First of all, let me just say something that ticked me off to no end -- the declaration that the Umbral Era was over struck me as really stupid. It's an arbitrary ending to an era of tumult that was apparently decided because one Allag weapon got destroyed and three primals were beaten, primals that turn back up at the declaration that the era is over. Yes, Eorzea left the Empire reeling for a third time, but proclaiming that a time of strife is done because you pulled that off is naive at best. I'm kind of hoping that gets ignored.
Speaking of the Empire, this is now the third time that a love of superweapons has screwed the entire nation of Garlemald. It thankfully didn't come across as a completely arbitrary win on behalf of Eorzea, though. The work you did in beating the other Primals led directly to being able to overcome Ultima Weapon's main powers, and Gaius had no desire to bring its full powers to bear anyhow.
Gaius, incidentally, manages to pull ahead and be a pretty darn great villain through the end of the story. Yes, he needs to be put down, but his motivations are entirely understandable and internally consistent. He genuinely believes that he's acting in Eorzea's best interests, and his deal with the Ascians is solely made to give him the strength to force Eorzea to accept him, not to destroy anything he doesn't need to. You really get the sense that he respects both the player characters and the Scions for their commitment, even though he can't condone their actions.
And in the end, he dies. Two decades of trying to take Eorzea cut short in his final attempt. A sad death, but a fitting one.
Oddly, the villainous body count isn't terribly high. We've lost van Baelsar and two of the three Tribuni, but Nero may very well still be alive (it's certainly implied he's leaving for good after his defeat). Lahabrea lost a body but not himself, and the Ascians are still enraptured by their worship of...
Look, there's a whole lot to be speculated upon here, and I'm not going to re-write the work that others have put together. The bottom line is that however this plays out, there are things we do not know about the Ascians. Quite frankly, my first guess is that there is more going on between Hydaelyn and the Ascians than we know about and that this dynamic is not quite as clear as it seems on the surface. We might be looking at a Promathia situation here, in other words.
Having said all that, I really hope that it's a while before we get back to the Ascians in this degree. We've foiled one of their plots and dealt them a blow, but they're not very compelling villains at the moment. And it would be great if we saw other storylines explored in more depth before we got to have another go at this root problem.
And the game doesn't lack for new antagonists. We know that the Dravinians are barely being held back by the Ishgardians who desperately need outside help, and we know only the bare minimum of what the Dravinians are actually like. It's the perfect time for Ishgard to open her gates and let adventurers aid the great city against its foes with the Empire no longer bearing down upon the three nations. At the same time, it's also a perfect chance for Eorzea to start taking land back from the Empire, starting with Ala Mhigo and continuing north.
But why stop there? The ixali, amalj'aa, and kobolds are blunted by the loss of their primals, but that's a temporary setback. The sahagin are still massing and Ramuh hasn't brought the sylphs against their neighbors, but it's really just a matter of time right now. For that matter, the gigases in Mor Dhona are still hinting that there is more to be seen. Could it be that they're the last native group of primal-worshipping beastmen? What happens when and if they summon Shiva (the obvious next deity)?
All of that is ignoring the huge world beyond the borders of Eorzea, too. For all we know the next expansion could bring us into the depths of jungles and the heights of brutal steppes.
I suppose that's the biggest thing I like about the story. When it's all over, you certainly feel like you accomplished something. One of the game's earliest antagonists is dead, the beastmen have been blunted, and you feel as if a major victory has been won. But you also see that there are still so many more threats to be encountered, so much left for everyone to explore and analyze.
Good show, guys. Now someone put some time into making Ninja happen.
Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; spoilers will also abound in the comments, be properly aware. Next week I want to talk about the best and the most disappointing boss fights; the week after that, let's have that endgame discussion after all.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.