Final Fantasy XIV is no stranger to adding wild new gameplay systems and areas, with locations like Eureka and Bozja having their own unique mechanics and stories. However, generally, all these new additions follow the same basic gameplay as the rest of the game, either in terms of combat or crafting. That’s exactly why Island Sanctuary, added in Patch 6.2, feels so captivating, almost like the development team added an entirely new game within FFXIV. It’s clearly a hit with fans as Island Sanctuary has already caused servers to overload, but it vitally adds some dynamic and new to an MMO that continues to grow.
Island Sanctuary is intended as a “laid-back” experience, and after quite literally saving all of existence in Endwalker, that’s a much-needed break. Essentially each player gets their own instanced private island, where creatures called mammets help you build your very own paradise. Up to 16 players can be on one island at any time; You can invite your friends to your island or go visit theirs. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the sanctuary is heavily inspired by Animal Crossing, but that lets FFXIV lean heavily into its more lighthearted and goofier aspects.
The game’s writing really shines through on the sanctuary, as you meet the various mammets that help you build your sanctuary, like the “Produce Producer” and the “Creature Comforter.” There are some genuinely hilarious descriptions and dialogue, like the game warning that if you don’t have enough materials you might make a mammet cry and saying “Don’t be the Warrior of Light who made a mammet cry.”
That lighthearted tone seeps into the entire experience, which lets you approach everything at your own speed. The core gameplay loop on the island consists of gathering materials, crafting, building new structures, planting and farming crops, and taking care of animals that you’ve captured.
While the simulation element are reminiscent of Animal Crossing, the creatures you catch and take care of almost give a Pokémon-like feel to everything as well. You get to name each one you capture, and caring for the creatures properly can lead to better rewards in the long run.
While you do have general guidelines, the development team wisely left the Island Sanctuary mostly open-ended, letting you pursue whatever features you want in any order. You can focus on crafting new buildings and workshops, or you can simply set out across the island to capture every creature possible.
There are definitely some improvements that can be made in terms of how quickly you progress, but the freedom of the island stands as the perfect opposition to the more structured content of the rest of the game. Even better is the fact that you can be on the island while you queue for other content, meaning players now have plenty of content to wade through while they wait to get through their dailies.
Of course, it’s also important this content can lead to even more rewards, and there are two kinds of currencies you earn, which can be exchanged for important items, new minions, clothing, and more. Of course, if Square Enix keeps expanding Island Sanctuary it could turn into an even more robust system, with an even better payoff.
Island Sanctuary isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s an important step forward for FFXIV in terms of diversifying its content. In a recent interview with Inverse, game director Naoki Yoshida said he wants to keep FFXIV going for decades to come, and the only way to do that is to ensure the game stays ahead of other MMOs.
Content like Island Sanctuary helps solidify why FFXIV is so unique; one second you’re killing the personification of death, and the next your naming the new sheep you caught “Mr. Fluff.” Island Sanctuary isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s yet another vibrant example of what makes FFXIV so unique.