We haven’t yet been told that we’ll learn about a new expansion this year, but we have a fan festival on the calendar, we’re moving through the middle of the patch, and FFXIV moves on a content delivery schedule reliable enough to set your clock by. So we know that announcement is happening this year, and we can all bet on it coming out in June of next year. (If it’s running really late, maybe July.)
And this is the patch where we’ll find out where we’re headed. Not that we’ll be told yet, of course; we were never actually told in-universe that we were heading to Ala Mhigo until it happened, after all. But this is the point when threads need to start collecting into a useful form, and so it’s best to watch closely and see which elements are being picked up and tugged along for our next destination.
You might be thinking that this was not the case for Heavensward or the initial relaunch, and you would be… sort of right. Patch 2.3 was when the seeds were fully sown for our trip to Ishgard, but 3.3 was far more focused on Nidhogg and wrapping up the expansion story. But the difference was that by that point, the seeds had already been spread quite well; we knew about Ilberd, we’d had hints of Papalymo and Yda among the Resistance, we had the Doman story that had been running for quite some time.
At this point, for the first time, all of our various stories point in the same direction. The Empire is the problem for both Ala Mhigo and Doma; sorting out that challenge solves the problems of both nations. Most of the obvious outstanding threads have been resolved. The clear destination is to make an end run for the heart of Garlemald to take out the head of the beast.
That might seem a bit unbelievable, but when you consider the characters and the threats involved… you can’t help but circle back around to that fact. There are obviously other places to explore in the world, but we have nothing pushing us in those directions. The closest we have to any lingering plots to resolve tie back to the Empire and the Ascians, and both of them live in the same spot.
It is, of course, entirely possible that we’ll end up striking at the Empire for the next expansion. It’s not something that I’ve personally seen as probable, but based on all of the plot threads it would be the most logical next destination. It’s hard to imagine that the next logical destination is “let’s all sail to the New World for the heck of it,” to give a contrary example.
But that’s why this next patch is so vital. Because when all of our threads are being pulled in one direction, that’s the perfect time for something to get pulled elsewhere.
One of the things that I keep noticing, for example, are the hints that the Empire is chasing something entirely different from what we see. Consider, for a moment, that we can reliably assume that the Empire has 14 legions in total. We don’t know precisely how many they have now; the lore book makes it clear that they had 14, but it’s quite possible that the VIIth remains rogue, and the XIVth and the XIIth both took heavy losses. The VIth also seems to still be in Azys Lla.
But that’s four legions, leaving a whopping ten still at combat strength, and it took one legion to storm Ala Mhigo. Even if we assume that the XIIth was operating at half strength by being split between Ala Mhigo and Doma, it’s not like the army can’t spare another unit of marching numbers for both territories if it wanted to take those regions back. Heck, send two.
Unless, of course, the Empire has most of those legions occupied doing something else altogether. Because if you start looking past the fact that the Empire has had a rough quagmire in Eorzea, you see a lot of hints about that, starting with the aforementioned VIth Legion. They appear to still be in Azys Lla, investigating the facilities of the Allagan Empire… a facility that pulled a sizable chunk of material straight out of Meracydia.
What we actually know about Meracydia is fairly limited. We know that the Allagan Empire invaded some 5,000 years ago, we know that it’s the source of much of the Dravanians, and we know that the invasion resulted in a total war that did huge amounts of damage to the continent. We also know that there are people living there now, who react to any incursions from the north like angry hornets. Collectively, we don’t know anything about what’s down there.
But we also know that Garlemald is either unable or unwilling to focus on retaking provinces it held until recently. Heck, the Emperor seems almost unconcerned learning that Zenos was cut down during the siege of Ala Mhigo; it doesn’t seem to have been a major problem for him. Which implies, at least to me, that there’s a much bigger project going on that we simply aren’t getting to see.
Meracydia might not be that bigger project, but it would tie together hints and whispers about the Empire that we’ve heard for some time. It’d also be a different sort of expansion and bridging action, as players would be entering into a land that actively does not want them there. Or perhaps there is something in the New World, something vitally important to the Ascians that has given the Empire reason to divert no shortage of materiel and military might in that direction.
All of this is speculation based on several elements, including the fact that it’d be a bit of an anticlimax to go from an expansion about struggling against the Empire to “and now we’re going to take out the Empire for good.” But the key is that we need for some of this building to happen now. Not with 4.4, not when the expansion releases; no, we need to see that building start to tug at us from here.
Most of our existing major plot threads have been getting wrapped up nicely at this point. The biggest thing left to resolve all swirls around the Empire, and even the lingering disruption in places like Ul’dah has been sorted out now. Everything points in a clear direction, and while there’s enough evidence to support going elsewhere, we need that change in direction to be teased out now.
Or… well, we need it to be teased out in late May. That’s when the patch is arriving.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk a little bit about small quality-of-life features that the game lacks when it really doesn’t need to lack them at all, little things that would make the game better without really changing anything huge.