10 Years In Development
Not many games can have a development history that long, but Final Fantasy is a whole other beast compared to other IPs. What began as a spin-off to the wildly mediocre Final Fantasy XIII, the game has become its own full series entry in Final Fantasy XV. After waiting so long to explore Noctis’ world, I finally had the ability to do so and overall, it was worth the wait.
The first trailer for Final Fantasy XIII Versus.
Before I get into the review, I want to clear up some bullet points on what many were wanting from Final Fantasy XV and what is to be expected from the series:
- Chocobos are in the game and can be ridden.
- It is still a proper RPG, but not by classic Final Fantasy standards.
- Moogles are barely present.
- There are summons, but they are extremely rare.
- You can fast travel.
- Besides rare occasion, the main party does not change.
- Towns of varying sizes are available to visit.
Now that we have that out of the way, the focus of the review will be on the game itself and less on the legacy of the series.
Final Fantasy XV’s presentation has its shining moments and then its… less shining ones. Final Fantasy XV stars the young Prince Noctis and his entourage of companions; Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto. They are on a journey to bring Noctis to his bride-to-be Lunafreya, despite interference from the Empire of Niflheim, which has been at war with Noctis’ homeland of Lucis for decades. After the first couple of chapters, Noctis’ journey deviates greatly, but I will avoid this spoiler-filled topic.
The narrative is presented in a rather disjointed format. Split up into chapters that jump moments, days, weeks or even longer, the player is often left wondering what is going on, despite living out almost every moment of the group’s days, down to selecting their meals at camp. It seems like an easy-out on progressing the story to big moments, instead of the player experiencing these pivotal story aspects organically. Even with the moments the player is given, there are several plot lines that do not communicate well unless you watched the almost three hours of supplemental content provided in Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive and Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood. You will be presented characters like Luna, Ravus and the king himself, Regis and be required to feel sympathy or hate for them without any clear reasoning. Some of these issues apparently will be remedied with an upcoming patch that will add cutscenes and enhanced gameplay to the game.
The full Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood anime.
Where Final Fantasy XV shines is in its visuals. This is probably one of the best-looking games currently up to offer on home consoles. From massive deserts filled with creatures, towns and people, to expansive cities rustling with life, almost giving them their own soul. The environments are gorgeous and meticulously built. The main characters are all designed and modeled to fit in their respective worlds. Adorning unique clothing and weaponry that embodies both the modern and fantasy feel the game was striving for, Noctis and his friends are true trend setters. Magic and Noctis’ arsenal both take advantage of the newer c0nsoles’ processing power to push the particle effects to their extremes. I did not notice much slow down while playing despite hearing that others had frame rate issues.
There were issues to be found in the visuals of Final Fantasy XV, though. While all the main characters were unique and well-crafted, the other inhabitants of the world were very bland in design and besides Dave the Hunter (simply because his name is DAVE), the NPCs were pretty forgettable. Another issue which annoyed the hell out of me was the size of the text. It was small and near impossible to read unless I was directly in front of the screen. Font size is being adjusted in that incoming patch.
While the visuals may be higher quality, there is another element of Final Fantasy XV that stands out… gameplay. Combat has gone full action in the series and Square Enix did an excellent job creating a competent action-RPG. While not as responsive or fluid as a game like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry or God of War, Final Fantasy XV boasts a surprisingly deep battle system. Weapons and magic are mapped to the directional pad while the act of doing damage is simplified to the Ο/B button. You can teleport with Δ/Y or lock on to a target with R1/RB and teleport into a warp strike. Jump is assigned to Χ/A, R2/RT brings up your restorative items (which you will use constantly) and team commands are L1/LB. Simplified controls allow the player to focus on crowd control, dealing damage to high priority targets and most importantly, keeping you and your team alive as HP drops and rises erratically during battle. Going against enemies beyond your level can be a little clunky, as you will constantly be diving into your potions, elixirs and phoenix downs, but when presented with enemies that are equal in strength, it can be a true joy to play and witness. One major drawback to the combat would be the lack of control in summoning. You are given these incredible summons, but they require heavily specific battle conditions to appear and are sparsely (or possibly not even seen) outside of the narrative, but this is more a gripe because they are truly astonishing to witness.
In addition to the excellent combat system, you have plenty of mini games to participate in. Chocobo races, fishing, hunts, photo spots courtesy of Prompto, treasure hunting, cooking and a massive amount of side quests. These all provide the player with extra XP, items and an overall feel that the world of Final Fantasy XV is not empty. For completionists out there, the player can collect soundtracks from previous Final Fantasy entries to play in the car or in-game mp3 player, collect recipes for Ignis to prepare at camp, find upgrades, colors, and decals to discover and craft for the Regalia as well as colors for your chocobo. There are hidden weapons for Noctis to wield, different breeds of fish to catch, weapons to mod, and so many other things to enhance your experience beyond the main story.
You definitely get your value in Final Fantasy XV, as mentioned with the near endless content included on the disc. Additionally, Square Enix is not abandoning the game; DLC is planned for both the story and open world, and the development team seems determined to continue growing the Final Fantasy XV experience well beyond launch. While it took me about 30 hours to run through the main story, I have far more gameplay waiting for me back in the ever-thriving world of Eos.
With 10 years to develop the sound, Yoko Shimomura performed a tremendously. The soundtrack of Final Fantasy XV helps push the darker moments of the narrative and emphasize the emotions of Noctis and his friends. Florence + The Machine did well covering Stand by Me, which plays at the beginning and end of the game to help bring the story full circle. Square’s localization provided an excellent dub for most of the characters. There are moments when Noctis can come off a bit too brooding, but overall the main cast did well. You are given the option to play with Japanese dialogue and English subtitles as well if the dub is a bit too much, a first for a worldwide release in the main series.
Overall, Final Fantasy XV stands well on it’s own. Technical issues and a poorly presented narrative hold it back from being truly fantastic, but there are more than enough elements to make it worth the “road trip.” Now, in comparison to other series entries, it may not be as much of a classic as some of the other games, but it is definitely a return to form for Square Enix, who had seemed to have lost what it meant to play a Final Fantasy game with the XIII trilogy. The wait may have been long and while it is not perfect, Square Enix listened to the fans and saw to it that Final Fantasy XV had something to offer for everyone.
- Ardyn proves to be one of the better Final Fantasy antagonists by the end of the game.
- Prompto really loves dying in combat.
- Final Fantasy Radio is awesome!
- Ignis can cook with the best at Studio Ghibli.
- Magic is pretty useless.
- Dave the Hunter…
- Was lucky enough to purchase the gorgeous Ultimate Edition (unboxing below).