Final Fantasy XIV capped off its long-running story arc in such stunning fashion with Endwalker. The expansion itself had countless moments that spoke to us in so many different ways, showcasing FFXIV’s narrative prowess and ability to tell very human stories. Now that there’s been quite some distance since the release of Endwalker, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on the journey. Needless to say that this article contains explicit spoilers, so if you haven’t finished Endwalker…what are you doing here?!
Here at Fanbyte / The Linkshell, we have several FFXIV sickos who all pitched in to write about our favorite things in Endwalker; from the hypest moments to the story revelations that brought us to tears, and even some of the goofy stuff that had us cracking up. The problem we ran into was narrowing our list down to 14 and not getting carried away. This could have easily ended up being 50 entries long.
There are some obvious ones — like the “goodbyes” on Ultima Thule, the phase change in the last boss battle, or G’raha eating a burgie — that unfortunately didn’t make the list. And if I (editor Michael Higham) had things my way, this would have been a text version of a G’raha fancam. However, I work with great people who have feelings, too. So, we came together to look back at our 14 favorite moments from FFXIV Endwalker!
We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, and if you have a standout moment you want to share, let us know in the comments! And for all your coverage on FFXIV, check out all our work over on The Linkshell.
Estinien Not Knowing Money
A character is not just their initial story or their first driving motivation. A character is also about what lives outside of that, about the things they do in their external and internal lives outside of the main thrust of the plot. It’s not just knowing about the hero’s need to get revenge against the villains; it’s also about knowing what they’re like when they’re not on their chosen quest.
Estinien Wyrmblood occupies a heady, serious place when he’s introduced in A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. A young man who lost his family to the dragon Nidhogg, he’s trained his whole life to become the pinnacle of Dragoons in order to get revenge. Estinien learning to not only set aside his rage and anger, but to also see the dragons as beings deserving of life, is a significant part of why Heavensward is great.
In Endwalker, we get a moment of Estinien levity. If you spent your whole life training to kill dragons, it’s clear that you probably didn’t take part in what’s considered “normal life.” That most starkly comes across in the team’s excursion to Thavnair, where Estinien reveals that outside of training for dragon murder, he’s a total himbo about anything else.
While the Warrior of Light, Thancred, and Urianger are suffering from sickness due to teleporting without being attuned to an Aetheryte, Thancred warns you not to let Estinien wander the markets alone. This forces you to fight your sickness and rush to Estinien’s side to prevent him from spending all your money. When you stop a merchant from swindling him, you’re also treated to Estinien’s best line ever.
“Wait. I shouldn’t buy the lassi. This merchant is swindling me.” Ah, dear, sweet Estinien.
He even buys a hair tie for a mere 9,400 gil. A steal, even! Estinien being terrible with money is a riot; it makes complete sense and adds a comedic side to his character. — Mike Williams
Meeting Hythlodaeus on the Moon
In Shadowbringers, the Warrior of Light follows Emet-Selch through a replica of the past, visiting a dreamy vision of the villain’s beloved Amaurot. That’s where we (kind of) meet Hythlodaeus — or at least a shade version of the Ancient who’s seemingly aware of his imposter status. Your time with Hythlodaeus isn’t very long, but even in that short visit, it’s clear the man was a dear friend who cared for both Emet-Selch and Azem.
I figured Hythlodaeus would cross paths with the Warrior of Light again, but when he appeared before me on Mare Lamentorum, I was inconsolable.
This time it’s actually him, and Hythlodaeus intervenes when the lost souls of the Ancients close in on the Warrior. This Hythlodaeus, the real one, doesn’t remember you from dream-Amaurot, but he recognizes your soul’s color as one shared with Azem. The scene reveals so many extra details that still hurt months later as Hythlodaeus recounts the anguish these souls felt in a purgatory bound to Zodiark for eons.
But more than anything, I ache for Hythlodaeus as he reminds us that both Azem and Emet-Selch were loved. There’s so much in this window to the past that reveals how Emet-Selch, in particular, is endeared to his friends. In one exchange, after learning of the replica Amaurot, Hythlodaeus notes Emet-Selch is “a slave to sentiment, even after an eternity” and laughs, complete with his precious, unique mannerisms and all. That relationship with Azem and Emet-Selch also leads him to trust us as the Warrior of Light.
I’ll never get over, “Fare you well, my new old friend.” — Andrea Shearon
Meeting Ancient Emet-Selch for the First Time
I’ve made it no secret that I really love Emet-Selch; he’s my favorite male character of all time. Seeing the Ancients and how they lived before the Final Days felt like something I could only have through fanfiction, so I could barely hold it together when I realized it was actually happening in Endwalker. When the camera finally pans over Hades’ face after the agonizing wait for him to lower his hood, I lost it. I’ll never forget my actual reaction of shaking in anticipation and bursting into tears when he first speaks.
Here was Hades before he had to carry the weight of his long-lost people; before he came to see saving his loved ones as a mission achievable only through destruction rather than protection; before he spent millennia mourning Azem, Hythlodaeus, and the man he used to be. His skin has a healthy hue, his eyes are glowing with power and confidence and they aren’t sunken, and his posture doesn’t look like he barely has the will to keep standing.
It’s simultaneously delightful and heartbreaking to see him — and a little funny, too, because this man is out here looking like Xehanort from Kingdom Hearts in a Final Fantasy game. But I love him and his silly hair, his intolerable sarcasm, and his unflinching desire to honor the role he earned but may have otherwise not gotten if it were not for a dear friend. — Natalie Flores
Vrtra Revealing He’s The Satrap to the Scions and Radz-at-Han
This one feels a bit like cheating since Vrtra reveals himself as the Satrap on two occasions, but they’re both moments worth celebrating. In the first, the Scions follow Varshahn to meet with Ahewann, the supposed satrap of Radz-at-Han. A few minutes into the meeting and Estinien calls bullshit on the whole charade, demanding Varshahn and Ahewann explain what’s going on.
Cue the Heavensward motif and my tears, for Radz-at-Han’s satrap is really Vrtra of the First Brood — sibling to dragons we’ve already met like Bahamut, Tiamat, Hrasvelgr, and Nidhogg. Of course, we knew he would make his debut in Endwalker, but this is still another occasion that had me sobbing. I’ve loved the dragons since we first met Midgardsormr, and learning about one of his long-lost children in Endwalker has to be one of my all-time favorite FFXIV moments.
The second time Vrtra outs himself as Radz-at-Han’s secret protector still knocks the air out of me, and doubles back to Endwalker’s constant theme of love and its many shapes. The speech he delivers, his plea to his people, and their cheers upon meeting him bring the perfect moment of reprieve against the hellish backdrop of the Final Days.
Vrtra’s love for the people of Radz-at-Han reminds me so much of Hydaelyn as he has sat in the shadows for centuries, watching, guiding, and protecting them as best he could. — Andrea Shearon
When Bad Shit Kicks off With Meteion
There’s a moment just after Hermes realizes that the End of Days happens because of something outside of our star, where Meteion starts talking to the sky. “Greetings. Can you hear me? Do not be alarmed — I mean you no harm,” she says creepily before connecting to the shared consciousness. Everything kicks off then, with both her and us struggling against the darkness. Her eyes grow wide and overflow with black, dripping down her face. “So hot. So cold. So sad…Why do we…they hurt. Hate. HATE!”
It’s the first time in all of Endwalker where I was caught off guard. And after that begins the chase where we try to track an invisible Meteion throughout the zone. For once, the chase is a welcome one, though. My mind is full of thoughts of what could have possibly happened. What’s out there? What could be this bad? What could harbor enough hate to cause an entire star to fall? Why is the universe dead?
Those unsettling ten minutes or so were the highlight of Endwalker for me. I’m not entirely a fan of which direction Square Enix took with the rest of the story. But that horrifying moment? Man, I’d love to experience that again. — Dillon Skiffington
Urianger Reuniting with Moenbryda’s Parents
I think most of us can agree that FFXIV did Moenbryda dirty. She was brought into the fold in Patch 2.x MSQ as a key character for solving the Scions’ Ascian problem. Then, she was killed off as quickly as she was introduced. Eorzea would be a better place with more lady Roegadyn, but it was especially disappointing that a great female character with tons of potential (ahem, Ysayle) had an untimely exit before leaving a lasting impact.
That said, Endwalker did the best it could in remembering and honoring Moenbryda’s short but important legacy. And FFXIV never forgets its past. Given her backstory as a Sharlayan scholar and her understated but clear relationship with Urianger, Endwalker gives us one of its many dramatic peaks as things begin to ramp up in a display of raw emotional honesty.
Urianger, who is almost afraid of nothing, couldn’t bear the thought of coming face to face with Moenbryda’s parents, who are also notable people in Sharlayan’s efforts amid the Final Days. He feels the need to shoulder some of the responsibility for her death. As the Scions continue helping in Labyrinthos, he has no choice but to confront them. Tensions are high, but when Moenbryda’s parents finally speak of her, they embrace Urianger as one of their own. Her mom, Bloewyda, hugs Urianger as tears fill her eyes. When I saw Urianger physically shaking, defying the stock FFXIV animations to powerfully convey his grief, I broke..
Would I have preferred that Moenbryda played a more significant role throughout FFXIV? Yeah. But this is a beautiful moment that captures what we love so much about FFXIV — its humanity and ability to tell genuinely affecting stories. It tells us that the characters we care about care about those around them, too. For someone as level-headed and stoic as Urianger to break down and let out his emotions came as a shock, and let us know the feeling is real. — Michael Higham
Controlling Alisaie and Alphinaud When Blasphemies Attack Garlemald
A fairly minor feature (or mechanic) I love so dearly in FFXIV is when MSQ puts you in the shoes of another character, making you play as them for a pivotal battle. Y’shtola in the post-Stormblood quests before mic-dropping on Little Sun; Alphinaud just before Shadowbringers; Thancred late in Shadowbringers MSQ; Estinien in Garlemald for Patch 5.1 MSQ; then the final pre-Endwalker instance in Patch 5.5 with everyone fighting in Carteneau. I love FFXIV’s characters dearly, so in these brief instances where they become the main character, these are personally all-time hype moments.
Late in Endwalker, the Scions are tasked with evacuating citizens through Garlemald. With Blasphemies running wild, the odds aren’t in their favor, however. It’s a critical point in the story and one that feels like there really is something at stake. This doesn’t just play out as cutscenes, though. The cutscenes cleverly transition right into these fights where you have to control Alphinaud and Alisaie, understand their skillsets on the fly, and take part in critical battles to save innocent lives. They play out as simple yet somewhat challenging fights, but these highlight just how goddamn cool all these characters are, bringing them closer together as one tight-knit squad that truly fights for each other.
While it’s a way to engage you as the player and mix up the gameplay formula a bit, for me, it’s a chance to see first-hand how my favorite characters are in battle. I imagine many others don’t think much of these moments or think they’re pretty cool. But as each cutscene transitioned to fights, I was standing up out of my seat screaming “LET’S FUCKING GO” at my monitor, making sure the whole block knew that the Scions were here hold it down just before my Warrior of Light returned to center stage.
Like the Trust system, these moments create a gameplay-narrative harmony that strengthens FFXIV‘s storytelling. You spend all this time with the Scions, go on so many journeys saving the world, learn about their struggles, joys, and convictions. So, to actually control them in their finest hour is a real treat. — Michael Higham
Venat Asking You About Your Journey
I played Endwalker in a mad rush, trying to squeeze in among the thousands waiting in the queue from the early morning, hoping to finish before a work trip. I remember being overwhelmed — by the things I had to prepare, the constant disconnecting and reconnecting to hold my place in the virtual line to dive back in, and everything happening in Endwalker itself. It’s nothing new: I go through life at this kind of speed, always focusing on the future, constantly overwhelmed, rarely ever pausing.
But I paused when Venat asked me, “Has your journey been good? Has it been worthwhile?” I felt my chest tighten as I thought about my journey in FFXIV — the tears I’ve shed, the times I’ve been left speechless, the moments where the adrenaline of beating a new raid has made me feel alive. I thought about how much this game means to me; how it saved me during one of my toughest times.
I knew it wasn’t just Venat asking me about my adventures throughout Hydaelyn. It was bigger than her and me; it was about the developers and us, the players. Through Venat, they wanted to know about our journeys in this magnificent world they’ve worked so hard to create, one inhabited by some of the best characters we’ll know.
You don’t get to answer; it’s intentional. Because how can some of us ever fully capture just how much this game means to us? It’s been good, worthwhile, and so much more. — Natalie Flores
Everything About the Mothercrystal Trial
In what’s hands down my favorite moment in all of Endwalker, I couldn’t help but feel the entire weight of FFXIV’s legacy crashing down on me in one momentous occasion. The level 89 MSQ trial, The Mothercrystal, brought everything I love about FFXIV for an overwhelmingly emotional and pivotal moment. It’s a confrontation that was years in the making. One born out of tough love and faith in the people we’re connected to. And to take on this challenge through an eight-player Trust alongside the characters I’ve grown to love dearly, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
I usually don’t think much of the ‘we must fight to test your strength’ trope, but in the context of Endwalker, proving that you’re worthy was necessary for what was at stake. If Hydaelyn, and all of the realm, really did only have one shot at this, she better make damn sure she’s sending the right people. And so, finally meeting face-to-face with Hydaelyn herself, and not through Venat as an avatar, didn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Yet to be in her presence was still a stunning spectacle. The cutscene, dialogue, clearing the Aitiascope just moments before, and the remix of “Answers” playing as everyone takes their stand, it all felt so perfectly framed.
The Trust system is something really adore, not just as a convenient feature for running MSQ dungeons, but also a storytelling device that brings in the important characters to the forefront, fighting at your side when it matters most. With the exception of Memoria Misera, eight-player Trials never featured the Trust system, however. But as the cutscene leading into The Mothercrystal went on, with all eight Scions present extolling the virtues of their willpower and conviction, I had this growing feeling that the FFXIV team was going to let us do it again for just this one moment. And they let us do it.
An incredible sense of joy and awe left me in tears, and I was just sitting there not even queued up for the fight yet. Then in the fight itself, seeing everyone put in the work, dodging AoEs (or failing to), sharing stacks, and tanking and healing for each other as a whole squad of eight against Hydaelyn herself created a narrative harmony that I find so important for FFXIV. I tried following my Scions to handle mechanics, but my head was too full reflecting on the years of FFXIV encapsulated by “Your Answers” — the marching drums pushed me forward and that oh so familiar melody had me choking back tears mid-fight. Yet another moment that proves FFXIV as a story told through its music.
It’s the kind of scenario I’d daydream about and hope to see in the game, but snap myself out of because of course they wouldn’t do that. So, to me, this was perfect. Everything in FFXIV had come full circle in The Mothercrystal before Endwalker reached its conclusion to usher in a new era. So while in Ultima Thule and the final battles were incredible in their own right, having this rare moment captured what I love most about FFXIV. — Michael Higham
The End Walk on Ultima Thule, Guided by the Voices of the Past
This is really the moment that Endwalker is named for. Here on Ultima Thule, the Scions seek to find a way to challenge Meteion, but they can’t reach her. Walking across the ruins of dead civilizations, you’ve sacrificed your comrades one by one, each providing the way forward.
At the Nekropolis, all that remains is the Warrior of Light and the Leveilleur twins. It feels like there’s no way forward as there are no remnants of a civilization to contend with. That’s when Alphinaud and Alisaie, the two who have been with you since the very beginning, make their sacrifice. After they’re gone, all that remains is for you to walk the shining path forward.
The background music that has followed you across Ultima Thule finally swells to its full nature, becoming “Close in the Distance,” with full English lyrics. All you can do is walk, passing shades of all those you have met during your journey. Friends and comrades, some long dead and others who still live — Ardbert, Haurchefant, Papalymo, Minifilia, Aymeric, Raubahn, and more.
This is the moment that got me. I knew the Scions would return, so I did not mourn their loss. But this walk is a culmination of years of adventures. These are the characters I’ve fallen in love with and the heroes I’ve fought alongside. Ardbert bookends these voices of the past as the first and last voice you hear. In Shadowbringers, he promised to stand with you in the end, and here it feels like he’s made good on that promise.
Yeah, I cried here. It’s the only time I’ve done so in FFXIV, and simply the perfect moment to represent my time with this wonderful game. — Mike Williams
Emet-Selch Telling You About All the Adventures You’ll Have
It’s no secret that Emet-Selch is a personal favorite of mine (and nearly every FFXIV player who reaches Shadowbringers). That skunk-man wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire… Unless you asked him really, really nicely.
This begrudging willingness to be kind only at the very last second dates back to Shadowbringers — when he agrees to “go and fetch” Y’shtola after she presumably falls to her death. But only after he sees how sad her demise makes everyone. It’s a streak of kindness the immortal can never hide for long, no matter how hard he tries to play the cold logician. Like the floppy white bangs sticking out of his dark hair.
The ultimate expression of this? When he chooses to up and die on us. He finally gets the last laugh after his defeat atop Amaurot at the end of Shadowbringers by cruelly cutting himself out of our lives. He refuses to live in a world that will never again be the one he lost, no matter how much we’ve come to appreciate him or how much he (and Hythlodaeus) could help against the Endsinger.
Yet he can’t stand to see us suffer needlessly. The trial against the Endsinger is, to him, one final test of mankind’s worthiness to exist when he and his friends could not. It’s not really cruel; it’s begrudging respect wrapped in bluster, which is why he leaves us with a parting gift: the promise of happier possibilities to come.
He tells us of sunken treasures, lost islands, people we have yet to meet, and others in despair that could use our help. Classic adventure tales, really. Previews of the brief tonal reset Endwalker will bring. But his meaning in the fiction is also clear. Emet-Selch wants us to go on when he cannot. He’s ready to die, but he’s not ready for us to die. He’s too kind to see us stop when he knows brighter days are within our grasp. — Steven Strom
Meteion’s Final Speech
There are the befores and the afters — the special moments that split our lives into two different halves. Before and after my first pet died. Before and after I went to that university. Before and after I read that book, watched that movie, played that game. For me, there’s a before and after I first heard Meteion say, “You gather pieces of happiness, precious and fragile, only to lose them. Then start again. On and on it goes, until death takes you into its gentle embrace.”
Endwalker hits hard in general, as it relentlessly (yet with equal amounts of empathy) delves into the aspects of the human condition that are most difficult to grapple with: mortality, despair, and the inevitability of both. But it’s especially impactful for those with depression and thanatophobia — the phobic fear of death — like myself. This particular quote doesn’t affect how much I struggle with depression, but it has already influenced how I deal with it.
In my worst moments, I tell myself: ‘I’ve lost a piece of happiness; I don’t feel like I’ve been able to have many, to begin with. But I will pick another up eventually. I might even one day gather more than I assume. I will probably lose most of those too. And on and on it will go until my last day.”
It helps me to endure. To know whatever is making my heart and soul ache will lessen, maybe even pass. And it will almost certainly be replaced by something else because that is what it is like to live — to gain questions and seek their answers, like Hermes is no longer able to. During the most difficult times, I think of Meteion’s words and find it a little easier to be alive. — Natalie Flores
Zenos Punching a Hole in Space-Time to Fight You
It’s the end. Your friends are gone (safe, at least temporarily, thanks to your Warrior of Light sacrificing themself to face the Endsinger alone). You are trapped. Alone at the end of time and space, except for the manifestation of several trillion people’s death and despair. The ray of hope that literally punches a hole in reality isn’t one of your allies; it’s your “friend.” Zenos has made a deal with Krile to become Shinryu again, allowing him to fly to your aid and help “dispense with this distraction.” So that he can finally fight you one-on-one.
Like a lot of FFXIV characters, Zenos is introduced as a pretty one-note figure: a bored imperial brat who kills for pleasure. Over time, he develops a more specific philosophy around the Warrior of Light: an unstoppable desire to seek his true path in life.
It’s similar to the central “do what thou wilt” tenet of Thelema, the spiritual practice founded by Aleister Crowley in the early 1900s. Crowley was also (perhaps not coincidentally) born a spoiled aristocrat with some questionable views on race who then surrounded himself in occult imagery (not unlike Zenos does by wrapping himself with a demon to become a Reaper during Endwalker). Crowley was also bisexual. And Zenos… He really cares about you no matter what gender you pick for your Warrior of Light, which has led fanart and fic down the very obvious paths you’d expect.
Zenos is unquestionably a villain. Yet this moment makes it clear that what really defined him, in a place with no “distractions” or preconceptions left to color him, was the single-minded resolve to pursue what he wanted in life against all odds, reason, and even the laws of physics. His undoing is that he doesn’t make time or space in his wake for other people — to care about how his pursuit intertwines with the lives of others. It’s exactly what our Warrior of Light does while fervently pursuing their own beliefs, and it’s why they win in the end. — Steven Strom
Zenos Finally Dies
Zenos is the living embodiment of “this bitch.” Introduced back in Stormblood, Zenos is the son of Emperor Varis and one of the most fearsome warriors in the Empire. His first real appearance shows him as an unstoppable monster, the Garlean answer to the Warrior of Light.
In practice though, Zenos becomes… a shonen anime villain always popping up to challenge his friend, his enemy, to another contest in order to find the true meaning in his life. He settles firmly into his Vegeta phase, untethered from the rest of the plot outside of his obsession with the Warrior of Light. And once you end up in this spot, you only have two options: die, or become the hero or antihero.
At one point, it looks like Zenos might go the route of antihero during the Garlemald section of the main scenario, where he’s chided that he won’t get to fight the Warrior of Light because they have bigger things to worry about. But at the end of all reality, Zenos’ story goes in a different direction.
I have personally never seen a character dispatched with such vindictive finality. Like, you almost get the feeling that head writer Natsuko Ishikawa hates Zenos. After the Endsinger is done and dusted, the Warrior of Light and Zenos have a good old scrap to the death. In the end, Zenos breathes his last in a void that aether cannot touch. He dies, completely alone, and his aether cannot rejoin the lifestream. No reincarnation for him.
“His story needed no further embellishment, nor any further happiness or misery,” Ishikawa said about Zenos’ death. Stone cold. — Mike Williams