Final Fantasy fans have had it good lately, with loads of info pouring out of a recent event in LA including some seriously impressive footage of a huge titan striding in and punching the ground. We’ve seen new combat, new enemies and friends, a star-studded movie tie-in and even a release date (come on September 30th!), but the thing that has impressed me most is the small glimpses of the world that FF15 inhabits and where the game will be taking us.
Sure the Platinum demo (available right now on PS4 and Xbox One) is rather small and only takes you through a few confined spaces, but when you stop to take a closer look at the details you start to realise just how rich and ambitious the world Square is trying to craft really is.
It’s clear a lot of inspiration has been taken from the likes of The Witcher 3 and Elder Scrolls for FF15’s world, game director Hajime Tabata admitted to as much himself, saying he was “inspired by western open-world games.” Huge beasts will roam the countryside for players to hunt like Geralt would, and even the Chocobos can be whistled in like his faithful steed Roach. The world is huge, wild and rugged, just like any other modern open-world game, and makes for the perfect stomping ground for for 100ft gods to charge in and rescue Noctis in a pinch.
In a console generation where every new game needs to be as huge as Metal Gear Solid or The Witcher 3 to succeed it makes sense to chase a more realistic open-world approach. It’s all a far cry from past FF games that have felt fantastical and surreal, but relatively small in scope. So how do you keep that aetheric essence of Final Fantasy grounded without it getting lost in a massive arena? By revelling in the little, mundane details.
Alongside the promises of beautiful vistas and spectacular waterfalls (that’ll make excellent backdrops for shared screenshots) lie the small hints at even bigger things. Things that make a world feel real. Things that help sci-fi cities and robots make sense in a world where a 200ft Titan can drop in at a moment’s notice. A highly detailed ice cream cart sits in a town plaza ready to be used by future inhabitants, randomly strewn books and magazines have covers that make you actually want to read them, and there are at least three individual brands of imaginary crackers. You can have all the pretty mountains you want, but it’s the small details like these that make you want to keep exploring, to keep uncovering the hidden stories and lives of the NPCs that you brush past in the street.
FF15 looks set to strike that balance of the mundane and the fantastical perfectly, just look at how you talk with Carbuncle. Here you have a mythical beast capable of granting you special powers and you talk to it through text messages and Chocobo emojis. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but it works - of course you wouldn’t be able to talk directly to what is effectively a small, furry god, so sending its magic to a mobile phone to help you understand it grounds it in reality while still making it feel like mystical powers are involved.
Carbuncle even looks real despite the fact that it’s got a magic gem sticking out of it’s forehead. It’s based on a fennec fox, but with even longer adorable ears, to the point where it moves exactly how you’d expect a fox to. It’s not the only one either, even the huge Behemoths, giraffe-antelope-things and alligator-fish feel like they belong in the countryside of FF15 thanks to the attention paid to how they move. It’s the touches like this that make a particularly fancy Audi feel right at home alongside Chocobos and airships, and why a modern Venice-like city can be pestered by a giant water snake and still feel realistic.
While some may have found the Platinum demo confusing with its young protagonist and emphasis on collecting shards, taking that closer look at the little details points at a vision and world far bigger than we ever thought it could be.