Like clockwork, Final Fantasy XIV always has a new character for players to thirst over with the force of a thousand suns. See: Urianger taking his hood off and swanning into the room in his new Astrologian glam, G’raha Tia for being a cute loyal catboy who wants to be our friend, and Venat after we see her living, Ancient form instead of just a giant crystal.
So who’s turn is it this time? Of their love for this certain character, Twitter user Rain affectionately said, “I’m so obsessed with him to the point where I want to hit him with my car repeatedly so I can nurse him back to health with my love.” Another FFXIV player sent a Google document that was essentially a love letter to the character in response to my queries.
This man is known by a bread-related nickname. His scathing remarks are the stuff of legendary memes. He’s been with us from the beginning in A Realm Reborn.
He’s the one-and-only Lahabrea.
A most unexpected character, especially since for many of us, Lahabrea’s cartoonish acts of evil in A Realm Reborn still looms large over his image. But with the new Pandaemonium raid series, we’ve been able to explore Lahabrea’s backstory, adding color and depth to his otherwise inscrutable motivations and exaggerated villainy. Note that there will be spoilers for the Pandaemonium raid story below, so if you’d like to avoid them, now is your chance to exit out of the article.
He’s a DILF. Need We Say More?
We should get the obvious out of the way: Lahabrea is a DILF. That should be enough to explain why many people, upon seeing his character art for Patch 6.2, gripped their knees and keeled over in lust. Now, 2021 may have been the year of the Himbo, but the DILF’s appeal is ever-lasting. If I were to break down why, it’s because that mix of stern looks, responsibility, and probably some dosage of family drama adds a mysterious appeal.
“Hot, tragic, old dads are my all time favorite trope,” explained Ray, a FFXIV player by night and comic creator by day. Ray had previously created headcanons around Lahabrea being a dad and lo and behold, the Pandaemonium raid story leaned into this narrative fully by putting a spotlight on Erichthonios, Lahabrea’s son.
But Ray’s interest in Lahabrea didn’t start with Pandaemonium. It extended as far back as A Realm Reborn where Lahabrea was simply a villain who appeared time and time again like a cockroach with nine lives.
“The fact that he body snatched Thancred was what got me interested in him,” Ray said. Uriel, too, said they took a particular liking to Lahabrea when he possessed Thancred. “I was really in love with Thancred as a character and when Lahabrea was in his body, I was just blown away, I guess.” Emmery said.
Rain, the third player to tell me they also first gained a budding interest in Lahabrea when he was bodysnatching, said it was because it reminded them of Grima from Fire Emblem. “Over time, I mostly just thought of him in a jokingly fond way,” said Rain. “As he wasn’t that compelling as a villain but I still thought he was funny. And I like funny villains.”
But that all changed when Shadowbringers came around. Rain read the side story, Ere Our Curtain Falls, and the line describing Lahabrea sank its hook into Rain’s imagination: “Was it [Lahabrea’s] affinity for concepts of flame that made him so like the fire itself? From peerless Ifrita to that hopelessly immortal bird, his creations had burned bright and beautiful ─ as did he.”
Just that small description was enough to set Rain’s imagination alight, and he was excited to finally see more of Lahabrea’s backstory in the Pandaemonium raids. As both Rain and Ray point out, of the unsundered Ascian trio — Emet-Selch, Elidibus, and Lahabrea — only Lahabrea was left without due attention. He forever only assumed the role of the madman bent on mankind’s destruction, and what he was like as an Ancient in his pre-Asican days had never before been uncovered. That is, until we began raiding the depths of Asphodelos and Abyssos post-Endwalker.
Emmery also said that Lahabrea’s slow progression from little-known to “tragic hot dad” in the newest raid tiers drove their enthusiasm for the character. “There was still a lot of room for story for him I think, but the stuff we knew, I found interesting and different from the other Ascians — like the fact he changes bodies all the time and the fact that he seems to be the most deranged out of them,” Emmery said. And then, he alluded to the fact that we find out Lahabrea was a respected researcher and that he also had a son, whom he maintained a truly turbulent relationship with.
Lahabrea’s disposition in the Pandaemonium raids is at odds with his demeanor in A Realm Reborn, a juxtaposition Rain also thought was intriguing. “It’s just alluring to me that this guy who laughed and called us pathetic like a stereotypical cartoon villain was actually a stern professor who took his work seriously and was admired by many for it,” Rain said. But Rain too enjoyed peering into Lahabrea’s tragic parenting just as much, saying, “I mostly just love how much he loves his son despite how bad of a father he is.”
This tender side of Lahabrea moved Ray. “Lahabrea being a man who comes off as cold and duty bound, seemingly placing logic ahead of matters of the heart,” Ray said. “But deep down he’s a sentimental old man who would do anything to protect his loved ones, even if it came at a personal cost.”
It’s clear that players are not only down bad for Lahabrea’s silver fox-like attractiveness, but for the way his newly revealed flaws have rounded him out into a proper character with a human side. “It’s just so good to me, y’know, that the Lahabrea we knew and loved back in A Realm Reborn ended up like that because it stemmed from the weakness he calls love.”
Pandaemonium feels like a fitting answer to the lingering questions left by the conclusions of the fight between Hydaelyn and Zodiark. Lahabrea’s story, as pointed out by Rain, ties neatly into Shadowbringers overall: That things are never as simple as they seem; Love too is a double-edged sword in the world of FFXIV — and like Emet-Selch and Elidibus, it led Lahabrea to being driven mad. Or in Hydaelyn’s case, a path to the future.
“But also,” Uriel said succinctly. “FFXIV fans just love old dudes.”