Final Fantasy XVI Sounds Good

Contributed by DJMMT

Recently, it was announced that Final Fantasy XVI will not be a full open world like FFXV was/is. Good! I’m so happy to hear that Square Enix realized just how mediocre FFXV is. It’s a garbage game. Yeah, I said it. Is it the worst Final Fantasy I’ve played? No. I’ll still say that’s FFXIII. But it rivals for that position. And yes, one of the major reasons for that is the gigantic but mostly bland and inconvenient open world.

Driving that car around was cool exactly one time. Then it just became a time-consuming bore. The fact that they made the fast travel mechanic cost the player money was also super annoying, as was having to refuel the car in general. When I first started the game, I vowed I wouldn’t use the fast travel, because I didn’t want to waste money. But by the end of the game I was using it at least part of the time, because I just didn’t have the patience to spend several minutes driving from one location to another. I very much appreciated that you could at least set the car to auto-drive in many instances. Truth be told, I spent most of these moments playing a game on my Switch while waiting for the car to reach its destination. A game shouldn’t work like that. The player shouldn’t feel compelled to play another game while they’re trying to play a game.

The best Final Fantasy for me is still FFX. Not just because of the turn-based combat, which I love, but also because it’s designed like a game for people that play games for more than just the graphics. It’s designed like a game for people who like story-based games. The environments are present to enhance the narrative. Not simply to exist and look impressive. Every section of the game is in someway relevant to the story and how it’s told. You’re basically never just walking around to discover new locations simply to discover them. With the exception of a few hidden dungeons that you can’t access until the late game, everywhere you go in FFX is directly and clearly part of the story.

Many people today have been brainwashed by buzzwords like “on rails” to describe story-based games. They’ll say things like “let me make my own story” or “I’ll get to the story when I feel like it,” but this is not how JRPGs are supposed to work. JRPGs, which are a specific genre that differs from Western RPGs, are about the story. That’s the point of them. If you’re playing them for anything else, you’re playing the wrong genre. Final Fantasy games don’t need big unwieldy worlds. They need worlds that tell a good story. Breaking the game up into separate areas that have an effect on the plot is the best way to do a JRPG.

I hope that FFXVI brings back properly working fast travel. While FFX didn’t just let you save whenever you wanted, a mechanic that I think is important to modern games of all types, what it did do was allow you to fast travel, once you reached a certain point in the game, to any previous location you had been to via fast travel to outdoor save points. This was not only convenient, but also narratively justified. You had an airship and were given carte blanche use of it. No annoying fuel cost mechanics or time of day nonsense. The player could just go where they wanted and explore that area to their heart’s content.

I understand the argument that open world games are longer and people want to get their money’s worth. But that’s a stupid argument when we’re talking about a Final Fantasy game. These games aren’t short. No one buys an FF and beats it in 20 hours. You’re always going to get a good 60+ hours in a mainline FF game. And that’s lowballing it. Most FFs take 80+ hours in a first playthrough. And that’s not just the new ones. That’s going all the way back to the original version of FFVII if not earlier. No one genuinely has to worry about getting their money’s worth from a Final Fantasy game, whether it’s open world or not. So making that argument isn’t in good faith to begin with.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m tired of games being long for the sake of being long. I’m tired of open world games being open world just because they are with no real rhyme or reason to the narrative being told or the original purpose of the franchise. GTA is open world, because that’s what GTA is about. It’s a franchise about causing criminal chaos in a city. It’s a franchise about making money however you see fit. That’s the essence of what GTA is. The open world aspect enhances the experience, because the purpose of the games are built around the open world. That is not the essence of say Assassin’s Creed, as one of countless examples.

I like Assassin’s Creed games. I’ve been playing them since the original title. Over time, they became more and more open world to the point that they’re now fully open world games that have maps spanning entire countries. It’s impressive, but it’s not the best Assassin’s Creed experience. While I enjoyed both Origins and Odyssey, I wouldn’t call either game my favorite in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Because those games have very much lost the plot of what Assassin’s Creed was originally meant to be. It was a stealth puzzle game about creatively infiltrating, killing a target, and escaping a location. That was the point of the games. Sure, there was some fighting and loads of collectibles, but the point of Assassin’s Creed when it started was being an assassin. Now it’s basically third person Elder Scrolls. I’m not saying new Assassin’s Creed games are bad games. If Valhalla was just a random game about Vikings and had nothing to do with Assassin’s Creed, it would probably be one of the best Viking themed games ever made. I’d still argue that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is probably the best pirate game ever made. But that’s not what Assassin’s Creed was supposed to be about. Those were supposed to be hooks to get you to play a game about being an assassin.

I have high hopes for FFXVI. Though I would have no problem with the franchise returning to traditional turn-based combat, which I know will never happen, the new combat looks good. If it’s not going to be full turn-based, I prefer it to be as fluid and straight forward as possible. If it’s going to look like Devil May Cry combat, it might as well feel like Devil May Cry combat. I’m glad to hear the lead developers talk about prioritizing story, because that’s what Final Fantasy, and all JRPGs, is supposed to be about. Top-tier storytelling with memorable characters and amazing lore. While I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the idea of returning to a medieval setting, we know it works for this franchise.

The last two mainline Final Fantasy games disappointed me so much. I consider both FFXIII and FFXV the worst the franchise has offered since I started playing it back with FFX. I disliked FFXV so much that I considered giving up on the franchise. I hope FFXVI breaks the cycle. If the best way to do that is for the developers to flat out ignore most modern trends in game design, then I fully support that. Hope they remain in the current Square Enix habit of putting out a playable demo before release.

XPG Terrence

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