Right now, the world of Final Fantasy XIV players is made up of two separate but equally important groups: the Legacy players who are doing secret things in a beta that they cannot talk about, and everyone else sitting on the sidelines and desperately hoping for an NDA breach that unveils huge amounts of information. (The second group also spends some time hating the Legacy players. It’s a delicate balance.) As a result, it’s even harder than usual to write something interesting about the game.
So, as prompted by some discussions over on the RPC, let’s talk a little bit about what we do know regarding the state of the world. It isn’t great, but at the same time, it’s better than it could be. There are three main time period to be concerned with, and when they’re taken as a whole, there’s a lot of opportunity for interesting conflict and storytelling as well as roleplaying if that’s your cup of tea.
Bahamut’s big night
For about a year before Dalamud fell, it was impossible for anyone not to know big things were afoot. But everything else that had been happening paled compared to the final approach of the moon.
There were three major effects of Dalamud’s approach, and the first one was that the magic of the world started going wonky. In the beginning, it was just little things like monsters growing larger and the occasional de-aspected crystal showing up, but by the time Dalamud was nearly on the ground Atomos was wandering about and whole aetheryte crystals were going dark without warning. We don’t know exactly how the actual landing of the moon affected the magical flow of the land, but considering things got worse rather than better as the moon drew closer, it seems safe to conclude that the trend continued.
Second, Bahamut decided to vent a whole lot of rage on Eorzea specifically. The exact scope of the damage done is unclear, but we saw both Limsa and the Black Shroud burning in the End of an Era trailer. How long he vented his wrath is unclear, and it may have been just a single night, but the sheer effect he had on the landscape is visible even from preview screenshots. All three capital cities were affected, rivers changed course, mountains were shattered or raised, and the landscape was torn apart extensively. So not only did Eorzea lose its main methods of communication and transport, but the landscape was suddenly and irrevocably altered.
Last but not least, there were the adventurers. From our perspective as players, Eorzea was always a pretty dangerous place, but that was because we adventurers were there facing the danger and keeping things relatively safe. The reason that Ul’dah wasn’t overrun with Amalj’aa was because adventurers drove the beastmen back long before they could reach central Thanalan. On that night, the vast majority of the people who made up the Grand Companies were lost, and while many of them were simply thrown forward in time, from an outsider’s perspective, it probably seemed that everyone perished.
On the night the King of Dragons returned, the land was thrown into tumult.
The five-year gap
We don’t know everything that happened during this gap and won’t know much until the game is released. What we do know is what we see evinced in screenshots, and that’s the simple fact that life has continued and thrived once again.
Settlements have largely moved outside of the capital walls, with far more structures dotting the exterior of the main cities. We know that aetheryte crystals remain, albeit changed, and that moogles are delivering mail. (Something seen prominently in the benchmark trailers, among other places.) In other words, we know that in the wake of the destruction wrought by Bahamut, Eorzea rallied and rebuilt in record time. And in a few months, everything’s going to change for Eorzea all over again.
Today (in several months)
First of all, I think it’s worth noting that from the perspective of pretty much every major city, everyone involved in the final battle as the moon fell is dead. This is worth taking note when your character pops back into existence. From your character’s point of view, it’s been a few minutes; from the rest of the world’s point of view, it’s been five years that you were dead and buried. The only person who could have told anyone what the spell was meant to do was Louisoix, and he was dead immediately after casting it.
Logically speaking, we can deduce that the past five years have not been all that horrible on a whole for the people still on the ground. The opening cinematic seems to back this up — people are bustling about in Limsa Lominsa just as they were before Dalamud fell. There’s a lot going on, and there’s probably a sense of fear in the air, but thus far it seems the land is holding together well without the adventurers.
From the perspective of those coming back, the world will seem strange. From the perspective of everyone already there, things are normal. Everyone has been carrying on with life and living in a world that changed a while back in fairly comprehensible ways. And that’s complete with a brand-new crop of adventurers coming to prominence, promising that the land will be safer again in time.
We know that there’s going to be some strange reactions to our returning characters when the relaunch happens, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Even if those characters were heroes, they’re dead. These are not awaited saviors; these are yesterday’s heroes without a clear purpose in the right now.
There’s a disconnect, in other words. And from everything we’ve seen about the story so far, there’s a good reason for that.