I greatly anticipated the release of Final Fantasy XVI. The first game in the series, aptly titled Final Fantasy, is the first significant nerdy memory I carry. It was the game that birthed my love for all things gaming. Because of this, the series holds a special place in my little nerdy heart, and each release demands my attention.
For me, Square Enix’s newest release is a true high point for the series. It boasts everything a Final Fantasy game should have: A high quality intriguing story, incredible music, the best boss battles, an interesting protagonist, great side characters, and – after about 75% of the main story – some of the most fun combat (yes, I’ll concede the delay in powering up is a criticism that is deserved).
Also the game looks beautiful. The benefits of development only on PS5 show here as the game runs at an almost perfect 60fps. The faces have emotion and feeling to them. Each monster design from new to series favorite looks spectacular. Each Eikon battle is a visual masterpiece, many times feeling like you are playing a movie. The music throughout the entire game begs for the Distant Worlds treatment. The voice actors clearly cared for their characters here, and the way they interacted felt genuine. This is Final Fantasy at its best.
Yet, what stood out to me the most, and what I found the greatest value in, were the side-quests.
As an FF14 player (which I recommend everyone try), I noticed many similarities to the MMORPG and FF16. This is due to many people from the same leadership team working on both games. So when I got the first side-quest and the mission was to deliver plates to those around the area, my heart sank. Will the next 40ish hours be full of quests like “kill 6 generic enemies” or “go here and deliver this for no reason?”
Thankfully, and surprisingly, each plate I delivered taught me more about the area I was at and those I served to. It wasn’t only this quest, but every side-quest in the game had a weight to it. I felt they each had a purpose other than time wasting. These quests had similar game mechanics: go here, do this, come back. What I gained from it, however, was far more than a few Gil and in-game experience. I learned about the area, about the lore, and most importantly I learned about the life of the quest giver and what their motivations were.
By helping those around me in the game I learned more about who they were and what their motivations were. Before long the ones sending me on quests were as familiar to me as the main characters. As the player, I was invested in their lives throughout the game. They began to trust me and eventually they willingly gave aid in my quest.
This is something FF16 teaches well: Serving others is key to healthy relationships. What starts with my investment in their lives eventually grows to include their willing investment in mine. The more I served, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I cared. And the more they ‘saw’ me care, the more they opened up and reciprocated.
As I saw this dynamic play out in the game, I began to wonder what I have to learn from Clive’s interactions? I don’t have the skills that Clive has (nor the muscular structure) but there is something I can do: ask, and listen.
I’m a habitual speaker yet never do’er of the ‘let’s get together.’ Unfortunately, like many in their 30s with kids, my schedule and time are already stretched thin. I have found one of the best ways to serve those around me is to text, call, or even slide into their DMs (friends, not strangers) and ask them how things are going. Then LISTEN, REMEMBER, and FOLLOW UP.
I believe the follow up is key. For Clive, he always returned when his side-quest was done, informing them their need or ask had been completed. It’s here the NPC would peel back the curtain and share more about their situation or life. What I learned is this: following up is what shows I care. It shows I see them, acknowledge them, and I’m thinking of them. It is service in action, and it is imperative to building relationships.
Jesus epitomized this. He came to serve, not to be served. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, washed feet, and served in totality by offering himself up on the cross for us. All freely and willingly. Through following in his footsteps and serving others, I can be more like Jesus, and in truth a far better person.
As a father of a new 2-month-old baby (and an almost 4-year-old) I’m very thankful the time I spent serving others has fostered wonderful relationships. I’ve had plenty of friends reach out and ask how I was doing and if we needed anything. They have ensured that our transition to a family of 4 has gone smoothly, and continue reaching out to this day. This time it seems that I’m the NPC giving out the side quest. I’m the one needing help, and I’m thankful for those willing to serve me in this season.
By the time I rolled credits on the game I was full of “endgame depression” knowing I would never get to enjoy new stories with the characters I had grown to care about (barring DLC). I had to say my goodbyes to every digital person I had grown to appreciate over the 40+ hour campaign. Yes, the story of FF16 was great, but the characters were what moved me. Final Fantasy XVI made me feel real tangible emotions because of these relationships. For me, there can be no higher praise for a video game.