FINAL FANTASY XVI
One of the games I was hyped for this year, go figure. It's one of the games I made the backlog for. The game this year I was going to play no doubt, and the one I wanted to finish as much of the older titles to get to.
Sadly, I didn't get longer than FFII, and a few hours into FFIII before it spiraled out of control, but the point being the backlog in general, and I've done quite a dent into that one, with 10 titles completed, plus the three that came out this year. So, 13, er, 14(with this one of course) now completed within 6 months. In my book, that's decent and a half.
So, on to the game. Because, boy, do I have a lot to say about this game.
Right from the get go, FFXVI lets you know, this is a game for adults. Unlike any other title in the series, be it mainline or any spinoffs, it doesn't shy away from dropping f-bombs, or nudity. Sure, the nudity is about as hardcore as the Austin Powers movies, but FF never did anything like this before. It's raw, in your face, and not afraid to do so. But then, at some points, it behaves like a child that's never been allowed to say things like cock before, and then it misuses it in so many ways. Sentences like "I'll fucking kill you" feels fairly well placed, sure, but "you cock" is uttered by a woman exiting a room after a man, in a seducing way, only to have him have his dry-humping ways with her against a wall.
Oh my. Adult themed indeed. And this, of course, only taking place within the first hour or so of the game, it's making damn sure you know the tone, before it sails off into it's nor-
No. Not normal ways. Because this game really, really doesn't deserve its namesake. There's pretty much nothing tying this to the Final Fantasy series.
Now, let's recap a tad, shall we? What is the Final Fantasy series? In as-short-as-I-can-put-it, it's a JRPG series. It's always been a JRPG series, with all that entails. An overworld, random battles, time/turn based battles, magic spells, various classes, different species, summon magics, recurring threads like Chocobos and Moogles, summons being mostly the same, but with a new design, a character called Cid somehow bound to airships, airships, a love story(although that's really only since FFVII), killer graphics for their time, absolutely breathtaking music, and a good story. For the most part.
Yes, it's a series very close to me, and yes, it's hard for me to recap it in a few keywords. My point, however, is that with the latter titles(specifically FFXV and FFXVI), all those things have been thrown to the side, to a certain extent. Yes, both XV and XVI have chocobos, summons, good music and, I guess magic spells, they both are so different from their predecessors, it's hard to call either of them FF games. Except for some reason, XV is a good title, and I absolutely loved playing it for 200 fucking hours. Gotta mean something. I could of course talk about it for paragraphs, but it's not todays topic.
FFXVI is so drastically different, it's nigh-impossible to even call it an FF title.
Overworld? - lackluster map with points you can teleport to.
Random battles? - No.
Time/turn based battles? - Not even close.
Magic Spells? - Technically yes, but they're so miniscule they don't really matter, and you end up not using them at all.
Various classes? - No. You could argue yes, but I'll get to it.
Different species? - No.
Summon Magics? - Yes. But also no.
Chocobos and Moogles? - YES! The former is a mount with personality, but the latter is reduced to being basically wall paper.
Cid? - Yes. But no airship. And his whole name is... Cidolphus?
Airships? - No.
A love story? - Actually yes.
Killer graphics? - Absolutely.
Breathtaking music? - Fairly forgettable music.
A good story? - Okay, yes.
So, with key points out of the way, lets look at the story/plot.
You are Clive Rosfield. A very bland and normal name, compared to other protagonists in the series(Terra, Cloud, Squall, Zidane, Tidus, etc), but sure. Clive, being the firstborn, should be the dominant of the Eikon known as Phoenix. But for some reason, it skipped him, and it went to his younger brother Joshua(again a strangely normal name, but I won't comment on it, because they all are in this game). Their mother shuns Clive, as she cares not for anyone that isn't important, and truly only wants to be a ruler. The story starts by establishing that Clive is the "shield" of Joshua, and they all live in this VERY GAME OF THRONES INSPIRED CASTLE THING IN THE NORTH. Joshua has come of age, and they are setting out to a place called Phoenix Gate, where Joshua will, I don't know, unlock his Eikonic potential or something to that extent.
-Side note. Eikons are this games Summon monsters. If you played other games in the titles, they usually go by a unique name in every game. Espers, Eidolons, Guardian Forces, Aeons, etc. Same thing, though, but in this game the Dominants literally turn in to them.
Of course, it all goes awry, the neighboring Empire(Kingdom? I seriously can't remember) invade them, and in a hissy fit, Joshua turns into his Eikon "Phoenix", can't control it, and it all goes to shit. Clive, suddenly unlocking HIS Eikon "Ifrit"(which isn't a spoiler, because it's obvious from the get-go) and.. let's say neutralizes Phoenix. I say Neutralize. He straight up murders him. And then the game skips ahead 13 years or whatever it was, and Clive still doesn't know he's Ifrit, and has spent all this time looking for him. Talk about a journey to find yourself, eh?
And that's just the plot of the demo that was released a week or so before the game came out. And I loved it. I was a bit iffy on the combat system, but I loved where the story was going.
I won't actually go much more into the story though, because for the longest time after this, it was utterly boring, and so inspired by game of thrones this game should've just been called Throne Fantasy. It's dark as hell, full of intrigues, politics and way, waaay too long cutscenes. But then, after awhile, it actually got good. There are twists and turns I didn't see coming, and once the credit rolled, I'd found myself enjoying the adventures of Clive and his gang. Even though their names were all just real names. I miss the quirky names, ok? The love story in this game, while taking anything but center stage, really worked for me, though. It's very easy to see coming, but I did enjoy the hours/years of will-they-won't-they, and felt it worked as intended.
On to the combat system, and, as I said, classes and magics.
FFXVI has no classes. I mean, it sort of does, but you don't get to play as any of them. Clive is a shield, as in a, I don't know, Fighter, for you DnD nerds. But since he's blessed by the Phoenix, and later Ifrit, he also does some magic stuff. Yes, you can technically cast "fire", but it's weak as hell, and you end up not casting it at all. Since the combat system is absolutely real time, it wouldn't make sense to include any of the traditional spells that you'd take your time browsing menus to find. Instead, you have combat abilities based on your Eikon powers. So for instance, "Phoenix Rise" is a fiery attack that launches enemies into the air. And you unlock more of these in various forms as you progress through the game, as well as a limit-break of sorts. Some of them could also be compared to changing classes to a certain extent, but your basic attack is always the same, your magic spell is always the same, but a different element. Abilities do change, and some of them drastically, but you don't get to directly play as any other class than whatever Clive is supposed to be. There are also companions fighting at your side, depending on where you are in the story, all with their own abilites that DON'T FUCKING MATTER BECAUSE YOU CAN'T CONTROL THEM ANYWAY.
I can't press enough how much I dislike the combat system. If I wanted to play a game like Dark Souls or Devil May Cry, this would be right up my alley. Really, it's tight, and fast paced, but it absolutely doesn't belong in Final Fantasy. And that's a deal breaker for me. I enjoyed the story enough to complete the game, but the combat system is at the core of the game, and I hated it. Thankfully, the developers sort of knew this might be an issue, and provide you with some equipment you can, er, equip from the very start, to make it bearable. So, for the majority of the game, I wore the Ring of Timely Evasion, which always evaded enemy attacks, unless I was diving head-first into them. Some may call it lame, some may even argue it's "noob-like". I don't care. I hated the core gameplay. Usually I don't mind a fight lasting 30 minutes plus in an FF game, but then it's also long because you take your time to assign commands to an entire party, some times to react to whatever hell the boss unleashed upon you, some times to unleash said hell yourself. But when an enemy is taking 30 minutes in real time, it's really just a bullet sponge, masking as "LOOK AT HOW PRETTY THIS GAME IS", and it is, sure, but like Guitar Hero's cool stage show, there's really no time to look at that when you're busy button mashing, is there. Even my kid reacted, having been to the shower, had supper, and everything, and I was still in the same goddamn fight as before he started.
On to the setting.
Imagine a medieval Europe. Now add nothing. There. Badabing. That's the first half or so of the game, until you go to, what I would imagine the medieval middle east might look like. That's it. Yes, there are some "ruins" of an ancient civilization, some missions even taking you into these, but there's nothing exotic about the world itself. It's bland, boring, and Game of Thrones meets whatever new accent they can throw at you.
The world, while absolutely gorgeous to look at, is like a plague infested Europe, ca 1349. There's even a goddamn plague. The abscense of different species also threw me off. All of the games thus far(apart from XV, sense a pattern yet?) have had various fancy species you either play as, or interact with, outside of just battling. FFVII had a tiger-lion-dog thing you absolutely had in your party. VI had a Moogle in your party. VIII had several odd species in the world, and IX nearly didn't have humans. X was focused on humans again, but there were other sentient races as well. XI, the online game had playable races, as did XII and XIV. I'm actually a bit fuzzy on the XIII details, but I think it was mostly, if not exclusively humans there too. XIII is... weird. But XVI didn't even try. It's all people. WHITE people too, I might add. It's a very white game. In the aforemention middle-east bit, there are middle-eastern looking characters, but I can't recall seeing any black people. Sure, it is a game inspired by medieval Europe, but it's fantasy.
Again, if it weren't for the story, I'd probably stop playing this game long before I did. I finished the story, a slew of the UTTERLY HORRIBLE SIDEQUESTS, and, you know what, let's talk about side quests.
You ever heard of fetch quests? That's all they are. Yes, some of them are of course a bit more elaborate, story wise, and some of them do play in to the larger story, absolutely, but a big chunk of them are literally "I need ingredients for a soup I'm trying out. I know you're the boss of this small resistance community, but would you be a doll and fetch them for me?". Yes, in some of them you have to slay some monsters, but did I mention I don't like the combat system? I don't like the combat system. Don't throw more monsters at me! Where are the mini-games from the older games? VII had an amusement park you could go to. IX even had a rope jumping mini game that sucked, but at least it had them! X had some fun ones too. I think I may go back to that, just to dodge 200 lightning bolts in a row to forget XVI's battle system.
Okay, it's not all bad. The music, while forgettable, usually sets the tone(apart from a seemingly pivotal death scene, where the game found it logical to just play the current theme song instead of focusing on whatever was going on on the screen, which was off-putting) and works just fine, but no themes stand out in my head a week after completing it, and I'm still humming themes from FFVI every now and then. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous. The voice acting is more good than it isn't, and the story and cutscenes are mostly good(One bad thing with cutscenes, apart from being sometimes too damn long, is how our protagonists cut through mobs like they're nothing, but when you play, they take dozens of hits each, and as we know, I hate the combat system), and the story in general, was actually a breath of fresh air from the usual FF titles, with some very original baddies, and some.. well, let's just say unoriginal, but hey, it's FF, and it's still a very japanese game.
All in all, I finished the game in about 50 hours. The problem with this game, as opposed to Tears of the Kingdom, is I have no intention or interest of ever going back to it. I enjoyed what I enjoyed, and loathed what I didn't. Even FFII, which is widely known as the runt of the litter, was more enjoyable to play. I have no desire to complete the game 100%, nor getting a platinum trophy, and if it gets any DLC stuff, I won't be getting them.
I'm sad I didn't like it, because I was hyped through the roof. At the end of the day, it's not a horrible game by any stretch. It's just not what I wanted. A lot of people, including two colleagues love it. I don't. And that's ok. It was made to be more modern, and FF is a series known for changes. Hell, every game is different to a certain degree. This was just too different for me.