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Looking ahead to Final Fantasy XIV's 2018

It’s not quite 2018 yet, but it will be next week. That means we have a whole year of Final Fantasy XIV to enjoy, and that also means that we have to wonder what’s in store. Although we also don’t have to wonder, because the game has a very reliable update schedule, and it doesn’t exactly take rocket science to extrapolate from 4.2 in late January. “Does that mean the next patch will be in late April to late May?” Yes. Yes it does.
In short, it seems transparently obvious to me that we’ll have another trio of large patches this year, along with more story development and lots of other relevant bits of content. So rather than guess at how many patches we’re going to get or whether or not we’ll hear about the next expansion (which is inevitable), it’s far more productive to speculate about the content of those patches and the expansion. Let’s head down that road.
 
To start with, let’s talk about the expansion, because in this particular case it’s easiest to work backwards. I’ve already talked about my overarching theory for the next three expansions, and the result is that we’re probably going to be going either to the south or to the west. My current thinking? We’re heading south. Why? Well, there’s a Thavnairian embassy right in Kugane, and it hasn’t had much reason to be there as of yet. Certainly that could be a red herring or planning for the future, but much like the increased focus on Ala Mhigo leading into Stormblood, it seems like something that is meant less to deceive and more to subtly hint at where we’re heading next.
 
From there, it’s a short skip to Meracydia. And what’s in Meracydia? That’s the fun part. We don’t know. Of all the continents in the game, that’s the one which has the absolute least in-game information. There could be snakes, there could be dragons, there could be a whole new group of people, we won’t know until we head down there. And there’s every reason to suspect that there’s something hidden there we will want in-character.
 
By contrast, we know some of what’s in the New World. But not much. In both cases, we’re going into places that we haven’t had contact with in a long while.
 
To facilitate this, of course, we’re going to have a fair amount of storytelling leading up to the next expansion. Which is showing off the split we’ve already seen so far. The next patch is focusing on rebuilding Doma, but the patch after that will likely bring us back to Ala Mhigo, and then the patch after that will send us to Doma again. We’re doing the hard work of rebuilding these nations, or at least helping in the process, but we’re also swapping back and forth so that neither one feels less important. (It’s also entirely possible that 4.3 will still place us in Doma before heading back to Ala Mhigo for 4.4; the principle is the same.)
 
Doma, on the bright side, has a government to put back in place. Ala Mhigo doesn’t. But by 4.4 I suspect that both will be approaching a point where we can consider those stories reasonably closed; not finished, but ready for us as players to move on to the next set of challenges and problems in the world.
 
As a result, we likely won’t see a repeat of the Heavensward trick where the expansion story wraps up in the third patch; I suspect that there won’t be a clean wrap-up moment at all, in fact. While Heavensward ended with a satisfying conclusion and a big open question mark, Stormblood took care of its major villain over the course of the expansion itself; even if we find out (as some suspect) that Zenos has been made a puppet of the Ascians, it’s not really him any longer. We won. The theme seems to be making our former enemies into allies, or at least individuals we learn to understand. That’s a different dynamic.
 
The bright side, of course, is that we’re not going to have another big final boss trial shoehorned into the middle like Nidhogg was. The down side is, well, it’s going to be hard to build up an antagonist to be nearly as resonant as Zenos was… unless, of course, we spend these interim patches getting to know our next major villain in a more intimate fashion. (Which probably wouldn’t include anyone we’ve already met; nobody needs help hating Lolorito at this point, and he’s not the sort of villain that directly fights us. There’s more to it than that.)
 
If we are going to have a big villainous introduction, I honestly think that it’s going to happen in the next patch. After all, most of the obvious problems can be dealt with very quickly; once Gosetsu winds up back where he needs to be, that plot is resolved almost trivially. So if there’s something worse waiting in the wings, now’s the time to learn about it.
 
Look out, Radioactive Man!
 
What about content? Obviously, 4.4 will bring with it the end of the Omega series, and 4.2 is already bringing a new form of exploratory mission and new dungeons. It’s not hard to picture 4.3 with the next part of Ivalice, most likely leading us into another set of areas well-remembered from Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, and we do have just about enough bosses to really keep exploring them without much overlap.
 
I also rather hope that this ties into the lore of the Empire, because there’s something we see hinted at in Rabanastre that had never really been cleanly established. The Empire hates Primals, but it’s never been clarified why; what we do know is that Rabanastre ends with a vital piece of Auracite in Ba’gamnan’s hands, and it’s quite possible that we could find out why the Empire is afraid of Primals (or similar such beings) and why the Empire hates beast tribes (which the Bangaa seem to be) in one fell swoop.
 
We’ll probably also see the next bit of Deep Dungeon content in 4.3, giving us a new spot to go other than the Palace of the Dead over and over. That’s in addition to all of the other content that we’ll get along the way, including what I expect to be more Custom Delivery clients, more dungeons, and so forth.
 
Last but not least, I honestly think we’ll see something entirely new this coming year. That’s pretty much usual, too; we don’t know what it’s going to be, but we’ll see something that’s new and different from what has come before, a new form of content. The game has a long history of putting together mid-expansion bits like that. I can’t speculate on what it might be, but something that occurs to me is the idea of going the opposite route from most dungeon content, having longer runs with bigger or more long-form rewards.