My character and her friends had battled to the very edge of creation, to a world literally made out of grief. Allies laid down their lives to buy me a path forward as we made our way deep into the bleak morass at the end of all things. There I find the architect of our homeland’s ills: a lonely creature, broken by misery and existential dread, now hell-bent on singing a dirge that would bring all creation to its knees.
This article contains spoilers for Final Fantasy 14
Our antagonist, Meteion, having seen the end of countless civilizations, has become convinced that life is no longer worth living. Her apocalypse-inducing song is, in her mind, an act of mercy. Our band of adventurers challenged her nihilistic worldview by embracing humanity’s capacity for hope and affirming that, though fleeting and finite, life is precious and special.
I stood at the very edge of existence while Final Fantasy 14’s dramatic score played a boss theme that merged the musical phrases of nearly a decade of climactic battles into a beautiful tapestry. With my allies behind me and the universe's weight on my shoulders, seven other players and I faced Meteion. The whole thing was melodramatic, over the top, and unrepentantly Final Fantasy.
Rapture and Sorrow
In keeping with its main storyline and strong emphasis on organic community building, Final Fantasy 14 cultivates themes of hope and friendship. However, in contrast to many other JRPGs, Final Fantasy does this with the full acknowledgment that these things are often fleeting and hard-won.
Unlike other MMOs, Final Fantasy 14's main story is a single-player adventure. Every player you meet in the game will have played through the same missions, and you’re all the same protagonist in this major storyline. That doesn’t stop you from taking part in epic, large-scale multiplayer battles; it just means when it comes to the main story, you complete the same missions as other players, accompanied by the same cast of NPCs.
In the MMO’s main story, the Warrior of Light, our protagonist and player character, finds friends and allies in a familiar crop of JRPG do-gooders. However, what’s unusual is members of this group suffer and sometimes die in pursuit of their ideals. Few things in the world of Final Fantasy 14 come without cost. When Thancred, your friendly rogue with a heart of gold, and Y’shtola, your terse and no-nonsense mage buddy escape from the sewers of the desert city of Ul’dah, it costs them their magic and their sight, respectively. Yes, the gang is able to prevent the primal dragon Shinryu from rampaging across the land, but only because wise sage and tutor Papalymo is willing to sacrifice himself in the process.
Even Final Fantasy 14’s creation myth, where the goddess of light carved up reality itself to buy time for humanity to overcome Meteion’s apocalyptic song, came at the cost of introducing mortality to the world. Final Fantasy 14 reminds us that hope is always worth clinging to but that a brighter future rarely comes without sacrifice and struggle.
In good company
Though far less fraught with struggle than the game’s central narrative, Final Fantasy’s multiplayer community-building makes a similar effort to prize hope, friendship, and camaraderie. As with any MMO, some players have become grizzled raiders and PvP experts, but that’s not the only endgame on offer. Final Fantasy 14 provides a broad range of activities for players; you have a variety of vocations, including [Nightclub owners], role players, crafters, gatherers, artists, and fashionistas.
Rather than shy away from the older content, Square Enix embraces the range of different features added to the game over its nearly decade-long run. More often than not, players mix and match, engaging in whatever takes their fancy. The genius who designed the decor for your new house could well be a top-tier raider, too.
The game's list of activities is so exhaustively long that it borders on absurd. This helps give players that most fleeting and elusive of gifts: choice. In Final Fantasy 14, players are encouraged to pursue what they want, when they want, and with who they want.
The Free Company and Linkshell systems support this social infrastructure. The former is your classic MMO guild setup, allowing you and your online pals to gain buffs, easily communicate and co-own a Free Company estate in one of the game’s many housing districts if you so choose. Linkshells are less glamorous but allow for persistent, custom, player-created chat channels across different servers. When combined with external social tools like Discord, Final Fantasy 14 players are empowered to weave complex and responsive social webs.
The virtual environment of Final Fantasy 14’s sprawling landscapes and bustling cities is far more than a shared in-game lobby; it is a world you are compelled to inhabit in a meaningful way, thanks to the main story. While you experience the story in a solo campaign, every other person you meet in multiplayer has been through that same adventure and shares that same connection to the world.
This shared fandom has led me to form many friendships during my travels throughout Final Fantasy’s world of Eorzea. Some were forged during the heat of battle, while others came about through chill, gentle evenings spent socializing in one of the game’s housing districts. This summer, I even took the plunge and met up with some of my online buddies in the real world for the first time. We had a blast.
The journey of the Warrior of Light doesn’t belong to one person but is shared across Final Fantasy 14’s millions of players. This spirit of shared trials and joys gives Final Fantasy its distinctive appeal and special place in my heart.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.