Alright, so I’ve played some more Final Fantasy XV. It’s basically all I’ve been doing (Which is why there was no article last week and this one is late. Herp.) I maintain that it is an excellent game, however the criticisms I talked about still stand. There’s a few other things that I’ve noticed though, now that, statistically speaking, I’m about halfway through the game. (In terms of the main story. I’ve completed a shitload of sidequests and my characters are nearing endgame strength but we’ll get to that.) As always, spoilers for Final Fantasy XV follow after this.
Most of the Sidequests Feel Largely Irrelevant
There’s an overarching sidequest about collecting special weapons in order to make your team powerful enough to take on an entire empire. That sidequest feels very large and important. The rest though seem very much unimportant in the context of the world: One guy is a jeweler and wants you to mine for ore, one person researches frogs and asks you to catch a bunch, one person lost like, a lot of dog tags. There have been two—count ‘em, two—sidequests that require that I feed a cat. None of these has been especially unenjoyable, but they feel largely irrelevant. And of course, I get that sidequests don’t necessarily have to be important or meaningful, but so far basically none of the sidequests have been important or meaningful, and of the twenty-something hours I’ve put in the game, probably eighteen of those hours have been invested in sidequests. This also really affects my sense of urgency as it pertains to the main quest, because apparently it’s no big deal if I stop for three hours to catch frogs.
It would be nice if there was some opportunities to, for example, undermine the empire. There are fortresses all over the map that don’t really serve any gameplay purpose—why not let me go sabotage a couple of those like I did in the main story? Or maybe when I’m collecting ore for Mr. Jeweler, the quest is hard because the ore is in a mining town that’s been oppressed by excessively sadistic Empire soldiers. That way by getting the ore I’m also freeing the town. Maybe the dog tag quest comes, even once, from the family of the lost Hunter rather than fuckin’ Dave. Or maybe I go to collect some dog tags and I find the Hunter still alive for a change. The way it’s currently set up I just don’t feel very emotionally invested in any of these quest chains in spite of the fact that there’s a lot to do.
The Aesthetic Prevents Many of the Locations From Being Iconic
Before anybody (Greg) gets upset at me for this one, let me clarify: There are iconic locations in Final Fantasy XV. Hammerhead, Lestallum, Galdon Quay, and Altissia in particular all jump out at me as beautiful locations that I’m going to remember. But there are dozens of locations in Final Fantasy XV that all sort of bleed together. They’re typically some variation on either a gas station or a roadside diner with an inn attached to it. These locations make perfect sense within the context of the universe: During the night demons come out and terrorize anybody who’s in the dark. What’s more, electricity is at a premium. This encourages there to be a rest stop every couple miles and also keeps population centers fairly uncommon. However, speaking for a moment as a writer, the fact that something makes sense is not the only basis by which we judge whether a thing is good. Think about, for example, Final Fantasy VII and the locations therein: Off the top of my head, you’ve got Midgar, the Gold Saucer, Cosmo Canyon, the Shinra building, Kalm, Junon…all of these places have their own distinct flavor and all of them are relatively iconic to someone who’s played the game.This complaint extends to dungeons as well. Many of the dungeons in Final Fantasy XV are variations on either a forest, a cave, or an industrial such-and-such. What’s more, the transition from world map to dungeon is quite smooth, and some of the time you won’t even notice you’ve moved from the map into a dungeon. I think that my issue here is actually that the world map isn’t really distinct from the things on the world map. See, to use Final Fantasy VII again, you do actually visit a forest, a cave, and an industrial such-and-such in that game. But most of the time when you transition from one area to the next it’s through the world map, and the screen change adds a little bit of extra bravado to let you know that you’re about to do an important thing. Without that deliberate act of motion things just kind of bleed into one another in a way that I personally find makes it more difficult to remember a location.
Along a similar vein, (with a couple recent notable exceptions so far,) dungeon bosses have a way of just appearing out of nowhere. Because lots of monsters in Final Fantasy are large and unique looking, there’s been a couple times so far in the game when I’ve finished a fight, moved into the next room, and realized that the thing I just fought was the boss for the dungeon. Now, this probably isn’t helped by the fact that I’m hilariously overleveled (making a few boss fights a little trivial) but I think that the point still stands that an extra layer of fanfare might be nice.
The World is Really Big, But It Feels Pretty Small
Okay, so this is a chat about size versus scale. The short version is this: Grand Theft Auto 5 takes place in one city and the surrounding countryside. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas takes up the entire state of San Andreas. GTA 5 has a larger map, however GTA: SA feels larger because it encompasses an entire state rather than just one city.
The case is similar with Final Fantasy XV in comparison to older Final Fantasy games. This one takes place largely in the countryside surrounding Crown City, with occasional forays into neighboring cities and states. The scope of this conflict, despite being country versus country, feels kinda small as a result. On the other hand—not to paint it as the pinnacle of perfection, it’s just the one I know the best—Final Fantasy VII takes place across an entire planet. It’s a planet that’s so huge that you need your own special airship in order to traverse it. It makes the world feel large, and it makes the conflict feel large because the conflict is planetary in scale. In FFXV, most locations can be reached via your car in less than six or seven minutes. Given that I have a real-world sense of roughly how fast a car goes, I know that reaching somewhere in five minutes by car means that it’s not very far away. So, in spite of the fact that the actual rendered game world is huge (and it’s really, really big) the game itself still seems kinda claustrophobic.I have more, but this article is already starting to get a little long, so I’ll stop it there. Hopefully next week I’ll have something to talk about that isn’t Final Fantasy related…but, honestly I wouldn’t count on it. See you next time!
Scott Watmough has many strong opinions about many things that he knows very little about. They're usually about video games.