(say the title 5 times fast. I dare you.)
Fantasy games have been around since the first text-based adventure games, it’s a crucial genre that has a huge fan base, and has created hundreds of games over the years. This year saw the crucial development of two fantasy games, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Final Fantasy XV. The first is a game that has been in development for 2 years, Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third installment in the Dragon Age series by Bioware. It is a dark narrative-driven fantasy RPG that focuses on player choice. The second is Final Fantasy XV, a visually stunning JRPG by Square Enix that has been in and out of development for the last 8 years, but despite this, is still heavily anticipated by fans worldwide.
The Dragon Age saga by Bioware has had a long rocky past. The developer’s first game, Dragon Age: Origins, was somewhat successful, and became known as a cult classic to hardcore RPG fans. It featured a long campaign mission full of plot twists and black humor, and a story that ‘reacted’ to the player’s choices. In contrast, Dragon Age II was a rushed, small, and sloppy sequel (if you couldn’t tell by the lack a proper title). Dragon Age II disappointed fans of the first game and newcomers alike. Though it had spirit and stuck to many of the earlier game’s gritty themes and emotionally heavy narrative decisions, it was overall lacking. The campaign could be finished in a mere 20 hours, a fraction to the 80 hours it took to finish Dragon Age Origins.
Bioware’s games, though not the most graphically stunning, claim some of the best story and narrative weight of any games on the market. Hence the long standing success of the Mass Effect series. However the company has a shoddy history when it comes to game production. A key example being when they pulled many people off the Dragon Age II team to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game that became a free-to-play in record time.
However it was realized that the Dragon Age saga had potential as a fantasy counterpart to the Mass Effect series, and Dragon Age: Inquisition was given ample resources and time in order to avoid the same mistakes that were made on DA II.
In comparison, the Final Fantasy series by Square Enix has enjoyed long standing success, but also has ventured into rocky waters over the past few years. Final Fantasy XIII was the lowest rated game in the series history, and a failed launch of their MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV severely damaged their reputation and almost bankrupted the company financially . Currently, the next episode in the series, Final Fantasy XV has been in development for an astounding 8 years.
Final Fantasy XV has undergone a plethora of changes in the past 8 years. The game was originally known as Final Fantasy versus XIII, however due to pushbacks it has been given a place in the series timeline. The current director, Hajime Tabata’s vision for the game changed the scope and original narrative. Also, with the release of the next generation consoles and engines, gameplay had to be revised. And while all of this is perfectly logical explanation for the delay, the point still stands that Square Enix is not the powerhouse it used to be, and cannot afford anymore failures like the original Final Fantasy XIV. That’s why director Tabata and Square Enix are setting out to create “a benchmark game that defines a generation.”
There is a lot riding on Final Fantasy XV’s release, but there’s hope to; with the success of Type-O, coupled with the financial success of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, both games are helping to bring Square Enix back from the wayside. Final Fantasy XV might help ensure the companies certain future as a successful and iconic game developer.
Both of these games are bright hopes for companies that have released disappointing fantasy games in the past. There are levels of both excitement and trepidation surrounding the releases, and for good reason. ‘Once burned, twice shy’ as the saying goes, and each Bioware and Square Enix have hurt their fans before. However, the companies seem to be taking in critical response of their failures and using it to create even better games than before. Bioware and Square Enix are two former blockbuster game developers, and despite recent setbacks, both companies seem up to the challenge of producing AAA games that will help shape the fantasy genre for years to come.