final fantasy shadowbringers

FF 35th

Three years ago, Final Fantasy broke its oldest trope — and it still tears me apart

Long day’s journey into night.

Square Enix

What role does a Warrior of Light have in a world bereft of any darkness? The third expansion to Final Fantasy XIV quite literally forces the player to confront their role in the fate of a dying world and the need for balance in all things. After years of casting players in the role of the Warrior of Light, Shadowbringers’ opening hours work to break down the player and their expectations of what the successful hero’s journey looks like. This idea is beaten into the player through the game’s first dungeon, which culminates in one of the most stunning moments in the entire franchise’s history: the coming of darkness.

Final Fantasy was released on December 18, 1987, and 35 years later, it remains one of the most beloved franchises in gaming. Inverse's celebration takes a look back at our favorite games, characters, and moments over the years.

Flood of light

The Warrior of Light struggles to find purpose in a world where light is the villain.Square Enix

The Warrior of Light is dazed when they arrive on the First, one of many shards split from a once unified world. The First hurts the eyes of the Warrior of Light and the player due to its uncomfortable brightness. Awakening in a forest of bright purple foliage, the beating sun’s ever-persistent rays shine down and reflect off every surface. There is no escape.

Eventually, players find themselves at the Crystarium, one of the last bastions of society. There the citizens who call this place home reveal their way of life in the world of light. You learn that through your own actions in the past you indirectly led this world’s own Warriors of Light defeating the darkness, which flooded the world with a light that now threatens to consume and destroy it. The moniker of Warrior of Light is spoken with vitriol by the residents of the Crystarium, it names those who consigned this world to its destruction. As the player you must confront this identity you have claimed for so long. Will you take responsibility for what you have done to this world? Of course, you had good intentions, but we all know how the saying goes.

The ever-present day is controlled by creatures called Lightwardens that roam the remaining areas of the First that still allow people to cling to life. In order to bring the night back, you must vanquish these beasts.

Starry night

The eternal day parts for the first time in a century.Square Enix

The quest to defeat the first Lightwarden culminates in Shadowbringers’ first dungeon, which requires players to work in a group of four as they progress through three stages of clearing mobs and defeating bosses. For a first dungeon, Holminster Switch can be uncharacteristically brutal. The difficulty in progressing unscathed becomes a message from the game itself that you should not expect this journey to be easy. This will be a journey of hardships. At the end of the dungeon, the Warrior of Light confronts the first Lightwarden, Philia. Upon defeating the creature, a cutscene plays that encapsulates the entirety of Shadowbringers’ themes.

The Warrior of Light consumes the power of the Lightwarden. The power flowing through you is harnessed and redirected into the sky in a striking spear of purple light that pierces the eternal day. It splits open the world with a deafening crack that reveals a black void. In place of the sun, the only light that touches the land is the dim gleam of a star-filled night.

Life grinds to a halt in the Crystarium as everyone cranes their necks skyward. After a century of unending daylight, night has finally come.

Residents of the Crystarium see the night sky for the first time.Square Enix

Silence washes over the land while Masayoshi Soken’s score evokes the renewed hope of an entire world. With the hopes of this world on your shoulders, the player dons a new moniker: The Warrior of Darkness.

This single moment in Shadowbringers instills in the player an understanding of what they are fighting for in a way that no other moment in the franchise does, expertly communicating to the player the stakes of their journey. And it does so by flipping a core piece of Final Fantasy’s DNA upside down to deliver a more nuanced reflection on what balance and peace truly mean in a chaotic universe.

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