I mentioned last time the complexity of the plot in this game, so I wanted to take a minute to break down just how many factions you have to keep track of as the story progresses.
- Ramza and his companions are our heroes. Initially, Ramza receives orders to take his company of military cadets on a mission to rescue an important noble from a group of peasant rebels who have kidnapped this noble as a bargaining chip in getting their fair pay from the war that they just helped fight. When this whole episode goes south and ends with most of the rebels killed and Ramza’s friend Delita (and his sister Tietra) apparently dead thanks to his own brother’s ruthlessness, Ramza becomes disillusioned with the nobility and takes his companions with him to become mercenaries. The rest of the story plays out from Ramza’s perspective as an outsider.
- The Corpse Brigade are the aforementioned rebels who hatch the plot to kidnap the Marquis Elmdore. Their leader, Wiegraf, is an honorable man who disapproves of the kidnapping plot. His sister Milleuda dies during the events to quell his rebellion, and he eventually joins the Knights Templar, the military branch of the Holy Glabados Church.
- The Order of the Northern Sky is the army under the command of Zalbaag, Ramza’s older brother. They’re loyal to Duke Larg, who rules the province of Gallione in the west of Ivalice. Larg’s sister is the current Queen of Ivalice, and he supports her infant son’s claim to the throne (the previous king was in poor health and died suddenly, leaving some speculation that the Queen’s son is illegitimate). Larg’s most loyal adviser is Dycedarg, Ramza’s eldest brother. At the culmination of the War of the Lions (the conflict between the Northern and Southern Skies, whose standards are a white lion and a black lion respectively), Dycedarg betrays Duke Larg, seizing control of Gallione and the Northern Sky for himself.
- The Order of the Southern Sky is commanded by Count Orlandeau, a former comrade of Ramza’s father Barbaneth. Orlandeau is loyal to Duke Goltanna, who rules an eastern province in Ivalice. Goltanna promotes Princess Ovelia, the late King’s adopted half-sister, as the rightful heir with the intention of becoming her regent. Late in the story Orlandeau is framed for betraying Goltanna and is forced to go on the run with Ramza.
- The Holy Glabados Church is the dominant religion in Ivalice. It heavily mirrors Christian Catholicism in tradition and history, and is a major power in Ivalice. The High Confessor Funebris wants to consolidate all power in Ivalice under the Church, and he manipulates events on both sides of the Lion War to weaken the rival armies. The Church also declares Ramza a heretic and puts a bounty on him after he begins interfering with their plans.
- The Knight Templar are the Church’s military branch. They’re led by Folmarv, and appear sporadically throughout the story to nudge the nobles towards actions that will be favorable to the Church in the long run. This was a the faction that confused me the most the first time I played the game, because Folmarv shows up everywhere and I never really understood why he was helping both sides in the war. I also originally thought that Delita was associated with them (largely because of the poor translation, and because Delita’s sprite after the first chapter bears some similarities to the uniform of the Knights).
- The Lucavi (these are the real villains of the story, despite all the previous excellent candidates) are a cadre of demons who over the course of the game take possession of several key players in the story’s events. As far as anyone can tell, once a host is chosen by a particular Lucavi, that person is effectively dead, and the Lucavi is the one in control of their body. The Lucavi possess people who bear an affinity for the Zodiac Stones (the story’s MacGuffins). The Lucavi’s acting leader is Hashmal, the demon controlling Folmarv (most of the Knights Templar are secretly in league with the Lucavi, although surprisingly few of them appear to be possessed), and he’s working to find the right host for Ultima, their true leader. Ultima’s last host was St. Ajora Glabados, the figurehead of the Glabados Church (it’s unclear if the Church actually knows about Ajora’s possession), and the current best candidate is Ramza’s sister Alma. Basically, Folmarv goes along with the Church’s plans as long as they align with his own (Ultima’s revival happens to require tons of bloodshed, so a war’s good for that).
- Delita’s a free agent in all of this chaos. He initially appears to be working for the Southern Sky in helping to secure Princess Ovelia, but then it’s revealed that he’s a secret agent working for the Church (this also contributed to my initial confusion about his alignment). Delita apparently has no knowledge of the Lucavi’s plot, but he’s working on his own scheme to come to power (by the time the story finishes most of the nobility involved in the Lion War are dead, and Delita stands alone as the leader of the Southern Sky and Ovelia’s husband). His plot is essentially the frame for the whole story, since we’re being told of these events by a historian recounting Ramza’s previously unrecorded involvement in the events leading up to Delita’s seizing the throne.
It’s layers on layers of plots all the way through, and I love this game for the complexity of the story.