Wey aye, pet: Final Fantasy 16’s ganna have Geordies in it

Final Fantasy 16 is very British. It’s very much the sort of game that comes after the blockbuster TV success of Game of Thrones; everything is bleak, there are lots of big battles, your main character has a direwolf-type pet that’s bound to him by blood, and there are pissed off Yorkshiremen everywhere. The developers, in an interview with VG247, were candid about the inspiration Game of Thrones had on the title – it’s popular fantasy fiction that dealt with its political and interpersonal themes adeptly, of course it was going to be impactful.

No Geordie accents in here, sadly.

In an hour-long demo of the game, I played as protagonist, Clive, as he fought his way through one of the early-game dungeons. Companion character – the AI-controlled Cid – was at our side the whole way through. Cid is played by the gravel-voiced Yorkshire actor, Ralph Ineson – who you may recognise as Dagmer Cleftjaw in Game of Thrones or William in The Witch. He sounds like he’s been smoking 20 a day since he was six, or using pebbledash as mouthwash. And it really suits his character; a gruff, disenfranchised knight looking despairingly on at the crumbling world before him.

“One thing that we wanted to do right from the beginning was get the tone of the fantasy right,” says localisation director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox when we ask him why the team focused so specifically on this sort of British high fantasy in Final Fantasy 16. “There is the tendency to go ‘oh, it’s fantasy, let’s make it British English’, but then it’s just kind-of… all over the place. International audiences might hear it and think ‘yeah, ok,’ but people from the UK will hear a line or something and think ‘there is no way that person would actually say that,’ or ‘that’s just an American doing a terrible UK accent’.

Looks like a walk through Derbyshire to me.

“We didn’t want that to happen. We wanted to create something that was going to feel authentic for everyone, especially the players and people in the UK, those players that are familiar with like the different accents. And so, when deciding on accents for the different areas we made, we have our rules: people from Dhalmekia are going to have this type of accent, and we would get voice actors that specialised in those accents or are from those areas.”

There are a variety of warring nation states across the vast, crystal-powered land of Valisthea. There’s Sanbreque, a powerful theocracy where citizens fervently worship their leader and their god, led by Bahamut, the Warden of Light. There’s Waloed (pronounced Wa-lude), the only nation left standing after their king conquered all the other local tribes, both human and Demi-God. Waloed is under the protection of Odin. There’s the aforementioned Dhalmekia, governed by a council of ministers, with the eikon Titan as the true power. This nation’s crystal literally a mountain, imposing and monolithic over the country. There’s the Iron Kingdom, a land of fanatics where the crystals are considered sacred, and the locals want to subjugate all other nations in the belief they are blasphemous heretics.

So there’s a lot going on. And it is important to Fox and the rest of the development team that each realm has its own unique identity – and that goes beyond visual aesthetics and imagery.

That’s a big crystal. You don’t get that in Cramlington.

“We decided that people from the north are going to be Geordie,” laughs Fox. “We got a bunch of great Geordie actors, We have some characters that will… you know, you’re gonna be hearing this great Geordie accent and this is really, really deep and serious game. But it works so well. It works because we didn’t want it to be gimmicky. We wanted to be something that fit the world and felt consistent throughout, so it’s not just one random Geordie in the middle of the game for no reason. People from this area are all using this pronunciation, and people from this other area are all using this other pronunciation. So that if you listen really closely, you can tell by, you know, the dialect that characters using ‘oh this character is from Sanbreque, this character is from Dhalmekia.’”

Fox goes on to say that the game is all about detail; there’s depth of detail to the graphics, there’s depth and detail in the combat, there’s depth and granular detail in the story and lore… why wouldn’t there be that same attention to detail when it comes to voice, performance, and localisation?

“If you don’t have a highly level of detail in this area, people are going to say ’they tried so hard here, and this is the thing that ruins it’. I didn’t want to create something that is going to be the part where the game falls down, so we tried really hard to incorporate realistic accents from real actors to make sure it all felt right.”

Is that the Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas!? …No.

Fox then explains how the Japanese team has given him a lot of freedom and trust in working his magic with the localisation – and thanks them for the opportunity. He also thanks the Brits that checked his work for him, other experts on the localisation panel that made sure some of the idioms or sayings the characters would come out with were actually authentic to the British vernacular – hopefully meaning we’re not going to get Geordies saying ‘ey up, duck’ or Yorkshiremen saying ‘apples and pears, guv’nor’.

It’s this level of commitment to every facet of production I’ve seen so far in Final Fantasy 16 that makes me incredibly excited about what Fox and his peers are cooking up, over in Japan. We don’t have too much longer to wait to see the final product now, and I think this one is going to be special.

Final Fantasy 16 will release on June 22, 2023 for PlayStation 5.

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