Hey everyone, it has been a while (I think my previous post was last May). With COVID delays finally getting caught up with new release schedules, there haven’t been many new games to inspire me to write posts. Luckily, the newest FF14 expansion Endwalker came out back in December and that game always has stuff to discuss. So today I’m going to comment on some of the ideas that pop up in the expansion’s story and discuss them from a Catholic perspective. (Note that this is the finale to the game’s story, so SPOILER WARNING).
First, let’s discuss the caster role quest, which serves as a follow up to the Heavensward plot I’ve discussed before. In it, the clergy of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are despairing over the events in that game which revealed that parts of their faith were made up to get the people of the country to fight a long war. This has led the clergy to be treated badly by the country’s people regardless of their involvement in that cover up. In an attempt to get everyone to move forward, the political leader of the country decides to hold an ecumenical council in order to have the church figure out how to move forward and reconcile them with the people.
If you are not familiar, ecumenical councils are when all the bishops get together, typically to resolve some issue like a heresy. For example, the Council of Nicaea (where the Nicene Creed gets its name) was called to resolve the Arian Heresy and the Council of Trent was to resolve the issues with the then new Protestant movements. The council in this game ended up making me laugh for a few reasons. First, the council is basically, 4 church representatives, the political leaders who called it and a crowd of lay people, so it’s missing most of the people that make it ecumenical (AKA all the other members of the church hierarchy). Second, it’s called by the political leader instead of the pope (since the pope equivalent died during Heavensward and hasn’t been replaced). While this can work (Constantine called Nicaea), it can lead to issues, especially when the council isn’t confirmed by the pope to make it official (like St. Sylvester did for Nicaea). Finally, while lay people have been involved with councils before (most notably Vatican II in the 1960s), it’s generally as observers rather than participants. So while the game called this an ecumenical council, it didn’t resemble a real one much at all.
Second, I’m going to discuss some ideas from the third area of the game (which covers levels 82-83 of the main story). It takes place in Garlemald, the evil empire you’ve been fighting since the beginning of the game, which is kind of a combination of the Roman Empire and Soviet Russia. Throughout the game, the Empire has been conquering people in order to suppress their religion. The reason is that in this world, the various deities people worship can be summoned into existence. The summoned deities then have the ability to mind control people into worshiping them, making them even stronger and more dangerous. The Empire has been trying to wipe out religion to remove the threat posed by these summons. However, in this part of Endwalker you discover that there is a summon who has taken control of the people in the capital of Garlemald (which is suspicious since they’ve been trying to wipe those summons out). It turns out the villain realized that the people of Garlemald’s patriotism and politics had effectively become a religion to them and used that to create a summon of their Emperor to control them. This idea of politics being treated as a religion was particularly interesting to me, as I feel it’s become increasingly common today. In human history, religious worship is found basically everywhere and it’s only in the past 200 or so years where forms of atheism became more common. As Catholics we would say this is because people are made for worship. But if you get rid of religion, you just end up worshiping something else instead. In particular, it seems like modern people tend to treat their politics as a religion (if you don’t believe me, just turn on any news channel). I personally feel like this is why politics has become so insane in the past decade, so seeing the same idea reflected in Endwalker was interesting.
Finally, I’m going to be discussing the main villain so spoilers for the rest of the game. You end up discovering that the cause behind the end of the world is a creature called Meteion. In the past, she was created by a depressed scientist who wanted to find the meaning of life. So he created her as a space probe to visit other planets and ask the people there what they thought the meaning of life was. In order to make this work, he created her to use an energy source that is basically powered by emotions, making her extremely susceptible to the emotions of others. After sending her out, she discovered that every other civilization in the universe has died out, having either killed themselves in war or decided that life was pointless and committed suicide. At this point, she decides that since all life is just going to kill itself anyways, she might as well finish off life on the planet now rather than let it pointlessly continue.
As you can see, this is an extremely nihilist viewpoint. In contrast, the protagonists argue that yes life is pointless but you can create your own meaning to give it a point (which is a kind of optimistic atheist viewpoint that is extremely common today). Most people who play this game seem to think that’s a good enough argument against the villain (or at least didn’t think too deeply about it), but personally I didn’t find it compelling. I remember when playing this last part of the game thinking, “I’m really glad I’m Catholic and have the answers to these questions because honestly the villains make way stronger arguments here than the protagonists”. In particular, as Catholics we believe that everyone was indeed created for a reason (for a more detailed discussion on this topic, check out my Xenoblade Chronicles 2 article) and that as a result life isn’t pointless. In addition, it doesn’t matter if life would eventually die out in the long term because we know there is going to be a definitive end of the world anyways with the Second Coming of Christ. I remember discussing this with my spiritual director and mentioning that most people seems to be content with the “create your own meaning” answer without really thinking hard about it and he pointed out that a lot of people aren’t aware that there other other options out there- you don’t have to choose between nihilism and this kind of optimistic atheism. I hope that by presenting the Catholic view, people may start to realize they have other options.
So there’s a discussion on Endwalker, some of its themes, and how they relate to Catholicism. The game’s definitely worth playing and is a good conclusion to the story so far so check it out if you like FF14 at all. Long running stories don’t normally stick the landing so the fact that this game has (especially considering how bad the original 1.0 launch was) is really impressive.
Song of the Post-
Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker