Final Fantasy XIV is one of the most compelling games of the last decade. With each DLC it expands, grows, and evolves. In the latest Final Fantasy XIV expansion, Endwalker, you are given the unenviable task of saving an enemy you’ve had since the beginning of the story: the Garleans and the Empire of Garlemald.
As you head to Garlemald and try to save Garleans who are under the thrall of a demonic god, you are pushed back at every corner. Every gesture of friendship is thrown back in your face due to their pride and xenophobia. They don’t want to be saved by barbarians. Even when you say everyone must unite to save the world, a particular Legatus points out the irony that if Eorzea had simply submitted that everyone would be under the banner of Garlemald. There is a strange and twisted truth to this.
I had reached a point in the story in Endwalker where I could not empathize with the Garleans. Maybe they deserved to fall? After all, they had caused so much pain across the world of Final Fantasy XIV. Then something happened, something that showcased how the team at Square Enix knows how to build a believable and emotional world filled not just with NPCs but people, people whom you want to protect regardless of their background.
A Garlean Cry for Help in Endwalker
So, after finishing a main scenario Endwalker quest, I had some downtime and found myself in a train station filled with Garlean refugees. These were survivors and needed to be relocated to a sanctuary nearby.
I happened across a young Garlean in need of aid. He couldn’t find his mom as he was separated from her in all the chaos and destruction of the capital city of Garlemald. Throughout the course of this short side quest, you learn she may be somewhere within the ruins of the city. When the side quest was done and dusted and the meager rewards were dished out, I felt a renewed sense of appreciation for the plight of the Garleans. Because by giving players the option to save this small family, to bring peace to this child’s world, you instantly empathize with his plight and to an extent the plight of his people.
It’s incidentally like the 2010 Doctor Who episode, “The Beast Below.” The Doctor and Amy discuss how a Star Whale came and saved the children of a doomed planet, and Amy has a particular line: “It came because it couldn’t stand to watch your children cry.”
It is this sort of intimate storytelling that makes Final Fantasy XIV and now Endwalker so compelling. It’s not just because of the outstanding work on the macro elements of the story, where you’re battling demonic gods over the fate of universes. It is also in the small touches that bring the world to life. Falling into these side quests where you bring families back together, gather supplies for refugees so they don’t starve to death, is what makes a satisfying and immersive adventure. It is this side quest in the crumbling capital city of Garlemald where a child was crying that helped me understand and fully empathize with my enemy.
It’s why you pick up that sword and fight the good fight, and it is why you are the Warrior of Light.