Armored dragoon glares

Yes, you heard that right; the very memorably fridged fan favorite Haurchefant Greystone can be saved in the newest raid for "Final Fantasy 14," the highly popular "Dragonsong Reprise (Ultimate)." Turning the iconic cutscene of his sacrifice into a fully playable phase, this 18-minute tribute to the events of "Heavensward" lets the players rewind time to save their beloved friend — and in doing so, re-imagine the outcome of the game’s second expansion.

In the canon timeline, Haurchefant is one of the first major character deaths that happen on-screen, right in front of the player character. In a heart-wrenching cutscene, the ever-cheerful and stalwart friend dies while shielding the Warrior of Light from a fatal blow and leaves them with one of the game’s most iconic lines: "A smile better suits a hero."

Memorable though it is, it’s admittedly not the most immersive of cutscenes. Healer mains were inevitably left wondering why their Warrior of Light doesn’t even seem to try and save Haurchefant, while Tank players questioned why they couldn’t simply help him fend off the attack. Unfortunately, there is no player agency in a cutscene designed to play out the same way no matter how many times you go back to it; it simply is what it is.

Now, three expansions later, players get to explore an alternate scenario: What if you weren’t a level 57 novice locked in a cutscene, but a level 90 endgame raider fighting for your life alongside Haurchefant instead? Would you be able to save him, then?

Re-living history in the first three phases

Haurchefant defends player

The answer: not at first, no. The introductory phase of the raid drops the players on the bridge where Haurchefant originally died, re-imagining it as an arena where the antagonist’s henchmen are pummeling you with all their might. At one point, players are trapped in an inescapable circle, during which Haurchefant shows up to shield them from a ranged attack. Saddled with a powerful healing debuff and limited movement, players are forced to watch his HP tick down until he dies once more.

Many raiders and spectators of the world race speculated that there was some trick to saving him later on in the fight, a theory that was confirmed when raiding groups began sharing and streaming the end to the third phase: a clock turning back in time as the narration starts "a different song of imagination transcending."

It turns out that the fourth phase after the rewind lands the players halfway through the first phase, when they’re first drawn into the circle cage with Haurchefant defending them outside. However, if the mechanics are resolved the same way as the first time, the players then proceed to phases two and three before being thrown back once again. At this point in the fight, the only way to escape the time loop is to save Haurchefant from his seemingly inevitable death.

Getting into the imaginary alternate timeline

Haurchefant's broken shield

The key difference that makes this possible at all is that unlike phase one, the phase four re-do allows the players to carry over all the buffs and gauges they’ve built up so far, including the Limit Break meter. If done right, one of the tanks should be able to give their party and Haurchefant a brief period of invulnerability that makes all the difference. Now players have a short buffer long enough to resolve the circle cage, keep Haurchefant’s HP in check, and destroy the spear of light before it breaks through his shield. Upon success, they’re treated to the rest of the raid: an alternate telling of the Dragonsong War where Haurchefant never died.

Of course, this doesn’t actually mean that he’s returned to life in the canon plot of the game, as noted . The entire raid is orchestrated via the premise that the player is simply reliving memories with extra creative touches, as told by a recurring character called the Wandering Minstrel (who also serves as the basis for most Extreme/Ultimate versions of existing content).

Still, this seems to fit with the overarching theme of "Endwalker": No matter how bleak and inevitable the outcome, the experience of the journey is what matters. Players may not be able to save Haurchefant for good, but hopefully this raid offers some closure for his longtime fans. As more and more players are able to complete the raid, we’ll be seeing more of how this alternate timeline ends.