This article contains major spoilers for Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker in its discussion of the Side Stories found on the FFXIV Lodestone website.
Final Fantasy XIV is a massive story — its hundreds of hours of cutscenes walk hand in hand with complex characters and lingering mysteries. Recently, I discovered that its story is even bigger. Tucked away in an obscure corner of the FFXIV Lodestone website are dozens of Side Stories; over 30 entries can be found in the “Tales From” series. Far from being dry, wiki-style lore records, the majority of these stories help flesh the cast out considerably, ranging from Estinien’s hilarious efforts to evade Tataru and Krile to a young Lord Hien’s vain attempts to beseech the monkey king for aid.
Being the lore nerd I am, I recently brought it upon myself to read all (at the time of writing) 33 Final Fantasy XIV Lodestone Side Stories on offer in two back-to-back sessions. Even more ambitiously, I wanted to narrow it down to my five favorites. This was incredibly difficult, so if your favorite tale isn’t on this list, don’t worry — it’s stuck with me all the same.
In no particular order, here’s a brief summary of my five favorite FFXIV Side Stories.
“An Unpromised Tomorrow”
The Twinning dungeon from Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is mainly known for its dance memes, though its place in the story is far more fascinating. In the events leading up to Shadowbringers, a chemical weapon known as Black Rose was unleashed upon the world, wiping out civilizations, killing our character, and stilling the flow of aether in the land, leaving the survivors to fight over resources.
Except that dark future never came to be, thanks to the brave engineers of an alternate reality who sent G’raha Tia back in time to stop the weapon from gaining its deadly potency. “An Unpromised Tomorrow” gives us a window into that persisting timeline, to the engineers who had saved a world they would never get to see.
“A smile better suits a hero.” This phrase is lodged in the back of any Final Fantasy XIV player’s mind. They’re the final words of our beloved knight Haurchefant, who protected us until his last breath. The exclusion of “Thoughts Unspoken” from the main story is almost criminal, given how beautifully written it is. The tale follows a manservant’s search for legal documentation in Haurchefant’s old station, Camp Dragonhead.
In his search, the manservant finds a letter that we never received from our faithful compatriot. The missive serves as a final goodbye from a brave knight who wanted us to smile, one that was never heard but understood by the Warrior of Light all the same.
“One Name, One Promise”
Oh, Thancred. We first meet him in A Realm Reborn as a charming scoundrel, but fate isn’t kind to him for the rest of the game. Between the beginning of Heavensward and the end of Shadowbringers, Thancred loses his childhood friend, Minfilia, as she gives her life to halt the flood of light on the First. Eventually, she vanishes entirely to grant her successor, Ryne, a chance at a future all her own.
“One Name, One Promise” shows us how Thancred came to be a scion, just how important Minfilia was to him, and the sheer regret he feels at never expressing his true feelings for her. It’s an aching glimpse into one of the game’s most heartbroken cast members and well worth a read.
“Through His Eyes”
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringer’s Emet-Selch is beloved by fans for a reason. He steals every scene he’s in with his smarmy personality, but he’s also a tragic figure. We know him as a broken man with a hunched posture, someone who lived a thousand of our lives to try to find any glimpse of hope in mankind and discovered none.
“Through His Eyes” is a character study of Emet himself and his unique power to track the flow of aether with his eyes alone. What starts as a celebrated talent turns to a curse. After thousands of years of heartbreak, Emet-Selch the Garlean Emperor can see just how feeble and reduced the sundered men of the world truly are.
“A Friendship of Record”
Venat left a lasting impression on us in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. A bright, ancient mirror to our own adventurous spirit, Venat is the predecessor of our unsundered ancestor, Azem. She eventually became the goddess Hydaelyn, sacrificing herself so that the world might be preserved.
“A Friendship of Record” follows the Chief Archivist of Anamnesis Anyder, a contemporary of Venat who held a great admiration for her. It shows us what Venat was like in her prime, how her enthusiasm uplifted those who knew her — and the exact moment she found her undying love for the world.
The Lodestone Side Stories Are a Must-Read for FFXIV Fans
It’s such a shame that many players don’t realize these stories exist, let alone find the time I found to read them. In many cases they provide fascinating insights into the backstories of the main cast, telling tales that are just as impactful as the ones found in the game. Understandably, a game that’s already as long as Final Fantasy XIV will need to cut plot threads for time’s sake. But if you loved the game’s story as much as I did, these FFXIV Lodestone Side Stories are a must-read.