Wisdom of Nym: What happens next in Final Fantasy XIV?
So what does come next?
Obviously, this column will feature spoilers, so consider yourself fairly tagged. But I think this is a relevant question to ask because this expansion is, in its own way, a very different animal from its two predecessors right out of the gate. The relaunch ended its story in a place so open that it could really go wherever without a problem, while Heavensward ended the 3.0 MSQ with obvious points for continuation. (It helped that the obvious thrust of the expansion took a sharp left turn around level 55.) In the case of Stormblood, though…
Yes, I’m avoiding saying more before the cut. Spoilers down below, people.
Once you’re done with Stormblood, you’ve accomplished the goals of the expansion. Heck, not only that, you’ve accomplished the goals no one ever specifically gave you. Ala Mhigo is free, Doma is free, Zenos is dead as dead can be. There are a few antagonists still out and about, but they aren’t plausibly the sort who can threaten what’s been accomplished.
There is, in fact, some fascinating storytelling done with implication in Doma specifically, how the Empire relied so long on letting the nation largely govern itself with Lord Kaien as viceroy. When Yotsuyu took power and came down harder, they lost support of the native population and no longer had people who could or would support their status. Unlike Ala Mhigo, the Empire never really dug in throughout Yanxia, and you see how unsteady it makes them in the end.
But the result is that we don’t have antagonists like we did in Heavensward, nor do we have the wide-open field of establishment as we did in the reboot. It’s obvious that we’re going to be dealing with more issues in Ala Mhigo and Doma, and the couple of remaining antagonists we have are not capable of summoning the help they would need to be formidable forces on their own. Omega is off being dealt with in a totally different storyline.
So what comes next?
I think one of the hints to that comes when we actually look at what the Empire has been doing and the hand it has been dealt during the game’s timeline. We’ve been told, over and over, that the Empire is huge and scary and can easily crush Eorzea… but what do things look like from the Empire’s perspective?
Three legions lost, one badly damaged. Four legati killed. At least one flagship destroyed, with another damaged at least and crippled at worse. Two decades of trying to take this region, and not only has the Empire made no actual inroads whatsoever, it has now lost the one territory it did hold. And it conquered that in the wake of a tumultuous rebellion when it faced four sharply divided remaining nations in Eorzea, not four members of the Eorzean Alliance with the tacit backing of Hraesvelgr’s brood and the newly liberated Ala Mhigo clearly poised to become another member of the Alliance.
At the very end of the MSQ, we see one of the Ascians again, and that offers us a hint of what might come next. Because it’s clear that the Emperor still has goals. He could devote all of the legions of Garlemald to crushing Eorzea, yes; even if we mark the sixth as tacitly lost, that’s four lost out of 14 in total, and that’s more than enough military might to slowly roll over Eorzea and crush opposition. But it would mean devoting all forces in one direction, and it would be costly, and there’s an easier option.
Why not sue for peace?
Imperial forces and Eorzeans have been at odds for a long while, and while open war has not existed there’s a tacit state of conflict that could flare up at any moment. Yet it’s easy for Galvus to declare that those elements still fighting against Eorzea are rogue elements, not representing him or the will of the Empire. Why not stop fighting the Eorzeans but actually work with them?
It provides a plot to set things in motion. It provides a good chance to sow immediate political unrest between the Eorzean Alliance and the newly freed Ala Mhigo; after all, does Ala Mhigo want to join forces with a group willing to talk peace with the nation’s former oppressors? It creates rifts, sows discord, and immediately gives the Empire a different means of acquiring what it wants.
And let’s not forget that working with the Empire was a major plot point in Final Fantasy VI… a game that many parts of this expansion have worked overtime to echo. (Castrum Abania, anyone?)
Of course, the other possibility is that the Empire is going to just come down with a great and furious anger… on Doma. Both Doma and Ala Mhigo have a lot of rebuilding to do, but Ala Mhigo has four other nations on hand to provide assistance. Doma is a long way away, and there would be some muttering about whether or not it’s a worthwhile investment to spend that much money on something so far out of their way. Sure, Doma helped liberate Ala Mhigo, but is it still equally important?
I think it’s interesting to wonder about. The possibilities are wide open, but it seems foolish to assume that the Empire is just going to sit around and do nothing. And in the back of my mind I worry that we’re going to fill out the rest of the expansion with a more mythical threat, that instead of fighting the Empire we’re dealing with some dark creature of the Void or something hidden away.
And that’s fine, but one of the things I like about the expansion thus far is that what we’re dealing with has been grounded. No ancient dragons, no Allagan ruins, no voidsent, nothing. It’s a match of politics and people with a splash of ancient power to spice things up, and that’s my jam. So I’d like to hope, however unrealistically, that this will continue along as we move into the patches.
Also, I want someone to suggest naming a patch “The Empire Strikes Back” before cooler heads point out that name is already being used.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to talk about the issues we’ll be facing in the next expansion. Yes, the next expansion. Yes, some of them are visible right now. No, I am not a crackpot. No, none of them are balance issues. (Hey, did anyone else see that progression thread discussing how Tenacity proves its worth in close runs? Boy, that seems relevant when talking about numbers, doesn’t it?)