Play­ing with fire

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Fi­nal Fan­tasy has al­ways re­volved around its enemies as much as its party, an imag­i­na­tive cast of step­ping stones paving the way to your next lev­elled-up stat. FFXV (p38) isn’t mak­ing any con­certed ef­fort to change that, but it is pre­sent­ing its ecosys­tem as a living web of placid and ag­gres­sive crea­tures that co­ex­ist in a deeper way than sim­ply oc­cu­py­ing the same field. It might be a pre­sen­ta­tional rather than me­chan­i­cal shift, but it’s a fash­ion­able one in light of the sur­vival genre’s ever-swelling mass.

The Flame In The Flood (p48) is one of that le­gion, of­fer­ing up a more in­ti­mately scaled de­pic­tion of bat­tling the el­e­ments. What it and FFXV share is that both make bon­fire light a ring of tem­po­rary safety – here dis­cour­ag­ing wolves and dry­ing out sod­den clothes, rather than pro­vid­ing a node for cash­ing in ex­pe­ri­ence points. Both games let you cook up a meal with in­gre­di­ents found dur­ing the day as well, and the feel­ing of reach­ing a point of respite from the rigours of your jour­ney is just as pro­found.

Whereas in Campo Santo’s Fire­watch (p42), the bon­fire we stamp out early on in our time with the game is used not to rep­re­sent refuge, but an in­va­sion of the nat­u­ral habi­tat we’ve been charged to guard from harm – an open fire poses a dan­ger to the dry woods of Wy­oming. Still, the game is no less fo­cused on repli­cat­ing the sen­sa­tion of be­ing ex­posed to the el­e­ments. In Fire­watch, that in­stead means you might find your­self cling­ing to a rock face as the threat­en­ing or­ange sun dips be­low the hori­zon, or holed up in a wooden cabin pre­car­i­ously raised a dozen me­tres off the ground on spindly, flammable wooden struts. (And that’s not to men­tion the rick­ety out­house we’ve been pro­vided for in­ter­nal calls of na­ture.)

There will al­ways be a place for broadsword-tot­ing im­ped­i­ments, of course, but it’s good to spend some time with your thoughts in the great out­doors once in a while, even if be­ing there might mean they’re your last.

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