「大戦の始まり」 (Taisen no Hajimari)
“Beginning of the Great War”
Well boys and girls, it’s finally beginning. Altair has certainly taken its time getting to the stage of open conflict, but it’s hard denying it has spent that time well. Not only do we have a full on war on our hands, but a war with a clear and logical buildup alongside a predictable outcome—not the easiest thing to write, let’s just say. We may not know exactly how things will turn out of course (need that suspense), but Altair has done a wonderful job at laying the breadcrumbs out for all to see.
If the takeaway from prior episodes was the importance of economics in the affairs of states, the key lesson this week was the overbearing influence of individuals on setting strategy. We take it as second nature that countries act according to their national interests, but it’s often forgotten these interests are influenced almost exclusively to well-placed individuals. The entirety of this new war and its various alliances for example are owing completely to just a handful of men, guided by prior history certainly, but possessing their own unique wills. Take Urado’s king, he joined the alliance not out of some sense of national duty (and impaling an envoy), but because Venedik’s doge proved himself a man who would uphold his end of the bargain. Likewise the doge proposed the alliance because Mahmut personally brought everyone together and showed himself capable of extraordinary feats. Altair may be a story of nations, but its story is driven by the actions of a few, each with their own vision for the future and means of achieving it.
The best example of this point can be seen with Louis, who bears nearly all responsibility for the war. Balt-Rhein may seek expansion as a means of enriching its people, but it is Louis who seemingly forced the empire down the path of aggression and stuck them in a death spiral. Much like Nazi Germany quickly discovered, a state built around war can only survive by successfully waging war, and unlike less abrasive methods (ex. negotiation, trading), there is no easy way off this path. Once you run out of targets to pillage (or butt heads with someone too strong to overcome) you will collapse, one way or another. Balt-Rhein’s emperor implicitly understands this fact, which is why he signed off on Louis’ grand strategy and basically allowed him free reign. How Louis even wound up with such influence is a question for the ages (and one I hope is eventually answered), but right now it matters little in the greater scheme of things. Thanks to Louis’ machinations, Balt-Rhein has no other option to pursue and is stuck on warpath. The empire could very well fail, but it has no other choice than see its situation through until the bitter end. As much as for Turkiye, Venedik, or Urado, for Balt-Rhein this fight is all about personal survival.
Having wonderfully set up its penultimate conflict, the fun in Altair will be seeing how this war now actually plays out. I think it’s a given Balt-Rhein will lose (or be forced into a stalemate) in the end, but there are too many moving pieces and ambitious players for it to be that simple. There’s no guarantee Turkiye’s first foreign excursion will work, no certainty Mahmut can open the gates. What happens if Venedik is starved into submission, what if Louis’ southern attack is but a feint for a more vigorous assault elsewhere (a la the Manstein Plan)? Altair’s story may be somewhat predictable, but there is a lot of tasty discoveries left to be made. Quite satisfying knowing we have eight episodes remaining, wouldn’t you say?