Final Fantasy 14’s Warrior Of Light Is More Than Just Another Player Avatar

I started Final Fantasy 14 on a whim, back in A Realm Reborn’s beta. I had no real interest in getting sucked into another MMO, but my friends were quite keen on it and my roommates at the time convinced me to pre-order. So, reluctantly, I fired up Final Fantasy 14 just as the servers went live for the first time with version 2.0 and made my brown-haired Warrior of the Light, Lenneth.

As much as I enjoyed the character creator and introduction to the realm of Eorzea, I was pretty uninterested in my avatar. She was a cute Miqo’te that had taken up the adventure ahead as a Dragoon, but other than that, she was an unassuming figure with no real personality. In a sea of other cat-like characters, tiny Lalafells, and handsome Elezen, my little Lenneth was rather boring.

A Realm Reborn isn’t the fan-favorite part of Final Fantasy 14’s story, but it’s still an important component filled with political intrigue and world-building; most fans will tell you it’s required reading to enjoy the adventure ahead. In 2.0, the most I felt for my Warrior of Light was a pang of sadness when challenging Estinien in the Dragoon questline. Other than that, I looked at Lenneth as a throwaway with no real importance of her own other than to be a witness to the story. Minfilia and the rest of the cast certainly held my Warrior of Light in high regard, but I often forgot she was there amongst fights with gods and malevolent robed figures.

As A Realm Reborn wrapped up with a patch cliffhanger that left me speechless, I had firmly removed myself from the camp of folks who thought Final Fantasy 14’s story was “just another MMO”. I went into the game assuming cutscenes would be needless padding to keep me from plowing through battle content too quickly, but I was wrong. Final Fantasy 14’s final patch just before its beloved Heavensward expansion was already taking the series to new highs, and my boring Warrior of Light was ready for the ride.

That was an important moment in the game for me. As Square Enix opened the doors to Heavensward in 2015, the game’s first expansion, something in me clicked. I wandered into the frigid town of Ishgard, witnessing the poverty, the people there desperate to end the Dragonsong War, and I cried over the trust that both Ishgard’s people and the dragons had in my Warrior of Light. I cried again when Haurchefant saw something in me worth saving, sacrificing his life to make sure the Warrior of Light’s journey would go on. Then again, when Ysayle used her final moments to thank me for refusing to give up on her and for bringing her back into the light.

Through Heavensward’s epic journey, I had fallen in love with its cast. Y’shtola, Alphinaud, Ser Aymeric, Estinien, and the others had become some of my series favorites. With every patch, my companions continued to grow on me and sitting down to play a new update felt like going home. But what began to stand out to me the most was this attachment I felt towards Lenneth, my Warrior of Light who, at a glance, I thought would never have anything of value to offer to the story. I had constantly dismissed my avatar as nothing more than a self-insert, but her party, and now the realm, held Lenneth in such high regard that I could no longer ignore it.

The Warrior of Light isn’t quite like other Final Fantasy heroes. They don’t have much of a canon history or name, no real background information, no set path, but they’re still more than an avatar. Prior to 14, my idea of a main character was Zidane or Cloud, not something I created, not Lenneth. But here we were, two games down, and I realized that the Warrior of Light was one of the best things about Final Fantasy 14’s incredible narrative.

With the next expansion, Stormblood, Lenneth’s role in the world became more clear as she was tasked with resolving conflict that, yet again, risked throwing the entire realm into chaos. My Warrior of Light was no longer a witness to the heroic actions of her party but the actual catalyst for the change in Eorzea. As the Heavensward credits ran, I felt so much sadness for my Lenneth and what she’d endured, but in Stormblood, there was this intense sense of hope for her. When the newly liberated people of Doma began to sing with Lyse at the front, my Warrior of Light was there in the final shot. It wasn’t just Final Fantasy 14’s main cast of non-playable heroes leading the charge, but Lenneth too.

The importance of you as a character in Shadowbringers is hard to articulate. As a writer, I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but Square Enix’s most recent expansion is easily the best Final Fantasy has ever been. Shadowbringers is something special, and watching your character make the transition from Warrior of Light to Warrior of Darkness is a part of what makes the journey such a memorable entry.

I was originally worried that the transition would forgo all of my dear Lenneth’s character progression up until that point and cast it aside for some edgy, dark side story that wouldn’t suit her, but I was wrong (again) about Final Fantasy 14. Every time I’ve been afraid it won’t deliver, it overachieves. As the Warrior of Darkness, you right the wrongs of the Light and what that power has done to a fractured piece of the world.

There’s this poignant moment in 5.0 where you battle in the Crystarium, and everything looks hopeless. Your allies are crumbling across the burning city, and the previously failed Warrior of Darkness, Ardbert, can’t do anything but look on as his people are slaughtered. It’s painful to watch, and once again, I was a sobbing mess through the cutscene. Then suddenly, there she was, Lenneth, scraping together what ounce of strength was left, rallying the Crystarium’s troops, and leading them back into the fray. The moment is one of the most powerful pieces of imagery in the game, “Though the losses be grave, endure them. Though the victories be hollow, claim them.”

Shadowbringers would be the patch that I finally realized the Warrior of Light is actually one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters. For so long, I rejected the idea because of this notion in my head that a player avatar isn’t really meant to be enjoyed like the main cast; like I said, they’re just a self-insert. But at least in Final Fantasy 14, it’s not true. Lenneth joins Squall, Terra, and Yuna among the ranks of my favorite protagonists. I’ve long let go of the idea that my customizable avatar is just a throwaway.

Lenneth may not have much to say, but I love her because of how much the cast loves her. I love her because of how much the people of Eorzea look up to her. I love her because of her resilience and refusal to give up hope in the direst of circumstances. My Warrior of Darkness and Light joins the ranks of iconic protagonists that saved the world when it seemed impossible, and I can’t wait to see where her travels through Eorzea go in the next expansion.

Next: Mass Effect 2 Is A Perfect Example Of Why Good Games Don’t Need Crunch

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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.

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