Final Fantasy XVI – Easy or Awesome?
Contributed by DJMMT
This is not a review of the Final Fantasy XVI demo, and as it’s not out yet, it’s certainly not a review of the full game. I don’t really see a point in doing a full review of the demo, because I can summarize my thoughts on the demo in one sentence: PLAY THAT SHIT! While I always encourage people to play every demo they can, the FFXVI demo just happens to be fire. I hated FFXV. I was skeptical about FFXVI because of how unhappy I was with FFXV. But honestly, that demo is phenomenal, and you should definitely take the time to play it. But again, this is not a review of the demo, and I don’t want to talk about the demo in those terms for the rest of this post.
Some months ago, Naoki Yoshida, FFXVI Producer, did an interview where he talked about how FFXVI will not have an easy mode, but will have options that make the gameplay easier. You can read that interview here. Essentially, he states that they didn’t want to create an easy mode because they didn’t want gamers to feel shame about not being able to play the game on its hardest difficulty. So instead they came up with a set of optional accessories that take the place of an easy mode. You get these accessories at the start of the game and can choose whether or not to wear or remove them at any time. They will not affect trophies or any other aspects of the experience. They are just accessories that make playing the game easier by automating certain things. For instance, the ‘Ring of Timely Healing’ automates your potion management. The ‘Ring of Timely Assistance’ automates commands for your dog.
With the exception of the ‘Ring of Timely Evasion’ and the ‘Ring of Timely Strikes,’ I actually don’t feel like these timely rings should be considered easy mode accessories at all. In fact, if that interview had never occurred, I’m pretty sure the other three rings wouldn’t have even registered as easy mode accessories to most players. They’re pretty standard specialty accessories in action RPGs. The only difference is that usually you don’t have them at the start of a game. It’s actually a shame that they likened them to a replacement for easy mode, because now many players won’t use them, even though they make the experience really fun, and incredibly smooth.
Because of my own “pride as a gamer,” I never equipped these rings to try them out when playing the demo. Also note that you can only equip three accessories at a time in FFXVI, or at least in the demo, so it’s impossible to wear all five timely accessories at the same time. Again, in reality, these are just RPG accessories. Thankfully, after completing the demo you unlock a special mode that lets you play a sequence from later in the game with a bunch of even later game stats and techniques. As I didn’t check the equipment at the start of this section of the demo, I wasn’t aware that it had the ‘Ring of Timely Assistance” and the ‘Ring of Timely Focus’ equipped as a default. I’m glad this was the case because I never would have tried them out otherwise.
The thing that stood out to me most when using these rings was that I didn’t realize that I was using these rings. They weaved into the gameplay so well that it seemed like what I expected to be the normal gameplay. It was fun. It was smooth. It was convenient. But it never felt easy. Automated attacks for the dog felt the way it should feel. As I haven’t taken the time to replay that part of the demo without the ‘Ring of Timely Assistance’ on, I don’t know how troublesome commanding the dog is. But I can say that the dog acting as its own independent party member is definitely how I want it to behave in general. Takes me back to the days of Dragon Age: Origins.
When it comes to the ‘Ring of Timely Focus,’ it doesn’t even feel like a cheat. It feels like a design choice that should be standard to the gameplay. Or at the very least an option that starts out as turned on and can be turned off in the menus. It’s an extremely Square Enix feeling mechanic that absolutely makes the game more enjoyable. And in many instances more challenging. While it’s intended to make the gameplay easier, I miss that command prompt all the time. It’s basically a micro-QTE that doesn’t result in instant death if you fail. I enjoyed that aspect of the gameplay so much. And I didn’t even notice that it was added to the gameplay in that part of the demo as a crutch for the difficulty. I thought it was a later game power that you unlocked, because that’s how it feels when you’re playing.
It makes me kind of sad that the functions of these rings have been tarnished psychologically for the player base, because they genuinely improve the experience without making the game feel like it’s on easy mode. Personally, I’m a bit depressed that they take the spot of rings, because you can only wear three rings. I don’t want to waste two spots on these, but I also really liked how they made the gameplay work. Final Fantasy XVI did what so many developers have attempted and failed to do in the past. Rather than creating an easy mode, they created an awesome mode. They just did a poor job of marketing it; which really is the most Square Enix thing to do.