Something that defines a lot of games nowadays–especially story-driven RPGs–is the aim to be open-world. Even franchises that never really touched on this addition before are diving in head first, notably in the recently released Elden Ring and Pokemon Legends Arceus. An open world seems to give players more to do, strategically hiding bits and pieces of the story around a hulking map. If you’re expecting Final Fantasy 16 to do the same, you’d be mistaken.
In a chat with producer Naoki Yoshida, it was revealed that the team wasn’t going to go fully open-world, instead focusing on “area-based” design to help welcome in new players as well as entice old ones.
“We’ve found in our extensive user research that many of the younger generation of gamers have never played a Final Fantasy or don’t have any interest in the series,” says Yoshida. “To create a game that might excite and resonate not only with our core fans, but also with that new generation, we played a LOT of games ourselves, and so yes, in [Final Fantasy 16] you’ll find inspiration from recent triple-A open-world RPGs.”
“Inspiration” doesn’t mean “replication.” Many fans will remember that the hugely-popular Final Fantasy VII Remake also didn’t have an open-world design, also focusing on “area-based” exploration in order to make the world feel bigger without giving players an infinite amount of things to do (though the sidequests did give off that impression from time to time.)
There are plenty of RPGs that don’t have open-world gameplay from recent times, managing to be great titles despite or because of that fact. It might be odd that the team is straying so far from the game design of FFXV, but they clearly feel that this is what’s best.