Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Tested on: PlayStation 4
Final Fantasy XV – Review
Final Fantasy XV has been in production since 2006. The game was then called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. After ten years gamers are finally able to play the game. Final Fantasy was supposed to be the very last shot at a game for developer Hironobu Sakaguchi. His games weren’t exactly what you’d call ‘successful’, so if the game hadn’t taken off, that would have been the end of his carreer in gaming development. The game series has been going strong since 1987 and even given the latest game in the series has known a development cycle for 10 years, the games haven’t paid in popularity.
You are Noctis, on your way to your own marriage with your friends Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus. Things go pear-shaped as your father’s kingdom falls, and he, you and Lunafreya are pronounced dead. After hearing this, you are more than bent on revenge. This doesn’t mean that the developers went on the ‘Batmanesque revenge tour’ and made the character all broody and grim. Noctis has more personality going on and the way he acts towards his friends is really well done. They don’t feel like 0’s and 1’s and they feel like they are actually alive and their reactions are really organic.
The thing that irked some players about Final Fantasy XIII was the fact that the game started off “in medias res”, which is fine if after a couple of hours into the game things get resolved and you at least have some sort of knowledge of what is going on, but Final Fantasy XIII had none of that and the story felt really convoluted. Final Fantasy XV doesn’t do that, it starts off where it needs to start and tells the story as it unfolds, and even though that doesn’t put you in the action straight away, it slowly builds the story. This makes the player feel more involved.
A game that has been in development this long can’t look anything but gorgeous. Final Fantasy XV does look really amazing. Final Fantasy XIII had some really nice graphics, but the difference between cutscenes and ingame graphics was noticeable. In Final Fantasy XV the difference is marginal. The difference is, but the graphics aren’t. The animations are really fluent and so are the ragdoll physics. When you are in combat and you are in an open plane, it all looks really beautiful and the way the particle effects blast off your swords as they clash on the enemies is really flashy. It makes the combat look really cathartic.
There is however one slight drawback to the graphical fidelity, if there’s anything blocking the view and that’s really ANYTHING, be it a large boulder, a shrubbery or a large tree, it blocks your view almost completely, and sure, you are in control of the camera at all times, but sometimes you’re more occupied with the combat than worrying about the camera working against you, especially when you are in mid combat and the scenery is making it unclear whether it’s you being damaged or you doing massive damage. Prompto is in charge of snapping the pics of your journey, but sadly this is sometimes a hit and miss. Some pictures really capture the mood, but others are just of your character clipping through enemies or of random scenery that’s not even in focus.
The voice acting is really well done and even though the writing has a very ‘JRPG’ feel to it, it doesn’t feel ‘too cringy’. The sound when you are in enemy territory immediately makes you cautious of your movements and it’s evident when you are and aren’t in the clear. As you play the game you can buy soundtracks from all the previous games for you to play in the ‘Regalia’, the car that gets you from A to B to C all the way to Z. Even if you don’t buy the soundtracks there’s plenty of music for you to enjoy during the rides. This doesn’t mean that those tracks from the previous games are just 8 bit soundtracks, but fully fleshed out songs. If that doesn’t scratch that audiographic itch, there are also some other tracks playing on the radio. If you prefer the silence with just the banter of the compagnons or the outdoor sounds, then you can just switch it off.
Final Fantasy XV is an action adventure JRPG. It takes a step back from the usual turn based combat and goes for the more direct real time action approach. This will take some getting used to when you are used to the original formula, but if you are a fan of the combat of Kingdom Hearts, you won’t be disappointed. You are in control of Noctis, but there is some degree of control you have over your others companions. During the combat a bar will fill and when you press the right buttons your team mates will do attacks. The more bars they deplete the stronger the attacks.
The strange part is that the attack button isn’t the Square/X button but on the O/B button. This isn’t used often and it’s quite confusing when you are thinking you are about to rush into battle and aren’t doing damage only to find your reflexes are pressing the wrong button. Once you are in the flow however, the combat is quite satisfying. It’s fast paced, responsive and once you start doing the link attacks things really become interesting.
Grinding isn’t the main mindset of the game, as you’ll easily level up and find quests that are to your fancy and pretty soon you might have quite some quests that you are over leveled for, at least from the numbers perspective. Even though you might be several levels higher than the enemy, they still might overpower you if you aren’t prepared. To that extent, it’s good for you to ask Ignis to cook for you, which he’ll only do if you sleep at a campsite. As he cooks he’ll level up his personal skill which will let him cook better dishes. You won’t get an experience bonus when you sleep at a campsite, but you’ll gain the effects of the food, so you’ll have to weigh your options on what you want exactly. Leveling up isn’t done after each battle, but when you go to rest up.
The gameplay is easy to wrap your head around and preparing for combat is in the vein of The Witcher 3. Even if the combat has been ‘simplified’ in a manner, it has also been given enough depth for you to pay attention to what you are fighting instead of just blindly rushing in.
The game opens up with the caption ‘A Final Fantasy for fans and first timers’. In a sense this is true as the combat feels a lot more fast paced than the previous iterations with a lot more freedom to it. So if you like your action RPG with a lot of freedom both of the combat and of the exploring kind like the Witcher, then this game is perfect for you. If you are looking for a turn based combat system, then you’d better skip this game in the Final Fantasy franchise.