Published on January 12th, 2017 | by Peter Freeman0
Final Fantasy XV Review
Summary: Despite issues lingering from its ten year development, Final Fantasy XV is an absolute must play for fans both new and old of the series.
Final Fantasy XV has no right to be as fun or as interesting as it is. Originally announced in 2006, alongside Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XV was slated to be a spin off known as Versus. But due to one troubling aspect of development after another, the game got stuck in what is typically known as developmental hell. No one thought it would be released. It would become a famous example of vaporware. But now after ten years in development, a change in project leadership, and a name change to a true numbered sequel in the long running franchise, we have a game.
Final Fantasy XV starts off with main character Prince Noctis of Lucii leaving the Crown City of Insomnia to go on a road trip with his best friends. They’re headed across the sea to meet Noctis’ fiance, Lady Lunafreya. Luna is an Oracle, a religious figure in the world of Final Fantasy XV. All of this is going on while Insomnia prepares for peace talks with the Empire, a faction that has done its best to take over the remaining territories. As Noctis continues on his journey, things – obviously – get complicated. The idea of you simply going on a road trip becomes impossible, and more about you gathering your strength in order to avenge your fallen home and retake it.
The overarching story elements of Final Fantasy XV can be difficult to follow at times. For one, I have yet to watch the Kingsglaive CG movie that acts as a companion piece to FF XV and supposedly helps to explain a lot of the political context of the story. Due to that, not a lot of attention is paid to the Empire, their motives, and what’s going on while Noctis is attempting to gather his strength by finding ways to call upon the various deities in the games, which act as Final Fantasy XV’s version of summons.
The layer of story under that though, the story of Noctis and his friends: Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto, is what’s focused on in the game. The story of these four friends as they work together and travel the world is one of the game’s best elements. Each of them has a clear and unique personality. This is helped by the fact that aside from three guest characters, you never receive any additional party members. These guys are your constant companions, through and through.
So it’s a good thing that they’re all fairly likeable. Prompto has a few issues in being just a tad too excitable in the beginning of the game. But like the other characters, there are layers beneath the exterior personality. As the game progresses, it’s possible to learn who these people really are and what’s driving them. Even if you didn’t watch the prequel anime (there was a lot of multimedia content for FF XV leading up to its release), the game does a great job building the relationships between the four characters. Each one of them has a few side quests and little cutscenes that help explore who they are and their relationship within the group.
Aside from the story, the combat is the most important part of a Final Fantasy game. No longer satisfied by the turn based nature of old Final Fantasy combat systems, Final Fantasy XV goes with an improved version of Final Fantasy XII’s combat. The enemies exist in the open world, but can be avoided based on how far you are from them. This becomes especially important in the early parts of the story, where the game positions a level 54 serpent dangerously close to a path you need to head through.
The combat is fairly action based. The player only controls Noctis while the AI will control the other three (or four, occasionally) party members. Noctis can equip four different weapons at once and the player can switch between them as freely as they want. He can also equip all types of weapons. There are swords, greatswords, daggers, javelins, guns, and so on. All of them can have a place in your arsenal, although I never touched guns throughout the entirety of my playthrough.
While the combat can seem button mashy at times, there is actually a bit of depth to it. Noctis can warp around the battlefield, gaining high vantages points which can help recharge your MP and gives you a bit of a break. Depending on where you attack your opponent can yield certain items if you “break” that area, like a tail or head piece. Attacking from behind does additional damage, while also opening up the ability for link-strikes, moments where you and another party member team up to do additional damage. There are also abilities you can trigger for each of your party members that level up with consistent use.
If nothing else, magic and items is where old fans of Final Fantasy games will see the largest changes. For example, there are only three spells in the entire game. Magic for these spells must be drawn from areas in the open world, and then crafted into slots. The crafting system is more than just an extra button press or two. You can craft your spells with items you find in the game, be it treasure, food, or healing items. Each of them adds a different effect to the spell. Some of them dual or triple cast the spell, others give bonus EXP, some heal, some poison, and so on. It helps add on an extra layer of strategy to what might seem like a pretty basic system.
In terms of items, there are only a few really important ones you’ll need to worry about. Potions and hi-potions exist, but potions will heal for fifty percent of your health, while hi-potions will heal all of it. Mega potions will heal all your party. It’s a really streamlined system so you won’t have to worry about constantly refilling your party’s health with several potions per battle. It makes your inventory easier to manage, especially in the heat of battle.
Even though the main story only took me roughly twenty-five hours to complete, I spent about another forty playing all the side content in the game, up until finally getting all the trophies. The amount of side content in the game is staggering. There are hunts, side quests, races, fishing, an arena, and tons of dungeons. There are even new dungeons that unlock once you’ve completed all the basic ones.
Throughout your journey, you’ll travel the world inside your car. While fast travel is eventually unlocked in certain areas, you’ll spend most of the time going around in the car. During these drives, you’ll engage in a few conversations of with your friends and have the ability to listen to old Final Fantasy soundtracks. These soundtracks are sold in shops all around the open world and there’s something amazing about cruising around the world listening to the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VIII (my personal favorite PS1 FF). It’s an amazing contrast of the modern and the nostalgic.
As you progress through the world, you’ll accrue EXP through battles and completing quests. But unlike previous FF games, your characters don’t immediately level up. Instead, you’ll have to make camp at havens throughout the open world or stay at hotels. Only then will your EXP be spent on your characters and they can level up. Staying at a hotel allows for a multiplier to be applied to the amount of EXP you’ve earned, while staying at camp allows for Ignis to cook the party a meal that will increase their stats for the next few hours of gameplay (this can also be done at diners, but costs money). Both of these things complete the circle of what is already an amazing gameplay loop. Not only that, it’s a fun way to make elements of a road trip relevant to the gameplay.
For as good as it is, Final Fantasy XV is not a perfect game though. The story has plot holes in it and it asks the player to look elsewhere for some basic understanding. The camera in combat can be a little annoying. And boy do I wish I could take on more than one hunt at a time. But overall, it’s more than I ever would have expected for a game that’s been in development for ten years. I was in high school when this game was announced and now I’ve graduated college. The anticipation for this game and what it could be has been with me for so long, that I can’t help but be surprised that it’s met those expectations. I might even go as far to say that it surpassed them in some ways. It’s a game that shouldn’t work, with so many varied elements and systems that you wouldn’t expect in a Final Fantasy game, but despite that, it does work. As someone who has played Final Fantasy games all his life, I can say without a doubt that Final Fantasy XV is a game that fans new and old should experience.
Game was played on a base model PS4.