Final Fantasy XV Review – For Fans and First Timers
Final Fantasy XV has been in developmental hell for a long time. 10 years ago, it was marketed as Final Fantasy Versus 13. Between then and now, details have slowly leaked showing multiple iterations over time before it was rumored the game was just being remade from scratch. It was only recently that Noctis was once revealed again carried many of the same abilities presented in the original trailers, however the world around him had changed almost entirely as well as bearing its final title, Final Fantasy 15. It is extremely rare for a title that has undergone so many developmental changes to come out on top. Fortunately, Square Enix broke the curse and brought the coveted series back stronger than ever.
Noctis, the Crown Prince and heir to the throne of Lucis, is sent away from home to marry Lady Lunafreya. Not so much a choice, but an order from his father, the marriage signifies the union of two states as an act to create peace. The narratives simplicity ensures that much of the story moves forward without focusing too much on one thing. However, this also meant it was easy for the story to quickly glaze over key facts, or major narrative points. For myself, there was a major revelation later in the game that occurred that I didn’t really understand and wish had been developed a little more. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the protagonist was crafted so well, that I have never hated anyone more by the time I was finished.
In exchange for such a quick story, a lot of the journey focuses on the connection between Noctis and his three companions. Gladiolus, Noctis’ battle teacher, usually keeps the Crown Prince in check through harsh tutorship. Ignis, the cook, is the well maintained calm thinking counterbalance. Prompto is simply looking to have a good time with his best friends once more. I enjoyed most of my time with Noctis’ companions as they usually always had a quick joke or simple bickering between one another about something as small as walking rather than driving. As important as the main story was, I would have easily exchanged it to spend more time and develop the relationship of the companions just a little more.
I do wish the same dedication given to the character’s personality was pushed into the combat. Overall, Noctis fills the space of a battle mage, although he can ultimately be played however you choose. He supplies magic to everyone by packing the spells into small container which can then be thrown as grenades. It’s odd and different, but it does make sense from a narrative perspective. Ignis is more of the support character, but also wields two daggers making him quick and efficient. Gladiolus is the tank of the group. Slow moving and wielding a massive sword while prompto is the sniper character using his pistols from afar to slowly break enemies down. Unfortunately, they don’t always seem to fill these roles though. More times than not, Prompto is usually in the center of the mix rather than farther away from hard hitting enemies. This has resulted in some of the fastest items burns I have ever seen trying to keep him alive.
The world of Eos is extremely large. Noctis travels to nearly every continent on the map, yet spends most of his time on the Lucian continent. This is where the groups car, the Regalia, takes center stage. Most of your basic traveling, conversation and sightseeing will be completed in this car. Whether it’s stopping at roadside diners, camping sites, or spots for group photos, you will spend a lot of your time cruising along the countryside. Conversation, or events don’t always happen though, so it’s entirely possible to have to drive to a location fifteen minutes away without a single word spoken. In the beginning of the game, this almost becomes a chore as I found myself placing the car on Ignis’ hands to drive as I went to make food or read a book. Eventually though, you do receive the option to fast travel to locations previously explored, although this isn’t always promised. The car is also incapable of driving anywhere off the road, so it’s a good idea to find a chocobo station if you need to pass a long patch of land, since there usually isn’t much going on in the world unless you’re camping or actively moving towards a location. Eventually, the Regalia will gain the ability to fly, yet it wasn’t really functional for myself since it wasn’t unlocked until the end of the game.
With the world being so large, I was surprised that there isn’t a large amount of wildlife activity. Your main source of experience is instead garnered through either monster hunts picked up from local diners, or through the many side quests littered throughout the world. A lot of the side quests are usually fetch quests and didn’t really give any benefit to the main story apart from a few tertiary items. Most of the time, they were used to take the character to key locations hidden on the map such as dungeons or even other more powerful items. There are just as many monster hunts as their are side quests, so you will definitely have your hands full well before the halfway point of the game. I enjoyed the monster hunts and many of the late game fights were usually against ridiculously overpowered enemies. The biggest issue I had though was that you could only accept one hunt at a time forcing the character to constantly run back and forth between the diner and sometimes the same exact location the previous hunt had been.
During these hunts, the combat felt smooth and directed. Combining both old and new Final Fantasy styles, combat timers are still used, but they have been reserved for the companions larger abilities rather than forcing the player to constantly wait before striking. This usually resulted in chaining multiple combat attacks between enemies before finally ending with a linked combo between Noctis and one of his companions. A new addition to the series that creates massive damage to most enemies. Eventually, the Armiger ability takes the spotlight as your character flashes back and forth between enemies in fast, precise and deadly strikes. The upgrade system has been reinvented as well, granting the player the option to focus on abilities specifically for each character. This allowed me to make Ignis the main healer of my group, while I focused on Gladiolus simply hitting harder. Many of the abilities, although indirect, focused on simple character growth as well. Whether this meant earning more AP from fishing or driving, or simply extending certain abilities to do just a little more work.
Overall, it’s good to see Final Fantasy come back to true form. By shedding many of the narratives blunders seen in past titles, it takes chances with a lot of new and old ideas. A few of them fail, yet most of them show that Square Enix may have stumbled upon a new formula that could carry them on for much longer. It may be years before we see another large Final Fantasy title, but I think they have the ability to build off of this and make something truly defining in the sea of modern RPGs.