Final Fantasy XIV: Trials of Bahamut

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I am a huge fan of JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), and have been playing the “Final Fantasy” franchise by Square Enix since 1992. From moogles and chocobos to Cids and summoners, the world intrigues you and sucks you into its whimsical dreamscapes. But whether or not you’re familiar with Final Fantasy XIV, on which this game is based, you are in for a treat! On the heels of E3 and Final Fantasy’s 30th anniversary, Scrap Entertainment, in collaboration with Square Enix, has brought us an ephemeral, event-type of escape room where you and five other “Warriors of Light” are summoned to the land of Eorzea to defeat Bahamut and save the world.

Our adventure begins in Little Tokyo’s Doubletree Hotel in downtown LA. Once checked in, groups of six are escorted into the ballroom and stationed at tables with trusty, plushy friend Mog, the moogle. Projected on screen are customized scenes that Square Enix made just for this event. After a couple of ads for their other high quality rooms, the movie begins, and the characters on screen fill you in on the backstory – Bahamut has returned and the world is relying on six heroes to slay the dragon. Each hero has a role to play – Black Mage, White Mage, Paladin, Thief, Ranger, or Bard. And although each has special abilities, you still work as a team to figure out which ability solves the puzzle. Going to another room, or “dungeon/cave”, we caught glimpses of a couple familiar monsters from the series, and interacted with real life actors who dressed up, embracing their roles. There was a nice salute to the nostalgic 8-bit games, where the narrative images on the walls moved the story forward. To be able to go to an item shop, open chests, and collect weapons was something I’d always hoped for in a real life Final Fantasy event. The bookended cinematics both set up and wrapped up the story quite nicely.

The puzzles themselves were a mix of puzzle book and interactive logic. One of the puzzles made a logical leap that many teams just couldn’t grasp. And even though the story was there and felt very Final Fantasy-esque, we wanted just slightly more immersion when it came to room quality. The banquet hall/ballroom felt more like an inn than a “dungeon”. Perhaps a torch or some rock wallpaper? Another nice touch of immersion would be to give each job class their own costume.

As with most escape rooms post-game, you can take a picture in front of their backdrop. There is water provided, and merchandise like posters and pins available to purchase. The staff is friendly, organized, and moves like clockwork. Having production experience myself, this production level was remarkable, especially for its first weekend. This event is essentially “on tour”, so even if you’re not in Southern California, chances are it could be making its way to a city near you. If you are a fan of tabletop games/puzzles or interactive theatre, this event is for you. But if you purchase tickets expecting to do a typical escape room, you may be disappointed since there are dozens of other groups with you and less environmental immersion since the space itself is larger than most.

I can see why Scrap has so many escape rooms. They are not afraid to take risks, they collaborate with great IPs, they have talented and motivated people on their team, and their ideas and production level are unlike other escape rooms out there. This is not an event to be missed! It was one of the most memorable “escape room” experiences I had, and I want more than 60 minutes to continue this epic real-life adventure… perhaps a real life MMORPG?

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