No Spoilers exist within this review!
So WoFF (World of Final Fantasy) has finally arrived. I like the abbreviation WoFF. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this game’s existence until two months ago, but the second I saw the trailer, it ticked all the right boxes. I picked up the pre-order PS4 version (with the Sephiroth Summon – of course 🙂 ), and I’ve played 14 hours and 6 minutes of it so far, and what a remarkably compelling experience it has been.
First things first. I am a Final Fantasy fan. I started with FFVI, then played in this order VII, VIII, IX, X, I, IV, V, XII, II, III, Crisis Core, Dirge, Tactics, XIII, III-Remake. Despite that looking like some secret code predicting the apocalypse, it is in fact a representation of some 2000 hours of my life. To be fair FF isn’t always good. As this is the internet, and this is a FF post, it’s obligatory that I thrust my order of preference upon you. I like VII the most (it was the right game at the right time), and I despise XIII and VIII. The others are somewhere in between…
So when a new FF game is due out (and by the way, there is a very imposing one due next month, yay) I usually don’t hesitate, I’m a fanboy after all. But next-gen RPGs have been a little naff in my opinion. Open world gaming has it’s place, but it does facilitate very lazy game development (re: cheap and quick).
For example, take a large but mostly empty map, break it into regions, in each region have a little hub, at each hub have a list of quests. Now tell the player to solve all the quests (kill “wibble” or Collect X “wibble” or Deliver X “wibble” or Defend “wibble” or Craft X “wibble” into a “mega-wibble”). At each hub, one specific quest will give you permission to visit the next hub, once a number that describes you is large enough. This approach to RPGs permits millions of quests and DLC, but it all just feels like incoherent time wasting (looking at you Destiny (in the bin)) – surely there is more to gaming than making numbers bigger? Admittedly that’s a hugely philosophical gaming theory bottomless pit there an definitely the subject of a future post.
I scoured a few p/reviews online before its release. All very positive, but we both know that the true reviews are in the comments. “It looks crap – why have they done it in a cute style?” and “Its rubbish – you can’t even move the camera!”. Firstly, didn’t the universal population complain about any FF game that featured realistic characters? Secondly, other than XII, which other FF game do you have full camera control in? WoFF has adopted a graphical style in the vein of earlier FF games (ie the good ones) and you know what – it’s fantastic.
WoFF is without a doubt an absolute fan service game. It contains countless elements from across the entire FF franchise. It wraps it up in a nostalgic blanket of Active Time Battles fused with Pokemon and Ni No Kuni, and the best part is – WoFF understands it is a fan service game. At last, no angsty teenagers and gloomy rivalries, no quests to die and temples to respect. This game realizes there is no way to sensibly fuse all the FF content into a single experience so it does not really try. The main two protagonists are frequently breaking the fourth wall, and the supporting cast are equally bemused by what’s happening. It’s just downright fun. Now what makes it even better is combining it with nostalgia and the option to enjoy it all at your own pace.
So far its been quite linear, but it’s just been a great ride, with funny stories and character acting, engaging and thought provoking battles, and it offers a constant sense of achievement. If I’m feeling adventurous, it provides nooks and crannies to explore with tougher foes. Make no mistake – this game is all about the monster hunting and battling, but the environments are pleasantly distracting and absorbing that you don’t mind a bit of back tracking.
WoFF is really a giant menu. I know that sounds terrible but trust me here, it’s a menu that’s loads of fun to use. On the whole it’s a slick and polished experience. There are a couple of niggles regarding the modality of the buttons in different areas of the interface, but hey VII defaulted to ‘O’ being confirm!
Take a look at the menu – blue with white borders and a little hand – it’s this attention to detail that makes WoFF great. They made the characters look like they’re out of Kingdom Hearts (an equally great game) and the monsters are FF legends. Cool, so what kind of skills development system does it use? Well taking all the best things from previous games it uses Materia and Sphere Grids! Great!
Combat is slick. They give you a fast forward and auto-command feature. Grinding (and you will need to grind) feels much less, well… grind-y. The combat works by collecting and growing creatures (past FF enemies). Each creature has a skill tree that you populate to provide commands and abilities to use in battle. You then merge creatures into “stacks”, which look ridiculous, but the final “merged” creature blob is an amalgamation of skills, abilities, defenses etc. This gives you phenomenally deep control into how you battle. Collecting creatures requires specific tasks to be performed in battle, so no just ‘X’ mashing here. Actually it’s ‘Triangle’ to attack in WoFF but hey.
At the end of each battle a pleasing number of progress bars fill up, levelling all your new friends as necessary. So in summary, you need to increase the count of creatures you have. You need to increase the power of each creature. You need to increase the number of things you find, and places you visit, by increasing the abilities available to you. Who said there’s anything wrong with just endlessly increasing numbers? Well there isn’t when between every number increase, there’s 10 minutes of interactive plot, 5 minutes of nostalgia, and, err, 30 minutes of utter awesomeness!* All delivered with a superb level of shine and challenge to keep it slick and fun.
*Note: there is not usually 45 minutes between battles.
Is it good? Abso-F&^%&ing-yes if you know your Final Fantasy. It’s probably only OK if you’re really into monster collecting games (wow, that’s really a genre now). For the regular Joe, likely it’s not for you.