Let’s start with something that’s important: At this point, and for most of my future speculation, I’m going to make an assumption that may or may not be correct. Essentially, I am assuming that absent any information to the contrary, Final Fantasy XIV is going to keep with the overall content cadence that it has had up until now in an overall scheme. In other words, I am assuming we’re going to have five major patches before the next expansion, there will be a next expansion, the general layout of content is not going to change egregiously, and so forth.
This is not an absolute certainty in terms of planning by any stretch of the imagination. It is entirely possible that the number of patches or overall shape of things may be different this time around, especially as we have a whole live letter on the 18th talking about the plan for the next decade that may upend many assumptions. However, for the time being, this is the best information that we have available, so let’s speculate a little bit about what we know is coming next.
First and foremost, assuming that the usual patch cadence holds true, we’re due for a new alliance raid in patch 6.1, 6.3, and 6.5, with two more parts of Pandæmonium arriving in patches 6.2 and 6.4. That’s all known stuff. There will be another dungeon in each patch and we’ll start getting a trial series in patch 6.2. Predictable, reliable, and it all makes sense.
What’s a little different, however, is that we have no reason to expect the trial series will consist of three bosses.
Think about it for just a second. Usually what happens is that the x.1 patch contains Extreme mode for the final story trial, x.2 includes the start of the new trial series, and x.3 has the “final” boss of the expansion complete with Extreme mode so the trial series otherwise takes a break. However, as we were told multiple times before the expansion launched and as we very much saw in the actual expansion, there’s no “to be continued” in the story here. Endwalker wrapped up its plot quite neatly right away, and we’re not going to be seeing a conclusion in the coda, so to speak.
People have speculated about the Four Fiends becoming our trial series here, either the set from the original Final Fantasy or the remade group from Final Fantasy IV, and I think that’s a really solid bit of speculation given the fact that we’re unlikely to get such a carefully open field again. I really do think that whatever we get, we’re getting a solid four here; I can’t see creating a mini-climax in whatever the new story is just to have a trial fight in 6.3 when we could just, like… extend the trial series a little.
Will we instead get a climactic fight in 6.5? Possibly! But I think a lot is going to depend on the nature of the story, and herein we start to wander further into speculative territory because while I can’t begin to guess about the substance of the story, I do think there’s some space to speculate about the structure.
As I see it, there are two real routes that we can go for the story moving forward over the next stretch of patches. The first is that 6.1 through 6.5 are functionally their own self-contained little story, containing a middle, beginning, and end that leads to an appropriate wrapup in 6.4 or 6.5. The second is that the story is functionally a prologue for the next expansion, extending what is usually a two-patch prologue into a longer format to do a better job of setting up our next destinations.
Traditionally, we usually see these things somewhat intertwined, but the first three patches are chiefly concerned with wrapping up the expansion story and the loose ends, while the last two patches are much more about setting up our next destination and priority. And don’t misunderstand me: Even if the patches are structurally their own sort of mini-expansion, I do believe we’ll get pretty clear hints of where we’re going next.
Personally, my suspicion is that the next few patches will be mostly a preview of our next destination, and my reasoning is that I think at least one theory will sort of be accurate. There will be a time skip… technically. But not really.
It’s been confirmed that for all the time that’s passed in the real world, the story of FFXIV has not to this point unfolded over a decade of in-universe time. It’s been about a year since the start of the ARR story until the end of Endwalker, if memory serves. What I suspect we’ll see at the start of 6.1 as the new story winds up is that the amount of time between the new story and the end of the last story will be vaguely diegetic; in other words, it’s been about three or four months since everything that took place at the end of the universe.
That’s enough to ensure that the player character isn’t launching right back into another huge adventure right away, but not so long that a whole bunch of new models need to be made… but it could easily presage that. We know that Krile and Thancred will feature in the new stories being told, which implies that at the bare minimum G’raha and Urianger will be hanging around as well, but possibly other characters as well. I could also see, say, not letting us see Alisaie or Alphinaud for a while until the next expansion, when they have indeed gotten a bit older.
What about other content beyond just the story and the trial series? Well, I imagine we’ll know what our relic weapons are going to be once the preview series for 6.2 hits, but I suspect we’ll have a similar overall structure to Bozja/Zadnor. Does that mean we’re not getting another Deep Dungeon in this expansion? I’m not sure, but my current guess is that we aren’t; there’s nothing that looks like it would easily account for that space, although I could be wrong.
Island Sanctuaries, likewise, are probably slated for 6.2 with some early previews in 6.1 to provide for the story framework. I think if we were literally getting them in 6.1 we’d have heard more about them before release. It remains to be seen, though, if the Island Sanctuary is going to be more akin to Ishgard Restoration or housing insofar as it’s content meant for this expansion or to be added to and refined over time. Perhaps a bit more the former, given that we haven’t yet heard about it, but that’s far from a certainty.
Last but not least, I wouldn’t be surprised if we potentially start getting Hard dungeons back. That’s admittedly more of a wish than a prediction, but a lot of what slowed these up was how many dungeons were tightly aligned with story and how it didn’t make sense for many dungeons to be immediately repurposed. That story integration hasn’t gone away, but there is a little more space for some of them to come back around. And hey, that’d be neat and welcome after Shadowbringers kind of shortchanged us on dungeon variety.
Feedback is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk about something that is apparently rather controversial: Unequipping gear to force alliance roulettes around.