It’s been eight years since the rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a now critically acclaimed MMORPG with an unforgettable story that has spanned over three expansions, with another on the horizon. To say it’s been an epic adventure would be an understatement. Following the announcement of Endwalker, the game has sparked so much excitement over the past year and has gained more players than it ever has in its history, the anticipation is plain for the expansion that will conclude the Hydaelyn and Zodiark story arc once and for all.
As we approach the launch of Endwalker, I spoke with several English voice actors behind the game’s Scions of the Seventh Dawn, each of whom reminisced on the eight-year journey.
*Spoilers for Shadowbringers ahead*
After the credits rolled on Shadowbringers Patch 5.5 earlier this year, the entire Final Fantasy community were left with a wave of questions following its dramatic climax. During the Death Unto Dawn update, however, we were also treated to a number of satisfying character moments, as well as long-awaited story developments that are expected to play a major part in the upcoming expansion.
Among those moments was the return of Estinien Wyrmblood, the Azure Dragoon who debuted in the Warrior of Light’s story way back in Heavensward. Throughout the game, Estinien has undergone a long and complicated journey of his own and, for a long time, he was on a mission separate from that of the player. But after what felt like an eternity, he was finally reunited with the Warrior of Light during the Shadowbringers finale. The Elezen is regarded as a fan-favourite, so needless to say his return got a lot of fans excited, as well as for the new role he now plays alongside the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.
The voice actor behind the Dragoon, Robert Vernon, shared his thoughts on Estinien’s return, and spoke about his personal connection to the stoic character he has voiced for so many years. “Estinien does like to keep himself busy,” he said. “He is grudgingly becoming more and more involved in the Scion’s affairs. Deep down he cares, even if he isn’t the best at showing it. But his presence speaks volumes. Just don’t give him a Linkpearl, by the gods!”
“I am especially fond of Estinien, it has been an immense privilege to be part of such a success story. Estinien, like the game, had a rebirth. I can certainly connect with how his past was restricting him and clouding his judgment. It can feel like life is better alone, maybe as it can be simpler. The last year or so has certainly reminded me that we all need companions, in some form. We are better, together. Just don’t ask Estinien to admit that openly quite yet.”
Those familiar with Final Fantasy XIV will know that there is another character who has also gone through a personal journey of their own and that person is Thancred Waters, played by Peter Bramhill, a character who has been ever-present in the player’s story since the very beginning. Throughout the course of the expansions, players have witnessed the confident, smooth-talking Scion slowly but surely undergo a number of changes, both internally and externally.
During Shadowbringers, Thancred begins to form a bond with Ryne, the reincarnation of his close ally Minfilia and a person he cared for like his own sister for years before her death. While the relationship between Thancred and Ryne is emotionally distant due to his personal struggles, at first, Thancred soon begins to care for Ryne as he did for Minfilia, resulting in a touching and memorable story moment for many players who now see them both as a father/daughter pair.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint any one specific moment but I guess the loss of Minfilia for Ryne in Shadowbringers and the following battle with Ran’jit, where it looked as though he might not make it, was a tough moment to forget,” Bramhill said while addressing Thancred’s defining character moment. “I feel like this was a real turning point in Thancred’s character arc and one that really opened him up internally (not always for the best).”
“The moment that he finally apologizes for this behaviour towards Ryne and she adopts her new name which I believe means ‘Blessing’ is a powerful one. I can’t imagine the Thancred of old apologizing so it felt like a real leap for his character, to learn from his mistakes and move forward shows a kind of emotional maturity.”
Over the years, naturally, players have come to love the members of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. After all, they’ve contributed to the player’s journey in more ways than one and have each had their own moment to earn that adoration, whether it be a significant narrative point or the fact that they’re all written so incredibly well. It’s also hard to imagine that these characters haven’t also become important in one way or another to the actors who play them.
“I suppose it’s impossible not to have formed a kind of bond with Thancred after all these years, I mean we’ve been through a lot together that’s for sure,” Bramhill said, going on to explain how returning to the studio to record new voice lines for Thancred after months away is still a joy, even if he does need reminding of how to perfectly capture the Scion’s accent.
“The sound engineer will play me a kind of ‘Thancred’s greatest hits’ through my headphones, and I’ll start to repeat the lines out loud until you click back into that good old Thancred voice again. So I guess that his voice is always connected in there somewhere, whatever I’m doing, I’ll try to remember that next time I’m ordering a cup of coffee, it might just give me that extra bit of Thancred swagger!”
Timothy Watson, the voice actor behind Urianger Auguerlt, like Thancred, has been fighting alongside the player for a long time, oftentimes offering his encouragement and wisdom through his poetic words. Timothy held the same sentiment. “Urianger is elusive – both to me as the voice actor, which makes him such fun to take, but also to his fellow characters, both comrades and foes, within the arc of the story. I guess that’s why I’m so fond of him and enjoy bringing him to life quite so much.”
Looking ahead to Endwalker, there are many theories floating around in relation to the roles our Scions will play in the main scenario, where they will ultimately end up, and how their experience will aid the Warrior of Light this time around. It’s without question though that there will be one particular recurring character who has repeatedly been the bridge to multiple discoveries that will, sure enough, play the helping hand as we reach the finale, and that’s Krile Mayer Baldesion, voiced by Gemma Lawrence.
Since the intelligent Lalafell was first introduced, Krile has been a much-loved character in the community and is someone who has played a major role in the outcome of many world-altering circumstances, and from how things developed in Patch 5.5, it’s certain Krile will continue to offer her knowledge in the pursuit of answers in Endwalker. Lawrence herself even acknowledged this fact. “Without giving too much away, Krile will continue to lend many a helping hand. When there’s a moral quest to be fought, Krile will always do whatever she can,” she said.
Krile has been a vital member of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn over the game’s multiple expansions and has notably used her experience in her field to aid the team, even if she does like to tease each member on occasion. “I particularly love her relationship with the other characters; she’s loyal and caring, but also loves to poke fun at them all. She is always completely honest, which allows her a very wry sense of humour too,” Lawrence said.
After spending so much time with these characters it can be difficult to accept the idea that events in Endwalker might not lead to what we would like as a player. As of right now, we’re in the dark on the outcome, narrative points may lead to some unexpected circumstances that we are so used to in the MMO, so naturally, some of us are eagerly awaiting to get our hands on Endwalker to find out what will happen to our favourite Scions. Nevertheless, as the final chapters to the current story arc approach and the players get ready to take their final steps, it’s sure to be an emotional ride.
“Ah yes, and what a story it has been,” Bramhill said. “During the recording of the upcoming Endwalker, there certainly were a few moments (no spoilers sorry) where it suddenly felt like we were approaching the finale of this particular chapter. Especially when I was voicing scenes that included the other long-standing characters that have grown with Thancred over the past few years, they really have become like one great big, virtual, dysfunctional family that I get to be with every few months! Personally, I would describe completing this “finale” expansion, of sorts, as exciting as well as emotional.”
Estinien’s voice actor also felt the same way and went on to hint at how players might react to the expansion when it arrives. “While revealing any particulars is more than my life is worth, there have been some exciting moments, in some great poignancy, as we have worked through the recordings for Endwalker,” Vernon said. “It has the makings of something grand, moving, sweeping and epic. Many twists and turns – classic Final Fantasy!”
“It is obviously the culmination of a long and exciting game, and at its centre are a lot of beautiful friendships,” Lawrence said. “Krile is also very tapped into the more philosophical side of things so she gets right to the heart of what the story means on an emotional and human level.”
On the other hand, the actor behind Urianger doesn’t like to dwell on the emotional side of things saying, “I’m an actor and have long since learned not to look further than the script that’s in front of me… Que será, será!”