FFXIV is a game that’s pretty near-and-dear to my heart, and while I enjoyed much of what’s discussed in this article, the feelings that it tries to project–which center around discomfort that our protagonist isn’t “special”–feel like as dismissal of not only the wide variety of players there are in the game, but also feels like it skews toward assuming the worst of them at the same time. Which isn’t to say that makes it bad, because I do like being able to hear what other people are getting from this game, I just don’t necessarily agree with a lot of the points made here. I do think that game showing that other can take up the role of hero as well is definitely a break from some JRPG tropes, I just don’t think there’s as much discomfort here in the particular way this article implies.
Some of the details in this article kind of gloss over a lot of stuff that’s established earlier in the game: You’re not the only character with the Echo (at least on the Source), you’re not even the only person considered a Warrior of Light, as every player who played in 1.0 is collectively called the ‘Warriors of Light’ and those with Legacy characters are recognized as such within the story. Implying that the player character is Hydaelyn’s only champion kind of erases the very prominent role Minfilia has in saving an entire planet, and outright ignores the strides that the game is making with Arenvald, a character who is similar to the player in many respects, save for experience. Also, this might just be an unfortunate choice of words, but no one in Eulmore is working to the “benefit” of the poor, and Ardbert and co. were never considered Warriors of Darkness while they were on the First. They were always Warriors of Light on the First, until they came to the Source and titled themselves Warriors of Darkness. The concept of a Warrior of Darkness didn’t even exist on the First until post-Flood.
I also can’t agree that this game focuses much on the working class within it’s main story. While players can get a lot from doing side quests found in the overworld, especially if they do a significant amount, much of the story focuses on the perspectives of those in power. Gatetown was a pretty big deal in that it showed how the poor struggle right at the forefront of the story. Heavensward was a big expansion in terms of a theme of class struggle, but a large part of that was because it was focused on a forever war being perpetuated indefinitely by Catholic elves under false pretenses, and even then the largest showing we get of that is in a riot that happens after the player character is poisoned.
That said, I mostly disagree with two main assumptions.
The first is based mostly in my experience; none of the people I play this game regularly with, or even people I breeze by and discuss the story with, are really upset that their character is no longer a special solitary hero. A large part of the community, predominately RPers, don’t even see their existing character as the Warrior of Light, but rather as an Adventurer just going about their day. When I discuss the story with others, most people are unnerved by the fact that, whatever Elidibus is planning, it isn’t to the benefit of anyone on the First. He isn’t encouraging everyone to be their best selves because he genuinely wants that. One of the first things he implies at the end of Shadowbringers is that if the player character wants to style themself as the Warrior of Darkness, then the only recourse he has is to pit against them other Warriors of Light. If this sounds familiar, it’s because he has already done it before–and if it wasn’t for Urianger and Minfilia being willing to communicate and empathize with Ardbert and co., we wouldn’t even be on the First. As the Emissary, Elidibus thrives off of manipulating others by words alone, but his plans tend to fall apart horribly once people openly communicate with each other in a sincere way. His ultimate goal for this isn’t hard to figure out: He’s going to create these Warriors of Light, then try to manipulate things in such a way that makes them want to kill us. He could do this any number of ways with any number of outcomes, but none of them end well for the people in the First. Most people I know aren’t worried that their WoL isn’t special, they’re worried that the story is going to pen us into a place where we have to kill people we were trying to help. They’re also really worried about the Crystal Exarch, but that’s got nothing to do with this.
The second issue I have is with idea that the Ascians can ever create a valid narrative in which they are the heroes of the story. I would argue that they could certainly create a narrative, but any validity that they could have had has pretty much burned up on impact considering they’ve enacted six successful planet-scale genocides and multiple smaller ones on the Source, based upon both their orchestration of Calamities and their manipulation of current civilizations. Oh, and also they turned the thirteenth into a void inhabited with dark creatures who seek only to consume living beings, aether and all, as their first attempt at a Rejoining. Personally, I don’t care how many folks on Twitter are interested in Emet-Selch and Zenos in that way, or how hard they stan. Nothing the Ascians do will ever make the narrative they’re trying to pitch valid in my eyes at least. I’m not buying what they’re selling.