Earlier than the discharge of the Final Fantasy XIV growth, Shadowbringers, recreation director Naoki Yoshida joked that George R.R. Martin wanted to complete his A Tune of Ice and Hearth books earlier than he’d contemplate a Game of Thrones collaboration with the MMORPG. 4 years later and with Winds of Winter nowhere in sight, it might appear Yoshida has merely determined to do issues himself.
It’s maybe passé to right away label any sort of darkish medieval fantasy aesthetic as being like Recreation of Thrones, maybe in the identical means gaming audiences are simply as fast to label that aesthetic as akin to Darkish Souls. However Final Fantasy XVI, the newest within the venerable Japanese roleplaying game saga, appears to embrace that comparability wholeheartedly, and with a sure degree of intent that units itself other than the prior, nicely, fantasies of the franchise.
Ultimate Fantasy has in fact carried out traditional fantasy stylings previously—from its preliminary releases leaning towards traditional western archetypes of warriors and mages battling goblins and dragons, as much as Yoshida’s different Ultimate Fantasy challenge, the aforementioned MMO, XIV. The aesthetic continues to be essentially the most outstanding even because the franchise has virtually as lengthily juked and jived between the steampunk of VI, the sci-fi techno fantasy of VII, VIII, and XIII, and all the pieces in between. Ultimate Fantasy is in fact no stranger to darkish storytelling both, thrusting its heroes into dreadful conflicts towards terrible villains, and forcing a few of these heroes and their allies into paying the last word value of their journeys. So what makes XVI’s return to each of these wells really feel each uniquely totally different and but additionally clearly within the footsteps of Recreation of Thrones’ affect?
The prologue demo for the sport launched this week paints an image of a Ultimate Fantasy that’s fascinated not simply with the floor degree aesthetic of Thrones’ explicit thought of Eurocentric fantasy, however with the types of political and familial intrigues that made Recreation of Thrones the smash hit it was with mainstream audiences. XVI begins with the attitude of Clive Rosfield, the older princeling of the ruling household of a small principality referred to as Rosaria. In a world the place highly effective nation-states have risen up round large, magical crystals and their gods, the Eikons, Rosaria is a area that worships the traditional Ultimate Fantasy summon Phoenix, the deity of life and hearth incarnate. A “First Protect,” primarily a bodyguard, for his youthful brother Joshua—the avatar of the Phoenix—Clive finds his life upended when political machinations and betrayals violently usurp his father’s rule, resulting in an evening of carnage earlier than impending warfare that sees each his brother and father slain, his residence usurped by his treacherous mom, and Clive put into navy servitude by the hands of a previously allied nation.
All this human drama brings XVI’s world right down to the bottom degree in methods prior entries have by matching it with grim ranges of gore and casually foul language that really feel like they’re distinctly aping Recreation of Thrones’ personal preliminary method—when the sequence was lauded as someway being fantasy for individuals who don’t like fantasy, even with ice zombies and dragons from the get-go. It looks like a definite differentiation from Ultimate Fantasy’s previous titles—themselves no stranger to mature storytelling or darkish themes, in fact—in a lot that the darkest moments of these video games had been usually both implied or offered in a extra summary method, whether or not by technical limitations or stylistic selection.
In the meantime right here within the current, the fucks fly aplenty in XVI’s dialogue—no want for a fantastical substitute—and as usually because the blood does, and this sort of base primal darkness is shored up by the gradual and regular worldbuilding the sport presents to you within the political connections throughout its characters and areas. Is Ultimate Fantasy XVI setting itself as much as be a nuanced, mature story of politics, nations in battle, and familial drama? Sure. Is it additionally a recreation the place a child who’s round 10 years outdated watches his father’s head get abruptly sliced off, turns into drenched in his father’s head’s blood, after which simply sort of stares at that severed head? Additionally sure. It’s a bit a lot at occasions, particularly when stated little one them traumatically explodes into an enormous firebird avatar and begins indiscriminately incinerating all the pieces round him.
However that conflict between the excessive fantasy of Ultimate Fantasy and this way more grim aesthetic context is crafting one thing with a whole lot of potential, even within the small glimpse we’ve had of XVI to date. In going for this Thrones-esque vibe Ultimate Fantasy XVI isn’t embarrassed of its classical fantasy parts, if something it feels all of the extra emboldened: a Chocobo is still a chocobo, these classically faceted crystals are nonetheless a supply for the sequence’ conventional elemental magics. The summon creatures which were a staple of the franchise for generations stay as they all the time have been—the very starting of the demo, for instance, flashes ahead to a later interval of Clive’s life the place he witnesses a large battle between two warring nations give option to a ginormous kaiju-esque battle between Ultimate Fantasy legends Shiva and Titan, and it’s as heightened and ridiculous as such a factor ought to be.
To date Ultimate Fantasy XVI would possibly really feel, for all of the cursing and bloodlust of its prologues, prefer it needs to chase the cultural cache of what Recreation of Thrones did for up to date fantasy—nevertheless it doesn’t overlook that it’s nonetheless additionally a Ultimate Fantasy recreation, with an emphasis on the fantasy. We’ll see the way it nails that steadiness when Clive’s journey continues within the full recreation’s launch on June 22, however for now, it’s shaping as much as have a whole lot of fascinating promise.
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