So, as the patch has been out over a week, it’s finally time for me to talk about the 3.5 story. There will be spoilers… for pretty much all of 3.0 as I want to think out loud about story things in general.
Since Heavensward launched and we started to gather the Scions again, I got the feeling that the story team was making some choices in the main characters they would keep going forward. What do I mean by this?
Well, a number of main characters, including the Scions, were created back during the 1.0 era of the game. Probably by a different set of writers and character designers — I don’t know. I’m not sure how the writing and design team changed between 1.0 and 2.0. But suffice to say, any new writers coming into ARR were going to write about characters whom they didn’t create.
Maybe it was a bit like a fanfic in a way. I’m sure some of these writers were fans of the original characters, but they needed to take ownership of them for the characters to fully be theirs. I think as the team worked through 2.0, they were forming attachments, trying to walk a line between holding on to original canon and continuity for the 1.0 players, and figuring out who they wanted the Scions to be in the future.
So, part of the 2.0 ending that scattered the Scions was done for shock and story purpose. But I also wonder if it was a way they could begin to restructure these characters as their own.
Taking Ownership as a Writer
Many people joke about how Tataru is making new clothes for the Scions as they return to the story, but I see this as something very important as a writer. I sensed this was not just the writers giving established characters a new look for an expansion, but also a way of taking ownership over them.
Notice that when characters like Y’shtola and Thancred are reintroduced, it’s not just with new clothes, but slightly different skills and a deepened sense of individual internal turmoil. Or, the characters have grown into something completely new, such as Alisaie. We even got to see Urianger’s face, and a new look for him for a little while!
Culling the Ranks
It didn’t surprise me when they started removing some of the Scions, even the ones that got a slightly new look or station within the plot. They had to do it delicately, and make it seem like a big deal send off. Afterall, they are removing characters that the players have formed attachments to over many years.
The first character they removed from the picture was Minfilia. This makes sense because she’s sometimes viewed by the community as a rather do-nothing character. I mean, she is the leader, and I’m sure she does office stuff all day, but to players, she’s just the one calling them for fetch quests on their linkpearl.
In Heavensward, they “elevated” her station by fusing her with Hydaelyn, which was always a rather uncomfortable story point to me. But now that I’ve seen their Warrior of Darkness scenario play out, it sorta makes sense what they were setting up.
I do question, though, with the brevity of the WoD storyline, was it intended to be a plot device just to shed the story of Minfilia by making it a huge, dramatic exit for her? I guess we did get to know a bit more about the balance of the universe through it, but it all happened so fast, and felt a tad contrived.
Anyhow, the outcome of the story arc is that Minfilia goes to this alternate dimension with the WoD group in order to help them regain balance in their world. Of course, she won’t be able to return to Eorzea. So, she doesn’t die, but she’s effectively removed from the future story (unless we travel to that dimension, which is now a possibility).
Now, they’ve also exited Papalymo with patch 3.5 in a move that was already guessed by the lore-hounds the moment he got his hands on Tupsimati. Of course, they needed to make sure he went out with a bang, thus the whole re-creation of Louoisoix’s spell at the Wall and all that.
So what’s the reason behind removing Papalymo from the story?
Did he just not serve a higher purpose anymore? Was it for shock value, or the writers flexing their muscles showing that “no one is safe” (they better not pull another Nanamo)? Did he actually hold back Yda’s character development, especially with all the foreshadowing and guesswork being done about that right now? Did they just not know how to make his character their own through re-design?
Or maybe a little bit of all these things.
Now, despite me musing about this topic out loud, I’m in no way chiding the writers for their choice to kill off long-term characters. They’re the only ones who have the foresight as to where the story is going. And while some of this seems like drama for drama sake, a story has to have drama to be interesting.
If they felt like certain characters were no longer useful to keep around, maybe the best thing they can do is find a meaningful way to remove them from the story. It’s better than just leaving them on the sidelines forgotten by all but those most dedicated to the lore.
We’ve had no shortage of new characters introduced through the years. And writers have to be very careful not to let the number get too large and too scattered because someone always gets lost along the way.
I guess the biggest question now is whether the writers have culled all the characters needed on the approach to Stormblood. We all have a pretty good guess of what may be in store for Yda’s character transformation… perhaps the loss of Papalymo is a catalyst for this?
What do you think?
PS – Please quit re-using Nidhogg’s eyes as a plot crutch. We killed him already. That should be done and over with.
It’s just…. Sloppeh.