Last night, I finished the true ending of A Realm Reborn and made it, at long last, to Heavensward. This means yes, I saw the event that was basically FF14’s equivalent of the Red Wedding (refresh your memory here), Instead of discussing my feelings regarding what the absolute flying fuck I just witnessed, I—like Cersei—choose violence. Y’all (and by y’all I mean a good deal of A Realm Reborn’s main characters) ain’t shit! My (spoiler-heavy) report.
Sixteen-year-old Alphinaud is a fan favorite, but I haven’t quite figured out why. In the scant interactions my character’s had with him, he treats me no better than his personal attack dog—something he himself has admitted. I honestly don’t even know why he’s a Scion. The best I can tell is that they only let him and his sister, Alisaie, hang around because they’re rich and their grandfather was the guy who used to run the organization before his heroic but untimely death. I don’t care how smart or well connected he is. None of that can make up for the wisdom lived experience grants, something he simply does not have.
There’s a moment when, in the middle of aid negotiations, he petulantly asks an Ishgardian ambassador why the Scions should come to the aid of a nation that did not lend aid themselves. The ambassador smoothly answers that if the Scions don’t help, Ishgard will be destroyed, and there will be nothing to stand between Eorzea and the evil Garlean Empire. Alphinaud is forced to backtrack, claiming he hadn’t thought of that. If he didn’t have an ego the size of a planet or more experience with geopolitics, maybe he would have.
Then, frustrated by other nations’ inability to help newly arrived refugees, Alphinaud comes up with the brilliant idea to simply make an army because how hard could it be, right? He went about forming the Crystal Braves haphazardly, not realizing the money and the people he’d been recruiting were corrupt as hell. It’s that corruption that led to the downfall of all of his friends. Alphiaud ain’t shit because entitled 16-year-olds with a lot of unearned and unchecked power cannot be anything but shit.
The way people always seem to die protecting Minfilia, leader of the Scions, you’d think she was ARR’s main character instead of you. Minfilia has this aloofness about her that doesn’t endear her to me the way I’ve become attached to my other comrades. When everyone’s mingling in the bar at the Waking Sands or Rising Stones, she’s always kept herself apart, remaining alone in her office. I’ve been out, saving the world with the other Scions. I know Yda and Y’shtola and Papalymo’s jobs because I’ve seen them fight.
Mifilia’s got blades on her hips, but I’ve never seen her use them, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen her in the field twice. I’m also deeply skeptical of her judgment because she basically allowed Alphinaud to do whatever the fuck he wanted to devastating consequences.
Minfilia ain’t shit because she seems like this passive person, reacting to things that happen to her instead of ensuring her people are protected. On two separate occasions, she’s watched friends die to save her. When I think of a leader, I think of someone who is the first one in and the last one out. When shit went down and Yda and Papalymo decided to stay behind to buy us time, she left them. When Thancred and Y’shtola made that same choice to stay behind, she left them too. I don’t care about her special powers or her connection to Hydaelyn. Those were her people. You stay with your people to the bitter end.
Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, leader of the Maelstrom grand company, has a severe personality that prioritizes strength of arms above all else. She had to be strong to turn a loose affiliation of marauding pirates into the thriving city-state of Limsa Lominsa.
When two factions of beastmen summoned their gods—an event the Scions try to prevent as it’s usually accompanied by rampant destruction—Merlwyb admitted fault. The beastmen were only protecting themselves from encroachment on their land on her orders. She stated that Limsa Lominsa has just as much right to survive as the beastmen do and that she’s not above using violence to protect that right. “Eorzea has become a raging sea,” she said. “If we are to keep our heads above the waves, we cannot scruple to drown the man next to us.” Ok, that smells a bit fascist to me, but at least it tells me she’s okay with fighting, no matter how morally contentious or ill-advised the fight, if it means protecting her people, right?
Merlwyb ain’t shit because when it was time to fight, she ran. The most aggro leader of the three grand companies (someone with no qualms about shooting whoever needs to be shot), looked at Raubahn, fellow grand company leader and one of her closest comrades-in-arms, dead in his devastated face and left that party without firing a single bullet. What a joke.
Merlwyb ain’t shit because she built a reputation of being a tough, take-no-bullshit fighter who then abandoned her friend in his most dire hour of need. But for all that, at least Merlwyb hesitated before fucking off into the night.
Kan-E-Senna, Twin Adder grand company leader, ain’t shit because she left without a single word of protest. She just quietly bounced.
The thing about this incident that upsets me the most is that I did not see it coming. I saw the bubbling Crystal Brave corruption scandal and the Teledji Adeledji’s nefarious mustache twirling and still did not sense anything amiss right up until the Sultana put that cup of poisoned wine to her lips. I was on autopilot. I was so eager to finally get to Heavensward, knowing it was close, that I barely paid attention to the quests right in front of me, including the one in which I picked up the bottle later used to pin the Sultana’s death on me.
Then, when everything went down in front of me—Raubahn’s desperate fight, my friends’ sacrifice, the horrific choking and gasping and crying of the Sultana—I was powerless to stop it. I know that’s squarely on the writers. There’s no story if the player is allowed to fight back. But if that were me, I would have fought back. I would have kicked Teledji Adeledji in his shit-eating grin with enough force to shear his onion-shaped head from his neck. I ain’t shit because what’s the point of being called The Warrior of Goddamn Light if I can’t protect my friends?
In the wake of this horrific event, one person acted exactly as they should have: Raubahn. He loved his Sultana, and when Teledji Adeledji taunted him with her death, instead of letting the evil villain finish a monologue—something that happens so often it’s a trope—he killed Adeledji then and there.
Raubahn is the shit because when his so-called friends decided it was preferable to abandon him to his fate, he fought. When his best friend and the leader of the Crystal Braves revealed his own treachery, he still fought. Then when he got his arm cut off, guess what? My guy was still fighting. Raubahn is a man who stood by his convictions to the bitter end. When knuck came to buck, this man picked up his sword and fought, knowing it was a lost fight.
I am fully aware that the events of Heavensward and beyond may redeem some of these ain’t-shit-ass people. In fact, I look forward to the game trying to stop me from dumping Alphinaud in a bottomless pit with promises of good character development. It’s working. After reuniting with Alphinaud in Coerthas, he realized and apologized for his ain’t-shit behavior. I’m willing to give him another chance because he’s a child. Everyone else, though, is going to have to work a lot harder to win back my trust.