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Final Fantasy: The Great Linearity Debate

By Edited May 21, 2014 0 0
Final Fantasy XIII (15886)

When Final Fantasy XIII was released earlier this year, it was a big deal for die-hard Final Fantasy fans. Not only was XIII the first game to be released on next-generation consoles Playstation 3 and xBox-360, but it was also the first Final Fantasy since the disappointing, story-lacking Final Fantasy XII. Square Enix had a lot to prove, as fans were beginning to lose confidence in the franchise.

Nearly two months after release, and did XIII succeed? That's still open to a great deal of debate. The main issue that a large amount of fans have complained about is the incessant linearity of the game. Whilst, loyalists argue that all Final Fantasy games are linear, how is this one any different?

But, which side is right? In a sense both sides have a strong argument, but the real problem in determining a solid conclusion, is to understand the definition of linearity.

In the sense of role-playing games, linerarity refers to the notion that to progress ahead in the story, and move things along, your character must metaphorically, and literally, travel from Location A to B. At arriving at B, an event will occur, providing information regarding the next location that will further forward the story, and hence the player must travel, in the same fashion as before, from B to C.

When we think of Final Fantasy games, in simple terms as this, then yes, the loyalists are 100% correct. However, there is another angle that must be looked upon, also.

Linearity, as a whole is about getting from A to B, however there are two types of linear games, especially when it comes to Final Fantasy games.

Traditional (and popular) Final Fantasy games, such as VII, VIII and IX allow the player to divert off the A to B track, and to partake in side quests, that will not progress the story, but are there to allow the player to train, or just enhance their gaming experience, examples of diversions include:
  • Rearing Chocobos (FFVII)
  • Chocobo Racing (FFVII)
  • Treasure Hunting (FFIX)
  • Monster Hunts (FFXII)
All of these games, give the player lots of opportunity to level up their characters, in combats across maps, and large areas.

But then, some Final Fantasy games, especially X and XIII, follow a set path that the player must follow to get from A to B, with little or no room, for wandering "off the beaten track". And, ultimately, this is what some fans really don't like.

However, why do fans accept the linearity of Final Fantasy X, and yet detest the linearity of Final Fantasy XIII?

The difference here, lies in the fact that when the player reaches the location in FFX, there is plenty of opportunity to explore towns and cities, shopping for supplies, talking to the locals etc. FFXIII, however, doesn't offer this. Instead, whenever a location is reached, a series of dialogue ensues, forwarding the story and then the player must reach the next location, where dialogue occurs and so on.

Such linearity as features in FFXIII is ultimately tedious, and leaves many players exhausted and wanting something different than running, fighting, running, dialogue, running, fighthing etc.


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