Every new mainline Final Fantasy game has massive expectations and hype to live up to, though not all of them do it successfully. Ever since Square Enix officially announced Final Fantasy 16 though, there’s been a lot of optimism surrounding the game. From the development team taking charge of the project to its fantasy setting, there’s plenty about the game that many are quite excited about. Information on Final Fantasy 16 has been scant for quite some time, but with producer Naoki Yoshida having said not long ago that new details would be shared in spring 2022, it hopefully won’t be long before we hear more about Final Fantasy 16. Ahead of that, here, we’re going to talk about a few of our own hopes and dreams for the game- or, to be more specific, some pitfalls that we’re hoping it’ll avoid.
Final Fantasy games have never really settled on whether or not they want to be fully open world, and the mainline series has often flitted back and forth between open ended design and a more directed and linear approach. With Final Fantasy 16, however, we’re hoping that the former will be much more emphasized. No, not every game needs to be open world, but with Final Fantasy games, we’re always expecting to go on these grand, sweeping adventures of epic scale, and the open world approach works great for games like that. Even the wildly inconsistent Final Fantasy 15 was usually at its best when it gave players the freedom to explore a vast world, after all.
Of course, just having a large world isn’t enough- which leads us to our next point…
UNINTERESTING WORLD AND LOCATIONS
Final Fantasy 15’s open world segments were among the best parts of the game, but even they had issues. Non-linear design can easily fall apart if it isn’t backed up by quality content and variety to keep players engaged, and we seriously hope Final Fantasy 16 doesn’t fall short on that front. What exactly do we want from the game’s world then? Well, for starters, there will hopefully be plenty of environmental variety across different locations and biomes, hopefully with several unique towns and cities to explore. Having a word that’s narratively rich and has interesting lore can also encourage exploration quite a bit. And of course, quality optional content is a bit of a must. Speaking of which…
BORING SIDE QUESTS
RPGs in particular usually struggle with the quality of their side quests and optional content, given how massive they are and just how much there is to do in them- and even though we’re seeing more and more examples that go against that notion, Final Fantasy as a series has sadly generally failed to do that until now. Sure, there’s usually a lot of challenging and enjoyable endgame content in mainline Final Fantasy games, but when it comes to the side quests in particular, the quality usually ranges from terrible to forgettable. We’re not hoping that Final Fantasy 16 will make a sudden and massive jump over previous games in the series, but a marked improvement is still needed.
Forming a party of interesting characters and traveling a vast land through them has always been a core part of Final Fantasy’s identity, and though there’s still plenty that we don’t yet know about Final Fantasy 16, it’s safe to assume that it’s not going to eschew that tradition. In the brief gameplay we’ve seen of it so far though, we have only ever seen a single character being controlled in combat, which has raised questions for some people- is Final Fantasy 16 going to cut down on how many party members it’ll have or how many characters players will be able to control in combat? Hopefully that won’t be the case. Not only is the party dynamic a crucial part of the series’ storytelling style, it also adds a lot of depth and variety to the combat and gameplay, so doing away with that might not work out too well. Hopefully that won’t be the case.
Honestly, this is something that most games that a certain length have to be mindful of, RPGs in particular. Spend too much time with any combat system, and if it doesn’t have enough depth and variety, it won’t hold your attention for long. Final Fantasy as a series has traditionally experimented a lot with its combat systems from game to game, so it’s hard to be sure exactly what kind of combat we’ll have in Final Fantasy 16. Our hope, of course, that it’s something that can not only keep our attention throughout its runtime, but manage to remain fresh and genuinely entertaining from beginning to end. That’s easier said that done, of course, but through enough unique and varied boss fights and progression mechanics in there, and the job will be more than half done.
Oh, and speaking of progression mechanics…
To be clear, an RPG doesn’t necessarily have to think outside of the box with its progression mechanics to be good. Even the simplest leveling up and progression systems can be engaging if executed properly. A new Final Fantasy game, however, is a different beast. The series has never been afraid to experiment and try new things with its progression mechanics, from the Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy 10 to the License Board of Final Fantasy 12 and more. Final Fantasy 16 will need to ensure that its progression mechanics are built around a system that offers proper build variety and meaningful gameplay choices to players- but at the same time, many will be expecting to do it in a unique manner that puts some spin on genre conventions.
This is something Final Fantasy often struggles with. Let’s not even mention Final Fantasy 15, which owes many of its narrative issues to its troubled development- other mainline games in the series have had these problems quite often as well. Final Fantasy 16 needs to ensure that its story is taught, focused, and easy to follow. Avoiding unnecessary complications and providing proper context for important plot points isn’t always something this series has always done, but that’ll need to change in FF16.
Just as important as having a good story is actually telling it well- and not just with proper writing and structuring and pacing, a lot of which we just discussed. No, the moment-to-moment flow of conversations between characters, for instance, can be just as important. The excessive anime grunting from basically every single character in Final Fantasy 7 Remake was a big mark against the game for many players, and it really is something that can often get in the way of even the best stories. Hopefully, with Final Fantasy 16, Square Enix will take a less overwrought and more toned down approach and try and inject at least a semblance of subtlety into its storytelling. Sometimes, less is more.