Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Glitch Galore and Still a Good Game?

If you haven't noticed, I am not playing Final Fantasy XV. I initially pre-ordered as a copy to add to my FF collection. I followed the development in 2006 when it was first announced as the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII (then called 13-2 before it morphed into Serah's story). Which then turned into it's own game that would be linked to the FF13 world. And then it became it's own entity.

It took 10 years to develop. In that time Final Fantasy XIV was built. Twice. SquareEnix (SE) bought Eidos Interactive and made quite a few Tomb Raider and Hitman games. They have released 223 games from the time 13-2 was announced until 15 was on store shelves.

By any account, 10 years is an insane amount of time to work on a game. The Last Guardian, for all it's setbacks, took 7 years.

In all this time, I can admit as a Final Fantasy fan that I wasn't happy with the direction of 15. I always found the titles to be empowering to all genders. Characters were diverse, included all manners of people, shapes, sizes, colors, and beliefs. And somehow they all managed to work together, overcome their diverse backgrounds, and save the world. When 15 announced that it was going to be an all-male cast, I instantly became disheartened. Final Fantasy is a franchise known for developing strong women in a creative field that typically casts them aside as eye-candy. They were as over the top as Terra or as down to earth as Rosa. Or as energetic and childish as Selphie and Eiko. It was something I always appreciated about the franchise. Even if I didn't connect with the lead characters, someone would. It also didn't help when SE announced that they would only add a playable female character as DLC if enough people asked for it. Meaning the option to play a female character can only be obtained by lots of begging, waiting, and paying more money for it. Thanks SE. Thanks a lot. With the introduction of Cindy, the female version of Cid, in short shorts, a bikini top, and excessive cleavage, I was done with FF15.

I cancelled the pre-order and I'll wait until the game is in the $5 bargain bin. It will still be in brand new condition, never opened. Why add it to my collection at full price when I can wait on the sales? I'm not going to play it anytime soon.

As I've been reading reviews for the game, again I find myself even more dissatisfied with the outcome. A number of outlets are giving the game a positive score in spite of it's glitches, story set-backs, and winding side-quests that produce little to no reward. There are piles and piles of images, videos, and articles covering the glitches. Some of them do break the game and cause players to lose hours of progress. But that's okay, it's still a good game? This is on the level of Assassin's Creed: Unity glitches. Twitter and Facebook feeds are littered with images and GIF's of FF15 glitches. We all remember giving Ubisoft a hard time for it, so why is SquareEnix not given the same treatment? Ten years to develop a game. A Final Fantasy game. With it comes the expectation that you provide a product to the public that is as clean as possible. The only thing gamers joke about with FF titles are translation issues ("Spoony Bard"). Glitches are non-existent to the 99% of the people who play the games. So when you have an FF title release that is covering social media walls with images of glitches, that is not good. I'm still surprised that reviewers are giving the game high scores given the game-breaking glitches. As a reviewer, if I ran into a glitch that caused me to lose 2-5 hours of my progress (because no auto-save and no insta save when you feel like it, wha? we still use save points?) that would be deduction in score. No hesitation. With ten years of development, you could have resolved this.

I'm perturbed by this. The game reviews have been a mixed bag of results, but they still provide high scores with the glitches and the mish-mash story? Maybe it's to save their butts from being blacklisted from future products. I don't know. This isn't Goat Simulator, a game that was built with the intent on glitching and creating as many weird issues as possible. This is a AAA studio.

A part of me is glad now that I couldn't get tickets into the FF15 demo at PAX West. Even when entering the Expo floor before 10 am, the line was capped every day from the get-go. The demo was 45 minutes long making it impossible to shuffle more then 200 people a day through the booth (which was a rip-off given that it's a 50-80 thousand person event). But I went through their "Warp Drive" experience and got to see some people playing the game as I stood in line. It was a lot of running around in the desert. Pass.

To give the game some credit, it looks pretty. I've read from a few reviews that the character development is well thought out, but the story lacks the narrative needed to be a Final Fantasy title. Part of the problem being that they squish 2 stories into one and switch the battle system after you buff up your character - it all gets stripped away and you have to start again. Talk about a grind-fest.

I'm not against Final Fantasy trying new things. Every iteration does something different. FF7 made the PlayStation a success and it's neo-Tokyo, post-apocalypse style was a far cry from the castles of FF4. And FF10 created a new era for gaming, voice acting, and player interaction by provide a new world of fantasy that wasn't old or new but a weird mesh of something between. FF15 is a bold direction. They tried for something new and some people like it. That's great. But maybe the focus on making the game look so shiny did it a disservice? They learned that was a problem with FF14. Now that player reviews are starting to surface, it's further solidifying my decision to not play this game.

I'm not looking for nostalgic Final Fantasy. However, I do want a good game. FF can deliver it. 15 is most likely not it.

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