“It’s not about the destination, but the journey along the way.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The open road is one of my favorite places to be: listening to music, wind blowing through my hair, and smelling the local scents. One of my favorite spots to drive by is in Del Mar, CA. There is about a mile and half stretch where you are on a four-lane road. You begin on top of a hill with another hillside on your left, and on the right side has a tree-line which covers up a view of a lagoon. As you begin to go down the slope, you come down by the beach, and it turns into a two lane road. That stretch of land is special to me because it runs the way the sights and smells always always make me feel, it is comforting and makes me feel like I’m home.
Something which caught me off guard when I began to play Final Fantasy XV was how well the game captures this idea of the open road quite well. Traveling from rest area to rest area, so much of my enjoyment of this game was watching Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto have goofy conversations, or talk about the plot of the overall game. Or even driving by a particular spot and having Prompto point a spot to take a group photo was an important touchstone for the journey.
When it comes to travel-by-car in FFXV, you get two options. The first is to have Ignis drive you and the other members of the Crownsguard in the world of Eos. This option is incredibly passive, because it autopilots you to your destination. . Because you are acting as a passenger, your engagement with the space changes. It allows you to admire the sights and sounds of Eos, and lets you get a better look at the world.
Whereas if you have Noctis drive the Crownsguard around, you the player is doing the driving. Driving in FFXV doesn’t have the same effect as driving does in real life, partially because the act of driving in the game is not great. I drove as Noctis maybe once, and bounced off very quickly to it. It is hard to enjoy the sights and sounds when you are driving a car which doesn’t feel good to drive. As someone who drives a lot, I have high standards for the feel of cars in games, and the Regalia did not meet those standards of mine.
When I hit the real life open road in my car, a lot of the driving acts like an extension of me. So many of the small details of when I drive these routes, like the speed limits and how the road turns, just come naturally to me. I don’t have to focus on them as much as I do on an unknown street or route. So, when I am on those known routes, I can spend more time on the sights and smells.
I get closest to that feeling when I had Ignis be the driver, letting me as a player engage with the sights in a more conscious way. I’m free to take in the world like when I drive those same routes which fill me with joy. When you have the freedom to just drive, and not worry about the little things which inhibit the act of driving, then that is the enjoyment of the open road.