Let me say this upfront: While I will occasionally point out that I probably know more than the average Final Fantasy XIV fan about what’s going on behind the scenes with the game, and I do not know where we’re going next. I do not have some secret backstage info that lets me reveal everything that happens next, and even if I did, I would probably not use that to reveal a deep secret on an idle Monday. So I do not actually know where the next expansion will be bringing us… yet.
But does that stop me from speculating? No. It definitely does not. And perhaps even more importantly, it doesn’t stop me from giving some idea how likely our various potential destinations may be. So let’s take a look at what we already know about the state of affairs and plot progression and make some bets that will seem either hilariously prescient or entirely incorrect within a few months.
Right, so I’m definitely of the mind that this is what I see as our most likely next destination. And there are a bunch of reasons for it, but all of them are fairly subtle, keeping in mind two things worth noting. First, we have had zero hints that we are going to be exploring the rest of Ilsabard at this point, despite having many opportunities to be told that we’re cleaning up the mess that has been left in the wake of the Garlean Empire’s collapse. And second of all… as obvious as the Void would be, there are just as many hints we’re not going there just yet. Put a pin in that; we’ll get to that next.
Meracydia is brought up specifically when Emet-Selch is telling us in Ultima Thule how little the WoL and the Scions know about Etheirys. It’s also the one locale he doesn’t really elaborate on at all. Ruins beneath the Bounty, the treasure islands north of Othard, the golden cities of the New World… but nothing about Meracydia. He just says that you know nothing about what’s there right now.
Since then, we keep getting reminded of it in subtle ways. We’re dealing a lot with dragons, who have obvious ties to Meracydia with the war against Allag. Our Deep Dungeon reminds us about how ancient Allag tried to conquer the continent. The MSQ reminds us about the Allagan Empire as well. Subtle hints, small reminders that if you have somehow forgotten there’s a whole continent down there which the rest of the world knows nothing about.
It’s far from a certainty, but it certainly feels like the most likely option. And when you consider also that Meracydia would be the first totally new and unfamiliar place… what better way to start off a totally new installment of story? Our biggest counterpoint is that we don’t know why we’d go there or what we’d be doing there yet. But that might be by design right now.
All right, this is the next-most-obvious locale. And a lot of people have stated that it seems obvious considering how focused our MSQ has been on cleansing the Thirteenth like we did to the First… which is also totally wrong.
Our goal is not and has never been to fix the Thirteenth; it’s been to find and rescue Azdaja. Zero’s goal has never been to fix the Thirteenth, which she explicitly believes to be beyond saving; it’s to understand a different way of looking at the world that is wholly alien to her experiences in the Void. Fixing the Thirteenth is at best incidental. In fact, the implication has been that while it would be a nice thing to do at some point in the future, it is currently far beyond anyone’s capabilities.
Moreover, even Golbez isn’t really focused on fixing the Thirteenth so much as ruining the Source. It’s kind of a different set of priorities and should be understood as such.
Now, the Thirteenth is on everyone’s mind because of the MSQ, which makes more explicit some ideas that were relegated to side content in Shadowbringers. And I would be just plain wrong if I said that I didn’t believe this wasn’t somewhere in our future plans. It just doesn’t seem to be next on our agenda. That having been said, going from one more cosmic experience to another would make a certain amount of sense in this context, and if you assume all of our void antics are a preview for what’s coming next, obviously it will be more void.
We’ve explored a fair chunk of Aldenard and a small part of Othard, but Ilsabard is easily the least-explored part of the three main continents at the moment. (Here’s a good fan-made map to give you a loose idea if you have trouble keeping them separate in your head.) All we’ve seen thus far is a small area around Garlemald’s capital, and it seems perfectly clear from Alisaie, Alphinaud, and everything else that recovery efforts in the area are going to take a while.
But that’s just recovery in Garlemald. The capital there had taken over most of the continent. There’s not just a breakdown of authority and stability in that one region; it’s probably everywhere in the continent, ravaged by both a military civil war of succession following a prior civil war and the Final Days hitting Etheirys midway through the expansion. Who even knows what the rest of the continent looks like right now?
Now, part of me really wants to see this now because… well, it bugs me personally to have one teensy little bit of the map open blocked off by big fields of Who Even Knows. That just isn’t my favorite thing. However, I place this lower on the list because the only thing really implying that it’s going to be our problem is that it’s where Alphinaud and Alisaie are hanging out these days and it’s a problem that is just sitting there.
Even the last MSQ that explicitly brought us to the region didn’t really imply this is something we have to deal with next. The major effort is rebuilding Garlemald into whatever a functional version of that nation looks like now that the empire is completely broken and even figuring out where the unseen legions are at this point (I did a whole column about that), and it seems to me like this is kind of being kept around as “we can do this expansion later.”
But if we were suddenly told that we were going to be exploring around Ilsabard and rebuilding? I wouldn’t exactly be shocked. A touch surprised, maybe; it’d be unexpected, but it wouldn’t be as surprising as going to the First… which itself was a bit foreshadowed, and I was also the contrarian at the time saying that Garlemald wouldn’t be our next destination. So, y’know, take from that what you will.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, since we’ll still be waiting for the next live letter, I think I’m going to fill out the week of waiting by asking the inverse of an old question. I’ve talked about the systems that the developers have kind of abandoned; let’s look at the systems that we really could abandon at this point without a problem.