The newest expansion is only a little over a month away, and the excitement is mounting. Ever since that first trailer was shown at Vana'fest, I've had all these different ideas and theories, as well as a few hopes and desires, floating around my head over what we'll see when we take that first step into Ulbuka, and I felt now was the best time to share this. So pull up your favorite chair and relax, as I share with you my thoughts as I await Adoulin.
Have a theory of your own that you want to share, or just disagree with something I may have said? Let me know what's on your mind over on the ZAM forums!
Please note that this is my personal speculation of Seekers of Adoulin and should not be considered the viewpoints of ZAM
As I stand here, overlooking the Sea of Zafmlug...hold on, this doesn't look right.
*runs out to Lufaise Meadows*
Where was I? Oh yes! *clears throat*
As I stand here, looking over the Sea of Zafmlug, I can't help ponder what it'll be like come next month, when thousands of adventurers, including myself, will make the trip across this body of water to the unexplored lands of Adoulin and the continent of Ulbuka. We know so very little about what we'll be able to do and what challenges we'll be facing that it rekindles that feeling of exploration and adventure that most feel has faded away. What will we find on this land to the west? Only time will tell, but that's not going to stop me from making a few assumptions and speculations as to just what we might be seeing come the end of March.
Let's look first at what is undeniably one of the most important aspects of this expansion, the main story. We've seen the swordmaiden, who will likely be this expansion's heroine, much like Prishe and Lilisette before her. We also know a small bit of history about Adoulin, most notably King August and the formation of the "Twelve Swords" as I like to call them, made up of August and the eleven knights that served by his side. I believe that this original "Twelve Swords" leads to the creation of the twelve Great Houses mentioned among the backdrop of the "New Tales" in the first trailer for the expansion. I feel that these Great Houses will play heavily in SoA's storyline, perhaps warring amongst themselves and we're to bring peace to them in order to face a common threat. What about the swordmaiden then? What ties does she have to all this? It's possible that she'll start out as just a low soldier, important in her own right but no one presently of any importance, that will be revealed as the potential heir to Adoulin's throne, and it is up to her to restore peace amongst the Twelve Houses to bring about the restoration of the Twelve Swords to defeat. Now, when I say a threat, I don't mean the Naakuals, the seven native warlords of the lands of Ulbuka. Nor am I referring to the beastmen species known as the Velkk, which I feel, while perhaps formidable in their own right, aren't such an overwhelming threat given their apparent prevalence in the region. No, I feel that the threat being faced by Adoulin will come from Tartarus, another bullet point in the first trailer.
In Greek mythology, Tartarus was a pit existing below the underworld that served as a prison for the most villainous of souls. Those judged to be sent to Tartarus were bound to an eternity of torture befitting the actions they committed in life that resulted in them being sent. Seems like a rather fitting place for a major villain, along the lines of the Zilart brothers and Promathia, to originate from. It's possible that this being is something originally trapped in Tartarus by August and his eleven knights during their first expansion into the frontier, and that upon its escape and subsequent attacks, only the revived Twelve Swords will be able to imprison it once again. This would tie the original Twelve Swords back into the present day, and further drive home the fact that these new Great Houses need to work together, because only a united front from those houses stand a chance.
Going back to the Velkk, I have my suspicions that perhaps there may be some connection between them and the Near East beastmen species, the Mamool Ja. Now, I don't just mean that because they're both lizard-like, though that is a big part of it. I mean, if the Velkk ended up being giant, mutant rabbits, I wouldn't jump (Get it? Because they're rabbits?) to connect the two. No, there are some more specific similarities between them that lead me to make this potential connection.
The two species have very similar color patterns for their two distinctive types (melee and mage), with the melee of both being brown and the mages being blue, though the Velkk's melee is considerably darker. More importantly though is the design of the equipment we see them wearing. The headpieces of the mage Velkk, for example, resemble the general design of some of the unique staves for the mage type Mamool Ja as well as some of the structures and objects found in the Mamool Ja stronghold, Mamook. The environments the two races choose to reside in are somewhat similar, being what looks like a somewhat temperate area, and their levels of technology seem to be similar, as both have developed bladed weapons but also rely or choose to use animal hides for their adornment. This suggests that perhaps they both share a common ancestry, or are a case of convergent evolution. If it is a common ancestor, it's possible that the Ulbuka continent and the Aradjiah continent are physically connected to one another, possibly by the oft-mentioned, but never seen "Far East" lands. There is a land mass connected to Aradjiah to the north and east, and possibly one connected to Ulbuka from the west. Should such a land mass between the two exist, I believe that some members of the ancestral species may have reached Ulbuka, but were cut off due to the ever-changing landscape, thus resulting in the species splitting off, retaining some elements of their shared ancestry, but otherwise evolving and adapting to suit the demands of their environment, thus creating the Velkk and the Mamool Ja.
Now that we've got what I believe the the storyline will involve, let's look at the job I've been looking forward to since the day it was announced, Rune Fencer. Besides that it is a new "tank" job and a Great Sword wielder, not to mention I think I'll look so snazzy in that Artifact armor, the fact that it deals with runes intrigues me. I'm not saying that just because I like the premise behind elemental symbols augmenting your abilities and fighting capacity, but because I have a soft spot for lore and I'm extremely curious about its backstory. I believe though that at least an element of the job's story, and perhaps a significant element of the job itself, is Yggdrasil, yet another bullet point.
What is Yggdrasil? As far as what it will be in the expansion I don't know. Perhaps it's some creature or being, or perhaps just a location, but its real life mythical roots (HA!) has ties to the mythology behind a certain Celestial Avatar that has popped up as a major player in the last two full expansions, the Dark Rider Odin. Yggdrasil, in Norse mythology, was the World Tree, an immensely large ash tree which supported the nine worlds said to exist. Now what does this have to do with Rune Fencer, you might be asking? In one of his many actions to obtain further power and knowledge, Odin sacrificed himself to himself upon Yggdrasil by hanging upon it for nine days, pierced by his spear Gungnir, in order to learn runes. Now, I don't know if this means that the avatar Odin will be making another appearance, or that aspiring Rune Fencers will need to spend nine days and nights tied to a tree, but given the influence that real world mythology has in the game, I won't be surprised if Yggdrasil is a big part of the Rune Fencer quest lines.
With that out of the way, what are some of the things I'm expecting we'll find over there? This is probably very biased, but I'm hoping for Dragoons. As some of you may know, one of my favorite jobs has been Dragoon. It was the first job I ever took to level 75, amidst the height of the whole "lol dragoon" phase where the most activity you were going to see in a day usually consisted of finding a new place to sit in Lower Jeuno while looking for a party. It's what I took through a good deal of the Rise of the Zilart expansion, despite criticism from those not in my linkshell at the time. My first relic weapon was even a Gungnir, which I still get some flak over to this day. Needless to say, Dragoon has been a favorite of mine, so I'm hopeful for what I'll find in Adoulin.
My hopes stem from the Wings of the Goddess non-playable character Achtelle, a Dragoon who originally came from Adoulin that speaks as though a population of Dragoon were still thriving in her homeland despite being all but extinct in Quon. This means that, at least as of twenty years ago, Dragoons existed in Adoulin, which means that there's a chance that the same population still exists in some form. What would I be wanting from this? Well, I'm not looking for any new special abilities or ultra-cool Dragoon only gear, though a change to my Gungnir would be nice (Shock Spikes? Really?). No, what I'd really like is just to delve more into the Dragoon mythology. The history of Vana'diel and all the different aspects of it has been one of the big reasons that I continue playing, and the chance to learn about more of the history of one of my favorite jobs is something that I'm really excited about. I'd like to learn more about the bond we share with our wyverns, why the Dragoons split up and took the long trip across Zafmlug, and things along those lines. The lore surrounding Dragoon is ripe to be expanded on in my opinion, and I feel that Adoulin is where we'll find some of this history.
My Dragoon enthusiasm aside, what do I hope to see? I hope that the "frontier" aspect of the expansion allows for constantly dynamic environments. Now, I know that being able to change the landscape has already been a confirmed aspect, but what I'm meaning is something that has to be constantly addressed, something I can't just clear one day and expect to still be that same way a week down the road. You can have certain areas of any given map ones that won't change, but perhaps make it so that the path you took to get to one point earlier will be completely overgrown a few minutes later, thus requiring that I clear the way or find another route. I like the concept of the land itself being untamed and it is something that myself and others are constantly needing to take into account. Sure, some people might find it irritating that they can't just run right through the same path created by someone else an hour ago or something, but personally, I like that it adds that element of suspense and danger to exploration, as well as keeping things fresh.
"Will this log bridge I just crossed over be here on my way back?"
"Is this empty river bed suddenly going to be filled with water?"
It's those kinds of elements that make the adventure all the more exhilarating for me. We won't necessarily know the beaten path to and from a given area because that beaten path doesn't exist anymore and would need reforged. Every day would mean a new challenge and a new adventure.
In the end though, I can say without reservation that I'm excited for this expansion. It's been so long since we've had brand new lands to explore, new jobs to level, and new stories to be part of, that my anticipation is extremely high for this. Come March, I know that I'll be one of those joining the expedition to Ulbuka's savage lands, but until then, I am certainly awaiting Adoulin!