After all those months of waiting and theorizing, we finally have a good overview of what the Island Sanctuary in Final Fantasy XIV will look like. Here we have all the details from the Live Letter 72!
A Whole New Island (Of Your Own)
The Island Sanctuary will release with Final Fantasy XIV's 6.2 Patch: Buried Memory on August 23, 2022. The feature will, as announced, be quite expansive and offer a different kind of gameplay to the usual routines the adventurers of Final Fantasy XIV go through. Instead of braving Raids and Dungeons, you get your very own Island to explore and slowly turn into a paradise. And while this is instanced content, which means that all players get to progress through it on their own, it is not the instanced housing some people have been hoping for.
Think of it more as a… Final Fantasy XIV meets Stardew Valley. While the feature itself won't be as expansive as some obvious comparisons, it is meant to just chill out. And it's optional as well! You can engage with it if you just want to farm out the rewards, just want a space to hang out in with your friends or something to do in between content. The rewards themselves will largely be cosmetics like new outfits, a mount, minions, and the usual grab bag of Materia and crafting materials. So it'll be a great way to deepen your pockets a little while doing some relaxing farming.
You can visit the islands of other players and invite to your own. Maybe so you can finally have that private beach party, have Free Company meetings, or what else comes to mind. I'm sure the Roleplayers will have a field day with it. Because the Island Sanctuary is huge. From what was shown on stream, it easily compares to the size of some of the more recent zones. It's possibly even larger than that. Think of the scale of something like The Sea of Clouds but fully connected and with that same verticality, while also being even more detailed than some modern zones.
The Good Life, The Simple Life
When you arrive at the island, there is practically nothing there besides the untamed wilds and an army of helpful Mammets at your disposal. What's your mission here? Well, we don't quite know what the story surrounding the sanctuary will look like. But director and Producer Naoki Yoshida mentioned that the tutorial will easily take two to three hours to complete. And after you complete it, you are given pretty much free rein on how to progress your island.
But what do you actually do? The Yoshida showed off what seemed to be the first few sections of the tutorial. You start out by gathering materials on the island, for that you switch in-between modes in the new Island Sanctuary menu. Don't worry, crafters and gatherers are not required to progress this content. But you have to finish the 6.0 quest Endwalker to unlock the Island Sanctuary.
Once you've gathered enough supplies in the wild, you can build the beginnings of your base at a predetermined location. Here you can then access vendors and probably also the market system that we sadly didn't get to see. Once you're set-up, you can expand your operations by building a small farming plot. You have to plant and tend to your fields by selecting the right mode in the Island Sanctuary menu. Later on, you can even unlock skills that will allow your Mammet companions to tend to these tasks without your input.
Completing any task on the Island Sanctuary will gain you Sanctuary experience points which will, in turn, affect your Island Sanctuary rank. We don't know for sure what that rank impacts yet, but we can only assume that this is the primary way you unlock new crafts and abilities to expand your island even further. For example, the fruit you plant can then be processed into food for animals and monsters.
Yes, you can capture all kinds of monsters and animals on the island. Yoshida himself captured an Opo-Opo on the island, constructed a pen for it and started feeding it. Animals and monsters have affection levels towards you, which is dependent on how you treat them. You can even give them nicknames if you desire so. Capturing animals will allow you to get materials from them, there was also mentioning that you can breed them and capture rare variants in different colours. But we have yet to see more of that.
By the way, to capture animals, gather materials or build things. You have to craft and equip tools that'll exist in a separate menu, same as all the resources you'll gather on the island. There seems to be an upgrade path for those as well, so you can gather resources more efficiently or get rarer materials. Anyway, once you're set up, you can then craft what seems to be workshops and a windmill which are probably used to process your materials even further. Do take note that some crafts might be done instantly and others can take up to 12 hours to complete.
We didn't see it in the live letter, but the Island Sanctuary will come with its own economic system. For example, the sperate marketplace for the Sanctuary will demand a certain resource for a raised price. We can't tell in what kind of time window this operates, but we can only assume that those will either change with the daily or weekly resets. So for example, if the market demands apples, you can change your whole operation to produce more apples and sell them for a raised price. And those systems won't be affected by the actions of other players, either.
Why the Island Sanctuary?
Some of the more content-oriented Final Fantasy XIV players and I guess people who came over from other MMO's might now wonder why this piece of content exists? It doesn't really fit into the current landscape of Final Fantasy XIV and I'm certain a lot of people would've preferred more combat content in terms of more raids or another big instance like Bozja instead. But you should look at this more as an investment into the future of XIV.
Long ago, endgame content only consisted out of levelling alternative jobs, grinding your tomestones, maybe pick up a crafting job and do your weekly raids. Back then we also got several dungeons per patch instead. Now Final Fantasy XIV is a very different game, many players log in almost daily and don't even touch any of the tasks I just listed. And the direction is to turn Final Fantasy XIV into even more of a theme park. You log in and just do whatever your heart desires.
And the Island Sanctuary on paper is just more to do if you want to. Unlike the Ishgard Restoration we had in Shadowbringers, there are no rewards tied to a scoreboard this time around either. Like Yoshida said, the Island Sanctuary is a different kind of content for players just to hang out and relax in. And it's a feature they are planning to update and refine with every patch of Endwalker. It this is a good thing or not, we'll only be able to tell in the long term.
But since the start of the pandemic, Final Fantasy XIV has become a lot more than just an MMORPG in which you kill things by pressing a lot of buttons in the right order. So offering players more space to express themselves and well, just live in the world of Final Fantasy XIV is what has already proven to the way to go when it come to retaining players and grow the audience.
Because Final Fantasy XIV is already odd because it's been almost 12 years since its initial launch and 9 years since the relaunch with A Realm Reborn. It is an anomaly that a game that deep into its lifecycle still manages to attract so many new players while also retaining its already loyal player base. But who knows, maybe the Island Sanctuary will end up as a cute experiment that we forget about in the next expansion or it might grow in size even beyond Endwalker's patch cycle.
Whatever happens, we will keep you informed on it. You can find a full summary of the most recent Letter from the Producer LIVE here. And we will have deep dives and guides for the Island Sanctuary and the new Criterion Dungeon content here as soon as they launch. For more on Final Fantasy XIV, esports and gaming-related topics, just visit us here on ESTNN