***In this blog, I’ll be discussing the story behind the lyrics to a major boss theme in Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers. Spoilers for the entire game through Endwalker are going to be flying, so read at your own risk. I’m the kind of guy that likes to read the last page of a book before I start, so believe me when I say: it really is worth playing through the entire experience blind from start to finish if you can help it.***
One of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had with a video game happened with Final Fantasy 14, and one of the most powerful moments I experienced within that game occured at the end of Patch 5.3, Reflections In Crystal. Released in August of 2020 (when things were most positively dark in my own life, coincidentally), the ending to this patch wraps up the entirety of Shadowbringer’s storyline as well as much of the entire major conflict that has embroiled our main cast of characters up to this point. While the details of the story get rather complicated (as most Final Fantasy stories are apt to be), I’ve found that the source of my emotional connection to this ending lies in the major themes involved since this point, themes that are echoed within the utterly fantastic musical score of composer Masayoshi Soken for the scene that wraps up Patch 5.3. To that end, I want to break down the story behind the lyrics of “To The Edge,” the song of the final boss fight in Patch 5.3, and examine both why I personally love it so much… and why literally every single person I am aware of who played this game loves this moment.
And I mean… everyone. Pick one and watch. They’re all wonderful. Super long, but wonderful.
It’s not every day that a video game patch comes out that is so universally beloved. Not a full game, not a game expansion, a game patch. The fact that this story’s conclusion is so widely accepted and loved by its audience is incredible to me.
In fact, I submit that unless you are skipping every single cutscene to get to the “endgame” content of Final Fantasy 14 (which is absolutely antithetical to why any person plays Final Fantasy in the first place, never mind Final Fantasy 14 in particular), if you play through this and understand what’s going on, you will love this scene, no matter who you are. A big claim, I know! But every streamer that I’ve ever watched play through this moment gets emotional during the scene that occurs immediately after the big boss fight with Elidibus. I’ll be the first to admit it: I cried when watching it the first time, and I get teary-eyed every time I rewatch it. And for good reason: everything from the writing to the music to the voice acting to the gameplay is 100% spot-on. It’s just good video game storytelling, and it’s storytelling that everyone seems to love in the moment, no matter their background or personal beliefs.
But why is it so good?
There is a great deal of tragedy in the lives of every single main character in Final Fantasy 14. This is also true for side characters, come to think of it, the depths of the MMORPG setting enabling a lot more “side character” progression than would be possible in literature or movies. I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t a single “Mary Sue-type” character in the whole of Final Fantasy 14; no character obtains power, adoration, or ability without a supreme amount of “pushback” from reality (i.e. loss, sorrow, struggle, and effort), with the only possible exceptions being Zenos (the “big bad” since Stormblood) and the Warrior of Light (which is you, the main character). And even then, the purpose is thematic: just because you’re blindingly powerful doesn’t mean you escape consequence. For Zenos, it’s straight-up acknowledged that he’s a sociopath, bereft of anything resembling empathy, and that lack has haunted him since childhood. For the Warrior of Light, their “Mary Sue/Marty Stu” nature comes from the fact that they’re meant to fully belong to the player; the player is all but invited to “fill in the blanks” of their character’s history, to a large degree. They’re only a “Mary Sue” to the extent that Harry Potter is a Mary Sue, or Luke Skywalker, or Frodo, or Neo, or all the other “blank slate” characters with a mysterious past who are only “blank slates” to enable them to stand as proxies for the audience. It’s all very BYOB (or “bring your own backstory”). Some of my favorite FFXIV fandom artists actually write their Warriors of Light as truly fractured and tragic beings themselves, characters who have only found their fate-defying power through overcoming incredible personal trials and quiet sadness. It’s thoroughly (and excellently) universal to be “the good guy despite the odds.”
(These comic are written and drawn by the incomparable @DaPandaBanda, by the way. Please give them a follow, their work is fantastic!)
While every expansion in Final Fantasy 14 illustrates the sorrows and frustrations of our very imperfect but well-intentioned ragtag group of world-saving adventurers, Shadowbringers in particular emphasizes how even characters of great personal strength and ability can fail and suffer disappointment. Alisaie and Alphinaud, the lovable elven twins that were once brash and impulsive in their desire to strike down evil, realize that strength and determination alone cannot erase sorrow (and, at times, can actually exacerbate it). Y’shtola, the scion who prides herself on her intellect, self-sufficiency, and destructive power, comes to the realization that self-sacrifice won’t be enough to solve the world’s problems. Likewise, Urianger comes to understand that he needs to trust those around him to do the right thing, later affirming in Endwalker that deception for the sake of others rarely ends well. Thancred, once the eponymous lady’s man of the team and all-around ruffian, quite literally becomes an at-first-unwilling father figure, one who learns that sacrifice is actually a better deal for you when you sacrifice out of love instead of obligation, and a thousand-fold times more fulfilling than doing so out of regret or fear. And then there’s Minfilia, or at least the reincarnation of her (long story), who learns, among other things, that freedom to care for and love other people becomes almost meaningless if the people you love can’t (or don’t know how) to love you back. Ryne is such a wonderful character on her own. Don’t worry, Thancred learns how to dad by the end. (All hail Dadcred, long may he pun.)
And don’t even get me started on G’raha. I would die for that wonderful boy.
For their part, the Warrior of Light learns that they too are utterly insufficient to play their part alone. Cast adrift into a world separate from the one he’s known, Kaelan (the name of my WoL) learns that this world stands literally upon the brink of annihilation, and that without his assistance, this world (known as the First for reasons that will be explained) will be consumed and destroyed by a flood of Light. Not lowercase “light,” like someone destroying the world by turning on too many flashlights, or by being so kind to puppies and orphans that the fabric of reality can’t accept it and deletes itself. But by uppercase “Light,” the elemental manifestation of everything that should be “good” and “holy” and “symbolically sacred” but most decidedly isn’t. You know how too much of a good thing is bad for you? Like how drinking eight ounces of water in a day is excellent for one’s health, but drinking more than two-hundred ounces of water in a day can literally kill you? For the surviving denizens of the First, the world is literally drowning in a tidal wave of monsterous and twisted angelic abominations. And not only do these deific abominations want to kill you, they force you to become one of them if they succeed, the terrifying transfomation into which being way more unsettling than you might think.
Check it out if you don’t feel like sleeping tonight, because holy crap (pun intended):
(Come to find out that the developers actually “toned down” the horrific visuals of this particular transformation because they felt like the finished product was enough to get the point across. No kidding. Don’t wanna kill the “T for Teen” rating, but man, the body horror of this scene pushes it.)
There’s more to saving the First from its horrific and “glorious” end than killing a bunch of twisted angels, unfortunately, and there’s a reason why uppercase “Light” is the magical element in question. In Final Fantasy 14, there are (or were, originally) fourteen worlds, thirteen “reflections” that are all copies of “the Source,” or the world in which the majority of the game takes place. The Warrior of Light (who adopts the title of “Warrior of Darkness” in the First, for obvious reasons) has been brought to the First to end its impending cataclysm for one very serious reason: when one of the reflections of the Source suffers from a world-ending catastrophe, the Source suffers a similarly catastophic event in turn. Thanks to time-travel shenanigans, the Warrior of Light has a chance to stop what will become known as the “Eighth Umbral Calamity” before it happens.
You know how our group is known as the “Scions of the Seventh Dawn”? Well, there have been seven such apocalyptic events in the Source’s past (being known as “umbral calamities”), and each time they have been themed as being caused by one of the eight elements. The First Umbral Calamity was a climate-devastating set of storms and hurricanes. The Second Umbral Calamity was a worldwide lightning storm that darkened the skies for decades. The Third Umbral Calamity was a worldwide drought that transformed once-green forests to deserts and wasteland, sparking continental-sized wildfires, etc. And so on for water, earth, ice, and darkness. The Seventh Umbral Calamity in particular should still be fresh in the player’s mind, as the descent of Dalamud and Bahamut’s explosive introduction was exactly what happened during the introductory cinematic of the game. Each calamity was caused by the literal death of one of the thirteen reflections that lie outside of the immediate setting of Final Fantasy 14. These events were not accidents, either. Each calamity was caused by a shadowy cabal of immortal body-hoppers known as Ascians. Taking on many faces and titles through the centuries, the Ascians have been responsible for the death of millions of people in the Source throughout the entirety of recorded history, as well as being responsible for much of the world’s overall misfortune and suffering.
I used to think the name for their collective group was an odd choice by the developers. It’s a word that never seemed to easily roll off the tongues of the voice actors when speaking it, especially during the game’s early events (during A Realm Reborn). Pronounced “ass-ee-ans,” more a French word than English. But, like so many complaints I had about the story at the start of FFXIV, there’s a reason for its oddness. I mean, it’s right there, in its French-like meaning and pronunciation. The Ascians are literally “ancients,” the world’s first inhabitants, and their mission is to bring their once-beautiful paradise back into existence through the destruction of this objectively imperfect world.
I mean, yeah, there’s your theme: murder and sacrifice the “real” world in exchange for utopia. What villain in history hasn’t used that as their excuse? For the Ascians, though, their “utopia” actually was once the reality of the world, and not simply an “un-place” like the word utopia suggests. For them, this utopia is not a concept, but a memory. And a very painful one.
The lyrics of “To The Edge” start like this:
All our splendor bathed black in silence
Our surrender, a somber reverie
Slowly drifting down into twilight
Left to sifting through fading memories
The “world” of Final Fantasy 14 didn’t always used to be thirteen individual “reflections” and the Source. It used to be a single beautiful unsundered world, a boundless paradise called Etheirys (pronounced ‘eh-ther-iss’). It was a bountiful sphere, a place where physical want and poverty did not exist, where magic abounded in every soul, where even children had the ability to create anything their minds could envision simply by imagining it. No one suffered. No one starved. No one wanted for anything. No illness could not be cured, and no imperfection could not be corrected.
Sadly, their very strength of vision, their “creation magic,” would prove to be their singular weakness. Seemingly out of nowhere, their creation magic became corrupted, and their simple sorrows, doubts, and thoughts of despair began to manifest into the creation of monsters, their every waking nightmares made very real. The subconscious fears of every man, woman, and child on Etheirys could become reality at any time, and no one could control the expression of their own unique demise. So in order to save the world and themselves, the ancient inhabitants of Etheirys utilized their creation magic to stop this inexorable march of death, and sacrificed half of their number to create a godlike being that would reorder the rules of “creation,” that would shield the world from complete destruction.
They would call this “god” Zodiark.
Those ancient people had never dealt with such supreme sorrow before. Such loss. It’s hard to imagine what that loss might look like, what the societal ramifications of losing more than half of your population all at once might be, especially after losing so many to the physical manifestation of their worst terrors. The closest pop culture reference I can think of would be Avengers: Endgame, but to be honest, I don’t think Marvel got it quite right. They didn’t have time to develop the concept on screen. The scene with Steve Rogers in a post-Thanos PTSD support group is neat, but… I don’t know, it would be so much worse.
Historically, this level of social devastation has actually occurred before. Between 1347 and 1351, half of all people living in the city of London just… died. In all of Europe, between 30% to 60% of all people simply dropped dead, most doing so in less than three days’ time after contracting the bubonic plague. They called it the “Black Death” for a reason, and the consequences of that pandemic are still being felt almost 700 years later, both economically and systemically.
(I didn’t realize this, but the Black Death spread so far as to also affect China and Northern Asia as well: in regions such as Shanxi and Guangdong, every six to seven out of ten people died between 1356 and 1360. Such an incredible loss of life, however, does not appear to have happened in India at the same time. This, and the fact that the majority of recorded deaths in China occured after the devastation in Europe makes the chances of the plague originating from the Silk Road unlikely.)
Imagine you live to see half to two-thirds of your family die in the space of a week. Imagine what that might do to your worldview. What meaning would the world appear to have, when your life can be snuffed out so easily by an invisible reaper? It wasn’t just poor people dying, either. It was the rich as well, the high and mighty, the royal, the ordained, the “powerful.” No one was immune to this spectre of death. And yet it was only 150 years later that the Renaissance would revitalize Europe, when guilds and the trading class would form, when the ability to climb social ladders through physical and intellectual effort would begin to develop. That’s a stunning realization to me, a testament to the strength and wisdom of my ancestors (a.k.a. those that survived the Black Death, because I obviously wouldn’t be here if they didn’t). It’s telling, though, that the Renaissance did not occur in the 14th century. How could it, when so many people were so completely destitute and filled with despair? I don’t know the history well enough myself, but it stands to reason that it would take the inhabitants of Europe at least a couple of generations to forget such a magnitude of death, to be able to “move on.”
I mean, from such terror, death is a mercy, but only for generations yet unborn who will not know it.
For the surviving inhabitants of Etheirys, though, such mercy did not exist. For these former members of paradise, death wasn’t a concept that they regularly had to face, even unwillingly. As we learn in Endwalker, while it wasn’t “uncommon” for the people of Etheirys to die, they did so more out of obligation. In their higher state of being, if you did not die, the next generation would not have a chance to be born. The Lifestream, the source of all life in Etheirys, was a massive but ultimately limited wellspring (at least conceptually). When you died, your memories and your life force returned to the planet, allowing new life to continue on unimpeded. Sure, you could just choose not to die, to keep learning and living for as long as you wanted. But it was considered selfish in their culture to live longer than your duty demanded, and to fear death was foolish since they knew for a fact that life, memory, and even the concept of “self” never really technically ended.
But then came the Final Days.
Without a compass wand’ring lost in lies of faith
(Faith slowly wasting away)
Only alive in fighting Death’s amber embrace
(Our hearts beat loud, unafraid)
On Hands and knees we pray to gods we’ve never seen
(Come shadow, come follow me)
The final hour upon us, no more time to breathe
Imagine a state of being where the concept of death suddenly turns from optional to completely mandatory and everywhere at any time. That the mere thought of death is suddenly killing people without warning. What would that do to you, psychologically? To all of a sudden lose so much, so quickly and so awfully? Imagine being a father or a mother during such days. You’ve lost friends, family, and children to monsters born of their own nightmares. And then, in order for you to live, you would have to lock away half of those that survived, perhaps some your own children, to be bound within an undying “shield,” within Zodiark. You would have to live the remainder of your eternal life knowing that you will never see them again, never hear their voices or see them grow, and that you can never save them. Or perhaps you would sacrifice yourself so that your remaining children could survive. It would be noble of you, but they would have to realize the same of you, that they could never save you from your eternal imprisonment, and that they would always have to carry their memory of you in that state, forever.
Needless to say, those ancient survivors couldn’t accept it. The guilt of survival. The loss of paradise. The realization that they would never live again within their perfect world, in easy and carefree lives, free of pain and regret and haunting memories of death.
What would you do in that circumstance?
What would you do if you thought you had the power to reverse it?
Know our places, for worth is wordless
Evanescent, this writing on the wall
Brother, stay this descent to madness
Come and save us, catch us before we fall!
The boss you fight at the end of Patch 5.3 is a man named Elidibus.
To be completely honest, Elidibus as a character has been so completely mysterious that his story up until Patch 5.3 has been rather… cliché, so to speak. Until this moment, he has been your typical JRPG mustache-twirling 4D-chess-playing mastermind that no one understands, not even his fellow Ascians. But in this moment, you become very aware of his modus operandi, as well as his overall purpose. His is the last of his people, and now thanks to the Warrior of Light and their fellow Scions, the last of the Ascians. His duty was to remain separate from Zodiark, to hold the resolve of his people within him, and to be their final representative. Their last and ultimate speaker.
Why did the Ascians feel they needed such a representative, even so far in the future? Because something happened after the creation of Zodiark, something that needed executive-level correcting. Something unthinkable. Something beyond unacceptable.
Venat (pronounced “ven-ah”) was once a ruler among the ancient people of Etheirys, a member of the Convocation of Fourteen. A “traveler” of sorts; a wandering representative. According to her station, her title was known as “Azem.” Whereas her fellows ministered to her people, it was her station to travel the world, visit different cultures, and discover everything life had to offer. This included learning ideas and concepts that her people did not easily entertain. Even during her tenure as Azem, she was considered by her fellows to be… odd. But most that held the title of Azem were considered eccentric; it came with the territory. When it came time for her to give up her station and grant it to her successor, it was tradition for retiring members of the Convocation to “die,” to return to the Lifestream and offer up their experience and knowledge of the world to the world and future generations.
She chose not to. It didn’t feel right for her to do so. She loved life too much to give it up. She loved the people she served too much to step away. She believed deeply in the goodness of her people and their ability to accept guidance and wisdom, and she wanted to continue to be a source of that wisdom, even if that meant breaking tradition and continuing on.
When the Final Days came, that belief was sorely tested.
Venat disagreed with the creation of Zodiark. As the player discovers during the events of Endwalker, Venat had good reason to do so: she knew something about the cataclysm that her fellows did not. She desperately tried to convince them that the sacrifice of so many was not the correct path forwards. But they didn’t listen to her. And so, out of pride and fear, Zodiark was formed. And, predictably, although the immediate chaos and death subsided once the god’s protective presence shielded Etheirys, the people began to realize that they could not accept this outcome. They could not accept that they had lost so much, so quickly and so awfully. Out of desperation, they prayed to their new god to sacrifice yet more to restore to them the paradise that they had lost. But they would not sacrifice those that still lived… no, they would do much worse. Instead, they vowed to nuture and sacrifice new life until every soul they offered to summon Zodiark would be replaced. In their sorrow, they were fully willing to drain the Lifestream dry and sacrifice their children yet unborn to reobtain the lives that had been taken from them.
And Venat would not accept that.
Like broken angels, wingless, cast from heaven’s gates
(Our slumbering demons awake)
We only fly when falling, falling far from grace
(Hell take us, heaven can wait)
And like a message in a bottle cast to sea
(Disgrace, untold and unseen)
Quick to their ends, our candles burn, until we’re free
With assistance from the few that followed her, Venat sacrificed her own life to introduce a new god into being. A goddess. Weaker than Zodiark, admittedly. But a goddess that could hold Zodiark in check, sundering Him and the world itself into fourteen equal parts, including all of the surviving souls that called the once-unified Etheirys home. Thus was Hydaelyn born, the mother of the newly-divided Source and all of its thirteen reflections. To stop her people from sacrificing themselves into oblivion, she divided their souls and their ability for magic, so much so that these new beings could no longer create “something” from “nothing” through will alone.
No longer would man have wings to bear them to Paradise. But while they could not fly, they would instead learn to walk.
In this imperfect state, they would learn to rely on the goodness of others. They would be able to cultivate courage. Their children would learn wisdom through necessity, and power through cooperation. Then, in time, they would even be able to conquer the very concept of despair itself, something that her people in their hubris and ability could never manage. For the true enemy of life was the very despair that ravaged the ancients, the true secret of the Final Days that Venat alone once knew.
They would learn to hold to hope and faith, when all other lights would fade. To learn on their own that Life is a riddle, to bear both rapture and sorrow.
That they must feel. That they must hear. That they must think.
That they must live. That they must die.
But above all else… that they must know.
Yes, time circles endlessly, the hands of fate trained ahead
(Pointing to the edge)
All things change – drawn to the flame, to rise from the ashes
To begin, we first must see the end!
And that lyric is, ironically, the one advantage that the Ascians did not have that Hydaelyn did. And they couldn’t have known they didn’t have it, either: they did not see the end for the beginning. They never learned why the Final Days occurred in the first place. Sure, time-travel shenanigans, memory-erasing, and all that. But do you really think that Emet-Selch would have been humble enough to accept Venat’s solution to sunder their world, even if he could have remembered why? Would Hermes, after all the trouble he caused? Hythlodeus would have, but he was not a member of the Convocation. The people of Etheirys were so blinded by what they lost that they could not have looked to the future, even if they wanted to. Elidibus himself had fallen prey to this fault, and although he does not intend to, he reveals this fault before the fight atop the Crystal Tower: he has been fighting to restore his people for so many eons that he can no longer remember the person he made the promise to fight for. Once the battle is over, even though he cries at the memory of his friends, he does not remember their faces or their names. The only thing he remembers is clinging so tightly to duty and responsibility, that they once chided him for overworking himself, urging him to spend more time outside in the sunshine. Unlike Emet-Selch, who has such a bright recollection of his past that he created a perfect replica of the capital city of Amaurot by memory (which is a wonderful amalgamation of the words for “love” and “decay”), Elidibus has forgetten why he continues to fight. To him, the petty details are no longer important; only the big picture matters. He, like Emet-Selch, had lost himself to dutiful despair. For, without it, he has no reason to exist.
Which, sadly, was the whole terrible reason the Final Days occured at all.
Rock of ages, we cast the first stone
In our cages, we know not what we do
Indecision, here at the crossroads
Recognition, tomorrow’s come too soon
Follow blindly, like lambs to slaughter
At the mercy of those who ply the sword
As our song wends, dead underwater
We’re forgotten, for now and evermore
The grand irony of this pivotal moment? The person he made the promise to is standing right in front of him. The Warrior of Light themselves. And the only reason the Warrior of Light can’t tell him this… is because it hasn’t happened for them yet. As Hythlodeus would put it, the Warrior of Light is Elidibus’s new-old friend, and he doesn’t know it. Sundered into pieces, perhaps, a mere 9/14th of his former self (I did say Final Fantasy was complicated; fractions, amirite?) But the same person nevertheless.
Time travel is messy, for sure. But almost always tragic.
(As of the writing of this article, this moment still hasn’t happened yet in the game, and is only a guess on my part as I trace the lines of theme in my head. I can’t wait for the end of the Pandemonium raids where I’m sure it will happen. Consider this an official guess.)
On top of that, the Warrior of Light is (and once was) the holder of the title of Azem. The successor that Venat herself once chose, in the days before Etheirys fell apart. And although their sundered condition makes it impossible for them to remember that past life, they once volunteered to become sundered when Venat became Hydaelyn because they trusted her enough to do so. They didn’t become like the Ascians, filled with unending memory and sorrow and terrible power. They chose weakness and ignorance. Pain and imperfection. They chose to endure as a powerless reflection within a wicked, sinful, and despair-ridden existence… so that one day, they would rise up and become the hero that would save their world from destruction and despair.
In monochrome melodies, our tears are painted in red
(Bleeding to the edge)
Deep inside, we’re nothing more than scions and sinners
In the rain, do light and darkness fade!
What I want to say is probably going to sound incredibly arrogant. Ignorant, probably. Stereotypical of a blindly-obedient religious nutjob, most certainly. Believe me, I used to be a missionary: I’m fully aware of how crazy I sound when I talk about my religion. But I want to say this anyway because it’s absolutely the truth of how I feel:
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, understanding the story of Final Fantasy 14 the way I do and seeing how happy and emotional the ending of Shadowbringers and Endwalker makes its players creates an unbelievably deep sense of contentment inside me that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. I connect with Venat more deeply than almost any fictional character I’ve ever come across if only because I feel exactly as she does: I am holding onto a secret that will not only forstall the actual final days, it will unlock the secret to eternally defeating despair. But no matter who I try to tell about it, no one will believe me. And thus I live and watch the world crumble, not fully understanding the truth I hold, but knowing enough about its power and beauty to get really sad whenever I get rejected for mentioning it. Regardless, the contentment I mentioned remains because I know how universal these themes are, and how they make people feel. And that they continue to connect with people, even if those people don’t fully understand why.
Am I alone in feeling this way? I ask because I’m sincerely curious. I feel like it’s the tale of Cassandra, neatly contained within a single religion, and then stories like this pop up. It never fails to surprise me and make me wonder. If you don’t know, many of the themes of Final Fantasy 14 echo concepts about the world that I truly believe, and that Latter-Day Saints believe. There’s a reason for the very biblical undertones contained in “To The Edge,” and I struggle to believe that the greater percentage of FFXIV fans are aware enough to appreciate them.
I believe we are the literal children of a Heavenly Father who sent us to live in a very broken and imperfect world for a purpose that is difficult to comprehend, let alone believe. I believe it is a mercy that we do not have a recollection of who we once were, who our loved ones once were in relation to ourselves, and especially who we are in relation to who we could one day emulate… because if we had that recollection, I believe we would be killing ourselves to get back to that place (and I mean that more literally than figuratively).
The paradise we came from resembles our world only in the barest and least impressive sense possible: Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds” pales in comparison, though I believe St. Thomas Aquinas got closer. John the Revelator could barely attempt its description in Revelation 4 by describing its purpose and magnificence with intense symbolism of who lives/once lived in that place. The Garden of Eden alone might begin to describe a likeness of that paradise, and the imperfect actions of our first parents alone caused that place to become unsuitable for us, the world in which we live.
We are children of a Creator. I don’t take this belief lightly. The very essence of “creation” is not only part of who we are, it is meant to be intrinsic within us, and the concept of that desire for creation being warped and twisted like it is in Final Fantasy 14 is way more meaningful to me than the developers could ever have anticipated. While I don’t exactly appreciate the swelling emotional music when the message is so good, this video is an excellent example of this and other themes echoing in our modern culture.
We chose to come to this completely imperfect and flawed existence because we were promised that if we did so in faith, we would be able to overcome those two most final of endings: physical death (and everything contained within its concept) and spiritual death (which is Hell, and everything within its concept). And yes, though certainly a hard thing to say, I believe we did chose to come to this terrible place, every single one of us. But we did so with hope. That we could only overcome by trusting that the greatest of our Father’s children, even the Son of Man Himself, would do exactly as His Father directed. He is the “Rock of Ages” mentioned in the song, the ideal of perfection and strength that Elidibus attempts to compare himself to in the song (or conversely, that the ancients attempt to compare Elidibus to), and rightly fails, because it’s more appropriate in our modern minds for the tragic hero to fail and fall.
Fortunately for us, our actual Warrior of Light did not fail. Christ succeeded in His mission, and with flying colors, to the salvation of all. So many ancient traditions, and even those modern-day pop culture tropes of The Chosen One, continue to resonate this message. Every culture has its “chosen one” (or chosen ones), and whether they come bearing a sword, a message, or both, the effect is the same, as Joseph Campbell demonstrates.
A resurrection. A fulfillment of that which was lost. And a return home.
It’s right there, in the song, repeated:
Riding home – riding home
Finding hope – don’t lose hope
And it resonates because it is real. It’s as real as it is wrong to warp the concept of uppercase “Light” with death, and conquest, and nihilism. It’s as real as it is wrong for someone in real life to twist and manipulate the goodness within us to evil ends, and force “that which is best in us” to destroy our sense of right and wrong. It is as real as the desire to be the heroes we believe we can be, no matter how far short we may fall from that ideal. Because the Ideal is real, we have the hope that we can eventually overcome everything that will bring us despair in this life. Everything. I sincerely believe that.
And by the reactions of those that followed the story of Final Fantasy 14 to its conclusion, I believe that enjoyers of FFXIV’s story would be willing to believe in such hope as well.
Like Final Fantasy (and like any religious system of belief, really), the concepts contained within are both complicated and very easy to dismiss as flippant nonsense. Again, believe me, I know; I have been rejected to my face as loudly as I will reject everything that would otherwise be considered “canon” after Final Fantasy X-2 (Final Fantasy X -Will- did not happen, Tidus and Yuna are still together to this day, and you can’t convince me otherwise, the evidence and the themes of the prior two games is clear). But in all seriousness, I also know how silly it is for me to compare Final Fantasy 14 to something as sincere and sacred as the Gospel. Believe me, I know: when people in church start comparing the priesthood to the Force and start quoting Yoda, I die a little bit on the inside. But if we become unwilling to talk about the stories we love, that fill our minds and hearts with hope and healing, then we’ve done a disservice to them, and deny the power of the themes from which these stories originate.
Allow me to conclude this long and incredibly unnecessary article with one final observation: the Warrior of Light in the Endwalker cinematics could have been any class. Any class at all, including the new ones. As you know, there are many to choose from that haven’t had their day in the beautiful CGI-rendered spotlight (the fact that we’ve never seen a machinist in 4K breaks my rusty little clockwork heart).
Our Warrior of Light ended his journey as a paladin, a spiritual defender of his beloved goddess and the one true tanky savior of Eorzea.
I don’t think I have to say anything else.