Over the weekend I decided I wanted to finally begin playing Final Fantasy XV. It’s the game that “turns the series around” from the hell that was the XIII franchise and previously fumbled releases. According to the internet, (and who doesn’t listen to the internet), this open world adventure is one that shouldn’t be missed…so I bought into the hype. I watched that god awful Kingsglaive movie and the surprisingly entertaining anime short. I even played the platinum demo. All to prep me for actually playing the game.
Before I get to the game, let’s take a second to talk about the supplemental content that surrounds the game. Kingsglaive serves as the primer before the game. It’s usually the cut scene that plays at the beginning of a game. Except this cutscene is almost two hours long and riddled with terrible dialogue. Yes, it’s better than Advent Children, Square-Enix’s last Final Fantasy CGI movie–but not by much. And while the movie does fail on the merits that we judge movies, it does do a good job of prepping you for the game. Brotherhood, the anime series that dives into the relationship of Noctus and his friends, does a better job at storytelling and building a connection to the characters on-screen. Between the movie and anime, Square-Enix mildly succeeds in creating a universe outside of just the game. The problem is what happens when you jump into the game.
Final Fantasy games have always been a story focused on experiences. While the games have never been linear in the traditional sense (they utilize a world map that you can travel freely), the story and game design has focused on pushing the player through the story. Even older games like Final Fantasy VI and VII give the player freedom, but with limitations. Yes, you could visit a random town outside the current story mission, but it wasn’t going to provide a launch pad for a new quest. In fact, certain events and characters wouldn’t appear until you reached a point in the story that they were set to appear. Everything focused on the story that was being told.
So imagine my surprise, fresh from a two-hour movie and anime mini series that I’m essentially playing an open world game with some RPG mechanics. After an hour into the game I couldn’t understand what happened to the story driven Final Fantasy that I was used to. Why the hell was I even bothering with hunting monsters and dealing with Cid’s granddaughter? Why am I freely driving around and why the fuck am I setting up a base camp and cooking food?! Was I becoming one of those old geezers that lauded about the good old days of video games? Was I missing something or were my expectations too skewed towards something that the series hasn’t been in decades?
Look, I know Final Fantasy has to evolve, that it can’t continue to be the turn based game I know and love and that’s okay. I enjoy the combat in Final Fantasy XV, the wrap attacks and movements are dope. Even the team attacks are cool. At first sight the skill tree is a little convoluted but I’m sure I could figure it out. What I can’t seem to get passed is the game’s focus. It seems to be focused on everything except what was presented in the movie. I started the game ready to begin my quest to retake my homeland. But that wasn’t what was happening. What was happening was a road trip. It was another open world game. ANOTHER OPEN WORLD GAME!! Look I love exploring as much as the next person, but this open world shit has to stop. Every game doesn’t have to be The Witcher 3. In fact, I would love it if it was the exact opposite. Story still matters, and for a game that built its fan base on story, it’s interesting to see it veer so far from what got it to where it is. I’m going to keep playing to see if something pans out, but if it doesn’t I think I’ll be good on any new entry into the series.