10 Years in the Making
After its original announcement at E3 in 2006, Final Fantasy XV suffered from numerous development problems, causing a number of delays and indefinite release dates that ultimately never came to fruition. It wasn’t until 2014 that things had started looking up, more info was being released on the game, a demo was to be released, and it’d actually seemed like we’d see Final Fantasy XV in the near future. Well, after another delay, two demos, and heaps of information being released on the game, Final Fantasy XV is finally out, and I’m glad to say that it was a fantastic experience from start to finish, albeit a few issues.
Reclaim Your Throne
Final Fantasy XV follows the story of Prince Noctis and his 3 friends, Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis. The plot starts with the four friends travelling to Altissia where Noctis’ wedding to Lady Lunafreya is to take place. Lady Lunafreya is the former princess of Tenebrae, and she is also known as the Oracle. The wedding is meant to make peace between Lucis and Niflheim, but shortly before the wedding can take place Niflheim betray Lucis and steal the Crystal. King Regis, Noctis, and Lady Lunafreya are all reported dead in the aftermath of the battle, and it’s your job as Noctis to find out what happened, why it happened, and to take your throne back. I don’t want to go any further into it in order to avoid spoilers, but most of main plot develops very slowly over the first 10 chapters, and all is unveiled in the last few chapters. I never felt fully invested in the story until I made it to these late chapters, with a few plot twists that I did not see coming at all. Most of what kept me hooked on Final Fantasy XV’s story, was its characters. Even though voice acting is hit and miss (apart from the exceptionally creepy Ardyn), I loved each and every main character of Final Fantasy XV. The relationship between the four friends feels natural, real, and it’s always entertaining. Their constant bickering and conversation is something I never did and never will get tired of. I was fully invested into these characters, and although they’re a little too stereotyped, the relationship they share is truly something special. The one major flaw in Final Fantasy XV’s story, is that I found there were certain moments that lacked any emotion when they should’ve been filled with it. It’s quite disappointing that certain relationships weren’t developed further early on, making for some more meaningful moments later down the line. Overall, Final Fantasy XV’s narrative isn’t the best in the series, but the last few chapters are certainly very entertaining, with unforeseen plot twists, and a fitting ending. The relationship between Noctis, Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis is also something truly special to watch develop and unfold, and watching them grow and learn to deal with problems was one of my favourite parts of Final Fantasy XV.
The Active Cross Battle System
In some aspects, Final Fantasy XV’s gameplay is a large departure for the series, and in others, it remains faithful to its predecessors. From the start, Final Fantasy XV presents the open world of Lucis to the player, and you’re free to explore it right away. Lucis is absolutely huge, and more parts of it are unlocked after making some progression in the story. Side quests are abundant, dungeons are scattered everywhere, and 35 hours in I’m still finding secrets around the world. Dungeons in Final Fantasy XV are excellent, providing tense challenges but very enticing rewards, they never get boring to explore. Hunts can also be undertaken, following your party as you try to take down a giant beast in the area, such as a Behemoth. They’re very challenging fights, and have large payoffs as a result of completion.Your main mode of transportation through Lucis, is the Regalia; a car given to Noctis by his father. Most of the driving is done by Ignis, and you have the option to drive it yourself, but it’s unfortunately all on-rails, and ultimately comes down to you just holding R2. Outposts and campsites can be found scattered around the over world too, where you can sleep, eat, and tally up experience points from that day in order to level up. Eating provides bonuses to all party members for the next day, and cooking is Ignis’ personal skill, while Noctis’ is fishing, Prompto’s photography, and Galdiolus’ is survival. Each one develops as you do activities corresponding to that skill, further improving it and levelling it up.Combat is definitely one of the most overhauled features of Final Fantasy XV, and it comes in the form of the Active Cross Battle System. All of the games combat is in real-time, none of it is turn-based or a hybrid of both, and thankfully, it works surprisingly well. The shift to real time means that there is less strategy needed to win battles, but that doesn’t mean you can button mash your way to victory. Some of the late game fights are particularly challenging, so utilising the combat mechanics properly is key to winning. Holding the circle button allows Noctis to perform a combo based on the weapon he has equipped, and moving the left stick changes how the combo unfolds. Pressing triangle lets Noctis warp between enemies and vantage points, making for fast-paced, fluent combat. As you fight, you build up your Tech-Meter, allowing you to command your party members to use specific abilities against enemies, and there’s a large variety of skills to choose from. Successful counterattacks, and back-stabs will sometimes cause rewarding link-strikes, that deal a ton of damage, and they’re beautifully animated. The weapons you and your allies use range from swords and spears to daggers and pistols, and who uses what is customised and controlled by you, although specific party members can only use specific weapons. Magic also makes a return, but it functions very differently then it did previously. As you journey, you’ll collect magic flasks, these flasks are then used to store the magic that you craft and create. That’s right, magic is crafted by finding materials in the world. You can mix elements together to create different outcomes, and the potency of your magic is dependent on how much material you invest. It’s also worth mentioning that magic can also affect you and your party members, so when and where you use it is very important. Progression is now in the form of the Ascension Grid, which is reminiscent of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy 10. there are different trees dedicated to things like combat, recovery, and survival, all with various skills to be obtained. There’s a lot there to level up, and if you want to fully max it out, expect to put some time into Final Fantasy past the 30 hour storyline. Last but not least, Summons are back in FFXV, and they’re obtained through the story for the most part. once you complete a trial of some sort, you gain the ability to summon Ancients, ranging from Titan to Shiva. The one problem with summons is how inconsistent they are. It’s never fully explained how they work, and what conditions must be met in order for a summon to occur, and it’s really unfortunate that they aren’t used more often and that it seems to be completely random.
The Land of Eos
I played Final Fantasy XV on a PS4 Pro and it should go without saying the game looks gorgeous. I was constantly wowed by the sheer size and scale of the world, with detailed models, beautiful locales, and varied environments throughout the entire experience. It’s a gorgeous 1080p, but unfortunately, the frame rate just can’t keep up with it. While it only dropped a few times, one thing that was always consistent was that the game suffers from horrible frame skip on the PS4. It makes for a really uneven experience, and even though there’s a patch coming up for the PS4 Pro, it’s no excuse to have frame skip in the game. It definitely isn’t fatal, but more often than not it annoyed me a lot.
Final Fantasy XV is the culmination of 10 years of hard work from Square Enix. It’s not the best in the series, in my opinion at least, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, and that I’m not grateful for how it turned out. I’m so glad FFXV didn’t end up being a train wreck like other games that got stuck in development hell. While it is held back by some technical flaws and lack of emotion, it has a solid plot twist, likeable characters, a strong combat system, a beautiful world and lots to do in it. Final Fantasy XV was worth the wait.
-The relationship between the four friends is truly special
-Plot twist that was incredibly impactful and surprising
-Massive open world
-Fast, fluent combat system
-Strong sense of progression
-Heaps of great post-game content
-Lacks emotion when it needs it most
-Frame skip is annoying
-Summons are inconsistent and random
Thanks for reading guys, I’m glad FFXV turned out well, and i’m excited to see what’s in store for Final Fantasy, next year being the 30th anniversary. I might look at The Last Guardian next, but no promises. Thanks for everything this year, 2016 has been awesome for gaming, and I’ll make an update post in the next month detailing what i’ll be looking at next year! Have a good holidays guys, Harry. 🙂