Game: Final Fantasy XV
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Release Date: November 29th, 2016
Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. Nevertheless, it’s been ten long years since a fourteen-year-old me first got a glance at Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game that would become Final Fantasy XV. Over the course of all that time, FF XV underwent a whole lot of changes. In truth, the game that made it to retail was only worked on in its current form for two years or so. Final Fantasy XV is far from the perfect game, it did, however, grab me in a way an entry in the series hasn’t since Final Fantasy X, and in doing so reminded me how the series shaped me and countless others as gamers.
Final Fantasy XV is, as its name suggests the fifteenth mainline installment in the Final Fantasy series. For those unfamiliar with the series, Final Fantasy is a Japanese Role Playing series famous mostly for its vast worlds and typically turn based combat. Turn based combat was turned away from when they tried their hands at the Massive Online Multiplayer or MMO game with Final Fantasy XI. I’ve felt, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that the combat especially hasn’t felt great since FFX, the fast paced real time combat of XV has been more of an enjoyment for me than I could’ve ever expected, more on that later, though.
Final Fantasy XV follows the story of what can only be described as a bachelor party gone horribly wrong. You play as Noctis, the prince of Lucis on a road trip with his best friends Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus. With his fantasy entourage assembled in his dad’s convertible, the Regalia, they’re to make way for Altissia where Noctis will marry his betrothed Lady Luna Freya the Oracle.
After some early missions, it’s quickly discovered that the Nifelheim Empire who was set to sign a treaty with Lucis has betrayed and murdered Noctis’ father and all but destroyed the Crown City. With all this information in hand, it will be up to Noctis and crew to gather the power to take down the empire and reclaim his throne.
If all of that seems confusing, it’s because it is. Final Fantasy is famous for it’s deep lore and hard to grasp stories, but the plot of FFXV is one of its greatest sins. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting for exposition that never comes. Who are these characters? What’s their connection to Noctis and Friends? Why am I even here, and what’s up with that damn crystal? For ten years of work, you’d think a cohesive story isn’t too much to ask for. The part that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.
The part of all this that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.
The gameplay of Final Fantasy XV is what really pulled me in. A large open world with hours and hours of side content, which essentially equates to JRPG Skyrim and if that doesn’t sound awesome to you then I guess I’m a far bigger loser than yourself. I found myself getting completely lost in side content during my first twenty or so hours with the game. For the completionist in all of us don’t worry, you’ll have full access to return to the open world even after the credits roll. I’m far from done with this world.
Combat revolves around Noctis’ ability to summon weapons, a kingly ability he also lends to his companions. Noctis can equip up to four weapons of his choosing from swords and lances to classic Final Fantasy spells that he crafts like thundara. On your journey, you’ll also acquire royal arms from the tombs of the past kings of Lucis. These Weapons are incredibly powerful but drain Noctis’ HP(Health Points) so keep potions on hand. The trademark combat move of FFXV is Noctis’ warp strike ability. He can use it by throwing his weapon to warp and attack far off enemies or travel to safe locations to recover MP(Magic Points) during combat.
In addition to his primary attacks Noctis has a round meter surrounding his weapon display know as the Armiger meter that fills as you fight. Once filled he can surround himself with all the royal arms he’s acquired, and attack in a powerful fast-paced flurry of blows. At times the combat system can be frantic and confusing, I’ve found it’s at its best when facing one large enemy in a more open environment. Significant amounts of enemies and tighter spaces tend to result in difficulty with dodging and a whole lot of getting knocked down.
For all of its issues, FFXV’s main cast holds it together. The banter is goofy but often fun, and the party plays off each other well. Each character is equipped with his own unique ability that levels up as you progress. Experience as a whole is tallied and banked when you make camp for the night in and Elder Scrolls like fashion. At this point, Ignis will prepare a meal from ingredients in your inventory which provide stat boosts the following day. You’ll also see each characters unique ability level. Noctis is the party’s fisherman, this talent is leveled through actively fishing at piers. Prompto’s skill is photography, at camp, he’ll lay out all the pictures he’s taken that day, and you’ll be able to keep up to 150 in an album (Prompto take about 10 photos a day). Ignis is the party’s cook, and through preparing meals and discovering new recipes, he’ll level up the talent. Last but not least, Gladiolus possesses the survival talent which allows him to find items on the ground and in combat, simply walking around will boost this skill.
As much as Noctis and his pals your car the Regalia is as much of a character. You’ll be able to purchase upgrades for speed and fuel consumption at rest stops and have them installed by Cindy at the Hammerhead station where the game begins. One of my favorite features of the Regalia is acquiring new soundtracks to listen to at rest stops. Check everywhere you’ll be able to hear any Final Fantasy soundtrack you choose.
Final Fantasy XV is at its heart a fun exciting game about four best friends on a fantasy road trip. With hours of things to do in both the main story and side activities in the vast open world. Although far from perfect XV is the perfect blueprint for what a Final Fantasy game looks like in 2016. I can’t wait to indulge in every expansion and look forward to what the all but certain Final Fantasy XVI looks like.
Score: 9 out of 10