Fair warning, this whole article is just going to be a whole bunch of Stormblood spoilers, so if you haven't finished the Main Scenario for the Stormblood expansion, you may want to save this page and come back to it. Unless you don't mind spoilers — in which case, read on, my friends.
We've seen an interesting progression in the Warrior of Light over the course of Final Fantasy XIV. Even starting over with version 2.0 onward, our player characters have come an obscenely long way, taking down any enemy that gets in their path. But I'm not talking about our difficulty progression. No, I'm talking in-game lore and roleplaying moments.
In A Realm Reborn, your character doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue options, and when you do, they are generally all either light hearted, joking, or just pure stoic silence. Then, after being framed for regicide, betrayed by your own people, and after losing most of your friends, the Warrior of Light makes it to Ishgard. And in Heavensward, we still have few opportunities for commentary, but there is one moment where we can admit to the bloodthirsty tendencies that have to lie behind the eyes of a career eikon slayer. After finishing the level 57 dungeon, The Vault, players are given a choice in how they respond to Haurchefaunt's death. You can either promise that his sacrifice will not be in vein, stand by silently, or vow bloody vengeance.
That's rather out of character, but remember, in Heavensward your character has been pushed to their limits and beyond, and have suffered losses of nearly all their friends — or so they believe. And we do get the option to take up the oath of the Dark Knight and embrace the abyss in that expansion. So a bit of darkness could be excused.
The Warriors of Darkness storyline could have given us our true foil, but the name was a misnomer. The Warriors of Darkness are truly still Warriors of Light. And just as noble and self-sacrificing as you were. Notice, they wear their 2.0 artifact armor. While you have moved past it. Much like you have moved past them.
But then, there is Stormblood. You open the new expansion with Rhalgr the destroyer and his storm of blood, then you encounter Zenos, Yotsuyu, and Fordola. Yotsuyu and Fordola are desperate, angry creatures who echo who you were in Heavensward. Both have been pushed to extremes thanks to their circumstances and have become bitter because of it. Bitter and incredibly determined.
But your true foil in Stormblood is neither lackey. No, your true counterpart is Zenos yae Galvus, Imperial Viceroy of Ala Mhigo and conqueror of Doma. Zenos immediately comes across as more than just bloodthirsty. Zenos is absolutely depraved. The man is so stripped of emotion, he has never had a friend, never had a purpose in life but to find the perfect enemy.
And when you first meet Zenos, he wipes the floor with you. But you don't let that stop you. Instead you match him, step by step. Slowly drawing common people into your two-pronged war — a strategy you can recommend yourself, this time around — and embracing that darkness within you. You can sass back at Alphinaud and Alisae. You can mock Lyse. You can tell the Ananta that you will kill their god, just because you can. You watch yourself wither into a soulless husk and do nothing to stop itz
You have more opportunities for dialogue and more options for less-than-morally-upstanding responses in Stormblood than ever before. You liberate two separate nations, but in truth, you are simply hunting your own prey. Much as Zenos is hunting you.
And by the time you get to the Royal Menagerie, the final trial of the Stormblood main story expansion, you are ready to face your own reflection. When you meet Zenos at the top of Ala Mhigo castle, you are given two separate dialogue choice boxes in one cutscene. Which is nearly unheard of for a cutscene so short. In it, you can tell Zenos what you plan to do with Shinryuu: kill it, or chain its power to you. But more damningly, you have the option of accepting Zenos as your equal. Your counterpart. And when you defeat him, after he has absorbed himself into Shinryuu, he calls you his first friend. Because you are.
Only the Warrior of Light, the killer of gods, could accept a man like Zenos yae Galvus. Because you are just as broken, just as much a shattered husk as he is.
Granted, much of my reading of this internal character progression is colored by my own choices. I have long since played jobs that walk the fine line between hero and villain. Both Warrior and Dark Knight are not quite the shining pillars of morality that Paladins are — though I do play as a paladin as well — and Black Mages were hunted to near extinction in Eorzea for a reason. And I will always pick the game responses that fit with my warrior main. My character name is Destroyer Ofworlds, after all.
So, friends, what say you? Am I right, or completely insane?