“Upon your return, I’ll present you a stunning flower.”
Music and emotion are inextricably linked. Out of all of composer Masayoshi Soken’s in depth Ultimate Fantasy XIV works over the past eight years, no single album exemplifies this greater than Ultimate Fantasy XIV: Endwalker.
First, a quick warning: I could get into some spoiler territory for Endwalker out of necessity, however I’ll tread flippantly — it’s not a narrative you need to miss experiencing for your self.
One of the best RPGs rank extremely in our hearts and minds for emotional causes. It may very well be characters we resonate with, a story so fantastical that it stirs the creativeness, or a story of compelling, relatable tales that we are able to’t flip away from. Ultimate Fantasy XIV has advised (and continues to inform) tales that contact on all of those and extra. The characters are pricey to these of us invested in FFXIV — whether or not you’ve performed since 2013 like me or only a 12 months like a number of of my FFXIV mates. It’s unattainable to not develop into invested of their fates, and likewise, we are able to’t assist however put ourselves within the sneakers, greaves, or Thavnarian Sandals of our Warrior of Gentle (and generally Darkness).
When Endwalker launched final winter, feelings had been operating as excessive because the stakes had been for the world of Hydaelyn herself. Who would make it by to the top? With each new space I ventured into and plot level that unfolded, I used to be filled with exhilaration and no small quantity of dread. I anticipated an emotional journey, and I acquired one. What I didn’t count on was for emotion to play a task in my real-life expertise with Endwalker, and that emotion itself could be an important side of the sport’s narrative. Sure, that is beginning to sound like a recreation overview. However simply as music and emotion are inextricably linked, so too are music and narrative in Endwalker.
From the primary time Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida launched us to the newest enlargement with a brand new trailer, it was clear what Endwalker could be: a finale. Greater than that, it’s a end result of a narrative first launched to gamers in 2010, even when it solely actually began taking form with A Realm Reborn in 2013. Endwalker wraps up the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark that we’ve been experiencing for eight years, so the music has to observe go well with. Echoes of themes from each enlargement seem within the “Footfalls” model of the Endwalker most important theme and elsewhere on the soundtrack. Key themes equivalent to Heavensward’s “Down the Up Staircase” and Shadowbringers’ “‘Neath Darkish Waters” return from 2016 and 2019, respectively, to remind us of necessary characters and tales. Oh, and there’s one different important tune that I’ll discuss beneath.
However Endwalker isn’t all reused themes. Generally a narrative like this may be too heavy-handed with nods to previous occasions, and regardless that it is smart to cycle musical motifs again in the place acceptable, doing nothing however that might forestall Endwalker from having its personal identification. FFXIV options plot factors, dungeons, and characters impressed by — or taken straight from — the likes of Ultimate Fantasy III and Ultimate Fantasy IV (yay!). And sure, getting some FFIV music whereas assembly my moon bunny buddies made me tremendous completely satisfied. Soken’s association of Nobuo Uematsu’s “Tower of Zot” is spectacular; someway this tune from 1991 suits completely contained in the dungeon of a recreation from 2021.
All of this makes up only a portion of Endwalker‘s soundtrack. However when Soken seeks to create a brand new identification for this enlargement, he exceeds my highest expectations, which is ridiculous after the excessive bar he and his group set with Shadowbringers.
As at all times, the brand new main metropolis themes are attractive. Outdated Sharlayan’s upbeat daytime and chill nighttime tunes really feel considerably acquainted, given our earlier visits to different Sharlayan settlements. Nonetheless, Radz-at-Han, the opposite main metropolis in Endwalker, offers us one thing fully new. The entire of Thavnair has a robust Indian affect, from the characters’ dialect and gorgeously colourful clothes to the extraordinarily vibrant structure, and the music and instrumentation are additionally impressed by the area. It’s in contrast to the rest in Ultimate Fantasy XIV. I at all times respect how Soken’s group instills completely different locales with distinctive musical identities, because it makes the world really feel that rather more alive.
Endwalker lastly permits us to discover the nation of Garlemald, and it was not what I anticipated. The phrase “harshly chilly winter” solely begins to explain the environment. The principle space themes (“White Snow, Black Metal” and “Black Metal, Chilly Embers”) function such an excessive sparseness and bleakness that they set the tone and emotion of the ruined Garlean capital as clearly as any pile of smoking rubble does. Maybe probably the most important observe right here is “Residence Past the Horizon,” a tune some Garlean residents hearken to on a tragic little transportable radio within the freezing chilly. Past bleak, this tune is the definition of haunting, because the basso vocals and gloomy piano assist outline the soundtrack of a fallen nation’s displaced residents. It’s unattainable for me to listen to it and never recall the encampment the place this tune performs, as my Warrior of Gentle and the Leveilleur twins attempt to assist these poor souls. Let’s simply say the music is efficient.
If there’s one observe in every enlargement that may really feel tiring, it’s the “commonplace” battle music. To be honest, for a kind of music heard so typically, it’s asking so much for every enlargement to provide us one thing that received’t develop previous over dozens (a whole bunch?) of hours. However Endwalker‘s battle theme, “Unbowed,” is dramatic and energetic, with a pleasing sufficient rhythm and a wealthy bassy tone that I by no means thoughts listening to.
One space by which FFXIV has by no means lacked musically is boss music, and Endwalker‘s mid-boss and finish boss themes — “On Blade’s Edge” and “Finality,” respectively — are beautiful, epic items that elevate the stakes for each encounter they accompany. “On Blade’s Edge” options crunchy electrical guitars, intense strings, and an ominous choir. “Finality” is equally good and has the added bonus of incorporating the Endwalker most important theme as effectively, so it doesn’t matter what boss I tackle, I’m sufficiently pumped up. Admittedly, each pale in epicness in comparison with “Endcaller,” the theme of the primary main trial, a struggle we’ve been anticipating for years. As such, there was no solution to go moreover delivering one thing as large and dramatic as doable, as a result of the chances have by no means been extra stacked towards us. “Endcaller” is essentially vocal-based and about as “large” as they arrive, with a soundscape that feels as extensive because the wingspan of… the factor you’re combating. It’s totally unbelievable and precisely what you’d count on in a remaining boss theme.
Besides we’re solely on the midpoint of this album.
After this, the narrative takes a pointy flip. Following a quick respite (and a very good FFIV throwback), a horrible occasion unfolds and brings with it “Because the Sky Burns,” a observe of relentless rhythm tinged with hazard on each beat. I used to be beside myself at this level within the recreation, and this unbelievably nice tune is what stored my feelings operating excessive.
After resolving the quick hazard, Endwalker throws one more curveball at us. With the wondrous land of Elpis, we eventually get to what’s, for me, the center of the story. Right here we meet the elusive Venat and different important characters. I used to be not ready to fall in love with the locals as laborious as I did, particularly Venat and a sure fowl woman. From the out of doors tracks to the dungeon theme to the attractive vocals by Amanda Achen on “Move Collectively,” each tune right here completely suits the unbelievable landscapes and creation magicks at work. Distinctive creatures and constructions are discovered round each bend and produce with them extra questions, however much more importantly, solutions.
Talking of “Solutions,” this observe is the topic of practically half of my Earlier than Meteor: Ultimate Fantasy XIV overview. On the time, I fell in love with Nobuo Uematsu’s composition, Susan Calloway’s heartfelt and passionate vocals, and the way the tune tells the story of the numerous, world-altering penalties that rebuild Eorzea between FFXIV 1.0 and A Realm Reborn. A narrative of dying and rebirth, of a brand new technology of heroes being impressed to defend the realm by those that not can, is infused into “Solutions,” making it an unbelievable finale for ARR‘s Binding Coil sequence. Having “Solutions” return in Endwalker with new context makes excellent sense, given the enlargement’s purpose of bringing the present story to a detailed.
However Yoshi-P and his group went past simply reintroducing the tune: the occasions surrounding “Solutions” fully recontextualize the which means of the tune’s lyrics, and it blew my little Paladin thoughts when it dawned on me what was occurring. In the event you’ve performed to the top of this sequence within the recreation, you already know precisely what I imply. I used to be glued to the display, and no small quantity of tears had been shed. And that was all earlier than I heard a brand new association of “Solutions” for an emotionally charged battle. I like this stripped-down, dramatic association, because it lends the suitable quantity of gravitas to the sequence, as does the piano model of ”Solutions” that follows. And let me let you know, the emotional impression of this sequence hit me like a truck, however it wasn’t till I had the soundtrack that I spotted the battle association was titled “Your Reply.” Figuring out what Venat’s “query” is provides a lot which means and feeling that… effectively, I assume I would like a extra vital description than “hit me like a truck.” How might this tune invoke such an emotional response from me eight years later, for completely completely different causes? It’s a masterpiece.
And but… and but! We’re not finished, as a result of it’s the ultimate leg of our Warrior of Gentle’s journey the place all of it comes collectively. The final space of Endwalker is actually all about emotion, and boy, did I really feel issues. The occasions that transpired with my fellow Scions and mates had been heart-wrenching and but essential to proceed. As I did, I used to be launched to a few variants of “Shut within the Distance,” a tune that rises to a crescendo with completely stunning vocals by Jason Charles Miller. This trio of songs is great on the soundtrack, however the way in which they’re woven into the narrative is immensely efficient. As I ventured ahead, hope and despair rose inside me in tune with the altering music. It’s one of the best remaining space of any Ultimate Fantasy XIV enlargement, however it wouldn’t have hit me within the feels practically as laborious with out this music, regardless of how attractive and eerie it could be.
On the finish of a highway paved with recollections is a long-awaited second of respite for one among Endwalker‘s most necessary characters. Dynamis — the idea and never simply the tune — is without doubt one of the key components on this planet(s) of FFXIV, enjoying an important function in probably the most main conflicts ever seen. It is usually the tune that impressed me to jot down this overview after days of deliberating on what my angle ought to be. It dawned on me that what makes the Endwalker soundtrack so fantastic and efficient is the integral function the music performs in shaping the feelings of the sport world, the characters, and the gamers. Dynamis and emotion are the keys that carry individuals again from the brink, pave the trail forward, and assist our beloved characters (and us) maintain going.
Regardless of how lengthy Ultimate Fantasy XIV could run or nonetheless many extra video games I play in my lifetime, the expertise and the music of this MMO will persist with me for the lengthy haul. Endwalker, specifically, delivered every little thing I might have hoped for in a narrative and its soundtrack. It took me to many locations I anticipated and plenty of extra I didn’t. It’s nothing in need of a triumph.
I truthfully restrained myself with reference to particular tune protection, however for lack of a greater place to incorporate them, I needed to notice a number of fast ideas right here on the finish:
- As at all times, the bodily launch of the Ultimate Fantasy XIV: Endwalker soundtrack (accessible on the Sq. Enix Retailer and elsewhere) ships on a Blu-ray disc with interactive menus and recreation footage backing every tune. I like these discs and the inclusion of recreation clips. I don’t love the group — breaking songs into “battle,” “day time,” and “night time time” teams is a pleasant contact, however I want albums that additionally allow you to merely soar to particular songs. You possibly can obtain mp3s to your system, so it doesn’t in the end matter, however the group makes it laborious to search out specific songs utilizing the Blu-ray menu.
- The bonuses on the disc make the bodily launch a simple suggestion. A colourful low-res visualizer accompanies the enjoyable chiptune rendition of the Endwalker most important theme. There’s additionally live performance footage of many songs carried out for the 2021 China and 2022 Seoul FFXIV Fan Festivals. The Primals (Soken’s FFXIV band) are at all times pleasurable to look at, and the tracks the place Yoshi-P makes shock appearances to sing had me cheering. Don’t miss it!