The Old Empire
This entry is about the empire that dissolved with the death of the Seventh Emperor. For the empire that was reestablished by the Eighth Emperor, see The New Empire.
In order to understand the motivations behind the Empire in the Panzer Dragoon Saga, players have to return to the beginning. Known only as “the Empire” as if it were the only one, expansionism was not what the original leaders had in mind when they laid its foundation. The founders were Seekers, who, like their fellow tribesmen, embarked on a long endeavour to find a way to loosen the strangling grip that the will of the Ancients still had on the world. But unlike them, these more militaristic Seekers took it one step further by wanting to save the world through military force. Thus the Empire was born.
These Seekers who originally searched for a way to bring an end to the story of the Ancient Age, found one, but by the time they did, they forgot who they were. Ironically, they became the very architects of control they once sought to overthrow. The Seekers who Edge met in Panzer Dragoon Saga, however, never forgot their original purpose.
What perhaps best summarised and embodied what the Empire later became was when the Imperial flagship, Grig Orig, wiped the town of Zoah from the face of the map using a beam cannon salvaged from the ashes of the old world. The name Grig Orig translates into “Iron Fist”, much like the Empire’s unclenching grip on the human nations. The people of Zoah suffered this fate for refusing to bow down to the Empire, and was not the first victim of the Empire’s dreams of global domination. It would not be the last either. Even after harnessing the destructive power of such a weapon that was arguably best left in the past, the little that remained of the old world still hid many secrets from exploring human eyes. This was the moment in Panzer Dragoon Saga when the Empire made its presence felt by making an example out of Zoah for daring to defy it for the whole world to see. The villagers paid the ultimate price for that defiance.
The Empire of the Panzer Dragoon series had an Emperor who everyone obeyed unquestioningly. The Emperor himself was always seen sitting in a floating throne, literally looking down on others. According to Imperial history, the Emperor was a direct descendant of the Ancient civilisation, which gave him the right to rule. However, in reality loyalty was maintained mostly due to unforgiving do-or-die discipline beaten into the people of the Empire since birth. It seemed that no one disobeyed the Emperor and lived. Imperial soldiers were extremely disciplined and loyal even to their deaths due to how they had been trained from the beginning to obey their “superiors”.
The Emperor was said to be “the rightful heir of the ancient civilisation”, but whether this meant he or the Imperial bloodline was actually related to the rulers of the Ancient civilisation or if it was a lie used to justify his rule is unknown. The Ancients were said to be all the people of the Ancient Age, which means that all the current survivors were the descendants of the Ancients and therefore the technology belonged to everyone. However, the Emperor claimed to be the heir to all the lost technology, making him the sole inheritor. Therefore in the Empire’s eyes it rightfully belonged to the Empire and no one else. One possibility is that the Imperial bloodline was related to the rulers of the Ancient Age, but the truth remains open for debate. It is possible that this was simply a lie told long enough and loud enough until people actually started to believe it, and nothing more than a self-serving embellishment. It is also possible that the Seekers were descended from these Ancients and wanted to undo the damage that their people had done, but there is not enough background material available in the games to confirm if this is true or not.
The Empire claimed that it did not exist to invade, but to teach the truth in order to restore mankind to its former glory, and that people resisted out of fear and ignorance. According to the Soldier’s Guide found in Panzer Dragoon Saga, “That is the path of world order, and that is why we exist”. As a direct descendant of the Ancient civilisation, the Emperor claimed the right to inherit the technology that the Ancients had left behind.
The Empire was originally founded along the western shore of the Continent. This was where this tribe of Seekers started to pursue their militaristic path towards their goal by purging the local ruins in order to claim the Ancient weapons as their own. The people of the Empire deluded themselves into believing that they were reclaiming what was rightfully theirs by claiming to be the descendants of the former owners. They made themselves the heirs to their own lost technology, which was not of their own making.
The Empire’s calendar started at AF 0, which stands for After Foundation. This was significant because it started a new time as opposed to continue an old one. In the beginning the Empire only used the weapons they reclaimed to defend themselves, but in the end, the Imperials became drunk on their own thirst for more power. The Empire quickly emerged as a highly organised military machine by rising up in the world in the most literal sense of the term; it was not long before the Empire discovered how to use floating anti-gravity devices as sails for flying ships, which became a fleet of armoured warships brimming with the weapons they also recovered and adapted to suit the Empire’s needs soon after.
The anti-gravity engines used to keep Imperial ships afloat appeared organic, like shells, and had power veins running through them. When the Empire took a closer look at the Ancient technology in Panzer Dragoon Orta, Imperial scientists discovered that all the Ancient technology is in fact biological in nature. It is questionable to what extent these engines were alive.
The symbol of the Empire during this time was one-eyed. The meaning behind this is never revealed. There is not enough information available about the Empire’s history to find the symbol’s origins, but it has parallels with the Eye of Horus seen on the back of the United States one dollar bill.
As the people of the Empire forgot who they were, the Empire’s goals went beyond more than merely self-defence, however, as human beings started to succumb to their darker side.
Even though the Empire was always learning how to understand Ancient technology to serve their cause, they never learned why the Ancients no longer existed to use it. They did not deeply contemplate the reason even after seeing how god-like the power of the Ancients’ technology was first hand with their own eyes.
The size of the Empire’s ships changed over time. The Empire’s ships adapted to face new challenges over time. The Empire pursued its goals with unrivaled enthusiasm, which meant that it never took the Imperials long to unlock the destructive potential held within the Ancient technology. In order to unleash new weapons on the world, the Empire tried to control technology that was beyond its control with almost absolutely no regard for the unforeseen consequences. This recklessness was perhaps what best defines the Empire.
In its relentless pursuit of lost technology of the old world also known as the “old century”, the Empire somehow (it is not made clear how) stumbled over information about what it called the ultimate weapons, the Towers, which led the Empire to focus its search on finding them.
The Empire in Panzer Dragoon Zwei
Imperial history showed that the Empire eventually declared war or annexed all of its neighbours. During the events of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, the Empire was in the middle of widening its grasp by invading another one of its neighbouring nations. Here players saw the Empire at war with another nation named Meccania that had also dug up ancient weapons. Unlike other nations, Meccania actually seemed to be holding its ground against the invaders by using beam lasers. While this war continued to rage in the background, the Imperials also did not fail to notice the same huge Ancient skyship, Shelcoof that Lagi and Lundi were chasing. The Empire’s relentless pursuit for even more Ancient weaponry led it to pursue the ship until the Imperial forces could no longer afford to lose more ships. Chasing Shelcoof was put on hold until the Empire finished invading Meccania. As anyone could see, the Empire’s obsession with controlling the uncontrollable borders was suicidal.
The reasons for the invasion of Meccania can be found in the official timeline which states that the Empire accused Meccania of attempting to hijack its “Space Battleship”, but that this was a front used as an excuse to invade. It appears the Empire used the hijacking to justify to its own people an invasion of Meccania. It is unclear whether the term “Space Battleship” refers to a flagship or was meant to denote something plural that was lost in translation. The ship was used to clear out ruins of monsters, so it could possibly be either, but it was said to be the “symbol of the Empire”.
The Empire in Panzer Dragoon
In A.F. 89, after the Sixth Emperor passed away and his heir inherited the throne, the Empire finally found the weapon of myth and legend it had been looking for for so long. The monolith made of seemingly black metal existed not far from the capital on the north western shore. It was kept under guard by warships flown out from the nearby capital and thoroughly explored. The Empire stopped all other excavations just to concentrate its research on this one.
While Kyle Fluge and his two companions travelled the great plains something massive cast a shadow over them. A ship came to a halt overhead as if it was searching for something. The group stopped to stare up at the ship and one of them identifies it as a “battleship”. A brief conversation ensues; a member of the group asks if the ship is one of theirs to which we hear no reply. This suggests that the battleship may have belonged to a nation other than the Empire; a rival nation is one possibility. Alternatively, Kyle and his friends may have come from somewhere that was a part of the Empire.
The battleship sighted by Kyle and his comrades was in fact an Imperial battlecruiser. In Panzer Dragoon Saga, this type of ship was called a battlecruiser, and was a bit bigger than a gunship. Battleship and battlecruiser are probably synonymous designations or a mistranslation in the text, because the ships are identical. A question that remains unanswered is what the ship was doing so far from home.
At the end of episode 1 after Kyle took the reins of the Sky Rider’s dragon, Kyle encountered a battlecruiser that opened fire without warning. It was possible that it was the same ship that Kyle saw in the intro, and that it was searching for the dragon. The Empire sighted the dragon in the first place according to the Empire’s history of these events recorded in the first Tower Report found in Panzer Dragoon Saga.
From behind, the ship’s anti-gravity engine appeared darker than other engines of its kind as if the ship was coloured to be under a shade. However, from the front, the engine/sail matched the colour of the engine of the ship seen in the introduction sequence. Whether it was the same ship or merely the same type of ship is unknown. The ship’s hull did not last long against Kyle’s newly-acquired hand-held laser cannon and his dragon’s lasers. It quickly buckled under the pressure of the assault of the two Ancient weapons.
According to the first Tower Report, the Empire hastily amassed a fleet of ships “to capture” two dragons that had breached its borders. As a result, almost all of the ships the Empire sent to intercept the Ancient dragons breaching Imperial airspace were destroyed, and even the Empire’s prototype weapons were lost. Afterwards, the capital was left vulnerable. The Imperial fleet’s high speed cannons, air mines and missiles, were simply no match for a dragon’s sheer power. The dragon’s bio-lasers melted through the armour of the Empire’s warships as if it never existed.
The Empire threw everything it had at the dragons, but under-estimated their strength. In Panzer Dragoon, Kyle faced a ship so huge that it filled the player’s screen. Needless to say, trying to capture a dragon proved to be a fatal mistake. After the experiencing the destruction caused by these events, the Empire planned to build a new flagship to meet this new challenge so that next time the Empire would be better prepared. The Blue Dragon, one of the dragons involved, had no intention of fighting the Empire, but had every intention of fighting through anything that stood between him and the Tower which the Empire recently started excavating. The Empire had been the Blue Dragon’s real target, but nothing the Empire could have mustered at the time would have stood the slightest chance of standing against him.
The Tower the Empire was so eager to control activated when the dragons entered the city, and unleashed an army of bio-mechanical pure-type monsters (armed with beam lasers) on the capital city. Crippled, the remnants of the Imperial fleet found themselves outmatched and outgunned by these new invaders and ultimately could not even hope to mount a defence against the invasion, with or without the support of the Empire’s once vast armada. The city began to burn under the unforeseeable onslaught of so many invading monsters. When the Blue Dragon destroyed the Tower at the centre of it all, the following explosion took a large chunk of the city with it. However, the palace where the Seventh Emperor resided, and the Imperial Academy, where all of the Empire’s knowledge gleaned over many decades was accumulated, somehow suffered little damage. Reconsidering its defence plan, the Empire started constructing a massive flying fortress where it could move the palace to relative safety. The capital was rebuilt but the cost of human life burnt itself into history. Although the Blue Dragon was not responsible for the destruction, the Empire still attributed the destruction brought by this chaotic period to the dragon. Even after the Empire had had its first taste of the Ancients’ power firsthand, the Imperials still hungered to control it.
The Empire in Panzer Dragoon Saga
Thirty years later in Panzer Dragoon Saga during the reign of the Seventh Emperor, players gain a much deeper glimpse into the Empire’s ambitions. The Empire finally discovered how to not only awaken, but also take control of one of the Ancient sleeping monoliths known as the Towers. The secret to unlocking its power was a living key in the form of a drone named Azel. Through her the Empire could gain access to the previously locked technology. However, before the Imperials could set their plans in motion, the Empire suffered an attack against which there was no defence at the hands of one of their own. The traitor, Lord Craymen of the Black Fleet, managed to make the entire Imperial capital vanish without a trace. A blinding flash of light washed over the capital like a tidal wave of pure energy, evaporating every last trace of the once thriving city.
Craymen destroyed the capital to slow the Empire down long enough to give himself a headstart, and Craymen had without any doubt succeeded. The Emperor knew all about the Tower that Craymen sought to race to control; he was very eager to wield it as a weapon for himself so that the Empire could bring the world under its control. In order to catch up as quickly as possible and put an end to the rebellion once and for all, the Emperor decided to take care of Craymen personally by sending his own flagship, the Grig Orig, despite being almost crippled before the Empire could even start to gather speed. Needless to say, while the Empire was busy regrouping, Craymen was way ahead of it by stealing Azel for his own ends.
The Imperial palace was built into the Emperor’s flagship in order to ensure his safety after the the Imperial capital was set on fire at the hands of an armoured Blue Dragon three decades earlier. Built to be a flying fortress all by itself that was also home to the Emperor, it was naturally the biggest warship that the Empire had ever constructed. The fact that the palace was seen as small in comparison to the entire ship itself gave players a vague idea of ship’s real size. According to Imperial reports, the Grig Orig was designed for the specific purpose of fighting a dragon. Dragons themselves were among the Ancients’ most powerful living weapons, and in the light of past events, no one had any reason to doubt it. The Empire would be given the chance to put its most advanced warship to the test in a long awaited rematch.
Later, the game’s protagonist, Edge, stumbled over Imperials still loyal to the Empire by accident while on board the ancient skyship Shelcoof with very painful consequences for him as a result. He was tortured soon after for refusing to admit that he is working with Craymen. Edge endured significant pain, but still refused to tell his interogators what they wanted to hear. Somehow Gash managed to find his way there to free Edge. Edge himself could not believe what the Empire is doing.
The Imperials tied an Ancient armour plated bio-mechanical dragon to their gunship and tried to tow it back to the Empire. In Gash’s words, they tried to resurrect a horror from the past to end the war with Craymen. Gash also said it was supposed to be indestructible; he did not elaborate on how he knew that, but some fans have assumed that Gash inherited this knowledge from Lundi. Lagi and Lundi blew the Ancient Guardian Dragon to pieces forty eight years earlier, yet somehow it managed to regenerate almost completely over time.
After Edge and Gash made their escape from the gunship, the huge Guardian Dragon of Shelcoof awakened in transport, cutting the gunship to shreds with laser beams to thwart the Empire’s plans. Even this failed attempt to bring this horror from the past home showed the Empire’s desire to control as much biological weaponry as possible, especially dragons. It also showed the reckless suicidal lengths to which the Imperials were willing to go to do so, which was a consistent theme prevailing throughout the series.
In the end, the Imperial fleet besieged the Tower of Uru and quickly took it by force, but not before Craymen beat them to it. However, the Empire’s dream-come-true quickly turned into a nightmare soon after when the Tower came to life and released a swarm of bio-monsters that tore the fleet apart like the Empire’s ships were made of paper. The Tower eradicated the Imperial fleet in seconds, ending the Empire’s dream.
The Seventh Emperor was remembered by his people in Panzer Dragoon Orta as a hero who tried to purge the ruins of monsters when he was the one invading their home and not vice versa. His memory set an example for others to follow, even though it was a lie.
The Empire believed in restoring the power that humanity once held while forgetting why humanity lost it in the first place. The Empire had to learn this lesson the hard way. In a way, Panzer Dragoon Saga was a retelling of the original Panzer Dragoon, only with more depth to it. The Empire built on the sand of its own insatiable ambition of never having enough power, and was always destined to create more problems than it could solve as a result, as seen here.