If you still haven’t finished the main scenario of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, I think we are officially at the point where avoiding spoilers is a you problem. Still, out of respect, I’m keeping this particular spoiler out of the title and the header, although if you have finished the MSQ by this point, you’ve already guessed what I’m referring to all the same. It’s not exactly a surprise, and yet at the same time it kind of is. (So consider a spoiler notice for Endwalker; the rest of this column is going to go there. You have been warned!)
Whom am I talking about? The Scions, naturally. At the end of the MSQ the Scions officially disband, and while the hint is that unofficially they’ll all stay in touch and work behind the scenes as necessary, the point remains that this is still a pretty big deal in terms of direct and obvious effects.
Even though the disbanding is done with a wink and a nudge, it means there is officially no longer any point of contact from the various governments of Eorzea and beyond to get in touch with the general problem-solving task force that the Scions have maintained themselves as since the early days of 2.0. It leaves all of the city-states out to dry and to solve their own problems, however they might go about doing that. Sure, we know that the Scions remain in contact, but the Eorzean Alliance doesn’t.
So why was this important? Let’s not lose sight of an important fact: By the time this is being revealed, the story is otherwise over. The Final Days are averted, our villains are all either dead or vanished, and our obvious antagonists are gone. We don’t even have the Garlean Empire in place any longer to be a vague threat on the horizon. This isn’t a consequence of the story; it’s an intentional note to go out on, and it’s not just a note being made to get the “everyone goes in different directions” feel.
Seriously, you could accomplish that just fine without disbanding the Scions. Just have them all wander off to do other things. Clearly, the goal here was to send a message to the players that this is no longer a thing. So… why?
Well, I can think of three reasons.
The first reason is that one of the big themes of Endwalker is all about saying goodbye. You might be off on your last and biggest adventure to save the world yet again, but there’s also a strong ongoing theme that you’re saying goodbye to all of the parts of it that have been familiar. The role quests explicitly task you with saying goodbye to all of the national leaders we’ve worked with over the year, the main scenario has you saying goodbye to a lot of NPCs and people we’ve known, and so forth.
In that regard, saying goodbye to the Scions is also the last thing you need to bid farewell to. It’s been the organization giving your quest structure since very early in A Realm Reborn, and that means it needs to go away just as surely as everything else. It’s time for you to go off in new directions, to experience new challenges and new victories or defeats. It’s one last thing to bid farewell.
But another reason, in turn, is that Endwalker has been in no small part about the loss of control. And the Scions are one of the last remaining vestiges of control over things.
Even the Final Days themselves started because of a specific entity deciding that she should be in control of the way that existence developed around her. She had determined it was pointless, and that meant it was time to end it unilaterally. The Scions are also a manifestation of outside control, imposing their will on the nation-states of Eorzea and the world as a whole, pushing for people to take actions and to do things according to what they think is the right thing to do.
Obviously, you could argue that the Scions are right. Outside of Alphinaud’s Crystal Braves, the Scions have universally made life better for people and are also the primary reason life is continuing to exist, after all. But part of the point is to let go of control. Hydaelyn herself even states this as one of her explicit goals, of helping to bring life on the planet to a point where it doesn’t need her.
It’s time to get out of the world-saving business for a while. You’ve reached an apex there. From now on, it’s up to the individuals to chart their own courses. If I can paraphrase the story directly: People will no longer have wings to bear them up to the heavens; from here on out, they need to walk.
And the third reason? Narrative abandonment.
Look, right now there are simply other things for some characters to be focusing on. Y’shtola and Estinien in particular clearly have goals to pursue that aren’t really possible as long as they’re expected to be a part of every storyline focused on the Scions. Alphinaud and Alisaie have had to grow up a lot over the past couple of years, and since they’re still children, they deserve some time away from world-changing events and time to simply grow. And as long as the Scions remain a unit, the writers are kind of obliged to put them all into any storyline that feature them, or at least account for anyone who’s missing along the way.
By ending the Scions as an organization, the cast can be rotated and shuffled. Heck, they can even be rotated and shuffled based on smaller storylines. You can write a patch story that features Thancred a bunch, then he can not be around for another few patches because he’s not expected to report back to headquarters intermittently. As much as I love these characters, it’s time to let some of them rest and go in new directions, helped materially by writing a tale that lets them step away for a while.
Obviously, we’ll see how much water all of this holds once the shape of things post-Endwalker starts to become clearer. But that’s my thinking at the moment.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, I want to speculate a little bit about the next FFXIV expansion, just within the context of what we now know is hinted… and at least one particular problem that’s going to arrive as soon as 7.0 does. (Oh, don’t act like it’s a question mark.)