The point is that we’re getting our expansion, and it’s going to start soon. And that leads the obvious question of what, exactly, we’re going to be seeing in terms of the story. We know how 2.55 ended, we’ve seen the trailers, and now we’re walking into the unknown. So let’s get into spoiler-happy speculation territory, so I can either be proud of myself or laugh at how completely stupid I was in a few months. Yes, I allow for both with a smile on my face. And if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, I recommend stepping away now with a smile on your face; fairly warned be ye.
Our enemies are not who we think
I don’t think the conflict in Ishgard is as simple as Ishgardians vs. Dravanians. I’ve been saying that for a while, but the Dragonsong trailer even seems to be confirming it, with Ysayle walking more or less hand-in-hand with the player stand-in and what appears to be a peaceful palaver with Hraesvelgr. Heck, Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg even are set up as visual counterpoints to one another, with the former’s bright white scales and fur tufts standing in opposition to Nidhogg’s dark coat and jutting spines.
My theory has been for some time that Ishgard didn’t begin in opposition to the dragons but worked with them once upon a time; the Dravanian/Ishgardian split happened much later, and the resulting war is more of a four-way conflict starring the Dravanians who know the truth and want blood, those who would just as soon stay out of the whole mess, Ishgardians who know the truth and don’t care, and the people who have no freaking idea why the dragons want them dead. It’s leading to the worst of all possible worlds, so to speak.
As with any other conflict in the game, the path to victory is not a simple as just killing as many members of the opposing side as possible. Expect to find out that both sides are, if not equally bad, at least not entirely guilty or innocent. This is pretty strongly implied by having Midgardsormr floating around with us anyway, but still.
We’re going to win
At the end of both 1.0 and 2.0’s storylines, the player loses. The first version was a bit worse about this, since both the main scenario and the later quest line involve players utterly failing to stop the massive threat bearing down on the world, but our victory over Ultima Weapon in the launch storyline is quickly made trivial when we’re faced with our loss of pretty much everything by the end of 2.55. It’s a great way to keep us moving forward, sure, but it also sets up a certain dynamic.
I both think and hope the 3.x series is going to change this. I honestly think that the next expansion will have us going in with some power backing us, not just slinking off to the next space with our tails between our legs.
You could argue, convincingly, that most games in the franchise involve a fair bit of losing before victory, but FFXIV has already given us a fair share of defeats. We’ve lost our allies in the Scions twice, once in the original storyline and once again now. (You could argue that this even mirrors that loss; where did you go after the loss of the Waking Sands?) Pushing back Vishap was a victory, but it was a victory of the day, defeating the immediate problem without actually solving the underlying issue. Players could use the sense of walking in with their heads held high.
Don’t get me wrong; I like the fact that things aren’t just an easy ride for the player character. But I also think that we’re going to get a win at the end of this story cycle, even if it’s just to make the next cycle even more of a ride through hell.
Jobs and classes are going to have a different role
I’m really fond of the job and class storylines, honestly. One of the things I’ve said about it elsewhere is that it gives these mechanical distinction a place in the world, that it makes it clear that there’s a place to define these various occupations through lore. When you walk away from the half-dozen quests that sketch out these characters and their stories, you feel as if you’re in a good place to wave goodbye even if not everything is finished.
And therein lies the rub : You can’t just tack on another 10 levels and expect to have the same depth of questing that you had before. It’s not going to work. Especially when we know full well that there will be new jobs with new questlines, and our new abilities are going to come purely from quests.
I think what we’ll see in the north are job and class quests that don’t necessarily carry on with the story we’ve already concluded, but extend both into a new direction. As the game increasingly focuses on the idea that jobs are more important than classes (and let’s face it, the jobs that can only be jobs are a step in that direction), we’re going to see the characters that we liked from those quests heading into the north to take part in new storylines.
Let’s also remember that most of the classes and jobs that have an identity elsewhere also have an identity in Ishgard. Sure, there are Paladins in Ul’dah, but you can’t tell me that the knights armed with sword and shield have no points of commonality with the arts practiced elsewhere. There are healers in Ishgard, there are men and women wielding the axe, there are even those who fight with fists. There’s plenty of space to make an entirely new set of quests that may reference back to our old standby characters, even though we’ll need to be doing quests much more often if we’re going to get the same amount of storytelling in.
Or maybe we’ll just dance on back to the city-states and get another few quests tacked onto the existing storyline. That’s possible, it’s just boring.
There are a lot of blank spaces in what I expect for the future in terms of the game’s storytelling, and I really can’t wait to start filling them in. I’m excited enough to find out what the deal is with the Vanu Vanu, even. But I’d like to think we can make some reasonable guesses about what we’ll see. And, you know, making public predictions is a great way to put your money where your mouth is.
Think I’m full of it? Let me know down in the comments! You can also mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but posting in the comments lets you post your own potentially daft theories. Next week, it’s time for our last week before early access, and the week after that… you know what, you can guess what I’ll be talking about. Let’s not pretend otherwise.