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The Straight Line

January 24, 2011 7 comments

Linearity has become a curse word in the videogames industry over the past five years. Fewer words these days can sink a game’s reputation faster. Take the controversial Final Fantasy XIII: surrounded by malicious Internet mutterings of, “It’s just one straight line”, its reputation was damaged before its release and the stigma of linearity still surrounds it today. Strike up a conversation with a critic of Final Fantasy XIII and the first thing that will be brought up- I guarantee you this- is the linearity. Try it at home, you can make good money.

But are things as different as people think? I went back to Final Fantasy VII– that most treasured of titles- to find out. Upon leaving Midgar, I was instructed to go directly to the nearby town of Kalm. No detours. I decided to defy this order and see how much of this new frontier I could explore. Not much. There was a giant land snake that killed me if I went too far in one direction, and a Chocobo Stable that I couldn’t use. In-between all of that was not a land of unexplored wonder, but a big green blob of grassland filled with unusually-organised groups of monsters that wanted to hurt me. The game refused to allow me to advance, despite teasing me with a brave new world. I was, in fact, on a straight line.

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