Last night, I finished Final Fantasy XV. There’s been a lot of concern, even on this blog, that the game might not be able to live up to the series’ reputation. I’m happy to say that Final Fantasy XV is simultaneously an evolution and a tribute to the series, evoking the spirit of Final Fantasy through story, gameplay, and aesthetics. SPOILER WARNING: From here out, I will be discussing FFXV in its entirety, including major plot points, character development, and the ending. You’ve been warned.
It’s no secret that the Final Fantasy brand has been reinventing itself, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. After spending most of the decade in development, in less than two weeks the story of Noctis and company will finally be unleashed on the world for their judgment. I’ve written before about the pressure riding on this game, how it seems to be the make-or-break title for Final Fantasy’s legacy, at the very least in this new generation of consoles.
However, one of the (many) easy ways to piss off a group of gamers is to change something they liked. Jumping onto any news about FFXV will undoubtedly yield at least one comment assuming the entire game is going to be a trash heap simply because it is trying something new. While I disagree with these sentiments, it is true that FFXV (or any new FF game moving forward) could learn a thing or two by looking at its predecessors.
Over the last generation or two, there has been a notable shift in the way video games are written. It’s not just enough for a game to have strong mechanics and pretty graphics. Gamers now demand that their games deliver an engaging story – in particular, one that transports them to a well fleshed out world. The escapist nature of video games has been covered extensively by Volcano Bakemeat, and the easiest way to establish that element of wonder is by making sure your world has interesting, in-depth lore.
We have all experienced strong lore: a universe that you want to jump into and never leave. We all know what house we’d be sorted into at Hogwarts or which side of the Force we would favor. Many of the same elements that make for strong lore in other media also works for video games, yet many games get it wrong.
The way I see it there are five rules of thumb to making lore that pulls gamers in instead of putting them to sleep:
The “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV” event in Los Angeles ended with a grandiose trailer showing off the story, environments, characters, and combat of Final Fantasy XV. The tagline for this trailer urged the player to “Reclaim Your Throne”, clearly referring to the game’s central premise of Prince Noctis taking his kingdom back from the invading army that has occupied it while he was out on a road trip with his bros. However, this game is about much more than that; it’s the culmination of a ten-year journey that Square hopes will end in a much more important throne being reclaimed.