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We finally understand the ending of Final Fantasy 15

Final Fantasy 15 launched in 2016, and since then, it changed a lot. Through various free updates and a handful of new DLC episodes, the experience has been fleshed out, especially the story. At the time, reception to the game's narrative was mixed, especially its ending. It lacked a lot of context, and the villain's motivations were hard to pin down.

Since then, we've gotten more than enough context to truly understand the ending of the fifteenth Final Fantasy. Ardyn, the main antagonist, finally has his full story explained thanks to the Episode Ardyn DLC. Additionally, with the release of Episode Ignis, an alternate ending was added to the game, giving players the choice of how they want Noctis' story to end.

We're in the perfect position to take a holistic look at the overarching story of Final Fantasy 15, so let's dive in. Of course, there will be spoilers, so turn back now if you still plan on experiencing the story yourself!

Before the ending, there is a Crystal and a ring

The world of Final Fantasy 15 features two major empires: Niflheim and Lucis. The two have been at odds for years, and they're in a full-blown war. Lucis has existed for at least two millennia under the rule of the Caelum family. The royal family is charged with protecting the Crystal, a powerful item bestowed upon them by the Astrals, or gods, of Eos.

The Crystal provides Lucis with limitless power, and it keeps any and all daemons at bay. To protect this important relic, the Caelum family uses the Ring of the Lucii. Another gift from the Astrals, this ring is extremely picky. Only those with royal Lucis blood can use it. It grants the wearer great power from the Crystal, allowing them to exercise their rule over the people of Lucis as well as protect the Crystal.

The ring comes with a caveat: when its power is used, it demands a sacrifice from the user, often burning them in the process. However, on the bright side, when a king dies, they don't go to the afterlife. Instead, their soul joins the ring, assisting future kings of Lucis.

Ardyn Lucis Caelum is the key to understanding Final Fantasy 15

Let's wind back to about two millennia before the events of Final Fantasy 15 proper. Ardyn Lucis Caelum was born to be king of Lucis, and he had the magical power to absorb the Starscourge from people. Starscourge is an unknown disease that turns people into daemons if left unchecked. The more people that contract it, the longer the nights become, which is when daemons are most active.

To prevent an eternal night, Ardyn continues to absorb the Starscourge. An unexpected side effect of his Good Samaritan act was immortality. Now Ardyn can't die, and he holds an unholy amount of darkness inside of him.

His family and the people of Lucis feared him, and the gods disapproved of him. When it came time for him to ascend to the throne, he was instead locked away. His brother, Somnus, takes the throne instead, and he becomes the Founder King. This establishes the Caelum line that eventually births Noctis, the game's protagonist.

Ardyn's exile ends with a dangerous rescue

Ardyn stays in his cave for 2,000 years. It wasn't until a Niflheim scientist named Verstael found him that he was freed. While leaving his prison, Ardyn gets attacked by Lucis Royal Guards, at which point he learns he can daemonify other creatures. By using his wealth of Starscourge, he can turn others into daemons under his command. When he does so, he absorbs that creature's memories. Verstael had heard rumors about Ardyn, and he wanted to use the immortal man's power to defeat Lucis once and for all.

At first, Ardyn doesn't want to help Verstael. He feels no qualms in this time so far removed from his own. To tempt him, Verstael reveals that Niflheim captured Ifrit, an Astral. He asks Ardyn to daemonify the god to absorb its memories. Ardyn refuses at first, but Ifrit breaks free and threatens to kill them all. In self-defense, Ardyn daemonifies Ifrit, and in the process, he learns that the gods had originally planned to make Ardyn king. In the end, his brother Somnus betrayed him to claim the throne.

Ardyn becomes Final Fantasy 15's main antagonist

Ardyn now has a vendetta against the kingdom of Lucis after learning about his brother's betrayal. He becomes a chancellor of Niflheim, now going by Ardyn Izunia. In his rage, he starts spreading Starscourge to the masses again, increasing the daemon population all across Eos. While doing so, he absorbs the memories of its people, trying to learn as much as he can about what happened to Lucis in the past 2,000 years.

With all these people's thoughts and knowledge in his head, he loses himself. Now he embodies pure rage and hatred, only seeking vengeance against the Caelum bloodline. He attacks Insomnia, the capital of Lucis, forcing King Regis to use the Ring of the Lucii to summon the spirit of Somnus. Ardyn and Somnus clash, with Ardyn eventually killing the spirit.

In his last moments, Somnus expresses slight regret, claiming he didn't usurp Ardyn out of malice. He was thinking of the people and believed that no king should hold that much darkness within. Ardyn refuses to accept Somnus' explanation.

The ending of the Episode Ardyn DLC reveals his motivations

With King Regis still unconscious on the ground, Ardyn steps toward him, ready to unleash the fatal blow. With one swift action, he could get his revenge on the Caelum bloodline. As he readies his sword, he's stopped by Bahamut, another Astral. Bahamut brings Ardyn to the Beyond, claiming that this isn't what the gods want him to do. Instead, they have a new fate in mind for the immortal man.

The Astrals want Ardyn to spread Starscourge to the entire world, effectively creating a never-ending night. They know that Regis' future son, Noctis, is destined to become the True King, who will bring light back to the world. This king would have to sacrifice himself to do so, effectively ending the Caelum bloodline. In the process, he would also forever kill Ardyn, ending the man's immortal, eternal suffering.

Here, the player can choose to accept or decline the deal. If they decline, Bahamut will torture Ardyn until he complies. Acceptance just skips the torture sequence. Nonetheless, he will curse the gods and determine to walk his own path, vowing to kill Noctis himself.

"Walk tall, my son": The core Final Fantasy 15 game begins

Some years pass, and now Lucis and Niflheim have reached an agreement. There are plans to sign a peace treaty. As part of the deal, Noctis is to wed Lady Lunafreya of Niflheim. Prince Noctis prepares to leave Insomnia and journey to Altissia, where the wedding will be.

Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto join him on his journey, and they prepare their car, the Regalia, for travel. Just before Noctis gets in the car, his father, King Regis, looks him in the eyes and advises him about how a prince properly conducts himself. The last thing Regis tells him is, "Walk tall, my son."

They head to Galdin Quay to board the boat to Altissia. However, all the boats are gone for the day. They meet a stranger named Ardyn, and he cryptically implies that Insomnia is in danger. Noctis and the gang fail to understand what Ardyn meant and retire to a nearby hotel for the night.

The fall of Insomnia changes the world of Final Fantasy 15 forever

When Noctis and the gang wake up, they learn that the proposed peace treaty between Niflheim and Lucis was a trap. The false pretense of peace was laid out so Niflheim could attack Insomnia to steal the Crystal and the Ring of the Lucii. King Regis does what he can to protect the city, but he eventually falls, losing the Crystal. He trusts the ring to Lunafreya, pleading that she delivers it to Noctis some day. She escapes with her life, but Regis dies in Insomnia.

Noctis attempts to return to his home city, and on the way, he meets Cor, his father's royal bodyguard. Cor tells Noctis that there's no reason to return right now. Regis knew the attack was coming, and he purposefully sent his son away at this time. Regis was entrusting the future of Lucis to his son. Noctis, upon hearing all this, feels betrayed by his father. Nonetheless, he continues his new journey to restore Lucis to its rightful glory.

Ardyn reveals himself for the first time in the core story

While traveling across Eos, Noctis starts getting major headaches that render him helpless. During these episodes, he sees visions of a gargantuan human-shaped creature called Titan the Archaean. Titan is an Astral, like Bahamut. In a way, Titan seems to be calling out to Noct, so our heroes begin to search for the god.

Ardyn, somehow aware of the boys' new mission, leads them to Titan. As Noctis and the gang approach the Astral, it goes berserk, nearly killing them. Yet, after the smoke clears, Titan makes peace with Noct, and the two form a covenant. This allows the prince to call on Titan for help, assisting his journey to being the True King.

The nearby area starts to crumble as the meteor Titan held up falls to the ground. Ardyn rescues the boys, revealing himself to be a chancellor of Niflheim. Noctis becomes hesitant to accept help from "the enemy," but he does out of necessity. Ardyn stays true to his word and escorts the boys to safety.

Noctis seeks out the other gods

When Noctis formed the covenant with Titan, he received a vision of Lunafreya awakening the five other Astrals in an attempt to help him. Learning of Lunafreya's quest, he sets out to form covenants with all the Astrals, starting with Ramuh. After weathering a literal storm, he forms a pact with the god.

In the midst of the Titan situation, the boys lose the Regalia, relying on Chocobos to get around. They call their mechanic, Cindy, and ask her to track down the royal car. She finds it in a Niflheim base, so Noctis leads an infiltration mission to get their wheels.

While retrieving their car, they run into Ravus, Lunafreya's older brother who's now a Niflheim officer. He quickly dispatches Gladiolus, and he threatens Noctis about the ramifications of his actions. He claims that making a pact with the gods can lead to unexpected repercussions. Ardyn stops Ravus from going further, and the boys escape the base. Around this time, Gladio goes on his own journey to become stronger, ashamed of his performance against Ravus.

Leviathan attacks, Lunafreya falls, and Noctis rises

With the car in tow, Noctis and the gang travel to Altissia, where Noctis was supposed to marry Lunafreya. There, Noctis plans to form a covenant with Leviathan. Lunafreya helps awaken the Astral, but the god becomes angry. It demands that Noctis defeat it in combat before it forms a covenant with the True King.

Noctis steps up to the challenge, and the fight destroys Altissia. The other boys split off to help evacuate the citizens. In the midst of combat, Noctis gets knocked down, landing near Lunafreya. At this point, Ardyn shows up to stab her. Despite the wound, she unlocks Noct's true power, giving him the strength to best Leviathan.

Defeating the Astral knocks the wind out of Noctis, and in her dying breath, Lunafreya heals him enough to make sure he doesn't die. Her actions ensure that the Ring of the Lucii makes it to Noctis.

The branching paths to the different endings

While Noctis fought Leviathan, Ignis helped evacuate the city while heading toward Noctis. Along the way, he runs into Ravus. The two set aside their differences in the face of this tragedy. After all, Ignis wants to save his friend, and Ravus wants to protect his sister.

While heading to Noctis and Lunafreya, Ignis runs into one of Lunafreya's dogs, who gives Ignis a vision. In the vision, he learns about the prophecy that requires the True King to sacrifice himself to dispel the darkness. This revelation makes him worry for his friend.

Ignis and Ravus find Noctis unconscious and Lunafreya dead in the aftermath of the Leviathan attack. Ravus at first blames Noctis for his sister's death and tries to kill him, but Ignis helps him see that Noctis isn't at fault. Afterward, Ardyn arrives on the scene, taking Ravus and Ignis hostage.

At this point, the player (as Ignis) can choose to fight or join Ardyn. If he fights, he takes the Ring of the Lucii from Noctis. He sacrifices his eyesight to claim its power and fight off Ardyn. If he joins, it leads to an alternate ending.

The Crystal is revealed as the solution

The four boys reunite, and they board a train toward Niflheim, where the Crystal is. Ardyn attacks the train, using illusory magic to make Noctis push Prompto off the train. Prompto doesn't die, and he goes on his own journey to learn about himself in the Episode Prompto DLC. He finds out, with the help of Ardyn's manipulation, that he was a Niflheim clone, created to be a foot soldier. But at a young age, he was kidnapped and brought to Lucis, where he grew up to be Noct's best friend. Prompto is horrified of his true origin, but he still vows to tell his friends and live his life.

Meanwhile, Noctis, Gladiolus, and Ignis forge onward, and along the way, Noctis forms a covenant with the Astral Shiva, who had been guiding him this whole time. The four companions mull over the state of the world, observing that nights are longer and daemons are getting stronger. Additionally, they lay out the idea that the Crystal is key to saving the world from daemons.

Absorbing the Crystal kicks off the ending

Noctis, Gladio, and Ignis reach Zegnautus Keep, where the Crystal is being held. They reunite with Prompto, who reveals his true origin to his cohort. Regardless, they still accept him, showcasing their unbreakable bond. They head toward the Crystal, but Ardyn sends many daemons to stop them. Eventually, they find a daemonified Ravus, who is forced to fight them, despite begging to be killed.

Ardyn killed and transformed Ravus for betraying Niflheim and defying him in Altissia. Ravus is eventually defeated, opening the way to the Crystal. Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto defend the path to the powerful relic so Noctis can absorb it.

As Noctis joins the Crystal, Ardyn reveals himself, providing a classic supervillain monologue to explain his thirst for vengeance against the Caelum family. The other three boys get to the room after Noctis becomes fully absorbed in the Crystal, and they all attack Ardyn. Because of his immortality, those attacks mean nothing.

When Noctis fully enters the Crystal, he finds Bahamut, who tells Noctis about his destiny as the True King. The hero accepts his fate, knowing it's the only way to save his friends and the world.

"Walk tall, my friends": The original ending of Final Fantasy 15

A decade passes. Noctis had been sitting in the same island prison that Ardyn did for two millennia, protected by the Lucis royal guard. Now, Noctis awakens to find a permanently dark world. Night has become eternal, and daemons are everywhere.

He reunites with his three friends, who have all been fighting the daemons in hopes that Noctis would one day come back. The four don their royal garbs and march into Insomnia, which Ardyn has decided to call home. Despite summoning the daemonified Ifrit and putting up a tough fight, Ardyn loses to Noctis' power. The hero promises Ardyn will finally get the eternal rest he deserves.

Noctis turns to his friends and tells them to "Walk tall," just as his father did ten years prior. He reclaims his throne and uses the Ring of the Lucii to absorb the power of the previous kings, dying in the process. With the power of the Astrals, the Crystal, and the kings, he cleanses the world of daemons and banishes the eternal night. In the Beyond, he kills Ardyn, ending his immortal curse. Noctis reunites with his bride-to-be Lunafreya in the Beyond.

"We walk tall, together": The alternate ending to Final Fantasy 15

Back in Altissia, Ignis could have chosen to side with Ardyn. If he did, an alternate ending plays. In this ending, Ardyn takes Ignis to Zegnautus Keep. Ignis finds the Crystal against Ardyn's wishes, at which point the villain decides he must silence Ignis. Ardyn explains his motivations against the royal family and moves in for the kill.

Ignis reveals the Ring of the Lucii that he took from Noctis, and he wears it, sacrificing his entire life to "kill" Ardyn. He defeats the villain, who fades away, claiming he will return. Ignis collapses, satisfied with the sacrifice he made.

Noctis, Gladiolus, and Prompto reach the Crystal and find a dying Ignis. Noctis curses his inability to protect his friend and pleads with the Crystal, asking it to revive Ignis. It does so as Noctis enters it, absorbing its power.

A decade passes once again. Ardyn still brought eternal night to Eos. The four heroes reunite, and with the help of Ravus, who wasn't daemonified in this timeline, they defeat Ardyn once and for all. The prince didn't have to sacrifice himself; now Noctis rules Lucis as king after restoring light to the world.