The Best Questline in Final Fantasy XIV

*Warning: this article contains spoilers for side content in Final Fantasy XIV. If you have any interest in playing the game, or you do play and you haven’t done the questline in question yet, I’d recommend clicking away from this article. You have been warned. Let us begin.*

As much as I love MMOs, it’s not hard for me to see why some people steer clear of the genre as if it has the plague. Monthly subscription fees are one thing. Excessive grinding, another. But then there are the games themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore ’em. If an MMO is solid, I can get super addicted to them super quickly. But some of the quests they ask the player to complete can be downright tedious. Go get fifteen things from one enemy, go farm some plants, go talk to a dude, go grab this book that’s in the same god damn house as the quest giver, so on and so forth.

Final Fantasy XIV is no different. In-between an amazing fantasy epic and badass MMO boss fights, you get to deal with the genre’s signature quest design. There are literally points in the main story where you have to do someone’s laundry to progress. It can be really tedious at times.

All the while, your player character goes through it all without a single issue. Or any joy. Or anything, for that matter.

Your blank slate of an adventurer only feels whatever you personally imagine them to feel. Which isn’t an issue by any means; in fact, role playing is one of the most fun parts of XIV. Still, you’d think your character, a hero renowned the world over, would at least have something to say about being asked to fold someone else’s shirt.

But what if I told you that there’s a quest in this game wherein that’s the point? What if I told you that your own player character is just as annoyed and frustrated with it all as you are? What if I told you that blank slate of a character you created has more going on in their head than you might think?

Enter the best questline in the game: the Dark Knight job quests.

Let me explain. In the Heavensward expansion, players were given a brand new job in the Dark Knight class, a tanking job and my personal favorite job in the game. This quest first begins in Ishgard, when your character finds a dead knight in armor with a massive greatsword in an alley. After passing out and coming too again, this seemingly dead knight has sprung back to life. Introducing himself as Fray, he becomes your mentor as a Dark Knight.

Dude’s got one of the sickest armor sets in the game.

Fray is not a very good person. He’s selfish, cruel, and impatient. Your character is the only person he treats with any form of respect. Everyone else just seems to piss him off.

Why is this important? Because Fray isn’t just some asshole with a big sword. He’s you. The dark side of your character that you hide away from others. The one that is sick and tired of doing menial tasks and putting up with all these idiots who rely on you.

Every NPC in the world of FF XIV has this image of your character. They see you as the Warrior of Light, the perfect hero, virtuous in every way. Fray reveals a darker, more selfish side to your character. A more vulnerable one that you unwittingly hide away for fear of being rejected. After all, you wouldn’t be much of a hero in an MMO if you didn’t act heroic.

But in confronting Fray, you’re also confronting those very people you hide your dark side from. And in that confrontation, they don’t reject your character. Rather the opposite, in fact.

In doing so, your Warrior of Light comes to peace with their inner darkness. Thus, Fray and the Warrior become one again. The balance is restored, and your character is made a more complete person because of it.

This concept is further expanded upon in the follow-up questline in the Stormblood expansion. Here, your character meets Myste, a young man burdened by the sorrows of many regrets. Once again, as with Fray, Myste turns out to be a reflection of your character. Shocking, I know.

Look at this sad little child. That’s you. You are the sad child.

When you confront them, you’re forced to face the spirits of friends lost and foes slain from previous expansions. Myste, and therefor the game, call the Warrior, and therefor you, out on having killed them or having failed to save them. Once again, your status as the perfect hero is called into question.

And once again, Fray appears to bring balance to the Warrior’s heart. Yes, your character isn’t perfect. No matter what you do, this isn’t the kind of game where everything will go your way. Characters you like will die and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing except keep going.

For that, at its core, is what a Dark Knight does. They walk the hard path, bearing the burdens of their emotions and their losses alone. For those they have lost, and for those they may yet save.

I adore this questline. It not only recontextualizes the tedious quest design of MMOs, it also brings more depth to your player character. It creates the sense that your avatar isn’t just a blank slate for you to project yourself onto. Your character is every bit as much a person as all the NPCs you interact with.

What kind of person that is, that’s still up to you the player to decide. But that person has emotions they’d rather not show others. They have regrets that they have to live with.

You can tell this questline is awesome, because the one who wrote it, one Natsuko Ishikawa, was later promoted to a head writer for the main story of Shadowbringers. Which is one of the greatest RPG stories ever written.

In short: that is why I am a Dark Knight main. Sorry, Healers.

Hey! It could be worse! At least I’m not a Gunbreaker!

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