The Ascians, Final Fantasy XIV's body-hopping villains, have long sowed discord and chaos in service of their deity Zodiark. Despite the high stakes, most of the Ascians we've met haven't been very compelling foes. Enter Emet-Selch. One of the upper echelon of the Ascians, Emet-Selch is intriguing as a villain even at the end of Stormblood, but in Shadowbringers, he becomes so much more. After calling a temporary truce, Emet-Selch travels with the Warrior of Light, and in that time he serves as a window to the past, revealing the truth about the world our heroes call home and shining much-needed light on the Ascians and their goals. He is cryptic and superioristic but manages to also be charismatic and even a little sympathetic, if not in his methods then at least in his devotion to a forgotten people. When things inevitably go south and you are forced to fight him, you almost feel a little regret at having to take him down. This is the mark of a truly memorable villain, and it's a huge part of what makes Shadowbringers such a resounding success.
When we first met Altina in Trails of Cold Steel II, she behaved (and spoke) very robotically, focused only on her mission and sparing no thought for emotion or personal attachments. At the beginning of Cold Steel III, she still mostly operates from that mindset and treats her assignment to New Class VII as a mission. But it is immediately clear that her determination to help Rean goes beyond a simple directive, and over time, that attachment is slowly extended to her classmates and even her psuedo-sister Millium. Seeing her slowly start to care about her friends, develop hobbies, and ultimately come to the conclusion that she wants to be a member of Class VII regardless of her mission is just such a beautiful and heartwarming experience. Even in a series that's all about interesting characters, Altina is something special.
It's a character category. That means a Trails character has to win. And win Altina did. This was a pretty competitive category, though, with Aqua edging out Parvati from The Outer Worlds by a mere three votes, and Shadowbringer's iconic villain, Emet-Selch, finishing not too far behind.