In general I am not convinced by the idea of open world games. The idea of “open worlds” is hideously out of balance. As a stand alone principle, open worlds do not lend themselves to entertainment. They are generally mundane expanses filled with chores that you have to drag yourself through in order to progress with the story.
In this game especially the story was diluted to a huge extent. This hides the fact that there wasn’t much story to be had. Of the 14 chapters, the majority had one story driven quest.
On this point, I felt the game was strongest in the middle third. When our characters are taken away from the open world, and the story becomes the focal point, that is when the game found momentum and I was drawn deeper into the characters and setting.
Generally, locations within an open world are generic. Looking at FFXV, outside of Lestallum, Lucis is simply a barren wasteland that is populated by near identical fuel stations. I cannot help but remember previous Final Fantasy backdrops and visualise Mount Gagazet, Fossil Roo or Figaro Castle. I don’t want to be able to explore a bland landscape. Whats the point? Let me explore a world that is full of wonder and adventure, exciting and different.
The thing with FFXV is that none of that matters. Because the generic open world fits perfectly into the theme of the story. While I thought the story hit was strongest once the open world was no longer available, I found the opening section of the game was much more enjoyable.
Experiencing the world along Noctis and the others helped me to understand the characters. Having no story to distract or manipulate them made it feel as though I new these guys as people, not characters in a story.
The growth of these characters was natural and subtle. The two huge moments in the plot acted as catalysts to push the story forward, but the way the four of them interacted was deep and real.
It was that initial character interaction that made the story what it was. I cared about what happened, and I felt the emotions of these characters. It was masterful writing and I believe the creators of this game have found an absolute balance in the structure of this game.
I just wish there was more of it. The game itself is not short, my first play through was a solid 70 hours, but I couldn’t help but feel as though it wasn’t quite finished. I didn’t get the since of finality I got when I finished FFIX or FFX for example. I wanted to spend more time with the friends I had made whilst playing the game.