Hey all. I’m pleased to bring you all the review for a game ten years in the making, something I was not going to do because I never actually received a review copy of the game. However because of how long this game has been in development and my thoughts on it, I’ll give Square Enix a pass.
Plot: Noctis Lucis Caelum sets off on a trip to be married to his fiancée Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. Noctis is accompanied on his journey by three others: Gladiolus Amicitia, Noctis’s bodyguard; Ignis Scientia, a prodigy military tactician and Noctis’s advisor; and Prompto Argentum, a friend of Noctis from a lower social class…
Plot: Let’s get this part out of the way first, there are many criticisms out there I’ve heard regarding the plot being handled poorly. I won’t deny that it could have been handled better. Unfortunately whether the average gamer likes it or not, Final Fantasy XV became a multimedia franchise with the movie Kingsglaive that takes place prior and during the time of the first chapter of the game, and Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV, an Anime that aired showcasing Noctis and his life prior to setting out for his marriage. Brotherhood in particular shows how he meets Gladio, Ignis and Prompto and became friends with them. I won’t deny that having all the information in one place would’ve been preferable and frankly I agree. However that doesn’t mean the story is bad. The story had me bawling like a baby in one part, brimming with implacable fury in another and laughing uproariously at another part. Any story that can give even me such extreme emotional impact is a wonderful story, even if it could be better or not.
And yet despite all that, Square Enix has promised to improve on the story with future patches, whether they’ll add what I’m assuming is cut content or additional scenes from Kingslaive is unknown yet. That single fact is a huge change from what most gamers have come to expect from most games. If anything they’ll add to the ending with DLC (I’m looking at you Mass Effect 3), but most games will just have that single ending and they almost never add additional story in the rest of the story. So whether or not the story can (and hopefully will) be better, Final Fantasy XV had an incredible story ranking in the top five percent of the thousands of stories I’ve experienced in one form or another. That is impressive in and of itself, but the story is the weakest part of the game.
Characters: I could go on and on about how I feel about side characters are handled in this game, but I’m not going to because frankly the stars are the four friends we get to play with. Of them I found Prompto to be my favorite, because of who he is. There is a small scene that occurs with Prompto during the journey where he lays his fears out. It was a wonderful scene and I found myself connecting to him in ways I wasn’t expecting to, considering that his archetype of character is generally one I don’t tend to like all that much. That isn’t to say I didn’t grow close to the rest of the cast, Noct, Ignis and Gladio all grew on me during the journey and I found myself relating to all in varying ways. Of the side characters I will say one thing, Iris was my favorite and I found myself saving more pictures with her in them than any other side character.
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Gameplay: Okay now that I’ve covered the weaker portion of the game I’ll go into the gameplay. The gameplay is radically different from any of the past single player Final Fantasy games, because they all used a turn based system in one way or another. Final Fantasy XV doesn’t have any turn based combat, at all. There are no random encounters out in the world, and every enemy you see can be engaged or fled from at will in real time. You might not expect an enemy to come out, because some just appear from either the sky or portals in the ground, but they aren’t random.
In particular, I found that during the daytime you will find specific enemies in specific areas, with some variety happening based on the region, but for the most part it will be the same enemies every time you pass by that spot. Nighttime is a bit different, because during the night enemies are stronger and can spawn everywhere, excepting the various outposts, camp sites, and parking spots. You won’t be able to go around in the night with any amount of surety at the beginning of the game, because the enemies that spawn the most frequently during the night, the Giants, are incredibly tough and will outlevel you by 30-41 levels.
Now as for the combat system itself, it was the most fun Final Fantasy combat system I’ve ever played, and was a blast to use. The reason is because it takes place all in real time, although you can and should use the Wait Mode of combat to inspect enemies for weakness and target specific body parts to break them. But those pauses aren’t permanent, unless you want to spend valuable Ascension Points on the upgrade to make it last forever and frankly it’s not necessary at all. The time given by default in Wait Mode is more than sufficient to decide what to do in the beginning of a fight and you will only pop in to adjust your targets for a very brief time during the fight if at all. Probably the most fun aspect of the combat was using Noct to zip around my battles attacking various enemies by using his Warp Strike ability and upon getting the necessary upgrades flitting around in the air striking various flying enemies. The combat system isn’t what I would call very simple, but it’s not overly complex and by the time you get past Chapter 3 in the story you should be used to it. The combat system easily rivals some of the better entries in the Tales of series, and that series of games have always been a personal favorite for their combat systems.
There is very little clunkiness, although the worst of it occurs with the use of Wait Mode when you do acquire the ability to utilize Summons and they decide to allow you to summon them. Yes you did read that correctly, you can’t summon as you please in Final Fantasy XV, as the summons are mercurial and won’t always allow you to summon them in every battle. I’ve summoned only one of them thus far in combat out in the world and it occurred less than ten times in total over the entire course of my playthrough.
Speaking of Chapter 3, the ending of that Chapter marks the first point in where you have to follow through the main story immediately and are not allowed to do sidequests. You get freedom in a few chapters, but it’s short lived if you don’t utilize it well and forge ahead with the main quest. I personally wouldn’t advise it, as you will want the experience gained by various side quests and being able to bank all that experience and staying at the inn in Galdin Quay for a double experience modifier is incredibly useful. Plus it allows you to get used to the combat and you will want as many tricks up your sleeve for the later Chapters.
That isn’t to say you can’t go back to the open world during the more linear chapters, you can for the most part (although you can’t in certain portions) via the use of Umbra. This will allow you to visit the open world and do various side quests. The abilities, gear and levels you gained in the later chapters will carry back to the open world, although you won’t be doing a lot of leveling up via the main story.
I could go on and on about how very much I enjoyed the gameplay of Final Fantasy XV, but frankly I feel what I’ve said above is too much already.
Art: Here’s where the game won my 2016 Game of the Year reward, Final Fantasy XV is the best looking game I’ve ever played in terms of realism, and yeah that sounds funny when you fight giant monsters like dragons. But it’s true and the realism of Final Fantasy XV was so good that my own mother commented on how she thought she was seeing a live-action movie when I was visiting and showing off the visuals. At least until she saw some giant cow like creatures cross the road while Ignis drove the Regalia.
Music: The music of Final Fantasy XV is as good as any of the past Final Fantasy games, a quality that has never been anything but excellent in any of the main numbered games in the series. In addition you can even listen to some tracks from past games in the Regalia, which is really cool.
Voicework: One thing that I want to mention is that the option to listen to the Japanese dubbing is available and everyone should take advantage of it, because you will be using the subtitle option anyway and frankly you won’t get so annoyed at any characters like with Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII.
Overall: While the plot could be handled better, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the story is still one of the best I’ve ever experienced and the gameplay, art and music of XV makes the ten year wait for the game to be released worth it in my books. Fans and newcomers alike should all play Final Fantasy XV, it is one of the best games you might ever play.
For those who like: Final Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama, Amazing Gameplay, Fantastic Plot, Excellent Cast of Characters, Stupendous Artwork, Great Music.
Not for those who don’t like: Any of the above, or having the backstory being split into various mediums.
Developers: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One