A long time ago, the world was ravaged by a war fought with the dreadful force of magic. The trauma of the world was so great that eventually, the power of magic — and the Espers that brought it about — were sealed away and eventually, over time, forgotten. The world was thus allowed to mend and grow again, until eventually technology beyond the sword was discovered. Steam power, industrialization, vehicles… the world developed, as many others do. And eventually, one country sought to control the others. Thus was born the Empire.
But the Empire was not content with mere machinery. Raiding the Sealed Cave, they escaped with a few Espers and a single child, a halfbreed. Researching this allowed them to bring back the power of Magic, in their own way, via magitek and other means. Yet they were resisted by the Returners, disrupting their moves at every turn and thwarting their conquest.
Eventually, the Emperor Ghestal and his servant Kefka found the source of magic and balance in the form of three statues. Though the heroes fought valiantly, they were unable to prevent Kefka from killing the Emperor, destabilizing the balance of the statues, and plummeting the world into ruin. Kefka set himself up as a god of the new world, using the power of magic to punish all those who defied him, and humanity struggled to survive in a scarred, wounded land.