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Fixing Final Fantasy XVI Part 2 - Jill Warrick

She’s got a terrific foundation, but the writers forgot to build on it.

She’s always in the background, because subtle metaphors are for nerds

I know that the protest should be ending now that the Royals have finally come to terms with the SEIU Local 1 on a contract for their in-stadium workers, but I’d already started writing this and I wanted to finish it. Game threads will resume as normal tomorrow and next week I should be back to writing about the team. Assuming I can find something worth writing about. I’ll admit that my protest was made easier by the fact that the team simply hasn’t been fun or interesting to write about, this season.

Anyway, on to the video game script fixes!

When I wrote about Benedikta last week I hadn’t actually intended there to be a second part. I’ll tell you now that I don’t intend for there to be a third part. I could literally spend the rest of my life writing about script fixes I would make for Final Fantasy XVI but there are other games to play and think about and I’m not even sure anyone read the first one. Except for one person on Twitter who asked me to do Jill next. So I’m doing Jill next. Never say I don’t listen to the readers!

Fixing Final Fantasy XVI by improving the writing Jill receives is at once both more difficult and easier than doing so with Benedikta. Jill already has the most screen time out of anyone not named Clive or Torgal. She might have more than Torgal, too. So the simplest, but perhaps most difficult fix, is to make her a more active participant in the conversations to which she is already privy. Far too often, as in the screen cap that functions as the header image of this article, Jill is present but silent. I do not think that this is done with some sort of misogynistic intent to put women in their place, to be seen and not heard. I think the writers just didn’t know how to include her and wanted to make sure Clive was the focus of the story.

Making her a more active participant in the cutscenes is difficult because it should probably involve more than simply taking some of Clive’s dialog and giving it to her. But it is essential. If characters were houses Jill would be one with a very strong foundation and sturdy, competently-designed frame but that’s it. She needs to have walls and windows and doors and floors. Additional dialog would go a long way towards achieving that goal.

Spoilers from this point on!

If we wanted to take things a step further I think she would really benefit from a playable segment, similar to the one Joshua receives at the beginning of the game. Probably the best place to put this is during her and Clive’s invasion of the Drake’s Breath mother crystal. That’s already the episode of the game that best highlights who she is as a person, so it makes logical sense as the time to give the player her perspective. The way to accomplish this would probably be to have the earthquakes - which are never explained and don’t add much to the narrative as they are - cause a crack in the earth which separates Jill and Clive from each other. You could then play as each character navigating their way to a point where they can meet up again. This would also provide some much needed gameplay diversity to the segment of the game where Clive goes the longest without receiving new powers.

Admittedly, this would be a much larger change than anything I proposed last week, but Jill is a much more important character - even after my fixes to Benedikta - and deserves it.

The next thing I would do is focus on highlighting her best character trait - she can actually be quite assertive when she wants to be. As they make their way to the Breath, she informs Clive that she is going to kill High Priest Imreann for the things he did to her and to other children while he had her. In this, she mimics Clive’s own determination to kill the unknown fire dominant earlier in the game (more on that in a minute.) She also doesn’t hesitate to completely prime herself into Shiva when Clive is badly wounded during his first encounter with King Barnabas Tharmr. She even shows her assertiveness in a peculiar way when she offers her eikonic powers to Clive following their second encounter with Barnabas.

Considering she can be so assertive, I would use that to help determine what and how she should interject herself into other conversations throughout the game. Additionally, I would change how the scene goes where she passes on her powers to Clive. The frustrating part of that scene is that she spends a good chunk of it arguing with Clive - as do others before and after this scene - that it isn’t right for him to try and take on saving the world by himself. Other people live there, too, and want to do their part and it’s selfish of him to not allow them to do so. Additionally, after she does so he becomes much more patronizing to her and starts demanding she stay behind while he does the hard work of saving the planet.

So I would rewrite this scene so that yes, she still gives Clive her powers, because it’s necessary for the gameplay, but she does so while demanding that he not sideline her or treat her any differently. I would then have her more assertively initiate the romance between them. She’s been trying subtly for years by the time this scene occurs and he’s either not picking up on or ignoring the hints. It’s time for her to take direct action.

(Another problem with this scene is that the entire thing is performed with both of them naked. This is done to titillate and as part of the game’s attempts to copy the mature tone of Game of Thrones but it could be so much more if instead of starting the scene naked they started it clothed and as they stripped off their garments - because they’re wet and they need to get them off in order to best warm up and avoid becoming ill - they also peeled away their emotional defenses in having the conversations I outlined in the paragraph above.)

The game should also explore how similar their life experiences have been since the prologue of the story. They were both kidnapped and forced to kill for others for 13 years. There’s a lot of shared trauma there that could be used in conversation to strengthen their bond to each other.

A smaller change I would like to see is that, during her delaying action against Odin, I would have liked to see her last a little bit longer. Both because it would have been fun to see the special effects team do their magic on a brief but not-quite-so-brief engagement between Shiva and Odin but also because it would make her look stronger than to simply create an ice wall, make one ineffective attack and then wait to be hit with Odin’s attack.

One of my favorite side quests in the game is the one in which Clive takes Jill to a field of moonflowers to cheer her up before heading out on the final mission. During that cutscene, Jill talks about how their first, aborted attempt to view the same flowers as children had made her feel. I would expand on that to have her talk a little bit more about how being a political prisoner had affected her. It seems likely she would have been not just nervous but a little frightened of what might happen to her after she was taken from the only family and lands she had ever known. Finding out that the cute boy she was to live with had a kind heart would do much to set her mind at ease and lead them on the paths they eventually walked.

The final change I would make is that I would make Jill a more permanent party member. She’s already the party member for the most time of anyone outside Torgal, but once she joins the party she leaves once because she’s tired and twice more because Clive is determined she can’t help him anymore despite still having all of her powers. (Perhaps she shouldn’t fully prime, but Dion showed that even that was still possible to do despite their fears that he would lose his mind.) At this point we’ve highlighted her assertiveness and determination to be at Clive’s side enough that there’s no way she would let him leave her for these things. You can even do this and still have Clive’s final fight with the final boss by having Ultima transport them to an alternate dimension, something he’s quite fond of doing and does at one point during this fight anyway.

Regardless, Jill should not die during the attack on the final crystal. I honestly question whether Clive and/or Joshua should die, either, but that’s a whole separate topic. Dion should also not die; Final Fantasy finally included an openly, canon-confirmed gay man in one of their games and then did a Bury Your Gays with him and that’s simply uncalled for.

Once again, hopefully, you can see how improving a woman’s character in the game strengthens the game overall. It gives us a stronger relationship between her and Clive to build their romance. It gives us a deeper understanding of the world and circumstances they find themselves in. And it makes the game feel more like the others in the series by strengthening the party bonds.

I want to reiterate that this is a good game that I can easily recommend you play if you have any interest in it at all. I was talking with a friend the other day and we determined that the overall experience of playing Final Fantasy XVI is a bit like going to an up-scale restaurant and getting a huge, perfectly cooked, juicy steak (or portabella mushroom for those of you who don’t eat meat) with a perfectly serviceable but unspecial baked potato as a side with a garnish of grass. As in the stuff from your yard. I have a lot of questions about that grass garnish. I mean, sure, it’s green. But it’s extremely weird, it isn’t very appetizing, and I have to wonder if I am being insulted somehow. Would you recommend that place to a friend? I would but I’d definitely have to tell them about the stuff that isn’t steak, too.