For the last two weeks, I have had my nose buried in Final Fantasy XV. I just did my review, and let me tell you, my feelings were mixed. I did that review after having just got done with the very end of the story, and throughout the entire final act, I was rolling my eyes and just wanting it to be done. All of the plot momentum was gone. All of the character development was dead. Hell, almost the entire cast of villains was just gone, killed off-screen. The main villain was boring and predictable. As if I didn’t see what was coming from a mile away and just wanted the game to get the predictable plot over with. It got me thinking back to the trailers for this game back when it was Final Fantasy versus XIII. Take a look at this, and tell me what you think.
You see the opening to that trailer, and what is the first thing you see? “This is a fantasy based on reality.” Then you see Noctis, in a car, driving down a street that looks like it is part of a world that we could live in. But in the distance, there are fantastical ships floating in the air. A fantasy, based on reality. This leads me to believe that it wasn’t just meant to be a game with a car in it. It was a fantasy that was based on the real world. So it wasn’t going to be another one of those stupid games where the goal is to save the world. This was going to be something more close and intimate. The characters in this world wear suits and ties, go to parties and drive in cars. I loved that concept! A fantasy-realism idea in a video game. How I have ACHED for such a thing for so long.
It also had a neat little dichotomy playing. Like they took Shakespearean ideas and applied them to a video game world. You had King Regis squaring off against a king in another land, with the implication that he was being betrayed, perhaps from within? Maybe some Hamlet ideas playing out? There is also Stella Nox Fleuret, whom Noctis meets at the party celebrating the signing of the peace treaty. Two star-crossed lovers, unable to truly reconcile the fact that they are on opposing nations, yet have feelings for each other. Some Romeo and Juliet elements, then? A fantasy based on reality. Taking the fantastical and applying it to the real world. So much endless potential, and as I watch that trailer, part of me can’t help but wonder what could have been.
But that wasn’t what we got, was it? Nope. What we got was something ENTIRELY different. What we got was a game that I swear had two different development teams. There was the one who did the open world sections. I like those people. They made this huge, gorgeous area that I could drive around in and do fun quests in. There were also the occasions where you find a hidden dungeon. Those were great! If the entire game had just been Noctis and his pals just driving around on a road trip, this game easily would have won my favorite game of this year.
However, then there was the story part, which just crept its way back in. Part of me is dying to know what the story if with Nomura, who was spear-heading the game originally. There must have been some arguing with him. The man initially had this as his baby. There was talk of how insane his ambition was with this game. Perhaps it makes sense that Square Enix pulled him back from it. However, what replaced it was a story so by-the-numbers that I was looking at my watch as to when we get to the part where this or that happens. Then, as if the game was in a rush to get done, we have the entire second half take place away from Lucis and be basically a linear corridor up until you get to the point where you can go back in time and go back.
Holy shit, I figured it out. It’s the reverse of XIII! Anyone remember how in Final Fantasy XIII the first 30 hours or so were all a linear corridor, with only the last third opening up into something more open? Something a lot more fun, with side-quests and stuff? In XV, we have the reverse happening. We have this wonderful open segment that is really fun, with tons of side-quests and stuff, for the first 30 hours or so. Then, the game suddenly becomes a linear corridor that is really boring. I can’t believe it. How did you manage to do this, Square Enix?! It’s almost impressive how bad this is. I don’t know what I expected from you, but certainly not this.
A lot of people think that I hate Final Fantasy XV, and I really don’t. Take out the parts with the plot, and you have a fantastic game that could very well have been a fantasy based on reality. The road trip parts of this game felt like just that. But when you pair it up with a cookie-cutter plot with some of the most boring characters that act like they want the game to be over, it just makes me think that maybe Nomura’s ambition should have been allowed to run free. I honestly wonder what he would have come up with.
It feels lately like games are kinda throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to long games with really intricate stories. Kojima threw out his long cutscenes in places of boring tapes that you can find in Metal Gear Solid V. He didn’t need to ditch his cutscenes entirely, just shave them down to something manageable. Though, if Konami had let him run wild with his ambition, who knows what the final product of that game would have been. Or what else could have been… (Silent Hills, anyone?)
Moving forward, here is what Square Enix needs to do – don’t make a cash-grab sequel to this game. Start over with a new idea for the next one. Make it one of the numbered games, with a whole different world and whole new ideas. And flush out that world too. I don’t know anything about the world of this game, outside of bits and pieces characters talk about. I don’t know the story of Nifelheim’s rise to power, which probably was interesting. I don’t know what the story is with the Emperor and what he wanted. Or any of the knights in that room with him, since all but one of them was dead or mutated off-screen. This game had good ideas. Take some of those ideas and run with them. Like how I could go to a restaurant and order food for boosts to my stats. That was awesome! I had a lot of fun with that. It was very immersive. But next time give us a world that I can dive into. Don’t ask me to see a ton of peripheral material, like that god-awful movie that came with this game. Don’t ask me to watch some anime. Make the story be part of the actual game. And for fuck’s sake, do NOT have major plot events happen off-screen! That was so annoying! There were so many times that a TON of stuff happened that I never got to see. What the fuck, Square Enix?!
Until next time, a quote,
“You guys were the best.” – Noctis Lucis Caellum, Final Fantasy XV