I wonder if we’re actually going to find out our destination for the next expansion in February. Remember, we still don’t actually know where we’re going when Shadowbringers releases; when asked during the fan festival, Naoki Yoshida made it very clear that we were intentionally not being told just yet. And while I expect we’ll be clear on it when Final Fantasy XIV releases the second part of this final main scenario questline, it’s also quite possible that the designers will let us know on February 2nd just to fuel more speculation.
Not that it isn’t partly interesting just to chew on what we do know as of this story installment. Because as I said a couple weeks back, the MSQ gives us plenty of meaty information to chew on in a line that winds up being mostly about cutscenes and talking.
Ready? Here we go.
Just to start off with, I’m beyond glad that Varis zos Galvus remains our enemy, through and through. The alternative would have been easy to have happen, but the parley scene teased it… while also making it very clear that even though Varis is not buying the party line of the Ascians, he’s still a huge threat.
A lot of the speculation I’ve seen flitting around is that Varis is actually on board with what the Ascians want, but from my reading of the scenes, the man has very different goals from his would-be masters. Varis wants to reconstitute what he sees as the only sort of force that can actually defeat the Ascians… a force without boundaries between nations, or even people.
Remember how we’ve had it teased many times that the Echo breaks down barriers? One suspects that what Varis wants is predicated upon understanding, better than most, what the Echo can actually be used to accomplish. What the Ascians see as a tool, Varis sees as a goal. He wants to place control of mortal fates in mortal hands and strip out the Ascians.
Of course, he’s still utterly deranged and dangerous, and if people won’t accept that willingly he’ll just force them. So he’s still a villain. He’s just got a different goal than the Ascians do, and one suspects it’s the goal that got Gaius van Baelsar so resolutely on board with his plans before he realized their origin point.
Speaking of the former Legatus… yeah, this story point was heavily hinted at, and it seemed like something that was going to come out at a later time. Instead, nope! Here we are, already hearing about the fact that yes, Gaius survived our confrontation and has been waging a private little war against the Ascians all the while.
To me, this seems to make it even more likely that we’re not going right to Garlemald; instead of finding this out later on, we’re being handed that revelation to chew on even as our connection to Gaius is severed. Alphinaud is back with the Scions, and we only know that Gaius is going to continue doing what he does. It’s entirely plausible that we won’t see him again for some time.
But none of this is certain, because… well, everything is going to hinge on what our arc words mean. “Throw wide the gates to let us pass.”
There’s a lot of speculation about this, and for good reason, not the least of which being that we don’t yet know what gates we’re supposed to throw wide. My first thought was that this was a reference to the Imperial attack, but the line isn’t vague. There are no gates to throw wide.
And no, the Doman barrier is a wall. Still no gates.
So what could it mean? There are a few possibilities, and the most obvious one is that there’s a specific set of gates somewhere that we’d be inclined to leave closed. But that seems almost too predictable, and part of me suspects that it’s something even more sinister. We’re not throwing wide a set of physical gates at all.
This part is almost certainly going to prove wrong, but here’s my current theory. There’s something in the game that’s usually referred to as gates, despite the fact that there are lots of other possible words. Like “portals.” Or “rifts.” Or “tears.” No, they’re almost always called void gates.
Throw wide the gates to let us pass.
This isn’t something I can entirely defend based on the game’s cosmology as established thus far. The whole reason why the Void is the way that it is comes down to a dearth of aether, which seems like the opposite of helpful when one of the phenomena hitting the realm right now is a thinning of aether. But it’s also possible that this is part of the same overall problem, that the thinning is due to something that would be actually fixed by letting shadow pour into the world.
And at this point what we know is that we’re being told, over and over, to throw wide the gates. We know the expansion is Shadowbringers. We know that we wouldn’t be getting told to throw wide the gates, over and over, unless the gates in question are ones we would normally not permit to be opened.
As one Scion after another falls, it strikes me that there’s a definite sense not of depriving us of allies but of trying to send a warning of some kind, something to push us into an action that we would otherwise almost certainly not take. We don’t know where the warning is coming from or what it’s supposed to prevent. But we need to be ready.
Of course, at this point we’re almost out of allies to lose in the process of getting that warning to us. And because of the nature of the game’s plotting, it feels all but certain that the ultimate explanation will be reasonable and clear. It’s just a matter of what it looks like when we finally get it. Personally, that’s part of the fun.
As one last bit of speculation, while a lot of people have speculated that we’ll be heading to another shard off of the source, that personally doesn’t sit quite right simply because there’s so much unexplored land in Hydaelyn. I understand where it’s coming from, and the implication of other realms certainly makes it feel reasonable, but it seems to me like a red herring.
The other big thing people are guessing at is a time travel expansion, but we know that we’re getting new areas, so that already seems a bit off. There’s too much forward motion in the plot for us to suddenly travel backwards and set off a different sequence of events. All of the teases about changing history seem to be less about altering an event in the past and more about altering the overall trajectory of events before they reach a tipping point.
But, of course, that’s all speculation. I could be wrong; we’ll find out soon enough.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time? Well, we’ve got some fan festival stuff coming up, so I guess it’s time to guess at what we’ll see. Guessing games!