Some fans were not super happy with the amount of time that Final Fantasy XIV spent on our little trip through the Void with Zero and such, but I feel like that says a lot more about the people in question than the story itself – and I prefer it immensely compared to the Warriors of Darkness arc that this was clearly learning from. If you’ve forgotten that one, the first patch of Heavensward introduced these characters, then they were completely irrelevant for the next two patches, and then they came back only to be offed and then totally forgotten for an entire next expansion. Not precisely elegant storytelling, that.
As it stands, the entirety of Endwalker’s patches form their own isolated story, a prelude to a future expansion that moves the “we need to talk about the Void” subtheme from the realm of sidequests into the main quest. This is all well and good, but that also raises another question about the plot that… well… hasn’t happened yet. It’s all fine to have this prelude, but when is the actual plot going to kick off?
It’s important to note that while the trip to the First was definitely focused on fixing the First and the Light imbalance, this was not actually the main thing that linked it back to the plot. The Scions and the WoL were not heading there because the First wasn’t in a good place; they were heading there because it was the only way to prevent what would have been a Calamity otherwise. That tied in to finding out what the Ascians were actually up to and pretty much shutting it down permanently, which led to…
Well, you know – you were there. Or you’re just reading this column because you like the words I have to write, in which case all I can say is thanks for coming out; sorry this one won’t make a lot of sense to you but you’re probably used to that now. Staying hydrated, I hope!
By contrast, even if the Ascians were still around, there’s good reason to be aware that they wouldn’t be using the Thirteenth to set off a Calamity anyhow. That whole portion of the plan got messed up. And it wouldn’t matter anyway, since Zodiark is very gone right now. In other words, that particular element is not going to tie into anything any longer. We are not going to have another expansion where a cat makes grabby-hands at us to avert a dark alternate future timeline.
So why go to the Thirteenth other than trying to fix things?
As I see it, there are two potential things that might bring us back to the Void, and I see both of them linking us through Dawntrail. Let’s talk about the more magnanimous one first, and that’s having the means to start fixing the reflection’s imbalance in some fashion.
While Zero showed that it’s possible for Light to still exist there, it’s also very clear that she didn’t fix things permanently; she is clearly committed to fixing her world, and she wants to work with Durante to make that happen. Exactly how she’s going to do any of that is, of course, completely up in the air at the moment. She doesn’t actually have a plan; she has a hope. That’s good, since as she points out, the problems with the Thirteenth weren’t just about aether but also about culture, and fixing things means fixing how the whole place works beyond just infusing it with power.
But it does need to be fixed there, too, just like how the First needed both. And as of this point of the storyline, we do not actually have the means of doing that. That’s not to say that anyone’s goal in Dawntrail is at this point explicitly about finding the means of doing that, but remember the old JRPG rule: Whatever your goals actually are, accomplishing them will involve following the game’s main plot, and everything will very naturally tie together. So it’s certainly possible that we’ll just find the necessary plot mechanics lying around in Tural or somewhere.
The inverse, of course, is that whatever the new larger-scope villains are established to be will want to use the Void for something specific. Certainly the swirling violet energy shown on both some of the dungeon artwork and the Eliminator at least has some aesthetic symmetry with what we’ve seen of the Void historically, but that’s just speculation based on very little information. And at this point we don’t really have any idea who will be our larger-scope villains; we’ve got at least four Ascians unaccounted for, but it’s unlikely they’re going to be a major main-quest objective moving forward just because… you know, we already did that. We’ve squeezed all the blood there is out of that stone, full stop.
Does that mean that there are no more larger-scope villains? Oh, heck no.
But the point of this column was not to simply establish that we have other problems to deal with but to speculate about when we’ll be making this whole prologue pay off. And I obviously don’t know with complete certainty when we’ll be heading back, but I do feel at least reasonably confident that it won’t be through Dawntrail. Indeed, I have a feeling that Dawntrail is going to have a far more familiar patch storytelling structure, where there’s a full arc with one obvious remaining plot thread through 7.1 to 7.3 that wraps up then, followed by foreshadowing for the next expansion.
I also don’t think the next expansion will go there, either. Yes, part of that is because I suspect our next expansion will send us to either Meracydia or the rest of Ilsabard (more likely the former), but also it’d just generally be too soon to go back to cosmic multiversal stuff. And to be quite honest, I imagine by that point there will be plenty of motives for us to once again deal with the Void.
From there… well, I think there’s actually a pretty decent chance that we’ll be going back to the Void to serve as another major finale for the game’s storylines just because of time. Yoshida has joke about how many more expansions he thinks he’ll be able to keep working through, but by the time we get to 9.0, it’ll be 2028 at the absolute minimum. By that point, there’s sure to be a lot of technological debt and pressure to start moving on.
Of course, nothing is ever certain. But I imagine that it’ll be a couple expansions and then we’ll be back into the weeds of crossing worlds once again. As for exactly what we’re doing there… that much remains to be seen. Sometimes it’s fun to just be along for the ride aside from just speculating.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk about something far earlier than I should, specifically by diving into the as-yet-unnamed next limited job. What might it be? And perhaps more importantly, whose shirts will it be stealing?