Since I finished Heavensward I have been thinking about the best way to write about its story. There is so much I'd like to talk about it but trying to make it not sound like some endless ramble full of pointless asides is tough.
I will try my best to not ramble aimlessly though. If I do or end up forgetting some important point please forgive me, or better yet, post about it in the comments. Also, I will be just discussing the main quest story line since that is what I focused on just so I could reach Stormblood's content. Everything else about Heavensward I wasn't able to experience just yet. I will go back to it (as well as to a lot of ARR's content) as soon as I feel caught up with other people.
With that said let's move on to the actual post...
P.S.: Apologies for the delay but this one was hard to write!
WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for Heavensward's Main Storyline
To me A Realm Reborn's storyline was a pretty straightforward "Hero's Journey". We start as humble adventurers dealing with some local nuisances then move on to punch (or use your attack type of choice) Primals along the way until we save the world Eorzea from the invasion of the Garlean Empire while also throwing a wrench at the Ascian's plans (or just Lahabrea's plans. Really, it seems like every time a different ascian appears on this game they spout some cryptic thing that is supposed to sound like a different plan than last time.)
Although I did like that story line it also felt extremely safe to me. Which I can completely understand, I mean, it was the game's relaunch so they couldn't do some crazy story line. If they failed this time there wouldn't be a third chance.
The other reason I can think of for that is because they had a lot of recurring characters and concepts they had to introduce to players new to the game.
It wasn't until the patches storylines that they started to get free of those shackles and play a bit more looser with the story. First with the introduction of the Doma refugees which showed the really nasty side of Ul'Dah's politics, the creation of the Crystal Braves, the Warrior of Light losing Hydaelyn's blessings and everything culminating with the betrayal of the Crystal Braves, the assassination attempt of Nanamo Ul-Namo, the Warrior of Light being framed for it and the possible sacrifice of the Scions.
It was a big cliffhanger to create before an expansion, even more so considering they took their time to solve a lot of those questions so it didn't steal the spotlight of Heavensward's story.
It was also a pretty clever way to give a soft restart to the Hero's Journey. With the Warrior of Light and what is left of the Scions being branded murderers and traitors they have no choice but to seek refuge in Ishgard, an isolationist nation that doesn't give a damn about us or what we did to help the people outside their borders. They have their own problems to deal with and helping us isn't one of them.
Where it differs from the ARR's "Hero's Journey" for me is the role we play on it. In ARR we are pretty much the one who solves all the problems. Yes, we do get help from the Scions where necessary but ultimately all the problems are the types that require someone to defeat a powerful enemy.
On Heavensward the problem is a bit more complicated due to it being a war in which one of the sides built their whole society in a lie and the other remembering the beginning of it, which was thousands of years ago, like it was just yesterday.
So, it is not a case of just going to Nidhogg's lair, beating him and calling it a day. No, it is up to others to work for a peace between the dragons and Ishgardians as well as enabling political reforms to guarantee a better future for everyone.
Perhaps if I break it down my point will make more sense:
- If it wasn't for our interactions with Ysayle then Alphinaud would probably not have the idea to try asking for help to parlay a peace with the dragons.
- With our help the party was able to make the journey to meet Hraesvelgr and find the truth about the war's beginning.
- Because of what we find out, Aymeric decides to confront his father about it, gets imprisoned and in the process of rescuing him we discover the Arch-Bishop's mad plan.
- With the Arch-Bishop's death, Aymeric takes on his position and is able to make a peace agreement with the dragons, get Ishgard back in the Eorzea Alliance and turn Ishgard into a republic.
So although our role was definitely important there were also others that without their actions Ishgard would never have found the peace they sought.
That is something I quite like, I am fine being just the guy who punches the bad people and let other do other important stuff too. It makes the world feels more real to me and less likely I am the only one doing something save the world.
In that regard I feel Heavensward did an excellent job.
The Warriors of Light
When I first encountered the Warriors of Darkness in the game I thought it would be an interesting little story line. Instead by the end of it I was more confused than anything.
According to that story there are 13 parallel worlds just like the one we play in. In one of those worlds, the Warriors of Darkness were so successful they were able to completely eliminate the Darkness. Except they found out that a world full of Light can be just as terrible as one full of Darkness.
Now this is where I get confused. Isn't Hydaelyn, the Light itself? If so, in our fight against the Ascians aren't we going down the same road as the Warriors of Darkness? If she is the Light then the line she says about sending Minfilia to the Warriors of Darkness' world to absorb the abundant light seems a bit strange.
Also, now I am wondering if all that happens in those cutscenes actually happen, but in a different world.
There is only one question in all this that I am sure I have the answer for: Am I overthinking this much? Yes, yes I am.
A note about our companions in this journey
Of course, I couldn't make a post about Heanvesward story without talking about some of the people that were part in our journey. 🙂
First is Alphinaud. In ARR he always felt like an arrogant brat to me. Even he himself admitted so much in Heavensward. I am just sad that it was necessary the betrayal of the Crystal Braves and the ensuing tragedy for him to change his ways. But I also think both Estinien and Ysayle also had a good influence on him, making him a much more mature person by the end of the story. 🙂
In ARR I always felt like Tataru was a fluffy character. But in Heavensward I really appreciated his ability to not only gather information but also providing moral support to the heroes when they needed it. Now I think Tataru is the best secretary, accountant, information gatherer, seamstress and overall friend for the Scions.
Ysayle is probably the most tragic character. She starts off as a misguided villain, realizes everything she believed in was a lie and ultimately sacrifices herself so we can complete our mission. It makes me wonder if she ever had a moment of happiness.
For most of the story I felt Estinien was nothing but Mr. Grumpy Pants. But by the end of it I realized how much his desire for revenge had shaped him and even he himself admitted to that once we saved him from Nidhogg. I am glad that at the end of the Dragonsong War he seemed to finally have found some peace.
Estinien's bickering with Ysayle were always amusing though. 🙂
Haucherfant's sacrifice wasn't a complete surprise to me (thanks to some screenshots I saw on twitter before Stormblood's relase) but it was still felt very tragic. He was the first Ishgardian I met that didn't feel like a complete douchebag and I wish we could have spent more time with him during Heavensward.
I don't have much to say about Aymeric and Lucia besides I liked them and it was nice to know more about their back stories.
Y'Shtola really grew on me during this expansion. Back in 1.0 during the first initial scenes she always felt a bit stalkerish to me. But maybe that might have been more a cat's curiosity about an adventurer than anything else. It was nice to actually spend some time travelling with her on this expansion though as well as to know more about her mentor in the arts of magic.
Thancreed is also another that grew on me during Heavensward. I like they gave him a bit of the depth they only hinted at during ARR. That despite he trying to appear to be like a carefree, ladies' men, he cares a great deal about his friends and tries to deal as best as he can with the times he couldn't been of more help.
Papalymo is one I never had any strong feelings about, one way or another. But I am still sad that he had to sacrifice himself to stop the new Primal. 🙁
Phew. Alright I think that is all I have to say about Heavensward now. Next one will probably be about Stormblood! 🙂