When the online multiplayer role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV hit the market in 2010, it was a disaster, panned by critics and series fans alike. The game lasted two years before servers shut down, failing to unseat industry leader World of Warcraft.
But rather than abandoning the game, developers heavily retooled and relaunched Final Fantasy XIV in 2013 with a new storyline. Over the next eight years it would slowly build a committed audience across several expansions of its world—one riven by war, plagued by elemental monstrosities, and manipulated by a shadowy cabal seemingly intent on destruction.
The persistence and story-telling would pay off in December 2021 with the release of Endwalker, an expansion to the game that also concludes the storyline people have been working their way through for nearly a decade. While the player—dubbed the "Warrior of Light"—engages in typical fantasy sword-and-sorcery high jinks, Endwalker's story is not of good triumphing over evil so much as of hope triumphing over despair.
The violent implosion of a once-oppressive empire is presented as a horrifying disaster despite the villainy of its leaders. The shadowy cabal is revealed as a pack of desperate, tragic fallen angels who have for centuries been ruthlessly attempting to restore a lost paradise that can never return. Amid the silly chocobo birds to ride and goofy maid outfits to wear, the game delves into themes of self-destruction, fear, helplessness, and even suicide. The hero fights not evil but nihilism.
Meanwhile, a rush of new interest in the game has left its publisher, Square Enix, fighting against supply chain issues. Initial sales of the expansion were so successful that existing servers couldn't handle customer demand. Unable to acquire enough new servers, the company had to temporarily halt sales.