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Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest London 2023 – Square Enix Hosts A Memorable Event Packed With Things To See & Do

To celebrate the launch of Final Fantasy XIV‘s upcoming expansion Dawntrail – and coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the launch of FFXIV 2.0 A Realm Reborn – Square Enix recently held the London Fan Festival 2023. Before I go any further, I want to extend my thanks to the fine folks at Forty Seven and Square Enix for providing me with a ticket to the event this year; tickets were very limited and locked behind a lottery, though if you were unable to see the event in person it was streamed free online for everyone to enjoy.

The stream covered everything except the two concerts at the end of the night. Last Fan Festival the event was fully digital and you could pay to see the concerts; I think this would have been a nice choice to have again for this year’s Fan Festival, so maybe this will be an option for a future event.

The biggest worry I had about the event was the queue times, as they can often be pretty rough at these events. However, I found this year, even with my worry about the tickets, getting into the event seemed to be relatively trouble free. I was expecting that folk could pick up the ticket the day before the convention, and simply have it scanned to gain entry. Fortunately, I found that though the line to get in was pretty big, navigating round the excel centre moved at a pretty decent pace and I think nearly everyone was able to get in for the keynote. This was a good sign for things to come for the event.

The line officially started at 8am BST, with the doors supposed to open an hour later, though it seemed like due to how long the line was they were slowly letting people through the main gate a little earlier, which was nice to see. There was a bag check to go through every time you went in and out the event; again this was welcome and gave everyone peace of mind in regards to venue safety. Once inside the event, it was stunning and so well planned out with plenty of space to walk around even with the amount of people that were there. You never really felt squashed or claustrophobic, which is something I always worry about especially nowadays after all the health problems we have just gone through – personal space is important.

One of the big reasons for the Fan Festival is the new expansion announcements, and Square Enix had a wonderful set up this year with a good amount of disability seating to help folk who need it to sit down during the various panels. As always there was a live letter, walking with Yoshida-san, and the always-impressive cosplay walk. I think my favourite panel this year was the PvP panel with Lythi and Rookuri. Rookuri is one of the major pillars in the Final Fantasy community and Lythi has done so many cool esport events that there was so much good energy coming from the stage that even if you disliked PvP, chances are you walked away with a desire to give it a shot. Hell, a friend sent me a text message during the PvP panel saying he’s going to be doing more PvP now.

The venue was split up into different locations based on the game, such as Thanalan, La Noscea, and Black Shroud. Thanalan for example had a Gold Saucer area, with different activities such as bowling, and a bomb dodging mini game. This was probably one of the top three highlights for me: You stand on a giant floor screen panel, which was split into sections, and you then had to move around for a short time before bombs appear on the screen and blow up the panels. I didn’t last long however; RNG was not blessing me, but after the bombs exploded the floor disappeared on the screen and you would have to jump or step across to stay on a safe platform. However, you were not allowed to go back and forth in the same area. Of course, being a Final Fantasy event there were Chocobos involved with the Chocobo Racing mini game. Here, you had to throw balls into holes, which would move at a faster pace depending on the colour of the Chocobo.

Each area really did feel unique, and I don’t know anyone who had enough time to be able to do all the different activities at the event, which is a good problem to have. In terms of attractions, Black Shroud was a lovely forest-style area with archery; it included a gathering/crafting game in which you had to find certain ingredients to craft a food from a card that you were given as you entered the area for the activity. Some of these were group-based tasks that you could either come with your friends to do or use duty finder to compete with random people in the queue. The queues for most of these games seemed to move at a pretty fast pace and I don’t think there was a huge issue with any of them. Some of the more popular ones such as Archery and Axe Throwing took a bit longer than others but this was due to giving instructions and safety advice to attendees. This is perfectly reasonable, as you want to make sure everyone is safe and having the most fun they can. I heard the staff in charge of archery were also in character which is lovely to see.

I think the only issue that I heard about from others was that the crafting event had run out of gold coins. Everyone got one coin in their bag, and you have the chance to purchase up to nine more to have 10 coins. These coins would let you then craft certain things such as a bracelet, keyring or a pouch. Unfortunately, the event ran out of them on the first day. Personally, it would have been good if they had implemented ways to earn the coins for free, including hosting different events around the venue. Furthermore, as some of them had leaderboards it would have also been good if folk got rewarded with a coin or two for being in the Top 3, perhaps. Having said that, this would also be a pain keeping track of who got what so I understand why they didn’t go down this route.

If you found the venue a little stressful and needed a break, the organisers added a quiet room to take a load off. I was getting a little exhausted by the end of the first day so I went in for a short time, and was pleased to find it had some relaxing music and good seating. The only issue I had was the door was kept open, letting in noise from outside. It wasn’t too bad but it is not exactly super quiet. If they do this again, which I suggest they do, that they keep the door shut if possible or maybe have a quiet room slightly outside the venue.

Overall the event was probably the best Fan Festival they have ever hosted. I have been to three different Fan Festivals in the past, and this latest event had more overall mini games, was better organised and staff were incredibly helpful. I would have liked to have seen some rewards be earned from doing activities round the event, though you do still get free stuff for attending. It would have been cool to have quests to get some free gifts while you were there. However, as always this event is first and foremost about the community, and there was so much love and laughter to be had this year. I got to meet some old friends and made plenty of new ones along the way.

If you enjoy Final Fantasy XIV or even the Final Fantasy franchise in general, I really do recommend trying to go when the next Fan Fest rolls around. At the end of the day, even though it’s technically about announcing new content for FFXIV, Fan Fest is in reality just a room full of like-minded people gathering to talk about the things they love, and long may it continue.

Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival took place in the UK at the London ExCel October 21 — 22, 2023.