In the latter half of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, there is a scene that has had a profound impact on me. It takes place at Elpis, a mysterious facility, where the protagonist, known as the Warrior of Light, seeks crucial information to prevent an impending apocalypse. Here, they encounter Hermes, a scholar who plays a pivotal role in the story.
During one quest, the player witnesses Hermes engage in combat with a rabid beast. Instead of portraying this as a display of heroism, developer Creative Business Unit III (CBU III) presents it as a tragic event. As the creature falls defeated, Hermes kneels down, places his hand on its head, and pleads for forgiveness. He then offers comforting words to the dying beast, accompanied by a poignant piano melody composed by Masayoshi Soken. Hermes concludes, “Lay down your burdens. Be born anew. Fly high. Fly free.” The creature’s spirit dissipates into the aether, leaving Hermes in mourning.
This scene resonated with me on a personal level when I first witnessed it in June. At that time, I was preparing to say goodbye to my dog, Bonnie, whose health had deteriorated. As an introverted only child, Bonnie had been a close companion throughout my life. Her presence had brought comfort during my darkest and loneliest moments. Witnessing Hermes’s act of compassion towards the dying creature reminded me of the impending loss I was about to experience with Bonnie.
The timing of these events was particularly challenging. I had plans to attend the Summer Game Fest in LA, which I was excited about. However, the day after Bonnie was put to sleep, I was scheduled to board a flight. The thought of being surrounded by people during such a difficult time was overwhelming, considering my innate social awkwardness. I was overwhelmed by a mix of emotions.
Nevertheless, I decided to continue playing Endwalker to distract myself from the pain. I wanted to complete the expansion before the release of Final Fantasy XVI, another game developed by CBU III. Although the storyline had become incredibly bleak, Final Fantasy XIV has always excelled in providing moments of respite amidst conflict. These moments of humanity between characters, such as sharing a meal or expressing gratitude, have always been the series’ strength, and Endwalker is no exception.
The climax of the story involves a final battle against the nihilistic Meteion, where the Scion allies face numerous losses. Eventually, the player finds themselves alone against the Endsinger, a higher being. At this point, the game employs a design technique to slow down the player’s movement speed dramatically, allowing them to reflect on echoes of past civilizations. This sequence, accompanied by the soulful ballad “Close in the Distance,” served as a haunting epitaph to those who had fallen.
As I experienced this moment, I couldn’t help but reflect on my grief over Bonnie. Although my situation could not be compared to a cataclysmic event, I felt a deep connection with the Warrior of Light’s emotions. The game builds up to a moment similar to the “the cavalry arrives!” scene in Avengers: Endgame. The Scions return to provide support and strength, and other players can join in the battle, reinforcing the feeling of companionship.
What could have been a typical “fight God” ending in a JRPG became much more profound in Endwalker. It empowered the player, conveying the unique strength of gaming as a medium for both role-playing and storytelling. By the end, the player feels invincible, taking on the once fearsome Zenos without the fear of losing. It becomes the ultimate power fantasy, a well-deserved reward for overcoming the challenges throughout the journey.
This experience exemplified the unique nature of gaming, allowing players to truly embody their characters and engage in a long-form narrative. It wasn’t just any character persevering through the darkness; it was my Warrior of Light, my own Dragoon named after Final Fantasy VII’s Zack Fair. They embarked on an expansive journey and emerged triumphant with the help of others.
And so, Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker captured my heart with its touching moments and profound storytelling. It served as a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is still hope, companionship, and the strength to overcome.
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Deepak Sen is a tech enthusiast who covers the latest technological innovations, from AI to consumer gadgets. His articles provide readers with a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of technology.