Deling: The World’s Most Confusing City

And boring too. Deling marks a down point in the pacing of Final Fantasy VIII. After escaping Timber and seeking refuse at Galbadian Garden we’re told that our new mission is to assassinate Galbadia’s new sorceress. We get pretty boy sharpshooter Irving on the team and head off to the capital of Galbadia, Deling. However, as soon as we arrive we’re told we need to get a pass code from a nearby dungeon-game padding at its most shameless and the first of several lulls in the action before the anticipated assassination attempt. At least the dungeon is fun and supports a neat, logical design. The same cannot be said about Deling itself.

Like Treno in Final Fantasy IX, it is perpetually night in Deling. The designers of the game have said that it is largely inspired by Paris but aside from the large arch at its center there isn’t much resemblance. We’re told that the city is laid out like a circle with a cross in the middle. Supposedly, roads circle around the city and two cross in the middle by the arch but in practice it doesn’t work like this at all.

In Final Fantasy VII pressing select would show the player where on the screen they were along with any exits to other screens. This was largely a useless feature as it was always very clear where one was and where they could go. Not so in VIII. Ambition seems to have clouded a lot of the background designer’s minds. There’s a plague of “interesting” camera angles for scenes and the backgrounds can sometimes be very convoluted and obtuse. Worst, they took out the “where-am-I?” select button feature. It’s not present in the game where it might have actually helped.

Screens in Deling don’t follow any logical pattern. Running right off a screen might have you coming in on the upper left of another. Try to loop around using the roads that circle the city and you’ll end up in the center. North leads west. South, east.  Not that directions have any place in this mobius strip of a city.

It seems like Square knew that making your way around Deling would be a hassle because they implemented a bus system to help. On almost every screen of the city there are two bus stops. It’s free to ride and you can get off at any point you want. But in practice this makes things even more confusing. First, the busses take up a lot of space on the screen, they’re always coming and going as you walk around. Some screens even have three weaving around each other to get to their stops. This makes busy backgrounds even more so. Add to the fact that most of the streets in Deling are very narrow that now there are two large busses running up and down them. The place is aggressively convoluted to begin with and the busses just make it worse.

Second, the busses don’t run on one large loop around the city. If this was the case you could get on a bus and eventually arrive at the screen you wanted. As far as I can make out, though, there are at least two different routes and maybe even three. There’s no way of telling what bus will take you where and inevitably you’ll find that the bus you’ve selected doesn’t go to where you want. As confusing as the city is, it’s easier to just walk to your destination than to take a bus.

Blagh! The whole thing’s a mess and boring and I just want to shoot a magic lady, not run around a knot of streets or muck about in a sewer (gotta throw in another dungeon before the big event). And Mario Luigi 3 is super tempting and why am I even playing this game again in the first place?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Deling: The World’s Most Confusing City

  1. You’re gonna give up due to poor urban planning?!

  2. Michael Ruud

    I remember the majority of FFVIII’s maps feeling like this, and how it felt like their presence was to prevent me from actually enjoying the game. While The Tomb Of The Unknown King is my favorite dungeon in the game and it has a really unique mechanic to govern it’s navigation, but for people not in the know it can provide to be just as frustrating to navigate as Deling seeming ad the rules of the game no longer applied.

    As long as we’re nitpicking, why not look at the larger picture and talk about how (practically) all the dungeons and field maps consist of long empty hallways connecting one empty room to another. This is a jRPG, you say? Oh, okay then. I guess it gets a pass.

  3. Philip Armstrong

    Yeah I guess I never considered that seeing as this is a Final Fantasy. Just part of what I signed up for I guess? At least VIII has some interesting dungeons (like the Tomb or Ultimecia’s castle). The worst so far has been Galbadian Garden which, despite it’s intro featuring lots of students, feels like the emptiest place on earth.

  4. Man, when I followed the link here I thought this was gonna be about Esthar. FFVIII has a lot of pretty, retarded cities!

  5. At least we remember them.

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