Most of Final Fantasy XV DLC cancelled, Tabata out

TL/DR: I wish Final Fantasy played more like it used to, and that they could make the characters and story better, because the last several games haven’t been fun for me on any level.

Not sure if anyone saw this or what you thought of it. Apparently Tabata resigned to start his own company and work on a new project. I guess he’d been working on a project at Square Enix that seems likely to have been cancelled, as they reported a loss of 30 million recently that many in the gaming media seem to attribute to this. The fact that most of the new DLC for Final Fantasy XV has been cancelled is still pretty surprising.

Still, and maybe I’m in the minority, but while I haven’t played Final Fantasy XI or XIV (which I don’t believe Tabata had anything to do with), I really haven’t liked any Final Fantasy game since X.

The way that gaming has grown and changed over the years, producing more complex characters with more nuance, more range of emotions, with storytelling that deals with complex themes, with compelling moments, twists and turns, etc makes the Final Fantasy XIII series and Final Fantasy XV feel rather antiquated to me.

XIII’s characters felt very flat to me. They all seemed to convey a single emotion or vibe through 95+% of the games. Lightning was the quiet, stoic type. Sazh was the comedy relief. Vanille was the relentless optimism. Snow was the upbeat arrogance. Hope was sad and worried. Fang was adventurous.

They all felt so one note, so paper thin, that most of them became rather obnoxious through the story, though that’s also due in no small part to how terrible the dialog was most of the time, which is something I really hope Square Enix can work on.

You couple these issues with a story that led you down one single path for the first 20+ hours, only to open up in to a world that was… Okay, I guess, and you’re left with an experience that feels incredibly stilted.

Still, the worst part to me, and it’s my same issue with Final Fantasy XV, is that battling in those games simply isn’t fun. For XIII, you had to paradigm shift, but mostly you were just mashing a single button to line up your characters attacks or healing spells. It felt mindless in a way that I’ve never seen a final fantasy game play before, and the fact that the only real player engagement came in either boss battles or from simply switching characters jobs really put up a wall between the player and what was happening on screen.

For XV, that wall wasn’t quite as bad, as you had to run around and attack manually, but a vast majority of battles simply played out as mindless hacking and slashing, teleporting to safety, then teleporting back in for more mindless hacking and slashing. Summons, one of the coolest parts of any FF game, are more or less relegated to special events, and the fact that magic can hurt your own party becomes a huge disincentive to even bother, further limiting player agency.

There was just something off about a rich brat and his three bros rolling around in an expensive car, only to get out and kick the crap out of some animals or monsters or whatever, not to mention rolling in to a new area, only to check the map and find a bunch of unappealing fetch quest crap to do. Oh, I have to find this item, do this thing for this person, run around until I find this and then wow… I’m having fun?

I get it, RPGs are more or less built this way, but the game should make you WANT to do those things. It should make you want to explore the world, battle monsters, level up, get stronger, find new things, learn new spells, find out what happens in the story and none of XV made me want to do any of this because the core gameplay, the story, the characters and most of what there was to do in the game just felt so boring.

All of this is a long way of saying that while I certainly wish Mr. Tabata the best and I certainly begrudge no one at all for enjoying the XIII series or XV, I’m really hoping Square Enix can push forward on XVI and find a newer, better direction in terms of gameplay, character design and storytelling.

I don’t need Final Fantasy to be a Witcher or Dragon Age clone. In fact, I’d almost rather they go back to turn-based and find fun and compelling ways to innovate on that, like Lost Odyssey did with the timed strikes and the ring system, only take all to the next level. But in terms of storytelling and how characters are crafted? Yeah, they could really stand to learn a lot from newer RPGs and other types of games in general. Stuff like Uncharted, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider… Which Square Enix publishes, so maybe it might be time to hand the reigns to Crystal Dynamics for FF?

I believe the director of FF XIV will be handling Final Fantasy now, and while I haven’t played XIV, I’ve heard great things. Here’s hoping this series can finally return to prominence, modernize where it needs to, and overall just put out a game that’s really fun to play, from story to battling. Oh, and maybe try and put a new game out in the next few years? It’s already been two years since XV released.

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I’m not sure I have any advice to give the Final Fantasy series. I just know that FFXV is an absolutely beautiful game that I don’t really want to play. The “open world” is designed in absolutely the way I hate the most - you can go absolutely anywhere but if you stray even slightly from where you are “supposed” to be a mega monster or group of soldiers shows up and kills you. And it’s not always clear where you are “supposed” to be. Meanwhile you are accumulating hundreds of “sidequests” that are pointless, 95% of which you cannot complete but because it’s “open” it lets you try and fail - again with no good indication which ones you are supposed to be trying at any point. Add this to a lot of unnecessary and aggravating mechanics, an opaque leveling system and hard to navigate maps and areas and every time I go back to the game I realize I just don’t want to be there. And I really really wanted to like it.

Yeah, it didn’t take me all that long to come to the same conclusion. As much as I enjoyed looking around at the scenery while traveling in the car from one place to another and getting that road trip vibe or whatever, the story itself didn’t seem all that interesting, the characters were kinda dull and the gameplay, one of the most important aspects, of course, was for me, by far the weakest part.

Yeah, this was one of the most obnoxious parts for me. Rolling up in to a new area and seeing like 50 things on the map. I want to move on, I want to advance the story, but here I am running around fetching crap and fighting stuff I don’t need to be fighting and searching for stuff I don’t care about none of it is fun.

Granted, I think part of that was the battle system for me. If I actually enjoyed fighting anything, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. But for me, as a long time Final Fantasy fan, half the fun is finding new spells, new summons, new special moves or limit breaks or combo attacks or whatever. It was in finding that variety and using those skills and as far as I played in this one, there wasn’t really any variety.

Most of the battles were just mindless hack-fests. You control the little emo prince and he hacks and hacks and zips away and zips back and hacks some more. I never wanted to use magic because the supply was limited and I didn’t want to face a boss without magic. Plus, magic could hurt your own party, and it seemed inevitable that if I ever lobbed fire at my enemy, that all of my auto pilot guys would run in and get hit by it. So there was such a disincentive to use one of Final Fantasy’s, or heck, one of any RPGs most common and most enjoyable facets. To me, that was a cardinal sin.

Yeah I really wanted to like it as well. I was worried going in that the battle system wasn’t going to be what I wanted, but I fully believe that I went in with an open mind, wanting to like the game. Ready to find things that I enjoyed and being willing to accept that this isn’t Final Fantasy VI, or VII, or IX or X and that’s okay because things change. Final Fantasy is always changing from one game to the next and that’s a good thing.

But yeah, I struggled for hours trying to find something to latch on to; something I could point at and say “there, I really enjoy doing that.” But there wasn’t anything. The road trip idea, which I think is one of the more highly praised aspects of the game would’ve been great had the characters been more interesting. Plus, it’s kinda hard to be excited to see the sights in a game when you know you’re traveling to a destination that has more dull, pointless sidequests and more mediocre combat.

Even still though, I have this feeling in the back of my head that I should just give it one more shot. Mind you, I’ve acted on that feeling several times. I’d put the game down, convinced I was never going to touch it again, only to go back days or weeks or months later because “it’s Final Fantasy.” Last time I put it down though, I sold it because I didn’t want to go back. You can only try so hard to like something before you just kinda have to give up and accept the fact that it’s not for you. Others liked this game a lot and that’s fine. I’m not one of them.

Meant to get to this part here as well…

Personally, I’d like to see them return to turn-based, but to find fun and interesting ways to present it. Now, I know a lot of people feel that turn-based is antiquated because modern games can process all the action going on at once on the screen, so there’s no point.

To that, I’d say that I personally enjoy having control over my whole party. I don’t like switching between characters while other characters become mindless automatons that follow vague orders. If I have a mage, a monk, a knight and a healer, I want to experience all of them and choose what types of attacks they do without having to frantically switch back and forth between them because they’ll just automatically do stuff if I don’t switch to them.

I also don’t enjoy the idea of simply controlling one character the whole time and not being able to switch. That’s even less control. Why have other characters in your party then if you can’t even use them? To me, that’s just boring.

So anyways, as far as iterating on turn-based, I think there are plenty of examples in the genre.

Lost Odyssey’s timing system that allowed you to hit harder if you matched two rings together at the right moment. Final Fantasy Maxima has this stacking system where characters stack on top of one another and combine attacks. There’s tag team attacks in several games. There’s having characters share a points meter like in Skies of Arcadia. There are limit breaks, super moves, summons and plenty of other ways to help players enjoy the actual act of choosing their attacks and using them.

Plus, I think there are plenty of ways to create action on screen while still allowing for a turn-based format that don’t have to devolve in to the player only controlling one character at a time and simply mashing on an attack button. I don’t think they found that formula in the XIII series, but I do believe that such a balance exists and I really hope that Square Enix will do more to try and find it than what we’ve seen in since FFX.

I agree that there are plenty of ways to do an action RPG better than what they did in FFXV. I also agree they could go back to turn based combat. Both could work - truthfully I would just like a system where it’s not so hard for me to know what the heck is going on. And then suddenly notice that one of your doorknob friends has been killed…

Same for the skill tree. Why does the skill tree look like a giant jumbled piece of gothic art? It’s basically to ensure that you really can’t easily see or understand the ramifications of the skill choices you make. Which would be fine except the tree consists of about 2 viable progression pathways and then 40 completely useless things.

In truth, I really loved the open worldness of FFXV. I really never had an issue finding out what I needed to do or where to go, but then again, I like this type of game.

I do agree though with the progression system. The Skill Tree was incredibly limiting and literally with enough time you could unlock everything and thus there was no real consequence or advantage for making a choice. I feel it is still very much a left over from FF13’s Crystalarium, of which was also awful.

Honestly the best progression tree still has to go to FFX. FFXII Zodiac Age comes close, but FFX made you feel like you were really customizing your characters the way you want them to be.

I doubt Yoshida would take on the mantle of the mainline series. His portfolio is almost exclusively in MMOs and Dragon Quest spin-offs, and he’ll likely be working on FFXIV for many years to come. SE definitely needs someone who can prudently lead a big project and bring it together smoothly like him, but I can’t see it specifically being him right now.