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Played in 2023
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Built on layers upon layers its own discarded futures, FFXV sits in an odd position between the technical ambitons/audience expectations of a prestige RPG and the artistic intent of a smaller game, willing to take risks. Asking the player to be seen as a road trip for most of its run, XV is best when taken at face value. It's a game about process that exists in the present tense. You don't walk to quests, you quest to walk.
Regardless of how much I like this or that individual element in it, Alan Wake is, conceptually, somewhere close to my ideal game. Wearing its influences on its sleeve in the way only the best genre fiction can, it manages to capture american horror schlock to a tee with all of its ups and downs (and there are downs) while remaining, very obviously, a personal work from its creators. It's also a perfect marriage of art, technology and design, unafraid of artifice, playing with light and color to create vivid nightmarescapes around hardware limitations; leaving detail to the elements the player will have to see repeatedly and having everything support the core mechanic. Remedy is an action developer at heart, and the horror in Alan Wake surrounds an extremely robust combat loop.
You take out the darkness that physically shields enemies' bodies with your flashlight (which requires batteries) and then shoot them dead (which requires bullets). Reloading either is actually really quick, but they are relentless and always one step from overwhelming you, which means two different currencies and a heavy dose of crowd control. Losing grasp of the situation, being attacked from behind or missing a reload in time can easily lead into a stressful death. It's a very classic approach to game design, decidedly tactile and focused on the essentials--every action is accompanied by just the right cacophony of feedback--all solidified by good aesthetic choices. With too little light for blood, Remedy's motto of "the room telling the story of the fight" takes the form of light particles in the air, smoke, broken fences, player-activated headlights and other remains of your specific interaction with each environment. Some questionable enemy placement and a couple of gimmicky fights/enemies are the only issues I can think of when it comes to the combat, and those outside the combat feel so generational that I don't have it in me to really complain because the world needs more games like this.
The chasm between the length of the Midgar section in the game and the players' minds is a testament to the iconography and texture of the game. Every area has the potential to turn into a 1-cour anime arc in your mind and then, on replay, surprise you with how short and to-the-point it is. Discussing whether it has "aged well" at all is an insult to the level of intent and control behind it.