The long awaited Final Fantasy XV from Square Enix is less than a month away from release after seemingly endless development. Fans couldn’t be any more excited, and in addition to a kickass CG trailer involving dogs, the studio revealed plans for DLC. Noctis’ three fellow adventurers — Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto — will each be receiving their own separate DLC episodes that take place during the main game, and the final DLC will then be the addition of four player co-op, wherein friends band together to do… whatever that mode’s gonna have them do. So far, Square’s only said that they’ve just done work on Gladiolus’ DLC fairly recently, and odds are we shouldn’t expect substantial news on the cooperative stuff until the other guys have had their time in the sun.
Final Fantasy has always had a pretty good relationship with multiplayer in their games, as anyone who’s played Crystal Chronicles or either of their MMOs will tell you. It’s likely that what we’ll see with XV’s co-op will be the four leads fighting hordes of monsters, maybe Chocobo races or something along those lines. The odds of them implementing co-op as something for the entire game would potentially be cool, but also probably unlikely given how big the game apparently is, so it’s likely it’ll exist in a separate space along the lines of the Uncharted sequels or Resistance 2. While both of those are good ideas, this does also offer up the game the opportunity to continue playing up the relationship between the four leads.
As co-op and multiplayer have grown over the years in gaming, so have the justifications for having extra characters around. Instead of just a carbon copy of the original character with a different hair color, things have evolved to where the second player is a character with their own personal backstory, as is the case with Gears of War. Even franchises that previously went with the former method added in fully fleshed characters down the line, like how last year’s Halo 5 pulled from the series fiction to join Master Chief and Locke on their respective adventures. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be surprising if Square said that Final Fantasy XV was intended for four players in mind, but they held it off to make sure that it was perfect.
Since the grand reveal of FFXV, Square’s made sure to feature all four leads in every piece of marketing. When they were introduced with their car, countless memes spawned, pinning the team with the classic Mean Girls line, “Get in losers, we’re going shopping.” They’ve frequently been referred to as a boy band, and fan art is chock full of the guys being dorks. There are little flourishes about, like Noctis giving Prompto a thumbs up in the middle of a battle. All of this character crafting could continue within the co-op DLC.
Have post game lobbies be the guys just driving in the car and bragging about their kills or revives, or even have them hang out at a restaurant and do it that way. Even stupid things like fist bumps after pulling off a sick combo or a button dedicated to all four characters high fiving each other, like what Army of Two did (and was mocked for) with air guitars, could help sell the bond between the players and characters.
Director Hajime Tabata said last year that the reasoning for Final Fantasy XV’s four leads being all dudes was to give them “the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest…The world might be ready to see the curtain lifted on what boys do when girls aren’t around, when they come out of the tent all prim and proper.” It was a statement that caught a lot of criticism, given the pedigree of female characters the franchise has produced since its existence, but games are also fairly short on stories about male characters with healthy male relationships. You can definitely get that vibe across in the single player, but it could definitely resonate more through co-op. Even if it’s something as simple as the other players comforting the lowest performing player through buying them some food or letting them pick the radio station, it’d foster the relationship that Square is hoping to build. Just look at how people have responded to the pre-match dialogue in something like Overwatch; they eat those little snippets of character moments up, and it’d be weird if Square wasn’t paying attention to stuff like that even a little.
Co-op in games help players and characters cement relationships with each other. Relationships are part of the big draw for fans of Square Enix games, as Kingdom Hearts fans will tell you. The state of gaming has changed so much since Final Fantasy XV was first revealed back in 2006, and in that time, it’s doubtful that Square hasn’t noticed the ways you can make players care for protagonists. And if this DLC co-op mode is successful, who knows? Maybe they’ll do the next one with co-op built in from the very beginning.