There seems to be something we haven’t learned yet about Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion, and if you know anything about me, you know that makes me very curious.
This is one of those things that’s been vaguely on my mind since we had our destination of Norvrandt announced in Tokyo. We know that the lands we’ll be exploring are broadly similar to the regions of Eorzea; Amh Araeng is Thanalan, Rak’tika is the Black Shroud, Il Mheg is Coerthas, and Lakeland is Mor Dhona. We now know that Kholusia is the equivalent of La Noscea. So where’s our sixth zone?
Option 1: Bigger zones or different breakdowns
In and of itself, there’s nothing inherently unusual about not knowing the exact regional breakdown. The Heavensward site didn’t reveal Azys Lla, and Gyr Abania’s regional breakdown was similarly hidden for Stormblood. But just as surely there’s the possibility that one (or multiple) zones we know of will actually be split up into multiple spaces; there’s a Southern Amh Araeng and Eastern Amh Araeng, for example, or North and South Lakeland, or Outer Kholusia and Upper Kholusia. You get the idea.
Since we know flying will be enabled in the First, I tend to doubt they’re going to go all Wings of the Goddess and give us the normal maps with a fresh coat of paint. But it is possible.
Similarly, it’s just as possible that for this expansion we do, in fact, have five zones. They’re just larger than the six we’ve usually had, thus conveying a sense of covering the same amount of space while also reducing the number of zones as a whole. I tend to think this one is a bit less likely, since it’s hard to really get a sense of “each map is 20% larger so it’s fine we get fewer,” but it’s not outside the realm of plausibility.
Option 2: Norvrandt’s Gyr Abania
Only with the most recent expansion have we actually explored all of Eorzea, even up to the border with Ilsabard. Gyr Abania is the one region we haven’t heard anything about, which is why my speculation before had focused on the idea that Eulmore is the equivalent of all La Noscea and Kholusia would be Gyr Abania.
Now, that’s not to say that making the Gyr Abania equivalent the “final” zone is necessarily in the cards (we all know that the MSQ has a “final” zone, it happened in both prior expansions). But it would potentially tie into what’s going on back on the Source with the war spun into a stalemate; imagine if we need to address what’s happening there as part of saving our allies back at home from an Ascian plot.
By the same extension, this could roll into the next idea…
Option 3: The Empty
The parts of the world where the Flood of Light has overtaken everything is referred to as the Empty. We know that. And we do, in fact, have some idea of what this would look like thanks to Final Fantasy XI. No, the Empty isn’t a region there… but it is the name for a category of enemies found within the realm of Promyvion. And considering how heavily the light-aspected Amdapori civilization draws from FFXI’s Zilaart, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Empty draw from Promyvion by extension.
If you’ve never explored these regions, you’re missing out on some wonderfully creepy landscapes, but there’s a very distinct visual aesthetic at work. Long, featureless strands of space. Drifting structures that seem less to resemble things like trees and buildings so much as the vague concept of these ideas. There are walls, but they don’t assemble to anything; columns supporting nothing, sticks with branches that could never make a tree, indentations for lakes with nothing but dark, stagnant liquid. Floating islands. Gray shuffling creatures named for seeking some feeling or connection, no matter what it might be.
It’s at once sterile, consumptive, and creepy. And that could easily be our final destination, even into the equivalent of Gyr Abania, a place that eats meaning and identity as you venture further in. It would also provide an interesting contrast to the Void; while that shard is devoid of aether but filled with identity, the Empty is full of aether but dissolves into a sludge of vague concepts.
Option 4: Something back at home
All right, so that idea is probably the most bracing option, but we could have a much more conventional option in the form of just sending us to explore a heretofore unseen part of the same world we’ve been on up to now. Maybe we actually push from the Lochs up into Ilsabard on the very outskirts. Maybe we head to Nagxia. Heck, we could start things off by exploring Southern Mor Dhona and approaching the Crystal Tower that way. It’d certainly allow for two starting areas (Southern Mor Dhona and Lakeland) even if it’d be a little weird.
I tend to think this one is pretty unlikely, especially as we’ve been told multiple times now that Yoshida would prefer to focus on the new regions of the game world instead of the old ones to avoid feeling like we’re retreading familiar ground, but then, this expansion’s lead-up alone has been a sequence of playfully teasing one thing and then doing another. So don’t rule it out.
Option 5: Azure Skies of Il Mheg
Yeah, let’s not forget that Heavensward actually brought us to three different regions, with the various floating islands and Dravania alongside Coerthas. Obviously Azys Lla is not in the air in the First (that was done by the Allagans, who we know weren’t in the First), but the Sea of Clouds and Churning Mists may very well still be airborne. There’s nothing saying that Dravania doesn’t still have the space out past Il Mheg. Heck, for all we know the First has its own version of Midgardsormr who may have a very different view of our presence.
Obviously, there’s no real way to know about which of these is correct without more details (like a tour video or whatever), so it’s all speculation now. But the fun of speculation is that it’s not as concerned with guessing the right version so much as the plausible versions. I don’t know where our destination will ultimately lie when we start exploring the First, but I do know that the question is an open one.
Feel free to leave your own speculation down in the comments or mail it along to email@example.com. We can all see who’s right in a couple of months, but for now, we’ll just continue to wait and see.