Tag Archives: WoFF

Open World Games – Could be better…

A few days ago, discussing WoFF with some work colleagues, it became apparent that I had very little faith in modern, so-called “western” RPGs. I’d just written a review about World of Final Fantasy which attacked the nature of open-world gaming in a light-hearted manner but it dawned on me that I meant every word.

It is difficult to argue with the success of some open world franchises, the GTA series is considered legendary. Whilst it may not be to my taste to play, I do believe that GTA4 and GTA5 are perhaps the most complicated and thoroughly well constructed pieces of software to date. The attention to detail is staggering. Someone has to carefully create and correlate hundreds of hours “background noise” such as the entertaining radio channels, the artwork in the posters to the vocal reactions of the NPCs in the street. Not a single line of code here, but this detail is what makes the game immersive. Additionally, its funny, challenging and does “sandbox” the right way – bored of the campaign? Do what you want! It’s OK, go for it! We won’t punish you for your deviance, we may even reward you!

Conversely, open world implemented poorly is downright dull. Perhaps controversially, consider Assassins Creed: Syndicate. I’ve played the first 30 hours or so of this. It started off great, I was being instructed on how to play the game. A contrived scenario was delivered to me to ensure I understood the nuances of what is quite a complex playing mechanic. I was impressed when the end of this scenario opened up the entirety of London as the setting for the rest of the game. At this point the game just went – “There’s our big thing, impressive huh? Right go to that dot on the map” And sadly, it’s all a bit downhill from there. The constrained stealthy missions are fun – I particularly enjoyed infiltrating the hospital to meet Florence Nightingale, but the bulk of the rest of the game is go to the dot. Kill the red dots. Go to the next dot. Cut Scene you wont understand. Go to the next dot. Kill the red dots. Chase the red dot… and so forth. ACs downfall is that its open world is very pretty and expansive, but really lacking any depth. It all looks a bit similar, the characters are “historical celebrities” and so feel unoriginal, the combat is sluggish/too hard/too simple, and sadly you’re left simply filling progress bars whilst being bewildered by a fragmented narrative. And shamefully (tut tut tut) you can pay to fill those progress bars quicker. Naughty given it’s a full price AAA title.

Batman: Arkham City, Arkham Knight, and Arkham Origins are equally large games, but they are bursting with detail. Sure these games too are about filling progress bars, but you don’t realize you’re doing it, and you are generally rewarded for doing so with abilities that allow you to progress, encouraging back tracking and littered with great plot and characters. These games too are about going to the dot on the map and doing something, but they generally engage you. The “predator modes” are polarizing, but present the player with the opportunity to do things their way, set their own goals. Can I kill them all silently? Can I kill them all quickly? Can I kill them using those new moves I unlocked? What will unlock next? Unlocking I suppose is a form of progress bar filling too, but it has much more substance. The “unlock” event is described by some significant change in your status.  A change which has to be planned and crafted, therefore it must be deeper than merely “you now do more damage”, or your “wibble” count is now 100. A design team has envisaged a reward that forms part of the continuing gameplay experience.

Going back to Assassin’s Creed, growing the characters really makes no difference. Even if my number is lower than the target enemy’s, sneaking and silent killing is all it takes. Granted, this is more challenging is crowded areas, but once you find the rhythm, the mission is easy. I don’t like the way they rub numbers in your face either. Everything is percentage this, and level that. I don’t need the game to tell me how far through I am with it. That reminds me its a game, a fleeting experience that will end. You rarely see this is non-open world games. Did Uncharted (any of them) tell you a percentage completed? No it didn’t. In fact Uncharted brilliantly marries together area transitions and modality switches, in such a way as to be invisible to the player. This is because a talented design team has poured much effort into crafting an enjoyable experience.

I think the lesson here is don’t let the player design the game for you. Sadly, this is a sign of things to come. Open world games are great for the production of DLC and the promotion of casual play, which consists of nothing more than a few unrelated mission scripts and a handful of assets. It’s a way the developers can print money. This goes hand-in-hand with creating a game that’s so large and shallow, that you can’t possibly complete it 100% without paying additional fees or dying of boredom. Along with a “we can patch it later, it’s just a script” attitude, open world games are really risking becoming the genre everybody loves to hate. Stop buying this crap. It’s your fault.



World of Final Fantasy first 14 Hours and 6 Minutes impression

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.

Big Dudes - Great!
Big Dudes – Great!
Little Dudes - Cute!
Little Dudes – Cute!

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.

This all looks eerily familiar - and I like it!
This all looks eerily familiar – and I like it!

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!

Menu - See 14:06 hours
Menu – See 14:06 hours!

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!

Yup, rectangular spheres
Yup, rectangular spheres

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.

Battles look a little silly, but that's the point - this whole game is silly
Battles look a little silly, but that’s the point – this whole game is silly

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.

If you recognise this - HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE THIS IN YOUR LIFE???
If you recognise this – HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE THIS IN YOUR LIFE???