There’s a lot going on in Final Fantasy XVI, Square Enix’s upcoming stylish reinvention of the iconic RPG franchise. Between the new setting, massive Eikon battles, and Game of Thrones inspiration, FFXVI can be confusing to follow. And if you feel that way as you’re playing, you’re not alone, as the developers added an in-game explainer because even the team couldn’t follow the game’s convoluted narrative.
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Launching as a PlayStation 5 exclusive on June 22, FFXVI is this radical shakeup for a series that producer Naoki Yoshida said in August 2022 is “struggling” to maintain relevance in an evolving industry. The game completely breaks free from its turn-based roots to become something much more action-oriented, akin to 2018’s God of War (all while harnessing the power of the PS5). Recent previews suggested the transformation works, even if series veterans may have a rough time molding themselves to the new formula. Another element that makes adapting to FFXVI difficult is the storytelling, which is so bombastic and perplexing that Square Enix needed to build in something called Active Time Lore to make sense of what doesn’t fully make sense.
FFXVI’s Active Time Lore feature is at your fingertips
Active Time Lore is new to the Final Fantasy franchise. First revealed in a February 2023 PlayStation Blog post, the feature lets you pause at any point during gameplay—especially in the middle of a cutscene—so you can read up on the events that just transpired, what’s happening at large in the world, a character and the jargon they’re using, or even factions and locations involved. It’s like having a detailed Wikipedia in-game, making it so you don’t have to scour the internet to learn about, say, why protagonist Clive Rosfield is so emo.
In a May 22 interview with Polygon, Yoshida said that while it was always Square Enix’s goal to tell this sweeping epic of a story with a massive ensemble cast, doing such a thing would inevitably lead to confusion. This bewilderment was particularly felt amongst the core development team, which prompted the creation of the Active Time Lore feature, according to Yoshida.
“I think it was May in 2019,” he said. “We brought together pretty much the main staff from all of the sections working on the game, and we read through the entire script all together. We found out that a lot of even the internal core staff were lost, they didn’t know what was going on! So we realized all of a sudden we needed some way to support players that were going to feel this way as well. Because if we as devs are feeling it, players are definitely going to.”
According to Polygon, there are some in-game characters that further explain FFXVI’s disorienting narrative. Loresman Harpocrates shares lore tidbits with you via an unlockable library. Then there’s the political scholar Vivan Ninetales who can give you the tea on the state of affairs between the realm and its key players, essentially pulling a Pepe Silvia to map out relationships and the military situation. These characters, coupled with Active Time Lore, sound like welcomed additions for a series that’s pretty damn difficult to follow accurately.
Kotaku reached out to Square Enix for comment.
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Confusing narrative aside, FFXVI looks like an epic action game. While there’s still a month before it officially launches, it’s being reported that a demo for the game will be available before then, giving you a couple of hours to play as a youthful Clive to immerse yourself in the Game of Thrones-esque story.