The Huntsman

I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XVI a lot lately. I haven’t been completely absorbed in it like I was that other big fantasy game from a few months ago, but I’ve been putting aside roughly an hour a day to plug away at it. It’s a very good game! The combat is pretty fun, the story is wild, and the soundtrack is incredible. It is also shockingly linear, which I understand is a divisive trait, but I’ve been fairly happy with FFXVI keeping me (mostly) focused on the task at hand. Remember, Final Fantasy XIII is my second-favourite in the series, so linear isn’t a problem for me.

However! Clive’s adventure isn’t so set on rails that you’re only ever barreling toward the next objective. There are side quests to distract you! And, yeah, of course there are. Can you imagine the uproar from the internet nerds if an RPG was made in the modern day and did not include side quests? “Refunded!” I can hear them chanting. Side quests are great and all, but what really got me going was when the hunt board was introduced… I don’t know, a third of the way through the game? And yes, I know that hunts are effectively just side quests without the NPC chatter. But they’re more fun! And rewarding!

If you’re not already aware, “hunts” are a feature that has been in Final Fantasy since the twelfth numbered entry. Put simply, there’s an NPC or board somewhere in the game that has a bunch of wanted posters for really tough monsters (usually called “Marks”), and your job is to track them down and slay them. In a game that already has a vast array of monsters and fiends to conquer, what’s the appeal of the hunt board? It’s usually because the Marks are extra-tough -and sometimes unique- monsters. It’s a little bit like a whole roster of optional bosses! As a fun fact, I didn’t ever complete all the hunts in Final Fantasies XII, XIII, or XV. I hope to finally get the dub with XVI!

For me, nothing is more exciting than the hunt board. The idea that there are these high-powered foes out there, waiting to test my skill, is the ultimate carrot on a stick. So much so that I beeline to the hunt board every time I enter the Hideout. The Monster Hunter games revolve entirely around this concept, and we all know how obsessed I get with those. FFXVI’s hunts have definitely been enjoyable, and while most of that is because of how fun the combat is, I’m also impressed that many of the marks have dropped unique items that I’ve been able to forge into pretty good equipment. And so, the comparison to Monster Hunter becomes even more apt…

I will say that while I have been enjoying the added challenge if the hunts in FFXVI, there are two small shortcomings. Firstly, they’re doled out at an absolute trickle. This is expected, but the fact that I’m roughly 80% of the way through the game and I’ve unlocked maybe half of the total hunts makes me feel like they could have been dropped a little more liberally. Of course, knowing that there are a ton of changes in New Game+, it may be that several are being saved for that mode.

The second problem I have with the hunts is that so far, only one of them has been a unique monster. Again, I kind of expected this. For the most part, Marks do end up being palette-swapped versions of creatures you’re seen before, but with higher stats and unique attacks. It’s a little more exciting when they are one-of-a-kind enemies, because then you get a whole new enemy to learn, rather than being able to lean on your existing knowledge of that monster type. So I’m holding out hope that there will at least be a couple more unique foes here!

And maybe if the remaining hunts in FFXVI impress me enough… I’ll finally go back and fell the adamantoise in FFXV. (But probably not.)

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