Dissidia Final Fantasy NT : Review + a game design lesson for myself
The bottom line is I think this game is not a good game. Which is really heartbreaking how many hundred of hours I put into the original…
The bottom line is I think this game is not a good game. Which is really heartbreaking how many hundred of hours I put into the original and duodecim (012). This article assumes you already know what kind of game NT is.
But for exchange, being a game developer I actually learned a lot from NT what to not do in game design and I have compiled them here. I thought it might be useful for some game devs out there. Of course biased towards what kind of dream games I want to make, so you do not have to agree.
The sentence might looks unstructured since they have been copied from my long Reddit comment over many months and rearranged.
First let’s not deny what kind of game it wanted to be
Let’s look at some popular complaints :
No “proper” story mode
It is meant to be a competitive, highly replayable/repeatable game like Overwatch, Counter Strike, etc. It is meant to be different from the old ones. I get that the complain comes from old fans that want that old feel in a new pretty graphics. But let’s accept what NT wants to be.
Why 1 HP attack, Why no 1v1, Why no customization
This is because the competitive 3v3 format it would not be so fun if they straight out put that into 1v1 or just add all HPs together in 1v1 or something. It’s all about balance. And surprise.. balance does not translated to fun.
There are too much obvious bash to the game online already with weak reasons like “it is not what I wanted it to be” because NT is clearly not a continuation of original and 012. The rest of this review will not attack that point, but rather a well formed analysis that why even what it is trying to be is a failure. Where’s the problem?
Full of “multiplier” and very few “addition”
I tends to think of game design in this way. There are multipliers and additions. If your base game is X then each feature you add to the game can result in AX + B where A is the multiplier and B is the addition. Increasing A is tempting to maximize the value of the game, but the lack of B make the game “lifeless”. The problem is trying to increase B usually take much resource and feel like you are doing more work for just a little but unique effect for the game.
For example in mobile idol music games, you have a base game that is the music game play screen with note falling down. Then you could add more and more songs, each song you have to grind multiple times, each song with its own leader board, to multiply the content. But also add some story mode which is one-off, exhaustable, is the addition. Making a special event with special cutscene is an addition. Together in balance they make a game that is both replayable and charming, not lifeless.
To compare with Overwatch, it is the animated shorts and the comic they put on the web. It is the story event mode that they painstakingly made to be available to play just a month per year. The little talk between characters but not a generic one, each pair of character directly address the other for real. All of these are painful to create and mostly in the addition part. But you cannot just put only multiply part in order to maximize the game.
But Dissidia feels gearing towards only multiplying where the addition is added “just enough” like the cut-scene theater story mode. Boss battle sure is a costly one-off mode to create but I think it is not enough. Why not add more to the meaty online mode too? The rest of this review you might understand more why the game lacks the “addition”.
For devs, do not forget the B even if it cost your precious time. For example
- If player managed to 100% complete your game let’s not use that method to call generic popup with “Congratulations!” but make a special artwork for them.
- Remembered Rockman Zero 2 in the beginning that Zero is “damaged” and it even shows when you enter the menu screen that it is old? Those art assets are use only at that one opening stage and not again ever. For the devs it must be annoying to have to make the entire UI with textures just for one stage, but man that’s awesome right?
- It is ok to write a program that will be used in only one fight in the game. Remembered when you got to play Leo in FF6? Beatrix in FF9?
- All the mini games (sadly not so prevalent anymore in today’s game) are considered a strong “addition” to the game. So many mini games in FF7! Card games in FF8/9 might be half multiply and half addition since the feature itself is an addition, you could add card battle to all NPC all over the world multiplicatively.
One-offs are not awesome financially but are always awesome to the players! The original and 012 I could feel plenty of those. Not in NT.
What “addition” for Dissidia NT could I dreamed of? You could do it Kingdom Hearts style where you can unlock a story from the character’s universe to read. For example I have to go to Wikipedia to know why Shantotto is awesome. If they add things like that to read I would grind to unlock it. The brief story for Ramza alone would be so interesting that fans that don’t know about the game will find the game to play.
Or like, there are moments of character interaction in the story mode. But they could roll out more and more and just talk about things not related to the main story of Materia and ..the red guy (forgot his name). Just an unlockable fanservice scene! Yeah it requires more voice acting but that’s the nature of adding the “addition”. Costly. For example if I unlock a video of Cloud and Squall, I just want to see them talk.
In NT, I found there is only one screen where I can cool off and just chill out browsing that is the shop music preview section. But then they even put a time limit to preview the music there…
The game underestimate the impact of fan service elements
Fan service is on the “addition” side of the expression. Often take much manpower to develop, is one-off and not repeatable, might sounds bad in front of an investor while asking money to do them, but highly satisfying for players and will seal the game in their heart.
The older game done right in so many parts. Why left them out this time ?
The character banter at the beginning of the match. The original Dissidia was so awesome and I was caught off guard. I didn’t think the game have to do it and that’s why I am impressed.
Now it is a generic line not directed to opponent. Sure, the excuse is because it is 3v3 the line has to be for the team. But there is one character sticking out at the center of each team. The line could be for that character. Or talk to a character of his own team.
This is a big fanservice for a game like this since everyone wants to know what the character from different game would say to each other. Now it feels like just a normal all stars game. Pitted to fight against each other for no reason. Just chracter with attacks.
Not just a fanservice, the voice line bridges the series together and create many permutations of scenarios which all FF fans are surely drooling to know. Currently in NT, sure everyone are from Final Fantasy but.. like Marvel vs. Capcom. The scenario to dream of is just “fight” because everyone can fight. What if Batman can battle with Captain America? It probably hurts. What if Terra can firaga to Cloud? It probably hurts. But it is just that. You can probably put Batman in NT and he probably can hurt other FF characters and is that interesting? You see, the point I want to make is that fighting each other is just universal, but character interactions is a missed unique opportunity for a game that contains only FF characters like this.
In Overwatch, the fight is obviously out of storyline with you can have villians and hero in the same team and why do we fight in the first place but they did put voice line for the service! Even Tracer has a special line when she fight with herself from the other team. Game like Team Fortress 2 also got variety of specific class interaction.
The HP attack unique banner for each character also gone. What a nostalgia fanservice that little feature was.
I still remembered the grindy but fun dungeon mode from 012. The fanservice in that mode is that it got a dungeon music from each game! I was so excited that they prepared a newly remixed version of more than 10 songs from each game JUST to put in that mode. (FF5’s remixed cave theme was so good) It is not even usable in battle. It is only heard in the UI screen. But they put effort to remix the music for this.
That is not all, 012 contains world map and I was stoked to play through all characters just to know what song they choose for the world map of each character. Many songs are newly remixed and not reused in battle.
The dungeon and world map song I mentioned is an example of big fan service that requires a lot of effort from the dev perspective because it will be multiplied by number of series of FF if you even dare to decide to do it for the game. But they did it. It translate to the players because they can feel the quality of “addition” to the equation.
Each EX Bursts of older game by itself is a big fan service and big throw back for the fans. Obviously have to go because it will not work well for multiplayers and reasonable, but remember you are also losing the “addition”, the fan service value in this process of pursuing the e-sports 3v3 experience. That is fine, however NT does not try to compensate the lost fan service value back to the same level older Dissidia has. They are just… gone.
You get the idea, in Dissidia NT I can barely feel the same level of dedication to fan service in any part of the game. It just reeks of reuse, multiplication of playtime, repetition, etc. There is a section about too much reuse tactics later on.
It is really upsetting that Dissidia is at definition a Final Fantasy fanservice game! ..that has less fan service and feel so dry than original game like Overwatch.
The incompleteness feel it has
Dissidia NT was released at the same time as Dragonball Fighter Z and Monster Hunter World, which is unfortunate how complete the other two game are. Having played both Dissidia and MHW, at around the same price and released at the same time it do make NT feels like an unfinished little mini-game.
In MHW there’s a LOT of things to do, both alone and online and the experience is seamless in transitioning between both. Just running around already feels so good it makes you wonder how the hell the devs put this much amount of content in just under 20GB. And MHW is supposed to be a grindy-as-hell game, but the “one-off” main story mode set the foundation to be loved. Once player love the game they are willing to grind or do other repetitive endeavors.
Dissidia was designed to be like Overwatch where the online experience is the only thing that matters, but sadly it feels empty. What’s some of differences from Overwatch? (Not the genre/gameplay)
Personally what made Overwatch feels “complete” despite both is just an repetitive online game with characters fighting each other for no reason, is the lore and personality. Overwatch is much stronger than Dissidia in this regard thanks to 3 things : exclusive character voice interaction/banters, ties with comic & animated shorts, and events which expands on the character’s personality. It helps cloaking the fact that we are just doing repetitive things. There’s a life in it. The same thing happened to Team Fortress 2. The website has comics. And the introduction video for each character add so much charm to keep the player in that world doing repetitive meaningless fight.
Online game design in a cabinet is one thing, but when it is on PS4 players will expect more heavily loaded content to enjoy. 3v3 is great, but I guess it would have been more profitable if they made 012-like game even without any online feature. Character balancing would need some work as anyone who play the old game knows, but that’s exactly what I want to play more than 3v3 NT. I want to play a new 012 style game but with more balanced design towards a great 1v1 experience. (Balancing Brv->HP, etc.)
For those who says comparing this with MHW is like comparing apple and oranges. Exactly. The unfinished feel of a game is relative! It can be felt by comparing different genre of games that one owns at the same time, because gamers plays many games. You are right if you say I am comparing apples to orange when taking about mechanics, etc. but there are common qualities like satisfaction, fun, addictiveness that is not wrong to compare across games. One can feel that a game is better/lesser even if they play in a completely different way.
All these is an issue because one has limited money to buy games. I want to play both NT and MHW but when I finally get both it evokes this feeling, hence my complain. If I got both games for free maybe I would not have this impression that NT is unfinished at all. (I imagine I might say positively a “solid 3v3 online game”)
Awesomeness is not tied to balance, e-sports ready, whatsoever. Just go crazy!
This game is not for me. When I have sinked more than 200 hours on 012 before, and there are many people coming to NT because they loved the previous installment and expecting the same awesomeness. (!= balance)
Original Dissidia — Unbalanced shit, but absolutely fun. I think that’s very important as a game. Doing dungeon mode is a blast even if you got cheesed by AI with brv->HP when you don’t have it.
Doing story mode is also addictive. Setting up skills, trying to get accessory, etc… or just use Mimic and win. Fighting with my bro, I always pick an obviously hard to use character and it does not matter because it was all fun and games.
NT — Trying to make a competitive game out of old system, somewhat balanced but the cost are too many. One of them is obviously they could not even make a fun single player mode if they do want to, as individual character now does not work as well.
And in multiplayer where the trade offs are suppose to worth it, I found that it is too chaotic. Too often there are just random colorful explosion out of no where (and often from behind) and it is a HP attack of some character that you don’t know about. I think this is also the greatest barrier.
I hope the next Dissidia will be a crazy game with so many fan services that you just don’t care about anything else like the old ones. Just pure satisfaction and fan service. Feels like they are missing the point of Dissidia as a series in the first place and going too much into fitting a new gameplay style.
I want a sequel with that not so balanced but satisfying mechanics of 012. With a lot of things to grind for like story for each characters, dungeons, etc. 012 was a very good time passer even though I know I am repeating the same world map thing for each character.. it was oddly addicting. That is FUN!
Network problem, matchmaking problem
The lag is really bad and it is only this game. I play Overwatch on PC and I play MHW on PS4 in the same room and never get any unplayable lag like Dissidia.
Also it take 3–4 minute for a match that contains only me (bronze C) + 2CPU vs. other team 1~2 human + CPU that is not a bronze and is somehow matched with me. The only bronze in the server was me apparently and that is not healthy for the game. And that is my first match ever, it was not a good first impression. The following matches are not much different.
I as a noob lose to good players in a flash (< 1 min), and it does not worth more 4 minutes for more of that. I was trying to get around this by printing an academic papers to read while waiting, but the lose is so annoying that I could not understand the paper either.
Playing alone does not help as the bots in gauntlet are annoying and is actively dashing away forever in circle and in that mean time your team’s bot which are also dashing in circle but to the enemy’s bot, will die.
In custom lobby, I have never seen any room that has connection strength that is more than 1 dot even if it says same region as you. I always playing MHW with plenty of Japanese, Chinese, German, etc. players and it is also a real time game. But I have never seen a character stop in an irritating way like NT using the same internet from my room.
Frustrating combat for beginners and bad reward loop
For game design problem other than the obvious popular complain I would say the game is frustrating in too many parts of its intended design but I didn’t get this feel with 012.
There are lots of random, unknown explosion from all characters and from your behind/above. I as a newbie don’t know what caused what but one thing for sure it is an HP damage. Being hit by spamming ranged character or spammable ranged HP over and over is also frustrating, and part of the game design for 3v3 the knockback you get is pretty far. Knocked back and dash in again to get knocked back again is not a fun gameplay loop. (To compare with Overwatch dying quickly and start again from spawn I think it is a good game loop)
It is not easy to learn to counter against those spammy tactics when you rarely even get matches to improve yourself, so I stopped playing in the end. The summon also is too flashy, and on top of all the colorful HP explosions I don’t like it at all. And I tends to get a random boom! boom! freeze! whatever, while the summon is happening. It is really annoying.
The line color. I need to keep looking at line colors and this is a very steep learning curve. With barely nothing else to satisfy you while you are getting used to it, this makes players give up on the game early before it gets fun.
I got abused by a wall rush repeatedly, seems like everything the enemy do results in a wall rush while I rarely get one. Again you need to practice, but all these frustrations are too much to worth going through at least personally.
The attack (even brave ones) has very high commitment in this game. Much more than 012. I miscalculate the character’s melee range so many times, and each time you push a button and swing the air in front of the enemy it results in you getting a looooong guaranteed combo of brave > to wall rush > to hp attack. It feels very punishing. The game is not good/not friendly for noobs and that’s why no new players come in.
Again to compare with Overwatch, the ultimate mechanics make the noobs winnable and that propels the game forward greatly as a whole. New players can feel good, then once they get good you get a community.
Usually a competitive game like this where you are likely to lose keep you going through sweet moments and rewarding moment, but there are so few and rare in Dissidia.
I hate it when most of the time (50%+) I fell no involvement in the winning strike. It’s just… huh Victory? Ok. (Compared to games like Overwatch, usually you are there together and it feels good to win) The same also on losing. Someone else dies and you lose… OR you die and the team lose. Either one is not a good feeling. Too many elements that make you rages more than awesome moment, where usually that happen without you around.
I do think if I get more matches (100+) with only bronzes I could enjoy the fighting mechanics in the end. But this is just bad at the root, if the beginners are discouraged then where’s the player base growth?
Also this game is not so good spectator wise, judging from myself when someone showed a montage clip/frag clip that is supposed to be awesome, I do miss the awesome part until several rewatch. The effects are too flashy. The knockback is out of the world. Tandem attacks is already hard to pull off by yourself but is also hard to spectate that there’s any kind of setup going into that HP attack you are seeing. When the game is not-spectator-friendly, it struggles to bring new players in because then the only way to get someone new is to pull the trigger to buy the game. Not an easy decision comparing to watching “obviously awesome clip” and got motivated to get the game and get good.
Very stinky decision in many parts, and overestimate itself that the players will invest for them
The store could keep the player going to the game but the price is too high!! Very very high for the amount of gil given.
For instance the music being the fundamental wishlist of many FF players (FF is known for good music right?) could be like 3x cheaper so new players can collect the nostalgia fast in their early play and continue doing so. I only have enough to bought 1 music before I can’t take it anymore. Other like skins and icon can stay expensive.
And there are sketchy mobage tactics like upgrading the same plate to multiple levels which add shines and rainbows obviously to drag out the thing to do.
The icons are very lazy and smells of “popular franchise spin-off” mobage these days that only jam packed existing art material together for an infinite collectibles. You know, game that has a lot of artwork like Rockman, Maple Story, Final Fantasy, etc. all have a mobage counterpart at some point with gacha added where you get a collectible with no new dedicated art. (mostly a card for no reason because it is convenience to put things in a rectangle and what’s a better name for rectangle than a card?)
The music being the most interesting for me, but not a good move to give only 1 music per series for free at the beginning. Getting just 1 more music takes like forever for noobs like me who keeps losing and it is disheartening. Gauntlet getting the most gil is sad as the online mode is supposed to be the meat of this game.
Alternate costume that includes a tons of color swap as a separated purchase also reeks of trying to drag things out. Each one is very expensive. They could just give you a button to change color variation after purchasing just one.
The plate which represent minimal work for the developers (just the plate design and change the text around) is locked by insane task for EACH character like 1000 play count… for starters that number is very very high in not a challenging way. There is a limit of putting challenges to the game that does not make it feels like it is an intentional drag-out from the dev.
Gauntlet offline rank could just match the bot’s rank to the character you choose but no, it is tied to the character. It does not make much sense to me that you have to level the bot up evenly so they don’t go suicide.
In short the game obviously choose too much “multiply-ish” path of the design that it started to feel obvious that the player are being manipulated. It is not bad for once to add some one-off fan service, or something that does not designed-for-multiplying the required play time like crazy.
I want to love the game so bad but I could not. I am eagerly waiting for the devs to make the next move for the future of Dissidia.
Do something with these awesome character models and stages and make a fully fledged, packed with fan service game I can grind for months. Like that old times I play on the PSP all night unknowingly until I relized I did an all nighter when I heard the morning rooster, busy setting up accessories loadout and moves for the characters.
Sorry if it comes out as offensive for someone who really love the game. I love the series that’s why I care enough to write it at all. Currently I enjoy following the evolution, the new characters, the move set and the rebalance of each characters but not actually want to play the game. It is a really weird position to be in…