Earlier than the discharge of the Final Fantasy XIV enlargement, Shadowbringers, sport director Naoki Yoshida joked that George R.R. Martin wanted to complete his A Tune of Ice and Fireplace 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 type of darkish medieval fantasy aesthetic as being like Recreation of Thrones, maybe in the identical method 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 stage of intent that units itself aside from the prior, effectively, fantasies of the franchise.
Ultimate Fantasy has after all accomplished 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 mission, the aforementioned MMO, XIV. The aesthetic continues to be essentially the most outstanding even because the franchise has nearly as lengthily juked and jived between the steampunk of VI, the sci-fi techno fantasy of VII, VIII, and XIII, and the whole lot in between. Ultimate Fantasy is after all no stranger to darkish storytelling both, thrusting its heroes into dreadful conflicts in opposition to terrible villains, and forcing a few of these heroes and their allies into paying the final 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 stage aesthetic of Thrones’ specific concept 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 known 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 fireplace incarnate. A “First Defend,” 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 struggle that sees each his brother and father slain, his house 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 stage 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 strategy—when the collection was lauded as by some means 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, after all—in a lot that the darkest moments of these video games had been usually both implied or introduced in a extra summary method, whether or not by technical limitations or stylistic alternative.
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 sluggish 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 sport 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 type of stares at that severed head? Additionally sure. It’s just a little a lot at occasions, particularly when stated youngster them traumatically explodes into an enormous firebird avatar and begins indiscriminately incinerating the whole lot round him.
However that conflict between the excessive fantasy of Ultimate Fantasy and this way more grim aesthetic context is crafting one thing with loads of potential, even within the small glimpse we’ve had of XVI up to now. In going for this Thrones-esque vibe Ultimate Fantasy XVI isn’t embarrassed of its classical fantasy components, 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 collection’ 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 approach to a ginormous kaiju-esque struggle 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 desires to chase the cultural cache of what Recreation of Thrones did for up to date fantasy—however it doesn’t neglect that it’s nonetheless additionally a Ultimate Fantasy sport, with an emphasis on the fantasy. We’ll see the way it nails that stability when Clive’s journey continues within the full sport’s launch on June 22, however for now, it’s shaping as much as have loads of fascinating promise.
Need extra io9 information? Try when to count on the newest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on film and TV, and the whole lot it is advisable to find out about the way forward for Doctor Who.