The Story of Fortress, the Canceled Final Fantasy XII Sequel
Shortly after Swedish studio Grin closed its doors in 2009, it was revealed that the company had been working on a Final Fantasy spin-off codenamed Fortress. Set in the universe of Final Fantasy XII, the game followed military leader Basch fon Ronsenburg and his friends through a desperate fight against Loemund, a demonic king from the sea. Basch and company set up within a huge, magical fortress to defend the world from the king's evil forces.
The following pieces of artwork provided exclusively to GameSpot tell the story of Fortress in great detail, breaking down major story beats and combat events. The result is a complete, overarching look at Fortress' plot and character arcs, and at how the game was laid out at the time of cancelation.
Fortress opens in the realm of Arcadia and introduces Emperor Larsa and his protector, Basch. Following the events of Final Fantasy XII, Basch has taken on the identity of his dead twin, Judge Gabranth. In the first mission of Fortress, Basch trains with Larsa and chases down a would-be assassin; these two scenes include the game's combat tutorial.
The difficulties with Basch's hidden identity, the conflict between Emperor Larsa and the Senate, and the relationship between the Dalmasca and Archadia kingdoms are introduced. Basch visits an imprisoned sky pirate, and during their conversation the player is given exposition about Basch's inner conflict. He is torn up over hiding his romantic interest in Queen Ashe of Dalmasca as well as his true identity--only Larsa, Ashe, and a handful of faraway friends know he is Basch and not Gabranth.
Joined by Queen Ashe and the Dalmascan army, Basch and his forces make their way to the fortress. They enter a mountain pass and come face-to-face with a horde of creatures serving the enemy: the fabled evil king of the sea, Loemund. Loemund is trying to get into the fortress to retrieve his magical helmet, which he lost in battle to a descendant of Queen Ashe. These men, like Basch and his crew, are also trying to find a way into the fortress. Basch and his company defeat the evil army.
Because Ashe is directly descended from the fortress' previous inhabitant, her presence unlocks the fortress' gates. Out on the sea, Loemund senses Ashe's presence and knows that the fortress is open. Once inside, a hulking monster appears and tries to destroy the main gate. The group defeats the monster, but in the fray most of the outer wall is destroyed. The courtyard is flooded with enemies and the group of heroes looks for a route deeper into the fortress.
Mounted on a Chocobo, Basch flees the onslaught and seeks a way up to the courtyard's second level. While his fellow soldiers defend his escape, fielding arrow strikes and swords, Basch finds the entrance to an elevator that will take him up higher.
The heroes decide they must destroy the bridges leading to the fortress' inner courtyards. Basch grabs gunpowder kegs and rushes out into the fray, carrying each keg out into the middle of a bridge before fleeing and detonating it.
After three bridges crumble, unexpected reinforcements arrive: Emperor Larsa and Judge Zargabaath--another leader of the militaristic Archadian Senate--appear with fresh soldiers. Their numbers doubled, the heroes protect Larsa as he crosses the last bridge into the inner fortress before blowing it up.
Despite their best efforts, a large number of enemies have made it into the inner courtyard. Bash and friends continue to fight.
A man steps forward and calls upon Basch, challenging him to a duel. The ensuing battle is intense, and after defeating this man, Basch chooses to spare him. The man is Laegd, a demigod who was beaten into submission by Loemund and had been serving him for centuries. Impressed by Basch's strength and compassion, Laegd pledges his allegiance. With Laegd's help, the inner courtyard is cleared of enemies. There is a brief peace.
The morning after the battle in the courtyards, a massive fleet of warships appears on the horizon. Basch and Larsa advise Queen Ashe to remain deep within the fortress, where she will be protected. Enemy troops begin to storm up the hill towards the fortress, kicking off a siege.
The enemies begin setting up siege ladders against the fortress walls. Basch ties himself to a rope, swings out over the edge, and runs horizontally along the wall, clearing away the siege ladders himself.
Enemy catapults begin flinging giant balls of organic matter over the fortress walls. As they hit the ground, these balls unfurl to reveal massive centipedes. Basch returns to the courtyard to assist in bringing them down.
Once the centipedes have been taken care of, Basch and his group climb the battlements to fight another wave of climbing enemies. In the middle of this battle, the enemy begins to relent and finally gives up altogether.
Basch can't find Ashe anywhere. He learns that in the commotion of battle, she disguised herself as a common soldier and went out to fight on her own. Loemund's forces have captured her, but they don't know her identity. Basch agrees to duel a monstrous creature, demanding that if he wins, Loemund frees his captive. Basch is victorious, grabs Ashe, and flees back to the fortress, but not before Loemund discovers Ashe's identity.
Some time passes before the heroes in the fortress see Loemund's forces again. This time, a flock of airborne creatures swoops over the fortifications and into the fortress. More enemies bring more siege towers. Basch and the heroes are able to beat these creatures back, but the peace is again brief.
Time passes before Loemund attacks again. More catapults appear and enemies rain huge stones down on the courtyard. This stones have magical, elemental properties and have devastating affects on the fortress. Basch searches for and finds a secret way out of the area, and heads back to destroy the catapults.
Once he destroys the catapults, he rounds up a group of soldiers to assist in getting the rest of his comrades into a more inner area of the fortress using an elevator.
Basch and his comrades make their way up the makeshift elevator to the inner fortress.
Basch finds no respite in this new area, and is ambushed again by resourceful enemies climbing the walls. He presses on.
Syncing up with the rest of their comrades, Basch and company form a plan to empty the now-packed courtyards.
Basch and the soldiers find a maze of catacombs that leads beneath the courtyards. The group plants bombs at key points in the tunnels. Once all bombs are planted, Basch's team detonates them. All courtyards crumble in the resulting explosion, crushing all enemies and leaving the fortress entrance impassable.
Loemund is not to be deterred. Using his power, Loemund summons a deluge. The water level rises and massive waves crash against the fortress. All remaining soldiers in this area drown. The water level stops at the top of the second fortress wall, with some waves splashing over into the fortress itself. The waiting fleet sails up to the edge of the fortress and brings down enormous gangplanks, allowing them to enter this inner courtyard.
Basch and company fight off the assault and take down the ships, battling from the fortress walls.
An enormous winged serpent arrives. Basch and the heroes fight against impossible odds, but eventually slay the creature.
Emperor Larsa calls for help. It has been discovered that some of his troops were assassins masquerading as his soldiers. Basch and Zargabaath run to Larsa's aid. Backed into a corner, Larsa calls for Basch by his true name, revealing his identity to Zargabaath and everyone else. Together the Judges takes down the assassins, but Larsa is severely wounded in the fight.
Zargabaath, a man who lives and dies by the law, cannot accept that Basch is alive and free. [In Final Fantasy XII, Basch was accused of murdering Ashe's father. He was never publicly exonerated, so Zargabaath still holds him to these crimes.] Zargabaath cannot accept the truth--who Basch is and that he didn't murder the former king--and challenges Basch to a duel. Basch wears Zargabaath down, but even after defeat Zargabaath orders the guards to seize Basch. Ashe, not wanting conflict and thinking Zargabaath needs time, persuades Basch to give up. Basch is taken deep into the fortress and locked in a prison cell.
Basch is content with his imprisonment, having voluntarily surrendered out of love for Ashe. He waits eagerly for Ashe to visit him, but she never does--instead, she spends all of her time with Larsa, tending his wounds. She is passively betraying Basch's affection, but his love for her never wavers. Meanwhile, she and Larsa grow closer. Time passes.
It's winter now. The waterfront has frozen over completely. A horde of wooden soldiers appear walking on top of the ice, and they place long gangplanks over the side of the fortress and enter. These hordes seem countless and unstoppable.
Through his cell window, Basch can see the approaching horde and Zargabaath's overwhelmed forces. Basch's comrades break open his cell and urge him to take up his sword and fight. Basch runs to the assistance of Zargabaath, and the two groups retreat into an upper park area of the fortress. Loemund temporarily retreats.
Zargabaath is mortally wounded, and in his final moments he reconciles with Basch. They bury the fallen Judge in a small garden area within the fortress.
Loemund attacks again. This time the group can only go up, the rest of the fortress having been destroyed in previous attacks. They take the only remaining way out of the fortress--a bridge that reaches up to a small floating island, called the Core--trapping themselves inside of the structure.
Loemund's forces return with siege ladders and grappling hooks. They reach the Core and climb into its windows. Basch and his friends have nowhere left to run to, so they attack Loemund's forces head on, seeking to prevent him from reaching his helmet. If Loemund regains his helmet, his strength will grow and he will be unstoppable.
All seems lost as Basch's team tries to bottleneck the enemy. Suddenly, the airship Strahl appears; sky pirate Balthier and his companion Fran have come to save the day.
Loemund approaches the room in the Core containing his helmet. Basch fights Loemund, and around them the sea king's forces beat down Basch's army. Basch is about to lose to Loemund, but Ashe steps in and saves him. In this moment, Loemund grabs his helmet and regains his full power. Basch, Ashe and the heroes retreat outside.
The team boards the Strahl while Basch and Laegd hold off the enemy. But when it's Basch's turn to board, he has a choice to make: leave with Ashe because he loves her, or stay behind and fight because it is his duty. He realizes Ashe is growing away from him and that he can't let Loemund make his way onto the mainland--and so he chooses duty. He flings the airship ladder away and turns back to the battle with Laegd. The Strahl leaves.
The Final Battle
Everyone is gone. Basch heads out onto the ice to fight Loemund one last time, knowing that this battle will cost him his life. Basch jumps across the chasm between the fortress and sea, pressing on. Laegd jumps too, but slips and falls out of sight. Basch, alone, engages Loemund in his final form--a massive, electric squid-like creature. After a long struggle, Basch defeats the evil king, but it costs him his life. The ice breaks and melts away, and Basch's broken body sinks under the waves. Then the sea boils away, evaporating into nothing and leaving behind an empty stretch of sand.
Back in Arcadia's capital city, the citizens have gathered to celebrate the wedding of Queen Ashe to Emperor Larsa. The nations of Arcadia and Dalmasca have been joined in this act of holy matrimony. Heroes from the Final Fantasy XII universe all watch on, clapping.
After the credits roll, a brief scene is shown. Laegd is trudging through the desert, the remains of the dried-up sea before the fortress. Behind him, he drags Basch's corpse on a stretcher. Basch is wearing Loemund's helmet. The last shot shows Laegd carrying Basch's body in the direction of Loemund's old castle, where Basch will be resurrected and--presumably--become the new king of the sea.