Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

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.

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Chocobos are back, and they’re as fun as ever to use.

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.

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Some of the natural wildlife found in Lucis is huge.
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.

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Numerous monsters from Final Fantasy make an appearance in XV.

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.

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Not all of XV’s story takes place in Lucis, the latter half is quite linear, and you move through other areas like Altissia and Niflheim.

Verdict: 8.5/10

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.

Positives

-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

-Beautiful world

Negatives

-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. 🙂

 

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Bravely Second: End Layer

Bravely Second: End Layer

A Long Awaited Return to Luxendarc 

Bravely Second: End Layer is a turn based JRPG with a very unique combat system and is the sequel to 2012’s fantastic 3DS exclusive JRPG, Bravely Default. Second is a direct followup to Default, set some years after the events that devastated Luxendarc. Bravely Second improves on the formula in every way, and the bravely default system we’ve come to know and love has been untouched. Bravely Second makes enough changes and tweaks to make it well worth playing, especially if you’re a fan of Bravely Default or JRPGs in general.

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The Three Cavaliers. From left to right, Janne, Yew and Nikolai.

A Tale that Spans Time and Space

Bravely Second’s story takes place two and a half years after the events of Default. The game starts off by recapping all the key events of Default, meaning you don’t have to play the first game to understand what’s going on here. The basic plot is that the Kaiser Oblivion attacks the Crystal Orthodoxy and kidnaps Agnes to fulfill his plans. I don’t want to get anymore in depth than I already have. Much like Default, the main cast of characters all form the party one at a time and for their own reasons. The new party consists of two new characters, Yew and Magnolia and two from Default, Tiz and Edea. I really liked Yew and Magnolia as new characters. I felt both of them were unique and interesting characters that I legitimately cared about. All the cut scenes are voice acted, but there is a downside to this that i’ll get to later. The story has plenty of plot twists throughout, and all of them surprised me. I know a lot of reviews said it was a predictable plot, and sometimes it is, but more often than not it managed to surprise me. That being said these twists didn’t affect me nearly as much as the major twist in Default did. All in all, a fantastic story but just falls short of Default’s, however I am interested to see where the story goes from here. In 31 hours, I cleared the main game and did about half of the side-quests, and once you finish the main story, new game plus is unlocked straight away, carrying everything over.

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The artwork and concept art is beautiful.

Default, Default, Default, Brave, Brave, Brave

If you’ve played Bravely Default, you’ll be right at home. There a few tweaks to the combat system so it stays mostly the same, which trust me, is for the better. For those who aren’t familiar with Bravely’s combat system, it’s a fairly standard turn-based party battle system, but with one unique and significant mechanic called Bravely Default. The Default command allows that party member to assume a defensive stance, which significantly decreases damage. Defaulting stores one BP or Bravely Points. These Bravely Points can be used to activate the Brave command, which allows the party member to to use one more command for every Bravely Point used. This means you have to use your Bravely Points effectively to get through battles, particularly in the harder difficulty modes. Most fights can be cleared quickly with full use of BP, but boss fights require a lot more thinking and strategy. Also making a return is Bravely Second, which allows you to freeze time and take a free turn. The resource for Bravely Second, SP regenerates 8 hours per point and can be bought through the e-shop. All the Asterisks (jobs) are back and there are also some new ones too. Some of the new Asterisks are really unique and interesting and I didn’t ever find myself not wanting to try one out. In one way or another, all the features of Default are present in Second. Fort-Lune acts as Norende did in Default (rebuilding the town which gives you various benefits), Yew’s Diary acts as D’s Journal and etc. The map is fairly similar to Default, but with some new areas, making it bigger overall. The one problem that I had with Bravely Second’s game play was that it felt a bit too much like Default, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing, I just would’ve liked to see some new mechanics being implemented.

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This is concept art for Al-Khampis, a school that also functions as a city.

Timeless Style

Bravely Second looks beautiful. I absolutely love the art style, hand drawn backgrounds and character design, sharing the same style as Default. The soundtrack is absolutely astounding, I constantly found myself humming along to the battle theme and would always recite the victory chime before finishing off the last enemy in a battle. As I said before, all the cut scenes are fully voice acted in English, the only problem I had with this was that more often than not the voice acting annoyed me much like they did in Default. Admittedly some of the voice acting was enjoyable, but it was few and far in between.

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The art book that comes with the collectors edition is fantastic, and well worth getting.

Verdict: 9/10

In my opinion, Bravely Second is one of the best 3DS you can get for the system. It’s a fantastic, deep JRPG that I would recommedn to anyone who played Default, or is just a fan of JRPGs in general. Although it has a few faults, I cannot recommend this game enough to 3DS owners who are looking for a game to sink their teeth into.

Positives

-Fantastic combat system

-Interesting characters and story

-Art style

-Soundtrack

Negatives

-Most voice acting is annoying

-Could be a little more change

Thanks for reading guys, sorry this one took so long, it was quite a hulk of a game for me to get through.

UPDATE: I’m currently progressing through Twilight Princess HD now and will hopefully have a review up for it by next Saturday. Dark Souls III has also been added to the list of games i’ll be reviewing.