Empires & Kingdoms
In the year 706 Old Valendian, when Final Fantasy XII begins, there are several major kingdoms in power in Ivalice, along with some that no longer exist. There are three main continents: the northern one is Valendia; Ordalia the western, and Kerwon the southern. On this map, Valendia is red, Ordalia is blue, and Kerwon is the mostly green one.
We’ll begin with the two empires, Archadia and Rozarria.
The mightiest sovereign state in Valendia. Originally a republic governed by an active senate, the rise of the military brought about the shift to an imperial system 200 years ago. With the change in governance, Archadia began invading its neighboring lands, quickly becoming the largest realm in Ivalice. While in the past the emperor was traditionally of military extraction, a purge of key figures in the military by the politically powerful House Solidor led to the installation of a line of Solidor emperors which continue to this day.
Archadia lies on the Valendian continent, and its seat of power is the city Archades. The Archadian Empire serves as the game's major antagonist. As the Sage Knowledge entry describes, the setup in Archadia is one that’s beneficial to those in power first and everyone else second. Archadia strikes me as a pretty typical setup in a fantasy story: they have a senator system in order to claim that they’re not really a monarchy when in truth that’s exactly what it is. It makes for excellent drama, though, and one of my favorite parts of the game is watching all of the different factions in Archades clash.
Archades itself is split into several districts, as well as Old Archades, where the poor and unprivileged live in destitute conditions. Those in Old Archades wish only to make their way to the city, where they might find something better in life, but without money or the right information they’re stuck where they are. Following in this trend, the people in Archades are largely interested in information and wealth (to the point of there being an entire minigame about it) and have little interest of the troubles of those below.
To be honest the whole setup reminds me a lot of FFVII’s Midgar, but the differences in setting and story do a lot to differentiate the two. (Rabanastre’s Lowtown echoes this, too, and to be fair the idea of a downtrodden lower class is far from unique.) I also really love Archades’s design; it’s a gorgeous city to walk through. The region of Archadia in general is one of my favorites in the game; the rolling plains of the Tchita Uplands and the Cerobi Steppe are just gorgeous.
Empire located in the west of Ordalia, possessing an army rumored to be the equal of the Archadian Imperial forces. Though an emperor rules, Rozarria is a military state, and the armed forces carry much political power. In recent years, the Margrace Imperial family has sought to limit the military's power, embarking on a series of reforms to restrict the scope of their authority. Archadia's unprovoked invasion of Dalmasca sent shockwaves through the Rozarrian establishment, and many are those who see a war between empires looming on the horizon.
We never actually visit Rozarria within the course of the game, and the only person we meet from it is Al-Cid Margrace. This is interesting to me, because Rozarria is hugely important to the plot, but going to Rozarria only comes up once before it's quickly dismissed. There’s just too much other stuff going on. I would love to know more about Rozarria, but instead all we have to go on is, well, Al-Cid.
...Yeah. I’m just gonna leave that there.
Let’s move on to the kingdoms in the game.
A small kingdom comprising the lands around the city of Rabanastre, governing a portion of the Galtean Peninsula. While its territories are small, its situation at the crossroads of three continents enabled to prosper as a center for trade. More than 700 years are marked in the charts of history since her founding, yet many are the armies that have sought to claim her cultural richness and strategic importance. Upon her defeat to Archadia in the invasion of 704, her lands were placed under direct control of the empire.
Take another look at the world map and you’ll see why this game revolves around Dalmasca and its issues: Dalmasca itself is at the center of an incredibly important trade route between three continents. Open any history book and you’ll find plenty of wars fought over just that. Of course this is a video game and there are some other things involved (like magic stones) but personally I really enjoy that piece of worldbuilding.
We actually know more about the Archadian political system than we do about the Dalmascan system, mostly because by the start of the game Dalmasca is occupied and no longer has autonomy of its own. It does obviously have a monarchy, but as far as anything else, we don’t know.
The capital of Dalmasca is Rabanastre, which I kind of call the home base of the game if only because the clan is based there and you have to go back to turn in hunt missions. I like Rabanastre a lot, though; it’s gorgeous and really makes you feel like you’re immersed in the world to walk around in it. I don’t spend a lot of time in its areas, but I do think the three areas leading off from Rabanastre are a really beautiful example of the game’s design: right away you’re thrust into these huge open deserts and plains and left to your own devices.
A land neighboring Dalmasca, both kingdoms being founded by the bloodline of the Dynast-King, who first unified Ivalice under one rule. Graced with beautiful landscapes and rich natural resources, Nabradia prospered for many years as a center of both agriculture and industry. Two years ago, an internal struggle boiled over into civil war, this opening the door to the Archadian invasion of Nabradia. Several days after the beginning of the siege of Nabudis, a mysterious explosion consumed the city, leaving a smoking ruin where the political and cultural heart of Nabradia once stood, and sounding the death-knell for the kingdom.
Located on the Valendian continent and bordering the much larger Archadia, Nabradia suffered the Empire’s wrath before Dalmasca, and on a much harsher scale. By the time the game takes place it’s nothing but a swampy land of the dead, full of monsters and fiends with no trace left of the mighty kingdom that once stood there.
The capital of Nabradia, Nabudis, is an entirely optional area in the game, and one players might never see, unless they’re in search of the game’s best weapon. It’s a treacherous area, and I think it’s one of the most interesting areas in the game as far as level design goes; you really feel like you’re in a dead, horrible place.
We don’t know much about the Republic of Landis other than that it’s the homeland of Basch and his brother Noah. Landis was one of Archadia’s early conquests, and when it was taken, the brothers were separated: Basch fled to Dalmasca, while Noah remained under Archadian rule. The two of them would later rise in the ranks of their new homes; Basch in the Royal Guard of Rabanastre, and Noah as the Judge Magister Gabranth.
An autonomous city-state found on the sky continent of Dorstonis. Originally formed as a magicite mining colony with the advent of airship travel. The magicite mines of the skylands are superior to the crystal mines on the surface in both quantity and quality of ore, and Bhujerba developed quickly on fortunes born of rock. During the years of the Galtean Alliance, the Ondore family took over much of the daily business of Bhujerba's governance, a rule which continues to this day. Their neutral stance during the Archadian invasion two years ago positioned them as mediators of the peace negotiations that followed. Like much of Dorstonis, Bhujerba is a city of hills and sloping boulevards. Merchant houses and shops are clustered near the peaks, while residences are found in the valleys. At the very bottom of the hills lies the network of crystalline shafts known as the Lhusu Mines. Many visitors come to Bhujerba to enjoy the open-air parks with spectacular views only available to those who live in the sky. Very rarely does anyone fall from the skycity, and curiously enough, not a single death has been reported to have resulted from such an occurrence to date.
Not actually a kingdom, but Bhujerba is the most important city-state in the game, so it’s on this list. Located on Dorstonis, Bhujerba is not actually the only skycity in Ivalice, it’s just the only one we really see in the game; another Sage Knowledge entry mentions that it’s the most powerful and governs the others. The Marquis Halim Ondore IV, who narrates the game and serves as an important NPC, rules the city of Bhujerba.
Also located on Bhujerba are the Lhusu Mines, which apparently used to actually be mined but ever since the monsters showed up, the NPCs decided they’d rather have the player characters go fight them instead. Seems legit. (I’m kidding, I actually really like the Lhusu Mines and the fact that they expand over time based on hunt missions.)