To Play or Not to Play

The Final Fantasy franchise is one that I find both intriguing and daunting. With fourteen games in its main series, and countless sequels, spin-offs and remakes, it would surely be a task to play through every game in this vast franchise. Herein lies my predicament. As someone who has had little experience with Final Fantasy (does Kingdom Hearts count?) I have wanted to play the much hailed series for a while. However, I have no idea where to start, or even if it matters where you start. With Final Fantasy VII, praised as one of the greatest JRPG’s, receiving a remake on the PS4, I feel that it will be a must to play both the remake and the original. I’m also quite keen on trying out the Final Fantasy X-X2 HD remaster on the PS4 as from what I’ve seen it looks like a pretty fun game. I suppose my biggest question though is whether it is vital to play every Final Fantasy game to be able to truly understand and enjoy any of the game in the series. Also, just a little background on my experience with JRPG’s, the only one I can recall playing was called Blue Dragon, a game I never completed because I got so tired of it’s linearity and monotony. I’m hoping that some of the Final Fantasy games won’t be like this, however a heads up would be great dear readers!

So I ask you readers to help me in my predicament. What Final Fantasy game should I start with to finally get into the series? Does it matter about playing every game or what order? As always, thanks for reading and I will be interested to hear your thoughts on my situation, and your experiences with the Final Fantasy franchise!

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Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture Review

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was arguably one of the most anticipated independent releases on PS4 this summer. We have been drip fed information and praise throughout the year from the developers themselves, and gaming outlets, which amassed a lot of excitement in the gaming community for its release. Yet since its release almost a month ago, there has been much contention over this deserved praise. The latest addition to independent studio The Chinese Room’s repertoire has gained huge critical comment from both ends of the spectrum, making it somewhat difficult for a potential buyer to determine whether they will enjoy playing the game or not. On the whole I enjoyed the game, yet by identifying what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the game I wonder whether I enjoyed the concept of the game rather than the game itself.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is set in a rural English town where (you guessed it) everyone has mysteriously disappeared. Yet, left behind are strange orbs of light, and impressions of the inhabitants made up of specks of light, playing out their lives and how they all disappeared. You play the role of an anonymous observer, who traverses the many areas of this town to find clues as to how this happened, being guided by the orbs of light that represent the major characters of the story. There are five main areas in the town and your aim is to uncover as much information in each to fully understand the situation that has unfolded.

The game’s story is compelling, and the way it is told through piecing it together by interacting with the world does provide an immersive experience. However, the game deals with many themes and some of these are explored quite deeply. This does aid the plot to an extent, but often times it feels like The Chinese Room are juggling both plot and theme which leads to it feeling unbalanced. This becomes evident by the end of the game when the two main characters, Kate and Stephen’s, stories seem to be rushed, and the main plot is only explained quite basically. Perhaps this is done intentionally, as the game features many hidden codes and messages that the developers included for its audience to decipher, and so perhaps they intended the plot to be analysed deeper by the player. Yet, by creating a plot that revolves around themes of religion, philosophy, and physics, and these being represented by some quite complex ideas, it becomes a task to try and piece together the meaning of the plot. The concept for the plot is definitely interesting, however in practice it isn’t accessible to all players, and can end up looking like a confusing mess.

These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4's motion controls.
These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4’s motion controls.

In terms of gameplay, this is where the game faces division amongst those who played it, as it is quite simplistic. Controlling your character through first person perspective, you traverse through each area discovering information by interacting with radios, telephones, and other electrical equipment by pressing X, and unlocking scenes of character interaction by using the motion controls on the Dualshock 4 to open up balls of light. After the novelty of using the motion controls wears off you realise this was probably implemented to detract from the mundane nature of only pressing X. However, the most irksome mechanic, in my opinion, was the speed in which you walked around the town. Only through a chance read of the Playstation blog did I find out that you could hold the R2 button to increase the speed of walking, something that is not made apparent unless you read the instructions manual webpage. Even so, the increase in speed is really not that massive, which can become tiring as the game encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of the world (which was a lot larger than I expected) and to use footpaths that can help you backtrack through each area, with the reward of a trophy for finding each of these sometimes hidden pathways. By the end of the game I was so tired of backtracking to try and find every piece of information that I just played through the main story knowing I had missed a few pieces of information which could have impacted some of the storylines. One small thing that could have been included that would have also helped avoid this annoyance would be the inclusion of a map in the pause menu. There are many maps around the different areas with ‘You are here’ markers, but it is easy to lose track after walking away from these and can become a task to try and remember where the maps are.

The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.
The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.

Despite some annoying mechanics Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture redeems itself through its beautiful environment and sound design. Using the rural British setting may create a little bias in my opinion as a Brit, but I think there is an undeniable charm to the town that has been achieved through the design, and the range of different areas to explore, including a typical British seaside caravan park, encompasses British culture down to a T. In each area, the weather and the colour of the sky differs which works well in combination with the different themes and stories that are presented in each area. There has also been a lot of attention to detail in both the sound and environment design, with simple things like graffiti in bus stops that you could swear you’ve seen in your own town, or the changing sound of the rain when walking into a caravan from outside and hearing that tinny pittering that brings back memories of seaside holidays as a child. The soundtrack to the game is excellent, being able to evoke sadness and drama in combination with certain storylines, and swiftly changing to eerie and mysterious music to bring you back to your main goal of solving the game’s mystery.

The game's environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.
The game’s environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not a bad game. It has some annoying gameplay mechanics and at times the story can seem a bit messy and thin. However, the concept for the game is interesting and it does manage to evoke the sense of mystery that it aims to achieve. The beautiful landscapes and music do immerse you into the game’s setting. But for those who don’t have the patience to walk around a rural British town for 5-6 hours at a slow pace with little action, and are not too fussed on delving deep into the story’s sometimes-complex themes, then this game probably isn’t for you.

Thanks for reading! Have you played Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? Leave a comment on your thoughts, I would love to hear them.