One of my favorite moments from Order of the Stick (which is excellent anyhow) is when one of the villains makes it clear to an underling that their supposed ally is not on the same “side” as the goblins. It’s well-handled in the sense that it lays out subtext without being egregious, but it also manages to point out quite nicely how diverse the motivations can be, even among a rather uniformly antagonistic group. As he points out, there are a lot of potential answers to how many “sides” are involved in a given conflict.
So let’s talk about that as it applies to Final Fantasy XIV. Because as it stands right now, there are definitely more sides active in the conflicts going on than we know about.
Yeah, this one is obvious. We have a solid picture of what the Ascians are after (the resurrection of Zodiark) and some idea of how they’re trying to make that happen (weakening Hydaelyn), but there are a lot of question marks in there just the same. Summoning obviously makes the planet weaker, but it’s not yet entirely clear how all of their plans connect… especially since they are not just aligned with but behind the Empire that’s on the anti-summoning crusade.
To wit, we’re also not sure yet what their victory would even look like; it’s clearly not the same as the Void, and the cosmology of the various additional worlds and the Warriors of Darkness is still a litle bit unclear. But then, perhaps some of that is because at least some of their machinations do not appear to be guided by the same hand…
The most recent patch makes it clearer than ever that this Ascian is not on the same page as his brethren. If anything, it raises questions about what his actual goal is; obviously, he’s not working against the other Ascians, but he does appear to be pursuing something different or at least going about their shared goals in a different method. And there are secrets that even he doesn’t seem to be familiar with, as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t seem familiar with the fact that, well, the Ascians are behind the Empire.
Certainly he’s proven effective at sowing chaos, but he’s also proven to have at least one disciple actively helping the people of Eorzea, and he’s definitely the least outwardly hostile of the group; his manipulation of the Warriors of Darkness has actually helped them in a somewhat roundabout way. The recalcitrance of the game and the story when it comes to telling us his goals is a bit frustrating like that.
The Emperor and Garlemald
At least in theory, the Emperor should be subservient to the Ascians… but he’s not. In fact, it’s quite clear that he doesn’t actually work on the same side as them except by force; he has a very different set of priorities, and he certainly doesn’t want to take part in the destruction that the Ascian plot entails. But he also can’t easily disentangle himself from it at the same time.
One suspects that there may actually be more stuff at play in the Empire than we are immediately shown; I tend to think that most of the Legatii are not actually familiar with the existence of the Ascians and their manipulations, and if Shadowhunter is in fact Gaius van Baelsar one could assume that his reactions are not atypical. Suffice to say that the Empire as a whole is not necessarily friendly to those without shadows.
Lolorito and the East Aldenard Company
We ignore Lolorito at our own peril. It’s been very subtle, but the fact that Lolorito has been pulling a lot of strings for a very long time should not go unnoticed by anyone, and I think it’s far too early to assume that his machinations stopped with the return of the Sultana to her throne and his assistance in Kugane. It seems far more likely that Lolorito is playing a much longer game and planning further ahead.
Remember, if Lolorito knew everything going on with Ilberd’s plan, he still went along with it until it became clear that Ilberd was going to mess up the long game; he certainly wasn’t stepping in on Raubahn’s behalf. Considering that now even the Scions owe him something, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that he’s far more antagonistic than we were previously aware. Just because he’s been more of an ally recently doesn’t mean that’s actually his overall trajectory.
The First Brood
Midgardsormr, the sire of dragons, traveled to Hydaelyn with seven eggs. Those eggs are the source of the dragons of the world, and that first brood is a group of enormous power. This means it’s worth being aware of the fact that there are two wyrms unaccounted for right now.
Nidhogg, Ratatoskr, and Bahamut are all dead. Hraesvelgr and Tiamat are both alive (although the latter is currently imprisoned and is not attempting to break free). But Azdaja and Vrtra have yet to be even mentioned, and the source of Midgardsormr and his draconic influence have been touched upon with this expansion; he’s even the second boss of the final Omega lineup.
Obviously, it’s possible that these wyrms will not appear anytime soon, but we know that Ratatoskr, Nidhogg, and Hraesvelgr all roosted together. Tiamat and Bahamut did likewise, but she never says that the two of them were the only ones who roosted within Meracydia. We can only guess about what those two unaccounted wyrms are up to… but it’s possible (perhaps even plausible) that they might not be super-keen on mortal races.
It’s not clear at this point how the Void views the world. It’s quite possible, for example, that they see it the same way a fox might view a chicken coop: A great place of concentrated food, but hardly something worth destroying. On the other hand, it’s also very possible that the Void would like nothing more than to drain the entire realm dry given half the chance, and it just hasn’t been making a push through yet.
That’s not to say the Void has not been persistently antagonistic; the Mhach storyline featured Diabolos pushing an invasion, we crept into the Void itself in the Crystal Tower story, and there are countless smaller invasions of void presence throughout the game. There will no doubt be more antagonists thinking they can use the Void for their own advancement, but just as surely there will be unforeseen consequences, as the one constant with the Void seems to be that everyone thinks they can control it while no one really can.
I feel it’s important to stress here that these are just the antagonists we know the face of and the broad strokes about. We still don’t know who was chasing down Zenos in a sky armor, for example; he clearly had plans and goals, but we don’t know what they were yet. We don’t even know who he is yet. So there are more villains and antagonists out there we are almost certainly not aware of.
And that’s worth noting. It’s not just about the sides arrayed against us; it’s the sides we know about. There are almost certainly more.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week? It’s time for Fan Festival predictions before the festival itself starts on Friday, so be here to see what I’m calling ahead of time and guess if I’m wrong, right, or whatever!