I don't think anyone could have predicted when Five Nights at Freddy's came out a year ago, that the horror franchise would become a vaguely turn-based RPG that might be connected to the main story but might not be. FNaF World is both not a horror game in any sense yet more disturbing than any other game in its series. No one could've seen that coming. Yet, here we are. It's out. You can find it on Steam and ponder how life is sometimes funny, tragic, or both at the same time, If you happen to pick up the game, you can also question all of reality while throwing pizzas at sentient logs shaped like mice. It's rare that a game which is not actually philosophical in any way can unintentionally produce such interesting questions, but here we are. FNAF World, the last dying breath of one of the strangest video game phenomenons the Internet has ever seen.
I love Five Nights at Freddy's. I don't care what haters say, the original series was a good idea and well executed for the most part. Every game played with the idea of the defenseless protagonist trapped in a room, fighting off death with the most minimal of resources (namely, a flashlight and a door). That's the kind of setup many pure survival horror fans dream of. These are the fans who scoff at the idea of guns and weapons in a horror game and desire the truly gritty recreation of fear. The story of the games began to unfold, and theories were crafted. The newer games started introducing more complex secrets and Easter eggs, genius inclusions in a game that on the surface doesn't seem to have much going for it narratively.
This just makes FNAF World more all the more strange. Five Nights at Freddy's appealed to horror fans specifically with a mysterious and vague story, frightening elements, and survival based gameplay. FNAF World isn't a horror game. It won't appeal to those horror fans as much, but who else is it supposed to appeal too? From start to finish, FNAF World is made for people who are fans of the series. If you don't care about Five Nights at Freddy's, there is no point to playing this game. There is nothing about it that could sell itself to the general public. It has to sell itself to Five Nights at Freddy's fans, but does it even manage that since it is so far separated from the original games?
Looking at the mechanics, many of them are poorly executed. Of course, some of these issues are already being fixed, and this may be due to the game being rushed out too early. Strange considering that the game was released a month ahead of schedule. Someone really should sit Scott Cawthon down and explain the concept of Early Access to him. If he wants people to see the product early, he doesn't have to officially release it the minute it's functional. This is a continuous problem (several of the original FNAF games were very buggy on release) but FNaF World is by far the worst. It isn't just bugs here, it just feels generally unfinished. The structure is roughly similar to turn based combat, but this game doesn't follow regular RPG conventions.
Of course, it's difficult to tell how much of this was on purpose. Most enemies don't have health bars, abilities don't have cooldowns or prerequisites, and most damningly, there is no explanation for anything. Characters don't have descriptions. There's no way to tell what abilities do except to use them until you figure out what's going on. Upgrades (called Chips) are given titles but there is nothing that explains what they do. Same with the companions called Bytes (though these are more self-explanatory). It seems as if the developer was using the same concept in this game as he did in the originals. All the original FNAF games threw you into the action with little tutorial, mostly just a bumbling phone call from someone who only half knew what he was talking about. There, it worked, but those were survival horror games. This is an RPG. Explanation and strategy are part of the core of an RPG. Not having that would be like removing the ability to hear sounds in the original FNAF. These are core mechanics that the game needs to work properly.
The fight mechanics don't improve this either. The game looks turn based, but it is more pseudo-turn based. You can only go one player character at a time, however the order seems absolutely random. The timing is not actually taking turns, because the enemy can attack whenever they want. There seems to be some timing based system, but there's nothing to indicate exactly how this works. Sometimes you can attack consistently, and other times there are awkward five second pauses between being given the option to fight. Of course, the enemy can still attack you in this time while you stare blankly into their eyes.
The worst of this is what I call the Jumpscare Loop. There is an ability in the game called Jumpscare, which after trial and error I discovered functioned as a stun. This is fine, and your own characters can know it as well, but there was a frequent issue where the timer and the Jumpscare would over lap and result in a loop where the enemy would jump scare, and then by the time I came off that stun, that five-second timer would activate, and by the time that was over, the enemy could Jumpscare again. The game attempts to fix this by letting you switch between two teams of four characters (the other team isn't effected), but often there would still be that five second delay. There is a chip in the game that blocks all Jumpscare effects that make this moot, but you get it far too late to fix where it is a problem, and frankly, why does that have to be a thing? Why not just give Jumpscare a significant cooldown?
There are also significant balance issues. It's impossible to tell how difficult a certain randomly encountered enemy is because their health and power seem randomized. You will encounter four of the same enemy: one will die in one hit, two will take a bit more of a beating, and the fourth will seem to withstand almost two full minutes of constant physical attack before it finally goes down. There's no rhyme or reason.
The bosses aren't much better and to get on a tangent for a moment, none of the enemies or the setting has anything to do with Five Nights at Freddy's. This is a game seemingly made for fans, but everything seems downright random. I've been told some of the NPCs and enemies are actually references to past games made by Scott Cawthorn. That's nice, but this is the majority of the characters. The only ones which actually reference the other Freddy's games are basically just recolors of the original characters. Even some of the playable characters aren't actually from the series.
Some people have complained that the overworld is in the 8-bit Atari style (similar to the minigames in the originals), when they thought it would be fully rendered. This doesn't bother me as much, and I find the fully rendered graphics are kind of obnoxious. I would've rather seen the whole thing use the 8-bit style. Speaking of the graphics, I believe this style of 3D graphics was used on purpose to layer on the "cuteness" that was advertised. You know how things can reach a certain point of cute that gives you a sense of uneasiness? That's what happens here, especially since we're used to these characters appearing intentionally off or scary, seeing them like this is a bit disturbing. There are some that are genuinely cute, but many of them just look kind of weird, especially the Phantom and Nightmare characters. It just doesn't feel right.
The animation is really jerky and far too fast paced, and there isn't a lot of diversity in it either. The animation on the characters every time they attack is exactly the same, no matter what kind of attack it is, and there is way too much recoloring. Why did there need to be several versions of Mangle with inverted colors? With the exception of some bonuses, characters in the original games all had their own models. If you needed to make a bunch of NPCs to fill the gaps, you could've actually made things up, or even just used some of the characters that were turned into playable characters for no reason. Why are the plates that hang on the walls made by the children playable characters? Why are several versions of the endoskeletons playable characters? Why couldn't you have used these so you could have enemies that actually made sense instead of having us fight things that have nothing at all to do with these animatronics?
Why does the final boss deal five times your character's health per attack no matter how much you grind, forcing you to put in the only playable character with a shield that blocks all attacks and turns her into a pushover? Why are there certain things that cost obscene amounts of tokens? Why does there have to be a loading screen that resets the overworld every time I go in to equip a new item? What does Phantom Mangle stare directly at the player and not at the enemy and give me nightmares? Why can Freddy skeletons throw cheese at you? You can keep asking these questions until the end of time, or until the end of the game when you figure out exactly why this game got made. See, if you're like most people playing a game for the first time you likely pick Normal on the first run just so you can get the lay of the land. Here, you almost have to since there is no explanation for anything and everything is trial and error. If you complete the game on normal and beat the final boss, the ending basically slaps you in the face and says "Yeah, good for you. Go beat it on hard mode or find some secrets, lazy".
That is when it hits you: all this RPG stuff, these fighting mechanics, this random overworld and assortment of enemies? Distractions. Because that isn't the real game. The real game is finding every obscure secret in the game to lead to the true endings, and defeating the harder difficulties while doing so. Even figuring out you have to do this requires the old screen-waiting trick. When talking to NPC Fredbear, you have to wait just before finishing the conversation and then an 8-bit version will appear, with a cryptic message about puppet-masters and clocks. One of the games main mechanics is finding "glitches" in the overworld which lead to "subtunnels", allowing you to travel to areas you otherwise wouldn't be able too. There are multiple layers of these "subtunnels", including one you're not supposed to be able to get too. There are seemingly impossible to reach items all over the maps. There are clearly things out of place in some places. It becomes very clear after a while why the main gameplay seems so sloppy. This is a game that was built around its secrets. It really feels like the developer made the secrets for the game first, made this between-the-lines story, made these hidden artifacts like the opened box, which has thus far only been found by searching the game's code, and then made the game itself.
While these secrets have always been a big part of the series, the games were still very much made first around them. The secrets were put in after the fact, using the resources already made. This doesn't have that feel at all. Everything seems contrived specifically to make those "secrets" possible, but this removes some of the fun of finding secrets, because they're not special anymore. Secrets in video games are as old as the medium itself. The appeal of finding secrets in a game is that they can be difficult to find, and you're proud of yourself for accomplishing it and figuring it out before others do. If you center your game around it, it stops being special and just becomes a chore, especially if it's the only way to get a decent ending or actually figure out what's going on. In FNAF 3, you can play the entire game and still feel satisfied, even without unlocking the "good ending". Here it feels like the game is mocking you for it, and not in the cute Undertale way. It's not as light-hearted, and it obviously doesn't have the morality systems to play off of, nor do you feel any connection to any of the characters. People have assigned personalities and characteristics to these animatronics based off the simplicity of the original games, so how does an RPG version present them in a way that's so flat?
Granted, there were some secrets that still felt fulfilling, but that's because they actually felt like secrets. I found a few, all on my own, and that felt great. However, it didn't get me the good ending, or even affect my ending at all. They were more like normal secrets you'd find in any game, little hidden pathways you have to think outside the box to figure out. Those are great, and what secrets should be. Having overly convoluted secrets in the game only leads to coders working the game, unlocking the "best ending" and putting itup on YouTube. The fact that I know with utmost confidence that the best ending will be discovered this way ruins the fun. It isn't special anymore.
Fortunately for the world, this seems to be the end of the Five Nights at Freddy's games. There's still the movie coming out and people will likely continue to play off the original concept with games like One Night at Flumpty's and Boogeyman (and the legions of others that aren't nearly as good or creative). Hopefully at this point the developer can move on to greener pastures. But frankly, it should've ended at FNAF 4. There was no reason for FNAF World to exist, especially not in this form. If there was going to be an RPG for FNAF it should've been one that answered all the questions, expanded on the characters, and made the series whole. Instead it's just a frustrating mess of in-jokes and self references, riddled with tiny problems and bogged down by much bigger ones, all teasing some kind of connection to the main storyline but making it impossible to actually understand or experience naturally.
It did keep my attention long enough to finish it, partially because a single playthrough is relatively short. The fights were not that difficult, but there wasn't a lot that was satisfying about it. Later in the game, your companions can do all the work for you and I found myself just sitting back and letting them pick off smaller enemies so I didn't have to do anything, almost like a clicker game. Even when I did do things, the strategy involved is so simplistic, I was basically just cycling through the same four or five moves. The most fun part of the actual game is finding all the characters (which you do in the Smash Bros. style of uncovering them after some unknown variables are met and then defeating them. And I use the Smash Bros. reference because the game announces this by going "A New Challenger Has Appeared"). The music in parts is decent, though it can change pretty jarringly. I actually enjoyed the nostalgia of having to draw up my own maps, which was annoying at first but it was pretty fun when I actually got into it. But none of this is really much of a focus - you have to find your own fun in the pieces that are given to you, and just put up with the actual game itself to do those. Other games accomplish them much better. The fighting mechanics are just too broken and these little details aren't enough to save what feels like a far too rushed game that didn't have its priorities right to begin with, and didn't have any of the spirit of the original series.
This game was purchased by the reviewer's little bro and played on PC through Steam. It was reviewed using the game's launch version, which doesn't include any of the more recent updates announced by the developer.
Some nice nostalgia isn't enough to save FNaF World from its broken fighting mechanics, its confused priorities, and its lack of explanation or reasoning.