This post is going to be laden with spoilers for the MSQ and eventually the role quest capstone of FFXIV’s newest patch, Newfound Adventure. If you haven’t finished the content yet and want to remain unspoiled, be warned. I will discuss the MSQ first and put ample warning before the role quest segment, if you are at least past the MSQ!
Newfound Adventure as a piece of story content in FFXIV had a high bar to clear, one set with vastly different levels depending on who you are and what you are interested in about the game’s story.
For some, the patch after the incredible escalation of Endwalker had to be light, back-to-basics, focused on adventure – no being the Warrior of Light, the hero of the world. For others, FFXIV’s best story beats are those where the scope is vast and yet relatable, when the game takes these massive cosmic concepts and ideas and distills them down into something digestible and powerful. Both audiences wanted something that is on some level opposed to the other, and of course there are all sorts of positions in-between you could spend hours recounting if so desired.
What balance did the game strike?
Well, I think it found a great middle ground, and to my eye, at least, walked the tightrope rather successfully.
One thing I have noted in the past about FFXIV (mostly after patch 5.4’s MSQ) is that I really appreciate the way that FFXIV does peacetime patches. Unlike my story experience in WoW, which is a game that lives on the edge of constant escalation and never has a moment in-game where characters are simply at peace without a looming or ongoing conflict weighing heavily, FFXIV has moments of reckoning, where you get to see how your actions have paid off, and it is really fundamentally cool. It adds weight to the storytelling of the game that it so often takes a patch or even two in a row as a breather, full of minor threats and less broad scope, and lets you see how things have impacted the story. It makes the heavy moments have even more weight and it acts as a fantastic palate cleanser from the heaviest moments of the story. Endwalker was a heavy story of despair, suffering, and the abandoning of hope with all the impacts and harms that does, and it quickly runs out of places to escalate to if it were to just keep escalating ever higher on the threat scale.
The story of Newfound Adventure both does that while also setting up the next chapter in an interesting way.
For one thing, we can’t really become a faceless adventurer again, not in any real sense in the story. We just literally saved the planet, and there is no universe in which we can move away from that accomplishment and have it not weigh upon our public presence in nearly every corner of explored Eorzea. The game leans into this by juxtaposing our new chapter against our previous, weighty one – how do people perceive us as we move forward on adventure for the sake of it? The other side of the coin is that for as much as you need de-escalation in the plot, you also can’t ratchet back to the small-scale and growth of something like the A Realm Reborn story, so the new plotline cannot simply be starting over from scratch. No, it has to build from the foundation laid before it, one of the best parts of FFXIV as a media property being that the path it has walked is well-built and full of things for this moment.
The solution was simple and yet great – use the legacy of storytelling in the game to bring forward something that was teased in Endwalker, a chance for us to be a faceless adventurer seeking treasure, but then subvert it, revealing the next major plotline to carry us through Endwalker’s patches. So how is the setup?
Well, it’s pretty great, I think.
Endwalker borrows quite heavily from Final Fantasy IV in many ways – the use of the moon, the Loporrits, the Warrior of Light being a Paladin to mirror the FFIV journey of Cecil (switching from Dark Knight to Paladin!), and we now have the tease of a major element of that game’s enemy forces – the Four Archfiends and Golbez. On top of this, we see Zenos’ voidsent, the one he made his pact with as part of becoming a Reaper, appear on the Thirteenth shard, the same place as Golbez and the throne avatars of the Four Archfiends. This setup leaves a fair few possibilities that are exciting.
Firstly, in the context of the FFXIV continuity and lore, the Thirteenth is significant as it represents the first shard of Etheirys we traveled to – far before the First in Shadowbringers. As a part of Y’shtola’s fulfillment of her pledge to Runar, finding a way to traverse to other shards opens up that story and a lot of possibilities. The Thirteenth bears a significance in the Ascian story beyond just that, though – it is the first place where the Ascians attempted a Rejoining, and their only noted failure at it. As a result, the planet became the void, the World of Darkness, engulfed in constant, unyielding shadow. The game has constantly teased something bigger on the Thirteenth, with characters like Unukalhai and Cylva, with Unukalhai having a role far back in the earlier days of the game, mostly with his role in the Warring Triad trial series of Heavensward, and then his reunion with Cylva on the First at the culmination of the capstone role quest of Shadowbringers. Cylva herself also comes from the Thirteenth and her role remains interesting, as she fled to the First instead. Lastly, we know the last of the first brood, Azdaja, is on the Thirteenth, through the MSQ story of this patch, and she will be the crux of our journey there.
From the Final Fantasy IV perspective, things get interesting. Golbez was one of the main antagonists of that game and brother of the main protagonist Cecil. Golbez’ main character arc was being mind-controlled by a Lunarian (!) named Zemus, using the power of the planet’s crystals to depopulate it so that the Lunarians could come down from the moon to occupy the planet. The Four Archfiends served a function of lieutenants to Golbez. Golbez has one final thing up his sleeve in FFIV that will (almost certainly, unfortunately) be a part of his characterization in FFXIV – the Shadow Dragon. In all likelihood, it feels like a pretty easy conclusion that Azdaja will serve in that role here, a thrall to Golbez who will be sent to fight us and likely her brother at some point. While the Thirteenth is not the moon (no, really, who would have thought?) a lot of interesting stuff has been said by Yoshida in recent interviews hinting that the shards all have their own moons, which would likely have their own shards of Zodiark post-Sundering, and…well, that could be a bit of a problem on a world consumed by darkness!
From the meta-game perspective, the story going forward is quite fascinating because it creates an interesting puzzle to unpack. In the past, the story to come would have conformed to a certain set of gameplay parameters – one MSQ dungeon per patch, a new MSQ trial in the x.3 patch, with a cycle that sees the x.3 patch end the current story and set us on a new path – something we were told was deliberately not the case with Endwalker.
So there are a few things that intrigue me here because of this.
Firstly, the story structure coming into the rest of Endwalker is very much a toss-up. If we assume the old pacing is used anyways (as it was a pretty good fit with content coming into multiple roulettes each patch to keep the game’s repeatable content fresh) then the Four Archfiends are almost certainly the Trial series for the rest of Endwalker, with a single question mark – if we assume we fight each of the Four on their own 1 on 1, then where would we fight Golbez? Does he end up not being a trial? If he is a story duty at the tail end of 6.5, is that exciting or disappointing? Do they break to add a final MSQ trial for Endwalker, putting two new trials into 6.5, or is one Archfiend demoted to dungeon duty to make room for Golbez? There are a fair number of open questions – because in my mind, at least, Golbez being the 6.3 trial that is a part of the MSQ both makes the most sense from a gameplay and scope perspective, but then also makes the Four Archfiends a bit imbalanced, and it also brings the problem of Golbez as boss being beaten before the full trial series of the expansion is launched.
Some might wonder if the Thirteenth content is even going to be the Endwalker patch cycle, as it feels meaty enough to be an expansion, but I would disagree with that for a simple reason – by using Vrtra and the First Brood as our lens for this journey, the door is open for Meracydia to be 7.0’s big new continent, and with a big-enough void gate on the island nation, we could pass through to the Thirteenth as a zone there akin to our reveals this expansion of Elpis or Ultima Thule. If I had to speculate, it would be that resolving Golbez and the Four Archfiends puts us on a path towards Zemus or his transformed state as Zeromus, and that would be an interesting exploration to make over the course of an expansion, with the being of hate using Meracydia as an entry point to bring forth the denizens of the Thirteenth to repopulate the Source.
And you might notice that all of this sounds broad-scope, huge in scale, and it is. What was the other side of the Newfound Adventure MSQ?
It was us taking up the mantle of adventurer instead of simply sitting idly by.
We don’t wait until the discoveries hit us – we buy (well, Estinien buys) a possibly-fraudulent treasure map and go seeking the ruins beneath the bounty. We have a heroic goal in mind, and we aim to achieve it by plundering a treasure dungeon. Where the patch leans into a serious second-half MSQ with heavy reveals and a strong sense of foreboding about what comes next, the early part of the patch is full of humor and light, with character-building sequences for our main cast and a lot of funny bits set up just for the sake of a chuckle, but also that fit the story being told. I laughed a lot for the first hour or so of the MSQ and even when things get serious, there’s still a lightheartedness at the core of it, with Magical Girl Y’shtola and her Nixies or Nidhana’s excitement to create an artificial monster in defiance of rules. It has a depth to it in these moments that shows off a dimensionality to the characters – Y’shtola’s tireless pursuit of inter-shard travel sells the bond she feels for Runar even more, Estinien is a softer and gentler character for the growth he’s experienced in the story while still being a hardass that gets things done, and G’raha is…well, still your chief simp, which fits, but short of the humor of it, I will admit that the dewy-eyed catman thing he does is starting to get a little old, even if I see the roots of it in his raid story from ARR and how he idolizes your player character – I want a bit more of a middle-ground between hero worship G’raha and Crystal Exarch badass leader.
As a starting chapter for a new story, it’s solid in its own right. Newfound Adventure, to me, threaded the needle between serious threats and lighthearted adventure deftly. The general sentiment I’ve seen around the internet suggests that it hit pretty well for a lot of folks. Coming after Endwalker’s base story, it neither hits as high of highs or as low of lows, but that is a stylistic choice and one that works very well here in my opinion – the de-escalation was needed because the more breaths we can take before the next sharp moments of the story, the better. Speaking of serious moments, let’s discuss the role questline.
The Role Quest Capstone
With Shadowbringers and now Endwalker, we get Role Quests instead of new job quests for each job, based on trinity roles (tank/healer/DPS) with further subdivisions for DPS types (melee/physical ranged/magical ranged, the ranged split being new in Endwalker). Once all of these chapters are complete, there is a patch-added capstone quest that ties the stories together and adds new lore.
In Shadowbringers, we got to bring Unukalhai to the First, where we found another surviving hero of the Thirteenth in the Crystarium barkeep, Cyella, who is actually a character named Cylva. They are likely about to be important characters in the forthcoming story, which makes that interesting!
For Endwalker, 6.1 brought the capstone to the current role quests, and it follows a design not unlike the prior EW role quests. In each of those, we spent time with a different city-state unpacking prior story events with the tie-in of EW’s Blasphemies, getting to see how the prior chapters of the FFXIV story have worked out for the people of Eorzea affected by those events, and to see clearly that some change is still needed, as things haven’t all worked out for the best. We had launch role quests touching every prior city-state, and the story of 6.1 focuses in a lot on Thavnair in the wake of the Final Days, so there is one nation that needs addressing – Garlemald.
Indeed, we turn back to the frozen ruins of the great empire, where a final Blasphemy haunts the ruins of the Tower of Babil – the turned Garlean heir of Nerva! We get to unpack some of the lingering issues of the MSQ – the Garleans, ever a proud people, laid low by their own hubris and the pushback on their own actions, and with us coming to them as benevolent figures and not enemies, which forced a lot of change in a short period of time. Thankfully, no one here has the same reaction that Quintus had in the MSQ, but we instead focus in on a new question – what can the Garleans offer to the world in the wake of the dissolution of the Empire?
The answer comes via the Role Quests, and with a surprising figure taking up the mantle of peacemaker – Nero. He inspires a small set of survivors to embrace the Garlean inventiveness and ingenuity and go with him to the moon, where Fourchenault and the Loporrits intend to create an archive of human knowledge without compare.
As a story capstone, it does the same for Garlemald as the other EW role quests did for the other nations of the story and what 6.1’s MSQ does for Thavnair. We solve a remaining problem, bring more Garlean citizenry into the fold of the planet at large, and the process of building towards peace for the star continues on. This likely also sets the stage for some form of Loporrit tribal quests, as I would fully expect that they will be either our crafter or gatherer quest source in Endwalker at some point.
As a patch, 6.1 had a lot to do – it had to set FFXIV’s story on a new path after the resolution of the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, respect a return to form for players as adventurers in a way that honors the story told to this point and our role in it, and to continue to work towards payoff and resolution of the plot threads left dangling even after Endwalker’s launch story – the Garlean citizenry, rebuilding in the nations most hard-hit by the Final Days, and the like. It also needed to give us an early taste of a big and tantalizing adventure to come, and it pulled all of that off for me quite successfully. While I didn’t actually play Final Fantasy IV, knowing the inspiration and story arc of the characters pulled into the XIV story creates a lot of interesting possibilities, and the way that this franchise fan service is so seamlessly integrated into the game in a way that both longtime fans and newcomers can be excited about in different ways is no small feat. It won’t hit the mark for everyone, but I think that the success of the story coupled with the new repeatable content is shown with how many more people you can see wandering about the world.