?
The idea of the “Hydaelyn and Zodiark Saga” had existed since the time of A Realm Reborn and was what we worked on to create the story. To bring this story to an end, Final Fantasy XIV had to thrive as an MMORPG, and we were far from declaring the ongoing story to be the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga even at the time of Heavensward’s release. After Stormblood was released, and after seeing the growing community and success of the game, I thought it was time to flesh out the concepts of the story in more detail and think about how and where that conclusion could take place.
Back then, I felt that 6.0 or 7.0 would be a good time to wrap things up, but given the excitement we saw with Shadowbringers, which was even higher than our expectations, I decided we shouldn’t awkwardly draw the story as well The wave of excitement should continue by completing the story with Endwalker.
I’m really looking forward to bringing our players closer to the final of this storyline. I wouldn’t say that I am sad that we are completing this story arc, which spans over a decade, because now I have to think about the next story … My job has no end!
They also confirmed that Endwalker wouldn’t be the final chapter of the game, which was a huge relief for all FFXIV fans! What’s on the cards for what’s next? How do you expect your writing and storytelling process to change after the story reaches such a cosmic scale and you can finally take the next big adventure with you somewhere?
Everything is still in a very rough and preparatory stage, but I have ideas about where to record the story after Endwalker for the next few years. But right now I’m looking at the best way to get into FFXIV via Endwalker and the ending of that storyline (laughs). You’ll have to wait for things to settle down a bit before I can give you any more answers.
What are some of the main themes fans should look out for as they explore the new expansion and play through Endwalker’s story? When players finally reach the end of 6.0, what are they supposed to feel?
In FFXIV, the story progresses with no explicit boundaries defining good or bad, partly due to my own tastes and preferences in storytelling. The story is usually defined by the winners, and in these cases it is the loser who is consistently portrayed as evil.
However, each side had something to stand for, and the definition of good and bad shifted according to time, values, education, and laws of the people. I try to imagine what people would believe despite such circumstances, or how people would find hope in the face of inevitable despair.
Personally, I don’t want players to feel any particular way playing through the story. I say this because I believe that people should be free in this aspect. Hope our players enjoy Endwalker!
Many of the elements you revealed in Endwalker are incredibly reminiscent of Final Fantasy 4. What themes from Final Fantasy 4 inspired you in Endwalker? Can fans expect more similarities? What references to other major Final Fantasy games could fans find in Endwalker?
The previous lunar satellite Dalamud turned out to be a cage created by the Allagan Empire to imprison Bahamut. That begs the question: what then is the moon itself? It’s true that we’re paying homage to Final Fantasy IV, but the main pillar of the story is undoubtedly FFXIV.
As we wrap up the Hydaelyn / Zodiark saga, I encourage you to keep an eye on how it all ties together.
The first new playable job you revealed, Sage, took a lot of people by surprise, and the design of this iteration is brand new to the Final Fantasy series! How did you choose a brand new XIV original and where did you get inspiration from?
We had already decided in the early stages of development that one of the new jobs at Endwalker would be a healer, and the team suggested several ideas.
If we were to pick an existing job from the Final Fantasy franchise, not only would it be very difficult, in my opinion, to distinguish it from white mages, scholars and astrologers. [the three existing healers in the game] but also difficult to create a unique gaming experience for the job. Instead of using something that already exists in the Final Fantasy universe, I asked the team for brand new job ideas. Then someone suggested the idea of a job that didn’t use guns held in the character’s hands, but were instead magically controlled. Based on this basic idea, we have further developed the Sage job.
The music of Endwalker’s cinematic trailer sounds very different from previous expansions, with a distinct grunge and shoegaze feel. Will Endwalker’s music be themed or follow a genre?
From a musical point of view, the song in the teaser trailer is just a teaser of [Composer] Masayoshi Soken and me. How it will fully take shape is something to look forward to in the full trailer. This is the first time we’ve got a real taste of what kind of sound Soken is aiming for in Endwalker …
If there was just one thing you could say to newbies to try FFXIV, what would it be?
When it comes to MMOs, a lot of people immediately think, “I have to play a long time!” or “There’s a huge amount of content to play through!” However, FFXIV is unique in that it is an MMO despite being an MMO.
Think of it as an interactive television drama where you can experience the story and grow as you progress as a main character, with the narrative continually propelling you forward. Since Endwalker is our fourth expansion, you can think of this as season four. You can totally catch up! You can also start the second season for free with our Free trial. (laughs)