Every two years since 2013’s A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV has received a new expansion. Each of these huge updates introduced a wealth of new content for Square Enix’s MMORPG, with each release comparable to a full standalone JRPG. All packed in enthralling stories, new regions, missions and impressive boss fights, continually building out the game’s fantastical setting Eorzea.
Last week, Square Enix debuted 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 2013’s reimagining and subsequent expansions, Endwalker’s development is headed by Naoki Yoshida. The director and producer has spent the last eight years reshaping Final Fantasy XIV into a critically-acclaimed MMO behemoth. This latest release marks the end of a decade-long storyline, one that stretches all the way back to the game’s original version, which launched in 2010.
Yoshida-san is a busy man. Not only is he overseeing yet another feature-packed expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, he was recently announced as the producer for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI. Yet between juggling two Leviathan-sized projects, he found the time to answer our most burning questions around that astounding Endwalker reveal.
Endwalker will bring Final Fantasy XIV’s 10-year long story arc to its conclusion. How does it feel to finally close this long a chapter? When did you first envision how this chapter of FFXIV was to end and how much has the final version changed from that initial premise?
Since the time of A Realm Reborn, the idea of the “Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga” already existed and was what we were working off of when creating the story. Being able to tell this story to its conclusion required Final Fantasy XIV to succeed as an MMORPG, and we were far from being able to declare the ongoing story as the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga even at the time of Heavensward’s release. Following the release of Stormblood and having seen the growing community and success of the game, I thought it was time to more fully flesh out the concepts of the story and think as to how and where this conclusion might take place.
Back then, I felt 6.0 or 7.0 would be a good time to wrap things up, but with the excitement we saw with Shadowbringers being even higher than our expectations, I decided we shouldn’t draw the story out awkwardly, and continue the wave of excitement by concluding the story with Endwalker.
I’m genuinely excited to bring the finale of this story arc to our players. I wouldn’t say I feel sad that we are concluding this story arc that spanned over a decade because I must think about the next story now… There is no end to my work!
You have also confirmed that Endwalker would not be the game’s closing chapter, which was a huge relief to all the FFXIV fans! What is in the cards for what will come next? How do you expect your writing and narrative process to change after the story gets to such a cosmic scale and concludes, and you are finally able to take the next big adventure anywhere?
Everything is still in very rough and preliminary stages, but I do have ideas of where to take the story after Endwalker even for the next few years. However, I am currently occupied with thinking of how to best deliver the first climax to FFXIV through Endwalker and the end of this story arc (laughs). You will have to wait until things have settled down some more before I can give you any more answers.
What are some of the main themes you want fans to watch out for as they explore the new expansion and play through Endwalker’s story? When the players finally reach the end of 6.0 what do you want them to feel?
In FFXIV, the story progresses without explicit boundaries defining good or evil due in part to my own tastes and preferences in storytelling. History is typically defined by the winners, and in these cases, it is the loser who is consistently depicted as evil.
However, each side had something that they stood for, and the definition of good and evil shifted depending on the times, peoples’ values, education, and laws. I try to picture what would people believe despite such circumstances, or how people find hope in the face of inevitable despair.
Personally, I don’t wish for players to feel a certain way as they play through the story. I say this because I believe people should have freedom in that aspect. I hope our players enjoy Endwalker!
A lot of elements you have revealed from Endwalker are incredibly reminiscent of Final Fantasy 4. What themes from Final Fantasy 4 have inspired you in Endwalker? Can fans expect more similarities? What nods to other mainline Final Fantasy games might 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: then what is the moon itself? It is true we are paying homage to Final Fantasy IV, but the main pillar of the story is undoubtedly FFXIV.
Since we are concluding the Hydaelyn/Zodiark saga, I would encourage you to keep an eye out for how it all ties together.
The first new playable job you have revealed, Sage, took a lot of people by surprise, and this iteration’s design is brand new to the Final Fantasy series! How did you decide to go for a brand-new XIV original and where did you find inspiration from?
We had already decided in the early stages of development that one of the new jobs in Endwalker would be a healer, and there were several different ideas that the team proposed.
If we chose an existing job from the Final Fantasy series, I felt it would not only be very difficult to differentiate it from the White Mage, Scholar, and Astrologian, [the three existing healers in the game] but also difficult to create a unique gameplay experience for the job. Rather than utilizing something that already exists in the Final Fantasy universe, I asked for brand-new job ideas from the team-that is when someone proposed the idea of a job that didn’t use weapons that were held in the character’s hands but were instead controlled magically. It was from that base idea that we moved forward in creating the Sage job.
Endwalker’s cinematic trailer’s music sounds very different from past expansions, with a distinct grunge and shoegaze feel to it. Will Endwalker’s music have any specific themes to it, or follow any genres?
From a musical perspective, the song in the teaser trailer is merely a teaser from [Composer] Masayoshi Soken and myself. How it will fully take shape is something to look forward to in the full trailer. That will be the first time we will get a true glimpse of what kind of sound Soken is aiming for in Endwalker…
If you could tell newcomers just one thing to entice them to try out FFXIV, what would it be?
When it comes to MMOs, many people immediately think, “I have to play for a very long time!” or “There’s a massive amount of content to play through!”. However, FFXIV is quite unique in that despite being an MMO, it is a heavily story-driven game.
Imagine it like an interactive TV drama, in which you can experience the story and grow as the main character as you progress, with the narrative continuously propelling you forward. Since Endwalker is our fourth expansion, you can think of that as season four. You can totally catch up! Plus, you can get to season two for free with our Free Trial. (laughs)