Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail’s second-half rugpull into cyberpunk glory has me hyped for its story again

Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail is meant to be a narrative reset. Considering Endwalker had us travelling to the edge of the universe on an actual spaceship to throw hands with nihilism incarnate and save… well, everything? It’s warranted. Director and producer Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) has called it “the very best summer vacation a hero could have.”

Listen, I’m here for that. Endwalker’s main questline made me weep a dozen times over, and I don’t know if my little G’raha-loving heart could take any more hurt. I was excited to play through ‘Beach Episode: The Expansion’, but I wasn’t necessarily hyped about the story.

Going to Tural, lizard-man politics, watching Urianger drink a pina colada—these are all far cries from the sprawling narrative I’m accustomed to. My general response has been: oh, that’s neat—not the obsessive, back-of-the-napkin fan theories I’d typically be cooking up with my friends.

London fanfest last year introduced Viper—the first of two new jobs—and also hinted at some more complex themes that were decidedly non-beachy. There’s a wild wild west to the north, traces of cowboy, and a dash of something technological. It had my curiosity piqued, but nothing major—you can’t walk ten feet in FF14 without stubbing your toe on some ancient ruin, so I thought nothing of it.

Then the Tokyo fanfest rolled around, and I feel like Yoshi-P has personally grabbed my expectations, thrown them in a blender, meticulously poured them into a cup, then demanded I drink up. I feel downright concussed.

After sidelining us with the new Pictomancer job and showing us some lovely videos of some new zones, Yoshi-P got into introducing the game’s new town: “[This] is pretty different from what you’ve seen so far … so we can’t tell you a whole lot about them,” translates english localisation lead Kate Cwynar. “We’ll start with a video.”

It’s a complete flashbang. Not only will Dawntrail spiral into sci-fi blue techno, this thing is going to be the game’s second town—the Radz-at-Han to Endwalker’s Sharleyan. In case you don’t play FF14, each expansion has two major hubs, which makes this futuristic neon skyline very important to the game’s story.

The description of Solution Nine, “A towering city of facades constructed by an entirely different civilisation than that of Tuliyollal”, has me feeling ravenous for more info. That one word—facade—is significant, too. 

The uninitiated might think that’s just some translation oddness, but the english localisation team for FF14 is some of the best in the business. I am 100% certain they chose that word on purpose. Is Solution Nine a fraud? Are we all hallucinating it? Are the buildings made of cake, Yoshi-P? I’m fine, I’m normal about this.

The Keynote also revealed a little about how we’d get there, travelling through a lightning-flooded zone called “Heritage Found”. That also has a ton of implications for what we’re getting into. Are the cowboys of Shaaloani (who have stumbled across Ceruleum, the late Garlean Empire’s favourite gamer fuel) forging their way to Solution Nine? 

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m back on my conspiracy nonsense and I’m going full Pepe Silvia about all of this—the last puzzle piece has clicked into place. Best of all this promises to be the start of a new 10-year arc, so all of my guesses could be completely off-base. 

My current (completely unsubstantiated) guess is that Solution Nine is some kind of Sharleyan offshoot built to withstand the Final Days. But it could also just be something completely new—a whole new ancient civilisation on the level of Allag. Or maybe it’s just an excuse for holographic catboys, and canonical VTubers. 

Dawntrail plans to release sometime Summer 2024, though Yoshi-P says there’s no firm release date—a cautionary measure, seeing as he took Endwalker’s delay to heart.

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