Final Fantasy XIV has me wondering whether it’s okay to change up my main character
After playing long enough in Square Enix’s massive MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV, you can get a free bottle of an interesting little potion called Fantasia. What it does is simple, and has also put me in a massive moral quandary: should I change the way I look?
Being able to create your character is a pretty impactful thing. From the role-playing games you’d play on a tabletop to modern RPGs, customizing your own avatar is a unique moment where you get to do everything: determine their gender, race, background, hairstyle, and so many other cosmetic factors. Rather than being handed a pre-made, tried-and-true character, a character creator dumps the clay on the wheel in front of you and tells you to give it form.
If you can’t tell, I have a strained relationship with character creators. In games like Baldur’s Gate 3, I could spend ages working on a character idea, building up their personal story in my mind as I go. And other times, I just kind of phone it in. While creating my Final Fantasy XIV character, I admittedly went the latter route. My avatar bears the same screen name I use in so many other online games, and his look is best described as the crossroad of Geralt of Rivia and Booker DeWitt.
Fantasia will let me change that. Fantasia will let me become someone else, anything else. One sip and I can, after logging out and back on, go back to the character creator without losing any of the progress I’ve made in-game. My regular ol’ male Hyur can become an Au Ra, or a towering Elezen, or even one of the many Miqo’te catgirls or Viera I see dancing in Limsa Lominsa every day.
I’ve spent hours upon hours now wandering with other adventurers, seeing their characters and the styles they’ve concocted. The “glam” community is a sight to behold, and everyone’s characters look so fantastic and designed with purpose. They look like fantasy warriors of legend.
I wasn’t expecting this out of Final Fantasy XIV at first. As I wrote earlier this week, I expected to dip my toe in and find the same things that have turned me away from other MMOs; in this instance, the impersonality of my player character. But Final Fantasy XIV centers on your character. They’re not just in cutscenes, but the focus of cutscenes. They’re in big story moments alongside the story’s heaviest hitters, and all eyes turn on you pretty often. They feel more like a central RPG protagonist than another random adventurer in a crowd.
Throughout A Realm Reborn, the first major slice of the Final Fantasy XIV pie, I went through all five stages with my Warrior of Light. And standing here, on the precipice of acceptance, I’m faced with a real tough quandary: I have the tool now to re-do it all. Should I?
My Dragoon looks more like the box art protagonist of an open-world action game than a fantasy warrior, but he’s also my Dragoon. He’s been the vessel through which I’ve experienced this game. This is the adventurer that I stared at as they ran through the woods, flew over mountains, teleported across the land, and fought gods of the land. From food and wine deliveries to bouts with dragons and demons, I’ve grown accustomed to his face.
I’m pulled in two directions. On one hand, I’m eager to engage more with this world by creating a character for it and of it, rather than just a slapped-together test dummy. But this test dummy and I have been through a lot. We’ve seen comrades rise and fall, empires topple, and toiled against heartbreak for the good of the light. Can I really just abandon him so thoughtlessly in pursuit of a new, more thought-out avatar?
It might be a question of how one sees their own in-game avatar. Are they a customized creation for role playing, a self-inserted avatar to act in their stead and make decisions like they would, or are they simply a means to an end? I’ve been questioning the very nature of what it means to make not just a character, but your character, in a video game. And the way Final Fantasy XIV makes your Warrior of Light the heart of the story makes it all the more difficult.
I was selfishly hoping that by writing it all out, I’d come to some sort of conclusion. Even as I work through the arguments for and against, I’m still not sure. This isn’t just a Final Fantasy XIV-specific problem either; plenty of games let you alter your main character as you play, for better or worse. Sometimes I like to get haircuts, tattoos, or scars added throughout my journey, to reflect what my protagonist has been through. But outright altering them into something else seems heavy. (Plus, Fantasia will cost me money if I want to use it again, so frugality is a concern.)
Whichever way I end up going, I can at least acknowledge that this version of my Warrior of Light—this soft-faced, barely scarred, just-got-isekai‘d doofus with a Gamertag name—has become more than a stand-in. He may have surprised the in-game world by surmounting impossible odds, but he surprised me by the time the Heavensward title showed up and I realized I really, actually, did care about him.
Have you ever used Fantasia or swapped around your character’s looks? Ever felt guilty? Let us know down below.