A new year, a new game and time for a new round of predictions with the added bonus that Kuro is basically terra incognita compared to all the other games that have come out since this site got started.
What’s in a name?
I really like Hellseye’s notion that Calvard is derived from the Latin verb Calvor, meaning ‘to deceive’. Every other major country has a Significant Name (Liberl comes from the Latin word for freedom, Crossbell is the metaphorical crossroad and bas BELLS, Erebonia comes from the Greek primordial god of darkness) so it fits that Calvard’s name should be similarly important. While we’re at it, the site of what I assume is going to be the final arc is Leman and Arteria combined, the former being a very old name for Lake Geneva in Switzerland (all the place-names we saw from SC are also Swiss) and the latter comes from Ancient Greek, is the root of the English word ‘artery’ and is the spiritual heart of Zemuria, where septium veins are a crucial plot element.
So, significant name and I buy into the idea that ‘Truth and Lies’ are going to be a key element in the plot of the arc. We know at least one of our party members is actively lying about something significant and there are a few others who are probably not going to be completely honest about things at first, so it extends to the group as well. For a while I entertained the idea that Agnes’ missing orbment is something similar to the aletheiometer from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, being a device to tell truth from lies. Now I’m not sold on that idea (mainly because the symbols around the edge are repeating rather than unique) but it’s definitely Important in some way, more to come.
Kondo has mentioned that the plan is for future arcs to be two games apiece. Assuming that holds, we can make a pretty good guess at some important plot developments based on past examples. As with the first game (or two games for Erebonia) in an arc we can reasonably assume that the main antagonists of the first game will not be the antagonists of the arc as a whole and we’re one for three in getting obvious information on the local Sept-Terrion in the first half, that being how Aureole was identified by name in FC. I expect that to continue here though we’ll probably get some hints that will be obvious in retrospect, like the reference in Zero to ‘D’. We’re also one for three in getting the actual antagonists interested in the Sept-Terrion being revealed, with Ouroboros making its formal debut also in FC. I expect Kuro will actually give us more to work with here though, which lets me segue into…
The Realm of Terror
Our blatantly obvious antagonist for this game is the mafia group Almata, first introduced in Beyond the Beginning as a group seeking progress through the application of terror. Their name is in fact derived from the Greek word meaning ‘Progress’. I have a couple predictions about them, first and foremost being that they’re going to be our starter villains rather than our Sept-Terrion-linked ones, but I’m going to add something to the obvious: That we already know who’s manipulating them. Of the introduced members we have their leader Gerard, three executives and two individuals explicitly identified as collaborators who have interests that align with Almata but who have other goals. In what is I’m sure a total coincidence, both are known by titles in addition to their names while nobody else in Almata is, and they both have a religious theme to them: Arioch is named for a demon and Olympia is the location of the famous sanctuary in Greece. While a large part of the support for my theory about the Garden was kicked out from under it, I do suspect that the Garden is still inspired by Alamut and that Almata’s two members ultimately owe their allegiance to that organization. Olympia in particular sounds like someone who’s gone through the Garden’s dehumanizing training, with her profile telling us that she sees not only others but also herself as things rather than people. I also expect that when the time comes to reveal their true colors, they’re going to give Gerard the terror he so craves in a manner he didn’t see coming. However, I also don’t think the Garden is going to be our arc villain, though they’ve been retained by the arc villain for this purpose.
As for what Almata plans, I think Falcom has given us all the clues we need. If you look at the group shot in the opening movie at the right times, you’ll see something very, very interesting:
Here’s one example where we’ve seen this before:
Yep, it’s the damned septium veins again. Those seemingly natural and yet extremely suspicious veins of energy that can be used as a power source, as an information conduit, a teleportation network or even drain mana from people. With everything we know they can do, it’s no stretch to imagine that the might also be able to induce a desired emotional response with the right prodding. Terror, let’s say. I think that Almata’s goal is to excite the veins in some way so as to cause people to experience terror, directed in a certain way to prove Gerard’s beliefs and carry out whatever his end goal is. And I think they’re the ones responsible for the theft of Agnes’ orbment and the reason is that they need it for their plans. Consider this image:
That is the exact same design as Agnes’ orbment, which suggests that it’s a key of some sort that’s needed to summon and/or control this ominous tower. I’m also going to speculate that the same orbment is responsible for Van’s ability to become Grendel (as we’re told Mare can only manifest after a certain incident) and that in a twist of irony (for Almata) that will be the undoing of their plans. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Van’s transformation is referred to as making him ‘nightmare-clad’,, which is also a refrain in the opening song and Van mentions in the trailer that he’s been experiencing a nightmare for the past decade. By forcing himself to confront this nightmare, Van and by extension the party will ultimately have the means to overcome the terror that Almata is attempting to spread.
Building on this, I suspect that the true antagonists of this arc are going to be our mysterious friends at MTSC. They were introduced in a suitably shocking way in Hajimari’s postgame as a group able to break into the Celestial Globe and who Novartis places above the Church and Epstein Foundation in their potential to interfere. That sounds very much like a group that might be sitting on a lot of pre-Collapse technology and knowledge, albeit one that has apparently only been active in recent years. We know they developed some of the technology that goes into the XIPHA, including being the source for Mare and the ‘Nightmare’ Grendel. I have a strong feeling that they (and Gramheart) are using Almata as catspaws, pitting fear against fear as some necessary precondition to obtaining the Sept-Terrion of Wind, which should govern ‘Mind’.
We know from Hajimari that Gramheart is investigating Possible Worlds, which is a philosophical concept involving other ways in which the world we live in could have been. I believe that our real antagonists are manipulating Almata to see if they can make people believe one form of a lie (whatever terror they attempt to induce) in order to test the proposition that they could ultimately induce belief in an entire possible world. I also think that the reason Ouroboros is so willing to work with Gramheart in this instance is that they’re also interested in the concept of possible worlds. Campanella uses that specific term to refer to Zemuria and I suspect that Ouroboros’ overarching goal is to determine if Zemuria is, as Leibniz put it ‘the best of all possible worlds’.
Since I never did a proper Sen IV post-mortem, I’ll add here that I think the reason the next phase of Orpheus is named Eternal Recurrence is that it’s a safety valve: If the Nothingness arrives at Time Index X then the experiment has failed, break glass, pull the lever and try again. The term refers to another philosophical thought experiment, this one by Nietzsche, who posited the idea that all existence repeated endlessly. The point of the thought experiment was not whether it’s true but how you react to the notion that your life and everything that is will eventually repeat itself again, exactly the same as before, eternally.
I think Ouroboros (itself a symbol of eternity) has placed Zemuria into a cycle of recurrence until the Grandmaster (the one person aware of the cycle and thus able to change things) gets it all right when ‘X’ arrives, whatever that entails. This also nicely explains why she is able to predict the outcome of events with such spooky accuracy when even AZOTH isn’t able to account for the unpredictable possibilities of human existence: The Grandmaster isn’t seeing the future but simply remembering an unknown number of past cycles and using that to determine the most likely outcome of this cycle. If I’m right, it also means that as soon as we get to ‘X’ she’ll be as in the dark about what happens next as we are because she’s never gotten past that point before in any repetition of the cycle.
Here’s my grab-bag of predictions that don’t need a small essay to describe, starting with the really obvious ones.
- Judith is Grimcats (no, really!)
- Quatre is the same person from Renne’s recollection in Star Door 15, who was removed from Paradise for reasons unknown and so survived unlike the other children. He should have the same ‘Gnosis eyes’ as Renne and Tio so I suspect that he’s wearing color contacts.
- Bergard is Barkhorn and you have no idea how happy his announcement made me.
- The above two points are so obvious that I’m certain Falcom is using them as a kind of misdirection, wanting us to pay attention to them so we can catch the evidence to confirm their identities before it’s formally revealed, and while we’re busy doing that the idea is that we won’t catch something else that they’re trying to slip past us. I’m on to you Falcom…
- ‘Hime’ isn’t just a nickname and Shizuna is in fact a princess of Zemurian Not!Japan. Her name is conspicuously similar to Princess Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi from Cross Ange and her S-Craft is prefixed with 皇技, meaning ‘Imperial Skill’.
- Related to this, with the implication that Shizuna will work with the party based on having high Law and Chaos Alignment, I’m going to predict that she and Ikaruga as a whole value the idea of order and rules on an internal basis but their current goals are forcing them to act outside the bounds of established systems. I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain Butcher who’s mentioned as having carved a path of corpses through the East has something to do with this.
- Risette is an android. I have very little hard evidence for this but she’s noted to be superhumanly quick and strong to the point that she surpasses top-tier jaegers. While this could be explained in other ways, we already have a Gnosis victim in the party and we just spent five games with a maid who was secretly a former assassin and Enforcer, so I think we’re going to be doing something different with her. Based on the evidence we have, if anyone in Zemuria could make an android maid it would be MTSC. This may even have been foreshadowed with the Heartless Edgar books.
- Agnes is related in some way to Gramheart, because the juxtaposition of those two in the opening movie is extremely suspicious. I don’t think they’re father and daughter though, as we just had that story beat in Erebonia. Uncle and niece, maybe.
- Related to that, I think that Agnes (and by extension Gramheart) have some familial ties to Calvard’s Ancien Régime, and yes I’m using that term for it until Falcom demonstrates otherwise. We’re told that we’ll see structures connected to the old monarchy and it wouldn’t be at all surprising for their to be at least some descendants of the old line still around. We know the revolution was not a pretty picture and involved assassinations, so it’s quite likely that a lot of the royal line were killed during those years and any descendants of the old royal house or extended nobility would probably be keeping a low profile. One thing I find very suspicious is that Agnes’ shop-specific DLC costume is noted to be a dress in the style of the old monarchy. Both the other characters have personal connections to their outfits (Feri’s is associated with her clan ,Risette’s with MTSC) so I think there’s something significant about Agnes’ outfit being explicitly linked to the old regime, even if it’s only a fashion statement.
- The ‘Arkride-sensei’ who Walter refers to is Van’s mother rather than his father. I don’t think he’s being sarcastic and referring to Van; that’s not the way he usually talks.
- The Gralsritter seen in the opening with the pale hair is either the Third or Eleventh Dominion, those being the two numbers that Hajimari teased so it makes sense that the next one revealed will fill one of those spots. I’m guessing that they’ll wind up being the Third Dominion, and Eleventh will turn out to be Gaius’ real position among the Dominion.
- For absolute Peak Crack: Yumé is more than she appears. First, this is Kiseki and it’s almost mandatory for the little girl to have a secret whether they know it or not. She’s been shown off in promotional art and gotten a surprising amount of attention for a minor character, even one we’ll probably interact with early in each Chapter since Van lives over the bistro. Most importantly, her name is the Japanese word for dream in a game that has repeatedly invoked the imagery of nightmares, a particular kind of dream. Coincidence? I think not! There’s gonna be more here than ‘just’ a missing father in her life.
- Not a prediction, just putting it out there that I’m keeping my eye on Esmeray because her jumping over from Sorcerian Forever is suspicious as hell. xD
And that’s it for my theories. Let’s get ready to clad ourselves in the nightmare and dive into the madness!