Lead Shadowbringers Writer Natsuko Ishikawa Returns for FFXIV: Endwalker

We speak with director Naoki Yoshida on what to look forward to in the upcoming expansion.

Natsuko Ishikawa, the esteemed main scenario writer of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, is returning as the lead writer for the game’s next expansion, Endwalker. So says FFXIV director Naoki Yoshida in a recent email interview with Fanbyte. And I couldn’t be more excited.

“Yes, she’s cheerfully (and perhaps somewhat frantically, as does happen) pouring her heart and soul into each line of dialogue for each and every character,” Yoshida tells us. “Of course, she did not work alone in creating the main scenario (for Shadowbringers as well)—the story is born from the hard work of each member of the team contributing to make the best story possible. Endwalker is following a similar flow, so please look forward to it!”

Endwalker was first revealed on Feb. 5, 2021 during the Final Fantasy XIV 2021 Announcement Showcase. Serving as the finale of the 10-year storyline of the game’s Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, the new expansion will see the Warrior of Light (i.e. the player character) and their allies the Scions of the Seventh Dawn fighting to prevent the second end of days. In order to uncover the plethora of secrets contained in the downfall of the ancients, they will be going to the moon. Naturally. No word yet on whether it will directly involve a space whale.

Of course, that’s not the only place the party will be venture to. Players will also trek to places we’ve long heard of but never had the chance to previously explore. This includes Garlemald, seat of the authoritarian Garlean Empire, and Radz-at-Han, the capital of the island known as Thavnair. The latter has maintained independence from the empire, but otherwise we know little about it. Since Endwalker is the end to the story arc players have known for the last decade, one of the team’s primary goals was to incorporate “many areas that players had been introduced to by name in the story but had been unable to visit.”

Past expansions have taken the cast of FFXIV to different, visually striking regions. For example, Heavensward took us to Ishgard, where marvelous, towering spires faithfully imitated Gothic French designs. Stormblood took us to Ala Mhigo, an Eorzean city-state conquered two decades prior to the game, and Doma, a Far Eastern nation. Shadowbringers focused less on displaying a specific set of cultures and more on “subversion” — introducing locations in an alternate reality that mirrored familiar settings from The Source (the world where FFXIV takes place).

Yoshida says Endwalker will be similar. Rather than taking direct inspiration from the real world, its traversable locations have been created “to fill in the pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, and create a full picture for this story arc.” When comparing the locations to those in previews expansions, Yoshida explained “this might be the most varied adventure. We hope our players are excited to explore these new areas.”

Another of the many surprises revealed during the event was the announcement of so-called Island Sanctuary content. This will allow players to live out pastoral dreams of farming, raising animals, and learning to live off the land. As someone who spent her childhood playing games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, alongside lengthy RPGs, this was lovely news.

“There are fans of Harvest Moon on the Final Fantasy XIV team as well, so everyone seems to be having fun (laughs),” says Yoshida. Island Sanctuary’s creation began at a base level almost two years ago. The developers kept seeing feedback from players who expressed a longing to roam freely around estates and take care of animals while gardening. As a result, the team listened and looked into whether it was possible to develop something new that could be enjoyed as its own standalone content. And, as it turns out, it was.

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If you’re as into FFXIV as I am, you’ve already spent too much time watching and rewatching the beautiful teaser trailer for Endwalker. Past teasers have served as helpful guides for what to expect — providing hints for plot direction, character focus, and job additions. The Endwalker trailer, for instance, marked the first time fans got to see Alphinaud and Alisaie, two staple FFXIV characters, in a cinematic. We still need to wait for an extended version, but I did ask Yoshida if the trailer implies that Alisaie and Alphinaud will be the characters that Endwalker focuses on most. Similar to how Thancred and Ryne featured prominently in the Shadowbringers teaser.

“Alphinaud and Alisaie have always been considered main characters within the story,” says Yoshida. “As they are younger, we hope to illustrate their personal growth in a way that players can feel even more strongly than other Scions.” He points to Alphinaud, “who has faced some fairly large setbacks but has managed to overcome them.” It’s no wonder Yoshida uses Alphinaud as an example; he’s the character whose growth is possibly the most compelling argument for how rewarding it is to experience FFXIV from start to finish.

“I feel like Alphinaud and Alisaie are like my younger siblings (although I’m a little too old for that to be true),” he laughs. “Please pay close attention to the story of Alphinaud and Alisaie: they will definitely shine!”

I’ve made it no secret that I believe Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers to be possibly the best the franchise has ever been. I’ve written about it extensively. Whether that’s throughout my many articles here, or elsewhere. I even included Patch 5.3 in my Game of the Year 2020 list. To say I’m looking forward to what the team is writing, especially under the guidance of the incomparable Ishikawa, is an understatement. I know I can speak for Managing Editor Steven Strom when I say this, too. It’s, as always, an exciting time to be a FFXIV fan. I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon.

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker will be out in Fall 2021.