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FF7 Rebirth's open world is both one step forward and one step back over FF15

Chocobros vs Roadie Boys

The cast of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth are all riding chocobos in a forest
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Square Enix

Having spent close to 40 hours hanging out with Cloud and co. on my (entirely accidental) Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth holiday last week, I've been absolutely bowled over by the sheer size and scale of its big, open world map regions. I've only seen three of them so far, out of its total of eight, but it's immediately obvious just how much of a step-up these places are compared to the dusty plains and rolling hills of the most recent Final Fantasy game to hit PC, FF15. An obvious take, perhaps, given that FF15 first came out eight years ago in 2016, but I'm sure anyone (all right, mainly me) who's ever despaired at Noctis' seeming inability to climb even the smallest hillock in front of him, or how everyone always rides right into your backside while gunning about on a chocobo, will feel some mild, tangible relief at how elegantly Rebirth has solved both of these particular problems. Not only can everyone's chocobo navigate the world seamlessly without getting tripped up on either yourself or the nearest pebble, but Cloud can also jump, leap and haul himself up crags and rocks with one easy button press.

But there are aspects of Rebirth's approach to open world adventuring that also feel distinctly underwhelming at the same time. When you look past the splendour and rich reimagining of this once flat and detail-less world, it's ultimately quite a standardised take on what modern open world games have become in recent years. There are towers that reveal more points of interest on the map; there are special monster encounters to find; summon temples to discover; and lifestream springs to analyse that also reveal more and more about your immediate surroundings. There are proper sidequests with their own multi-part story objectives, too, which is arguably where Rebirth feels most alive, but most of the activities you'll be doing between critical story missions all generally fall into the same identical categories in each region. FF15 had some of these, too, of course, but it never felt quite so formulaic in how you went about them.

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