Intro and Structure
When people ask me what my favourite game is – which happens a lot given that I write about video games – I often tell them “Try not to hate me if you’re a Final Fantasy fan,” as I proceed to explain to them that Final Fantasy 13 (FFXIII) is my favourite game of all time. I give the warning because I know it is the black sheep of the Final Fantasy franchise and many people do not like it. But as of today, I think I’m going to stop doing that, because it’s not like I’m ashamed of what I like, and because the Final Fantasy franchise has all different kinds of games. There is, however, one big reason why I’m going to stop warning people.The newest mainline game in the franchise – Final Fantasy 15 (FFXV) – is widely loved and considered a fantastic game, and to be quite honest, I have no idea why. I feel as though FFXV is much more guilty of the aspects that fans criticize FFXIII for. I’m going to go through some different aspect of both games and compare and contrast them so you understand where I’m coming from.
Probably the most obvious thing that FFXIII is disliked for is the fact that it is extremely linear. A lot of people even call it the “endless hallway game” due to only being able to progress forwards through the story, with no branching paths, towns to explore, or side quests to due until the last quarter of the game. FFXV is the opposite. Almost instantly, the game opens up and you can walk, drive or ride chocobos to most places, hunt monsters,or do side quests. These are two very different gameplay styles, one of which is not very popular in a gaming community that loves open world games. First, I would like to point out that FFXIII’s gameplay structure fits with its stories tone and pacing. Lightning and the gang get turned into l’Cie early on in the game, becoming enemies of the people and government. From that moment on, they are constantly hunted and always have the threat of capture or death licking at their heels. Why would these outcasts go “visit a town”, sleep at an inn, or talk to NPC’s to then help them with their problems? They are literally ticking time bombs that may become mindless demons that live for thousands of years in sorrow. Personally, I wouldn’t be wasting time to help strangers with stupid fetch quests or something like that. There’s also the fact that their government immediately exiles anything or anyone to do with fal’Cie or l’Cie, so meeting and talking to strangers would pretty much be a death sentence for an otherwise innocent civilian.
My point is that the game’s structure of being linear and basically being “fight, run, fight, run” is in sync with the narrative. Even if you don’t enjoy this type of gameplay, regardless of if it’s fun or not, it’s consistent with the theme and plot structure of the game. A huge theme of the game is whether or not these characters have free will and if they’re able to influence their fate. For a large part of the game, it’s doesn’t seem like they do, or that they even have the luxury of time to think about it. The characters then realize they do have free will and the chance to change their fate, and then the game opens up like it does in Chapter 11. This proves that the narrative structure and gameplay linearity go hand in hand.
Now, let’s look at FFXV, a huge open world game with towns you can visit, NPC’s to talk to, and even a few mini games. You get to drive around with your 3 best buds and go hunt monsters, buy a new weapon, get a quest where you go hunt monsters, or maybe go to the local diner where they give you more quests to go… hunt… monsters. I’m sensing a theme here. Oh! I know! Maybe take a break from the typical monster hunting and go fishing, which literally every other major RPG has and tends to be fun for about 5 minutes. FFXV is an open world game that feels very empty because there is nothing to do and the side quests are literally nothing but hunting monsters. Why are people satisfied with just the concept of an open world, if there is nothing to do in said open world? I get that all of FFXIII’s side quests are also battles, but it’s not an open world game, there are no NPC’s or side characters to interact with. FFXV’s open word formula would work if this game was made 25 years ago like some of the first few game were, but RPG’s have a higher standard now. Just simply being open world does not cut it. I know that there is also Justice Monsters Five and Totomostro, but these hardly qualify as a good “break” from traditional gameplay. There is urgency in FFXV’s story, but that immediately goes away when you can take a 10-day camping trip and do nothing but fish and ride chocobos everywhere. The story structure and overall gameplay structure are not consistent. Even if you factor in Noctis’ need to “get stronger,” then he would just have to rush to get all the royal weapons, but nope; let’s go kill some level 2 birds who are terrorizing the townspeople. Also, what is so fun about going to the same kind of towns, talking to the same generic NPC’s, and going to the same generic shops to get better gear? Why are people complaining about not being able to go to towns in FFXIII, when they are so damn boring in 15? You want interesting cities with cultures, varying locales, shops and NPC’s? Recent Final Fantasy games are not for you, go play The Witcher 3 or Skyrim.
Another thing that people give FFXIII flak for is its characters, their goals, character development, and relationship with one and other. Now, I’m going to throw critics a bone: I understand their reasoning for thinking this way. Hope, Snow and Vanille (mostly because of all the weirdly sexual noises she makes) can at times be annoying characters. Some of the characters goals and desires do change two or three times throughout the game, and some character relationships aren’t very good storywise. But I’m still going to go through them and discuss why each aspect isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.