We spent so much time defending against other threats that the Dravanian Horde never got its due.
The last part of the 2.5 cycle goes live tomorrow, and with it comes the conclusion to the entirety of the relaunch storyline. We’ve already made some pretty big strides, but it’s time to look at what we know will come next, what we believe will happen, and who will be left standing after everything goes cross-eyed. Fair warning: There may be spoilers ahead, so tread carefully if you’re afraid of those.
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge something that was present in the original trailer for the patch but was easily overlooked then yet isn’t so easy to move past now. Of the story scenes we’ve seen previews of for this patch, not a single one of them has taken place in Ishgard. All of them are in Ul’dah.
This is compounded by a single preview image that will be very familiar to anyone who’s finished the Dragoon quests. Estinien is there, in his black wyrm armor, and it’s pretty obvious that he’s in Ul’dah. Yet at the same time, every single line we find in the description turns back to Ishgard, to Coerthas, to the attack on the Gates of Judgement that we already know players will be tasked with repelling. What part of the story are we missing? Why is every visual cue telling us that we’re going to Ul’dah when all of the narrative pushes us to Ishgard?
I have my suspicions. And I think it ties into why Ishgard will, at long last, open its gates.
We know that there’s no shortage of discontent simmering in Ul’dah or Gridania, but the game has focused very strongly on the former for its overall story focus. Ul’dah’s struggle between the Sultana and the Syndicate has been an ongoing issue, one that we’ve spent no shortage of time busying ourselves over with Alphinaud’s Crystal Braves. Ostensibly, it’s to ferret out Garlean operatives that have found their way into the highest level of the Flames, and it’s indisputable that Roaille worked for the Empire. But it’s also indisputable that something’s going on with Ilberd.
Ilberd, it should be noted, is Ala Mhigan, and he grew up with Raubahn. Yuyuhase also appears to be from Ul’dah. There’s some room to speculate that something is going down when the two most suspicious people in the Braves – an organization formed in haste from castoffs, it should be noted – both hail from the same city and seem intent on covering up what went down when it comes to Ul’dahn dissent.
Here’s where an Ishgardian connection begins to come into focus. We know that Ilberd is almost certainly not working with the Empire, as his distaste for it seems genuine and it’s too obvious a push. No, it’s a question of who stands to benefit most from continuing to drum up chaos in the city while also keeping the Empire out of the loop, and how this can tie into a battle with the dragons. Who would want an invasion?
Why, the Ascians, of course.
We know that Ascian influence already stretches into the Holy See in Ishgard, even if we haven’t been told as much explicitly. We also know that the last Ascian plot involved getting the group’s hands upon Ultima Weapon. That device was destroyed, but its sister is still operational, lost in the Carteneau Flats. Omega Weapon awaits, and while the three nations fight war games over the region, someone could eventually come along and claim it.
Think about it for a moment. Ishgard, being battered and besieged by the dragons, is in desperate need of a weapon that could actually take out its ancient enemies and do something. Ascians are offering help from the shadows until the situation gets so dire that their help seems not just acceptable but almost mandatory. And the organization watching over the Carteneau Flats just so happens to be the Crystal Braves.
Obviously, Ishgard would have no need of this if the Eorzean Alliance came to its aid. But Ul’dah is a lynchpin. The Maelstrom needs access to Vesper Bay in order to march to Ishgard’s defense, and without the aid of the other companies, the Adders are unlikely to move in force against the dragons. If Ul’dah is too busy being divided from within, the Alliance stumbles out of the starting gate, unable to defend a member being courted for entry when it’s truly needed.
Maybe I’m off, though. Maybe what we’re seeing with the previews isn’t the prelude to the Ishgardian attack but the aftermath. Perhaps after the attack is repulsed and Ishgard is preparing to step into the alliance for the first time, a strike is launched within the heart of the city. Perhaps there are other pieces of the story here we just don’t know, and I certainly hope that’s the case. There are big revelations promised for this update, and I for one look forward to seeing them all and being very wrong.
So where will we be once the ashes fall? I suspect that Ul’dah’s transition to a republic (which Nanamo has placed on the table already) is not going to be the bloodless and calm affair that was hoped for. I imagine Nanamo herself will live, but several other figures will not. The cheeky part of me is tickled at the idea of Raubahn buying it during Ul’dahn upheaval, but I think it’s far more likely that we’ll lose side characters rather than major figures at this stage.
I don’t think most of the Scions are completely safe, though, which makes me anxious mostly because I don’t want to lose my favorite. If Yda dies, I riot.
More than that, though, I still think that there’s an important part of Ishgardian history waiting in the wings. I’ve spoken with my friends about the fact that I’m pretty sure we’re going to find out that Ishgard started as a culture not opposed to the dragons but living in harmony with them, that Dragoons used powers once granted freely by dragons rather than stolen from them. I believe there are forces within the nation that know this and don’t care, and I believe that some of the dragons know it but many of them just want to see their former allies burn. I believe there is more going on, on all fronts, than we know about now.
And I believe that when the last storyline here is finished, we’re all going to be ready to step into Ishgard and start picking up the pieces because this is no longer before the fall. It’s the fall, and we’ve fallen.
Feedback is welcome, as always, in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I’m going to talk about the patch, obviously. I hope you’re all as excited for it as I am!