- May 28, 2015
The game definitely isn’t bad but I’m extremely disappointed with how diversity and women in this game are treated and handled.
REGISTER TO REMOVE ADS
Full story spoilers ahead:
I beat the game last night. It actually reminded me a lot of Kingdom Hearts toward the end,. Not just in the gameplay, but in the themes of our bonds with others shaping who we are and forming our identities. Some of the dialogue lines towards the end were fancy ways of saying, “My friends are my power.” Not to mention, the villain’s goal is literally the same as Dream Drop Distance: turn the hero into a husk to be used as a vessel for the villain to cleanse the world. And the secondary protagonist even had to go into his “dream” to snap him out of it. EDIT: I know there’s a lot of discourse due to trolls calling the game “KH nonsense”. So just want to clarify that isn’t my stance here. Obviously, KH is going to share DNA with any FF. Some of these things just stuck out to me.
I would say I really enjoyed the game overall. The combat was fun and I loved the spectacle of the boss fights. The Eikon fights were some of the coolest fights I’ve ever seen in a video game. Even the minor bosses like the hunt marks were a lot of fun to go up against.
I only died a handful of times though, mostly due to instakill attacks I wasn’t ready for. For a game clearly geared towards adults, I think they could have amped up the difficulty a bit while still having accessibility options for those that need them. Honestly being able to pop potions in the middle of other actions is part of the issue there I think. I would have preferred the KH approach where using items and healing can be interrupted. Then have an accessory that gives you i-frames during heals if desired. As it is, it takes little to no skill or strategy to heal except maybe having to swap from the Torgal commands to the items.
Another point of praise is that the side quests were mostly well crafted. There’s a lot of development for the world and characters in those and I would encourage anyone who plays the game to take the time to check out as many as you can. There are some duds, but most were decent to great. The downside however is that the quest rewards aren’t that satisfying with only a few exceptions like the potion upgrades.
Story-wise, it was strong up until Ultima came to the front and center of the conflict. After that, it was still enjoyable, but fell into a lot of the classic FF tropes even though the game was advertised as breaking away from those. As a result, it was much more predictable compared to the earlier parts of the game. And don’t get me wrong, I generally enjoy FF’s story telling tropes and it was fun seeing them play out on a modern platform. I just think there was maybe a missed opportunity to go in another direction.
I was disappointed that they killed Benedikta off so early when she had much more potential as a villain or even thru a redemption arc. Having Jill give up her powers and not being part of the final battles against Ultima was another miss. It’s an improvement over XV I would say, but they still need to do better by their female characters. I hope XVII has a female protagonist to make up for the past couple games.
Also, Dion was one of my favorite characters, but they ultimately fell into the “bury your gays” trope with him. It is huge though that we have a clear cut LGBT main character that had significant contributions to the story. I was glad they at least didn’t kill him off even earlier in the story and he at least got to atone for what happened at Twinside. His friendship with Joshua was perfect too.
It seems like a common thread was that most of the supporting characters had decently strong arcs in the middle of their individual journey, but they fizzled out toward the conclusion as they had to make room for Clive.
I also haven’t touched on the diversity issue, which is very glaring. With slavery being a core theme, it seems they intentionally made this choice to avoid more controversy whether it was about PoC being depicted as slaves or oppressors. Personally, I am not a PoC and it’s not really my place to say what the best way to approach this would be without saying to just write a totally different story. It may have been better if they just had a mix of different races/skin tones in both roles. I don’t know if that’s the right answer though and I’m interested to hear the thoughts of PoC who have played the game. What I do know is SE should be more proactive about writing stories that can be inclusive and diverse.
Ending with some more praises, I thought the cutscenes were fantastic. This was definitely the most cinematic FF we’ve ever had and it made the longer cutscenes pretty easy to sit through. I also liked that some characters that seemed like they would be inconsequential at first ended up with much larger roles, like Gav. This is also my favorite variation of Cid we’ve had.
Right now, I’m thinking the game is an overall 8/10 and a move in the right direction for the franchise overall. There’s just still some progress to be made and thankfully Yoshi-P seems pretty receptive to feedback. So I think his next game will be even better.
I also noticed some of the KH references, particularly a lot of the dialogue when you're in Origin and Ultima is telling the story about how people's greed in the light of the Mothercrystals' blessing brought the shadow that is the Blight. And there's something about Joshua's adult design that reminds me a great deal of Roxas.
When the game first began though, I couldn't help feeling like they were heavily inspired by Game of Thrones' popularity in a lot of ways. Clive felt a little bit like Jon Snow to me, Anabella being a combination of Cersei as an Evil Queen trope combined with Catelyn Stark's hatred of Jon, Anabella's new son a bit like Joffrey, Dion reminding me of Loras Tyrell, Gav like Tormund, the Blight and the Akashic like the White Walkers, the Dominants like the dragons being a parallel to nuclear power, the bearers' petrification reminding me of what happens with Tyrion slowly turning to stone, etc.. But as the game went along, I noticed a lot more similarities between the game and other FFs (notably when Ultima enters the plot as you said) to the point it still feels like a true FF overall to me. The focus on religion and the open-ended ending reminded me a great deal of X, I wonder if that was intentional by them.
I pretty much took all the side quests immediately as they appeared before moving on with main story events. Perhaps that was some people's issue, they didn't bother with those until near the final battle and then there must've been mountains of them to complete, ha. Personally, I felt the difficulty of the game was right where I want most games to be at--a challenge, but nothing that feels "OMG impossible unless you look up some 10-page strategy guide for X boss online to find a cheat" type of moments. I hate those kinds of things.
I personally didn't mind Benedikta's death, she was a much stronger and more developed character than Kupka. Kupka was a pawn from beginning to end and I sort of hated his design. I liked Jill. I feel like she was left out of the final battles because she had already given Clive her dominant where Joshua had refused to do so, and partly so that the game has a sort of bookend feeling with it having started on the brothers and ending with only the brothers (I think it's neat to think that Dion is sort of their stepbrother, and that must be why he came along). I would've liked to have had an ending more like IX where they finally assembled all the various characters you fight with temporarily into a full party together in the final battles (Jill, Joshua, Tarja, Gav, Dion, Jote, Byron, Torgal). That said, this game was undoubtedly a one-man show for Clive unlike other FFs. With the game being sort of open-ended with Joshua's name on the book at the end and yet Harpocrates having told Clive he would write his story down one day, I like to think perhaps all of Dion, Joshua, and Clive managed to survive miraculously--but of course the ending can be read a multitude of ways. Personally, I know it's unlikely, but I think I'd enjoy a sequel to this one. As long as it doesn't go too far tonally in the other direction the way X-2 did for X, it could be less austere than the first while still having a serious story.
I said it somewhere else here, but I hope one of the next FFs (whether it's XVII or XVIII) that is sort of Square's Raya and the Last Dragon moment as far as almost every major character being a woman for once--and it never being that noticeable either as far as the game putting on a whole rahrah attitude, the characters simply exist that way without an announcement of the fact--the way that movie was. And, yes, this was definitely the best Cid of the series, imo. I have a hard time deciding who my favorite characters are with this one (outside Clive himself being the best of them and Kupka being the least interesting), simply because I ended up liking most of them actually. Elwin, Joshua, Jill, Charon, Gav, Cid, Benedikta, Dion, Harpocrates, Tarja, Torgal, Martha, Goetz, Midadol, Anabella, Ultima, etc. For me, there wasn't really a star here per se the way, say, Ardyn is clearly my favorite character in XV, so much as all the characters are decent enough that combined they create a satisfying experience to the point the moments in the Final Battle when Clive hears the others' voices adds an emotion to the moment that the game earned. Especially characters like Gav and Charon, I didn't really like at first, but I fell in love with them by the end.
Having now gotten some distance from the game, my feelings are conflicted. I love pretty much all the characters, and I was immensely satisfied with how everything played out, however shmaltzy the ending was. What troubles me is the core gameplay loop-- I don't think I can ever bring myself to replay this game, ever.
Clive is a JOY to play as, but he's almost overtuned-- the dodge windows on every single enemy are WAY TOO generous. This isn't a problem that can be fixed by unequipping armor and staying at a low level. Wailing on bosses to get to the stagger phase is just not fun. It feels too segmented, and the boss attack patterns pose little threat once you learn them, which is shockingly easy to do. This isn't a game that FEELS like crap to play, but the meaninglessness and lack of depth in combat encounters makes it crap, unfortunately.
People were gassing this game to be Square's 'real' attempt at a pure action game, but KH2 and KH3 run circles around XVI in terms of enemy design, it's laughable, it's not even close. I can replay those two games over and over again, and the challenge of each encounter remains fun, even once I've learned it. I feel like I'm already too intimately familiar with every enemy type and boss in FFXVI, and unlike the aforementioned KH games, what they offer isn't interesting, strategic, or fun enough to return to.
I was so damn excited for this game, too.