Quote Originally Posted by Calemyr View Post
Basic map of the game as is:
Spoiler: A Nutshell Synopsis.

2.0: A Realm Reborn, or This is Eorzea - After a catastrophe wipes out the great heroes of the last age, a nobody appears from nowhere and gets pulled, somewhat unwillingly, into a world of rival city-states, wild demi-human races and their destructive gods, a magitech-obsessed conquering Empire, and a band of mysterious masked summoners who take entirely too much interest in the aforementioned nobody. This nobody joins a party of heroes, known as the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, and quickly gains renown for their achievements. This portion is almost entirely world-building - you are just one of many adventurers and by no means the most important in any group you run with.

2.X: Postgame, or Finding a New Balance - With several major threats pushed back for a time, the Scions find themselves increasingly taxed by Primals summoned by the demi-human races. While they struggle to keep the damage to a minimum, they decide they need to reorganize to better handle the Primal threat, making deals with power players around the continent to gain the backing for their plan. Meanwhile the masked summoners, the Ascians, grow ever more interested in the main character. This portion shows you as an elite adventurer, capable of taking on any fight but hampered by things you can't just sword your way through, such as logistics, politics, and funding.

3.0: Heavensward, or Old Wounds - Seeking aid from the infamously isolationist city-state of Ishgard, the Scions find themselves caught up in a millennia old war between Ishgard and the dragons that they share the mountains with, and decide to try forging a peace between them. Meanwhile, the Ascians seem to have the ear of Ishgard's church, whispering in the archbishop's ear about a path not to peace, but to victory. The tone of Heavensward is desperate and dour, as the new city-state is a near-frozen stone fortress of grim dragonslayers who have known nothing but war since the day they were born, and your fame and success don't mean much here your prey of choice has been Primals and not dragons. Because it's so focused on a single city-state and it's affairs, the story ends up being a lot more personal, with your character having a far more personal stake in things than before.

3.X: Postgame, or Give Peace a Chance - Peace is not a binary state, even when won by heroes. The long memories of the dragons and the war-hardened culture of Ishgard make it very hard for both sides to tolerate the truce declared between them. Agitants on both sides make negotiations tenuous at best. Meanwhile, Ala Migho, a city-state that's been under Imperial control for a generation, is showing signs of a nascent rebellion - and it seems intent on dragging its neighbors, the Grand Alliance, into the struggle. As with the 2.X postgame, a lot of the story here revolves around threats that can't just be beaten into submission, particularly hatred and prejudice, but the tone is decidedly more optimistic than it was in 3.0. The main character begins to reach the levels of out-and-out hero worship, and most regard them as, quite possibly, the single most influential being alive on the continent, while all other players are treated as elite adventurers you call in when things get rough.

4.0: Stormblood, or The Things I Do For a Spunky Blonde... - The Ala Mighan rebellion is proving to have some legs, so the Grand Alliance decides to back it, recruiting the Scions' aid and, more to the point, the main character. Despite gains made, the rebellion runs into a brick wall when faced with the provincial viceroy, none other than the Emperor's son, a devastating swordsman that makes Primals look like playthings. Unable to overcome this threat, they try to force the Empire to divide their forces between Ala Migho and Doma, another conquered land in the far east. They send a few Scions (including you) there to start another front in the rebellion. At this point, you are no longer just considered the Big Gun of the Scions, you are considered the Nuclear Option for the Grand Alliance. The great and the powerful regard you with affection and awe, and the Scions to whom you were once a mere auxiliary now actively struggle to keep up and resent leaving all the heavy lifting to you.

4.X: Postgame, or A Solid Argument for Cremation - Driven out of both Doma and Ala Migho, the Empire adopts a new strategy to cope with their defeat: flat-out denying that they lost and doubling down on the lengths they'll go to, while the Grand Alliance struggles with the logistics of trying to prop up a devastated Ala Migho and Doma deals with its own aftermath. The Scions are left running around putting out fires as setting up defenses while the Empire employs various schemes reclaim their lost territories - or at least make the losses worth something. To make matters worse, a mysterious voice that only the Scions can hear keeps calling for their help, a call that is greatly unsettling them even on the eve of the Empire's most brutal counter-attack. As with Stormblood, you are the greatest weapon Eorzea has. Everyone, Grand Company commanders, civic authorities, legendary heroes, and even your fellow scions, are in awe of your ability and readily acknowledge they rely on you far more than they should as well as more than you should be expected to endure. As with every Postgame, however, you are confronted with passive kinds of threats that you can't fight your way through and even when you can a victory doesn't win you much.

So, yeah, writing this up, I noticed something of a pattern, with expansions introducing a lot of "hard" threats that can be fought, while the postgame storylines largely confront you with "soft" threats, obstacles you can't just overpower, meaning that it's when you're at your strongest you tend to be particularly powerless... It reminds me a lot of the Joker from The Dark Knight: "All that strength, and there's nothing you can do with it..."
Can I just say that i really like this analysis of the way the story-line plays out? The inclusion of these 'soft' threats also makes the game far more exciting than most other MMO's (and many non-MMO's as well). As its a game, you pretty much know you're going to be ripping those hard threats a new one, as that's just what videogame protagonists do. However, the soft threats are far more interesting from a narrative standpoint as there's really no reason to think things will all go your way, and often they don't, or only barely do. The ending of 2.X in particular really reinforced the notion that things can go badly wrong for you and means that events that I'd have shrugged off in other games ('there's no way this character will actually die') are a lot more scary and intense in this game.