Not too long ago, Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura (producer and director of Final Fantasy VII Remake, respectively) revealed some new details about what’s changing in the upcoming project. One of the points in the reveal concerned the nature of the game’s world and whether or not it would be open. The studio said they were “not going to put much focus on whether they’ll call it open world or sandbox,” an interesting attitude to have towards a title whose open world style added so much to its gameplay.
Those familiar with the original Final Fantasy VII release know of Gaia, the large, Earth-like planet where the game takes place. After you first leave Midgar, the starting city, you’re thrust into a large map stretching as far as you can see. It is a classic overworld, something that hasn’t been seen in the Final Fantasy series for quite some time.
This open world held a lot of side tidbits that added excitement to the title: driving the cool, tank-like Buggy, piloting the Highwind, breeding Chocobos, fighting Emerald and Ruby Weapon, and searching for secret areas. It added a sense of grandeur to the experience, especially when its expanse was revealed for the first time. After spending hours in Midgar at the beginning of the game, being released out into the wide open world was new and awe inspiring.
To be honest, an overworld in the same form as that seen in the original game seemed pretty unlikely from the get go, especially since the team has been dead-set on creating something really new. Nomura did state that “they would like to have some kind of environment that can have a character’s action influence what happens in the background.” What can that mean for the multi-part Final Fantasy VII Remake when the nature of that world is purposefully undisclosed? That the developers are sidelining the topic may signal a change to come.
What we may see is a direction closer to that of Final Fantasy XIII or even what little we’ve seen of XV – much more rigid structure that while not entirely linear, takes players from location to location as they progress through the game. Instead of having one large, open world where you move between cities and towns, it can be broken up into several smaller open areas. A bigger Midgar, expanded towns with more explorable structures, fast travel points to cut down on slow travel between these areas.
The dev team would be able to include vehicles for roaming around again if they so choose, as well as secret surprises such as the island where you find the Knights of the Round Materia. This would also make those lovable Chocobos useful again, since outside of the overworld they served little purpose.
This type of world may work best for Final Fantasy VII’s multiple release structure. Instead of having to painstakingly recreate a large map and have it in each installment, they can take the time to create more thorough versions of the specific areas needed, focusing on narrative and action instead of large expanses filled with tons of aimless wandering. It would also fit into the structure of the more modern Final Fantasy games, something with freedom but a defined purpose, while also fitting better with the development schedule.
There is also the chance that Square Enix is keeping mum on the topic because, like the combat and visuals, the open world is getting revamped as well. Video games have come a long way, so just taking the map of Gaia and making it a little prettier probably won’t cut it for fans who have been waiting for this remake nearly a lifetime. Still, there is a very slim chance that the entire world will be recreated for each release segment.
The world’s form being somewhat up in the air at the moment leaves a lot of possibilities open. Will Square Enix go for a more rigid narrative approach with Final Fantasy VII Remake akin to that of XIII? Or will they break the over world down into smaller chunks, giving just what you need: open, but with much less of a sand-box feel.
Based on how Final Fantasy VII Remake is starting to resemble the like of Lightning Returns and XV, there’s a possibility that the former is more likely, but we’ll have to wait and see. Which direction do you think they’ll go? Do you have a preference? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
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