- Final Fantasy Reaper Guide – Embrace the Void - January 27, 2023
- Final Fantasy Origin: Stranger of Paradise Overview - January 19, 2023
- Final Fantasy Dragoon Guide - January 6, 2023
What is the requirement for a villain to turn into a companion? Apparently, many Final Fantasy XIV antagonists check all these markers, and Gaius didn’t want to be left behind. Initially, The Black Wolf is a minor antagonist in Final Fantasy XIV version 1.0 and a major antagonist in A Realm Reborn.
Then, in later expansions, he finds himself fighting alongside us. Why does this happen, and why do our allies accept it? I hope this Gaius Van Baelsar Guide will help you understand how he went from a menacing antagonist to a reliable anti-hero.
First, we must agree that Gaius wasn’t a villain but someone on the other side of the coin. You know that quote, “every villain is a hero of his or her own story,” right? Gaius is the personification of this quote. Yes, he had substantial fascist tendencies and believed that the mighty should lead the weak, even if it meant overriding their beliefs and morals.
But he could also acknowledge others, as long as they were in the mighty’s rank. Meritocracy at its finest – nonetheless, still flawed. Along with an eloquent speech and firm convictions, it’s easy to comprehend how he captivated the empire’s high echelon and became a, shall we say, charismatic legatus.
But amidst the Ascian deceptions and the confrontation with someone mightier than him, Gaius learned in tough love that his blind faith in the empire’s conquest was tainted. This gave him a change of heart, and he turned a new leaf, becoming a protector of Garlemald – and the world consequentially – through the shadows.
- Full Name: Gaius Van Baelsar. He carries the moniker Black Wolf.
- Race: Garlean.
- Gender: Male.
- Playable Character: Nay.
- Weapon: Gunblade and a ceruleum hand-cannon while wearing legatus armor.
- Special Powers: Martial arts prowess and magitek enhancements. As a Garlean, he can’t channel aether and use magick.
- First Encountered: Gaius first appeared in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. In A Realm Reborn, he appears in the initial cutscene. But our character meets him after we defeat Garuda.
- Characteristics: Gaius is the legatus of the XIVth Legion. He is rarely in the front line of combat, but even the coordinated Scions struggle to hold their ground when he is.
Like most legatus, Gaius is often seen cladding a full armor. His helmet bears sideways crooked horns as if they were sad, and they are donned with earrings. He wears a breather-like mask on his face, very Darth Vader-ish. Pauldrons, gloves, and greaves in black hue fashionably match his red coat. Gaius has a somewhat hidden ceruleum cannon attached to his left hand. He operates it alongside his gunblade, Heirsbane, a title his weapon earned after a gruesome event.
In the Praetorium fight against Gaius, he goes Super, and his armor turns to gold. While, storywise, no one mentions this, it’s known that Garleans use gilded plates because such materials are resistant to magic. Maybe that’s why Gaius’ final form bore this hue.
In Stormblood, when we reencounter the Black Wolf, he has abandoned his legatus armor and wears more casual clothes – in case you casually are an Ascian exterminator. He wears a dark brown ragged coat over a tattered white shirt, black trousers, and some prepared-to-war gear, such as a holster across his chest. He has a dark tan, black hair slicked back, and the Garlean third eye racial trait on his forehead.
As a precursor of bad news to Ascians, Gaius carries around his waist masks of Ascians, both black and red, that he has killed. Possibly the hosts he killed, since destroying an Ascian requires some less mundane measures.
If I wanted to summarize Gaius, I would say that he is that cousin in your family who believes that hard work and meritocracy are the solutions to everything and that if you fail, it is because of your own laziness and lack of effort. Although his unhinged conviction and pragmatism sound antagonistic compared to the city-states of Eorzea, this doesn’t mean that he is villainous.
Gaius believes that it’s the duty of the powerful to take care of the lesser. While he shows a condescending attitude in his belief, he honors his word. One example is when he invaded Ala Mhigo and kept casualties to a minimum.
Yes, the people have been dominated by Garlean and must abide by their culture and rules. But in Gaius’ view, this is the only solution to unite the world and face the threats of the primals – or eikon, by Garlean nomenclature. Although Ala Mhigo was subjected to the political regime of the empire, this guaranteed the city-state and its citizens’ well-being and wealth.
In 1.0, he made an offer to every city-state in Eoreza. Gaius said every one of them could keep their freedom if they accepted Garlean’s occupy and declared war on the beast tribes. However, most believed it was a ruse from the legatus to just conquer the city-states effortlessly, something his character development would prove otherwise in the long run. His offer was most earnest and sincere, despite belligerent.
Gaius was against Nael van Darnus‘ Meteor project, believing that his endgame would be more harmful to Eorzea and its population than the beast tribes. This drives him to indirectly helps the player and Cid successfully sabotage the project and prevent mass slaughter.
You may claim this seems contradictory to his application of the Ultima Weapon. But the legatus intended to use the ancient relic as a form of psychological subjugation. When Lahabrea activated the Weapon and showed its destructive potential, Gaius had a fast change of heart.
Gaius has a professional relationship with his lieutenants, but he faithfully believes they can become their best versions. From his point of view, someone should be judged by their actions and results, not origin or race. He also adopted Werly orphans and took care of Cid when his father left his son on the sidelines to focus on his research.
Behind the Scenes
The legatus of the XIVth legion has a very illustrative backstory of how he rose to his title and his unwavering devotion to the Garlean Empire and emperor Solus zos Galvus. His dedication was such that he eliminated nine usurpers to the throne. Such a feat earned his Gunblade the handle Heirsbane.
He quickly became Solus’ favorite legatus and attained the moniker Black Wolf. After conquering several cities, he was delegated the mission to invade Eorzea and put them under Garlean influence. He started with Ala Mhigo. In a ruse that pitted the city-state’s citizens against their King of Ruin, Gaius managed to overtake it with minimal casualties.
Gaius and his fleet continued their assault on Eorzea, but for this, they needed to cross Mor Dhona. The Garleans didn’t expect the guardian of Lake Silvertear to awaken and face them. It says that Hydaelyn, the goddess, had asked Midgardsormr to protect Lake Silvertear, as it was a type of source for the aether energy of the realm. Midgardsormr understood the Garleans’ raid as an attempt to break the seal of Lake Silvertear and summoned the Dravanian Horde to confront the Garlean fleet.
Dragon and machine clashed in the conflict known as the Battle of Silvertear Skies. Midgardsormr and his horde began to feel overwhelmed by Magitek technology, so the father of dragons coiled himself into the Agrius, the mightiest of all vessels, and destroyed it. However, its ceruleum core exploded with the draconic attack, and the blast ultimately killed Midgardsormr.
Here’s everything you need to know about Midgardsormr in FFXIV.
Weakened by the losses, Gaius needed to postpone his invasion and had to retreat. Ironically, the Agrius explosion caused the seal of Lake Silvertear to break. This way, the beast tribes regained the capability to use the power of the crystals to summon their primals, something Gaius solemnly faces in his future missions. We all reap what we sow.
His defeat made him no longer a favorite of Solus. The emperor readily accepted Nael van Darnus’ ploy and the Meteor project. Years later, we would find out that Solus knew of all the supposed damage Dalamud could do in Eorzea and – spoiler alert – as a good Ascian, accepted with open arms yet another potential calamity.
A Great Minor Antagonist
Gaius appeared in the first version of Final Fantasy XIV, the defunct 1.0. He was a minor antagonist but demonstrated a martial prowess apparently forgotten in A Realm Reborn. I confess I didn’t play the first version to the point where I met him. But watching old cutscenes showed him more menacing and irrepressible than his current version. In the ending scene of the Main Story of FFXIV 1.0, the player finds several Ala Mhigan Resistance members dead and soon comes across Gaius, raising a lifeless man with his blade (curiously, the man looks like Hildibrand Manderville).
Gaius quickly shoots the Path’s companion and then the player with his left hand, but the shot is rebounded by a nimble Thancred. Then Thancred, Papalymo, Yda, and Y’shtola Rhul face the legatus, who effortlessly fend off their attacks while shooting and slashing. Finally, Gaius calls for an Imperial Dreadnaught, which fires an over-the-top cannon attack and damages the player and his Scions-to-be colleagues.
With the power of the Echo, the player glimpses Gaius talking to Nael about the Meteor project. He is against the project, claiming that if it is allowed to progress, all he will achieve is an Eorzea in shambles. Motivated to quietly help Eorzea, Gaius shoots one of Nael’s airships that contains equipment to handle Dalamud. After the adventurer finds the destroyed Garlean airship, Gaius appears to them, allowing them to leave with schematics of the technology that controls Dalamud. He says he hopes Cid can control the red moon and avoid a catastrophic disaster in Eorzea.
Even after winning against Nael van Darnus, Dalamud continues to descend. In the quest to seek the aid of the Twelve, the VIIth Legion, honoring the wishes of its late legatus, attempts a massive covert attack to thwart Louisoix’s actions. Gaius again intercedes, warning the adventurer of the whereabouts of the VIIth Legion and removing his own legion, the XIVth, from the scene. The legatus even wishes our Warrior Of Light luck and just watches the Battle of Carteneau unfold. He witnesses Louisoix’s Hail Mary failing and a new calamity assailing Eorzea.
A Realm Reborn and a Villain Return
Gaius survives the calamity caused by Bahamut and resumes his duty to conquer Eorzea as if nothing had happened. Garlemald is involved in internal political conflicts, so the legatus decides to take the reins of the operation on his own and show the proactivity of a good employee. Boast the ranks of the XIVth Legion with new soldiers and officers.
The legatus appears to the group after the Warrior of Light defeats Garuda. The wind primal demands that the other beast tribes summon their respective primals, so Titan and Ifrit emerge. But Gaius was prepared – hoping even – that the primals would gather. He calls the Ultima Weapon, which effortlessly faces the primals and absorbs them into its core. With the Weapon’s power and threat as psychological pressure, Gaius tries to persuade the Eorzean Alliance to give up, but his request is refused.
His officers contemplate the conquest operation on different fronts. Livia sas Junius attacks the Waking Sands, weakening the Scions by eliminating several members, roundhouse kicking Noxio away, and kidnapping Minfilia, Papalymo, Urianger, and Tataru. The Warrior of Light and their allies manage to rescue their colleagues and escape in time before Gaius uses the power of the Ultima Weapon.
Anticipating an attack from the Eorezan Alliance, Gaius sends another of his officers, Rhitahtyn sas Arvina, to protect Cape Westwind. This battle would be remembered for eons among Final Fantasy XIV players for its massive difficulty and being a turn-off for new players. Meanwhile, Nero tol Scaeva was to repair the Ultima Weapon. Fast-forward a bit, and we defeat all three of Gaius’ officers.
This brings us to the last dungeon of A Realm Reborn, The Praetorium. Meeting Gaius inside it for the first time, he talks with Cid about his father Midas’ obsession and, using the “I raised you” plea, asks him to return to the empire and aid him.
Gaius then extends the invitation to the Warrior of Light, promising a regent position in the soon-to-be-conquered Eorzea, provided he accepts the subjugation. This must have been the thirteenth time Gaius offered a deal in the hypothetical situation that his victory was assured. The Warrior of Light refuses and resumes the offense in The Praetorium.
At the end of the garrison, Gaius stands as the last line of defense for the Ultima Weapon. He goes into an extended but philosophical monologue, showing the hostility of his intentions and convictions. Still, his motives and beliefs have an interesting fundamental basis.
Gaius claims that the city-states were built on deception, and we soon discover that he was on something. He also talks about the Twelve and the beast tribes sucking the aether from the planet, the very life force that sustains us. I don’t know about you, but I believe that if Gaius had given this speech at an AVALANCHE happy hour, we would’ve dethroned Shinra much easier.
Nothing changes at the end of his obligatory villainous speech; after all, we have no power of choice in an MMORPG. We face and defeat Gaius in battle, even though he’s transformed into Super Gaius. His defeat compels him to resort to using the Ultima Weapon. Legatus pilots it himself and harnesses the power of the primals to try to beat the Warrior of Light at least once.
With the help of Mothercrystal, we thrive once more. An interesting detail is seeing the primals banished from the Ultima Weapon as the battle progresses. Lahabrea appears, helping Gaius by activating the Heart of Sabik in the Weapon’s core. The activation causes the Ultima spell to be conjured, devastating The Praetorium.
Gaius gets weary of the Ascian’s attitude, making it clear that he did not intend this mass destruction. After dealing with us, he promises to shut down his associate. But to his demise, he cannot tackle the Warrior of Light, even riding a legendary secular machine, and is defeated.
Amidst The Praetorium doomed to destruction, in his final words, Gaius warns the Warrior of Light of the importance of the mighty ruling the eorzeans and forsaking their dependency on primals and the Twelve.
The Wolf Shed His Armor
When Alphinaud‘s airship is attacked and lands on The Burn, he meets a Garlean, easily recognized due to the presence of the third eye. The man introduces himself as the Shadowhunter and claims his sole objective is to hunt Ascians. The several Ascian masks hanging on his belt show he’s been great at it. Shadowhunter tells Alphinaud he has a story with the Scions. Devoid of available choices, the young boy joins the seasoned hunter toward Garlemald.
As you’ve probably guessed – or already know – the Shadowhunter is Gaius, now hellbent on delivering judgment to the Ascians. He survived the destruction of The Praetorium but gave up his armor and status as legatus of the XIVth Legion. He considered it unworthy to give up the fight after everything he and his comrades went through and decided to go on a trek to avenge his fallen companions by hunting down the Ascians.
When Gaius and Alphinaud arrive at a field, they find a sea of bodies resulting from the alchemical weapon Black Rose. During Gaius’ tenure as a legatus, he ceased production of the Black Rose as he considered it too dangerous and harmful. A weapon of extermination, not conquest. After Elidibius took over Zenos’ body, he resumed production.
Gaius imagined that an Ascian was involved in the reproduction of Black Rose and set his mind on hunting down the ancient and destroying the facilities producing the toxic gas. With Alphinaud, they raid an installation and demolish the plant manufacturing the deadly weapon.
Not long after, Alphinaud falls into a coma, like his fellow Scions did prior. Gaius transports him in a small imperial airship until he rams on a force shield in The Burn, created by Cid and Ironworks to protect the Far East. Luckily, the airship didn’t explode, or we would’ve lost Alphinaud on the spot.
Gaius exits the ship carrying Alphinaud, and at Alisaie’s request, Hien lowers the barrier. In front of Hien, Alisaie, and the Warrior of Light, the Shadowhunter reveals himself to be Gaius Baelsar, which causes defensive postures and suspicion from those present.
When Gaius begins to explain about the Black Rose and the numerous clones he has found of the former emperor Solus yae Galvus, the party acquiesces to his presence. The former legatus comments on a hierarchy existing in the Ascians. Three of them are considered Paragons of the Source: Lahabrea, Elidibius, and the mysterious Emet-Selch.
The man seeks answers, wanting to know if these atrocities were all governed by the Ascians or if it was at the emperor’s will. Oh, Gaius, you’re in for both a treat and a delusion. The Black Wolf no longers fights for the empire but for his homeland, Garlemald. Then, our former enemy becomes an unlikely ally, acting in the shadows to end the Ascian’s machinations.
Wolf and Dragon Together
Gaius learns that the facility he destroyed wasn’t the only one producing Black Rose and extends his efforts searching for others factories. In one of these offensives, he encounters Estinien. The dragoon is working for the Scions with the same goal. Sharing a common purpose, they form a temporary alliance. And so, Dragon and Wolf bare their fangs side by side.
Arriving in Garlemald, they are greeted by screams of agony. In the throne room, the warriors find the emperor Varus being struck down by his son, Zenos. Before dying, Varus confirms that Zenos is himself and not Ascian-possessed. Wolf and Dragon tag attack the prince but are overpowered. In the ruckus, Garlean’s army reaches the throne room, and Gaius and Estinien have no other choice but to flee, separating after getting outside.
After they faced the Arch Ultima, the Black Wolf suspected that the Ultima Project was ongoing and went to investigate the imperial base in Werlyt. His suspicions would prove accurate since the empire was manufacturing new magitek weapons modeled on the Ultima Weapon. As if that wasn’t enough, one of the weapons was already on an offensive.
Gaius asked the Warrior of Light for help to rage against the machine, the Ruby Weapon. After the victory, officials who are overseeing the project confront Gaius. To the Black Wolf’s dissatisfaction, they are orphans he had taken care of in the past. Incidentally, one of the orphans deceased post-battle since he was piloting the Ruby Weapon.
With the help of Cid and others, Gaius has a new goal: the destruction of the new Weapons and their production. However, to add to his feelings, each Weapon is being manned by one of the orphans he helped raise. The Weapons have an oversoul system, which uses the life force of the pilots to strengthen themselves. However, for each Weapon defeated, one of the orphans dies.
The orphans were sacrificing themselves so that Allie, their sister, would survive. She is rescued and tells what happened with them after Gaius disappeared. Lo and behold, the Werlyt Revolutionaries is formed, spearheaded by Gaius himself. The latter is tasked with ending the VIIth Legion’s new legatus, Valens van Varro. But in the dead of night, Allie escapes trying to use the Diamond Weapon to get revenge on the entire facility and legion.
Before she can do this, her brother Alfonse takes her place. Piloting – or not – a berserk Diamond Weapon, he destroys the whole facility and the legatus. However, uncontrollable, it’s up to the Warrior of Light to put an end to him and deliver him peace. Allie is catatonic upon finding out about her brother’s circumstances, but Gaius manages to project Alfonse’s memories, restoring Allie’s mind.
In the events of freeing Garlemald from a rampaging Zenos, Gaius expresses his desire to join the group but believes his presence would only serve to trigger bad feelings in those present. Hence, he chooses to continue protecting Werlyt. When the crew is reforming the Ragnarok, Gaius delivers Allagans relics found in the Weapons to complete the spaceship.
Battles and Strategy
Praetorium Boss Battle
Gaius is the last boss of the Praetorium dungeon. After a lengthy monologue – and quite dull if it’s the sixteenth time you’ve heard it – Gaius goes Super Saiyan, his armor takes on a golden hue, and he tries once and for all to finish off the Champion of Eorzea.
Before patch 6.1, we faced Gaius in an 8-man party in a battle that belittled Black Wolf’s nickname and warmonger background. It was so easy that reading a strategy about the fight was more time-consuming than actually facing him.
After patch 6.1, the battle turned more dynamic and better denoted the legatus’ abilities. I can even say that if you play with Netflix open – as I did previously – you run the risk of a party wipe. Final Fantasy XIV is such a fair MMORPG that its updates buff even old bosses.
Question: Is Gaius van Baelsar dead?
Answer: The man, the warrior, the Black Wolf, isn’t. But technically, Gaius van Baelsar is dead. In his place, Gaius Baelsar is reborn. The particle defines his hierarchy in Garlean society. Since he abandons his legatus office, he’s no longer part of the empire.
Question: What race is Gaius van Baelsar?
Answer: He’s a Garlean, a race which bears a third eye on the forehead. Said the eye is believed to improve the race’s capacity for spatial recognition. Suitable for firing weapons and navigating flying ships, as is the focus of the Garlean Empire. Also, a Garlean can’t manipulate aether, which means they can’t use magick.
Question: Is Gaius Cid’s father?
Answer: Not his foster father. But Gaius took care of Cid after Midas became obsessed with the Meteor project and stopped caring for his son.
In version 1.0, Gaius was a much more menacing and imposing antagonist. Although his appearances were minor, they were memorable, and we knew he was just setting the scene for a bigger bang. In A Realm Reborn, his conviction and duty kept him stoic, albeit being puppeteered around unknowingly by the Ascian Lahabrea.
His reliance on the Ultima Weapon and lack of direct confrontation against us gave me the impression that either he was nerfed or our Warrior of Light had evolved since the events of 1.0. Or Square Enix simply lacked the budget for fighting cutscenes between the legatus and our Scions after the 1.0 fiasco.
Either way, his evolution is apparent. When he discovered that the Garlean empire was corrupted from within and all his belief was just a ruse of an ancient force, he decided to act on his own. Not for the empire but for Garlemald and his people.
Through the shadows, Gaius protects the world Hydaelyn, helping the Warrior of Light and the Scions at different times. If you want to know more about Black Wolf’s past in-game, I recommend taking the questline The Sorrow of Werlyt.