Final Fantasy XV
Square Enix has finally released its long-awaited 15th chapter of the Final Fantasy series! It took nearly a decade to make but it's now finally in our hands. Check out our official review to find out if it was worth the wait or if it could've used more time in development!
The war between the mighty military nation of Niflheim and the peaceful kingdom of Lucis scourges the land of Eos in Final Fantasy XV. When an invitation to broker peace between the warring nations is sent to the capital of Lucis, Insomnia, King Regis sends his only son and heir, Noctis, on a journey to find his betrothed, Lady Lunafreya, in an effort to save his son and the future of the kingdom. After the treaty fails, the war between Lucis and Niflheim comes to a head within the walls of Insomnia that ripples throughout all of Eos. It’s up to Noctis, Ignis, Gladio, and Prompto to find Lady Lunafreya, take down the evil empire of Niflheim, and take back the throne.
An Old Story Told In A New Way
By reading the plot for Square Enix’s 15th installment of the Final Fantasy series, you may find that you’ve heard this story before. That’s because the core plot of the game isn’t anything new, especially for Final Fantasy fans. Kingdom of magic and peace gets taken over by a heavily equipped empire, causing the heir to the throne to flee in hopes of reclaiming what’s his after going on a pilgrimage of learning and strength. No, this isn’t a new story at all. If you think back on most of the Final Fantasy’s past, there are strong similarities with each one, and it’s not just in certain characters. Kingdoms, hierarchy, friendship, and magic are staples of the long-running series. It’s these simple themes that drive the Final Fantasy XV storyline. Yet, that doesn’t mean they’re doing it in the same way.
In fact, while it may feel familiar, we’re getting to experience an old story told in an entirely new way. Right from the start, Noctis’ story is more like following a bachelor party-“Bro’ad Trip”, than a group of refugees. The main reason behind that is the charismatic group of protectors helping Noctis, along the way.
While Noctis is portrayed as a sullen, brooding prince, he’s redeemed by his bodyguards Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis. Ignis is as straight-laced as they come, his ability to cook, drive, and advise makes him more of the team’s caretaker. His main passion must be cooking because he gets really excited when he learns a new recipe. Gladio is the team’s tank, as he defeats opponents with brute force. In fact, he trained Noctis how to fight, during their time in Insomnia. His snarky comments are both hilarious and uplifting. Finally, the most relatable character is Prompto. Prompto brings a light-hearted approach, as he’s the true fan of the game. You get to witness a lot of the beauty of the game through Prompto’s reaction, as well as his camera lens. In fact, it’s his camera that documents their adventure, while creating that effect of saving each important memory. He also happens to be the weakest character, but if developed correctly, can become a pretty sweet tank, in his own right.
Their brotherly bond and friendship is one that is exposed rather early in the game. Unlike previous FF games, they don’t waste time assembling the team, figuring out how the mesh, etc. FFXV skips past the chemistry-forming phase and gets right into the game. It helps make an otherwise told story feel fresh and a lot more fun, amidst the danger and drama.
A World of Possibilities
If you’re a big Final Fantasy buff, like me, you’ll know that every incarnation of Final Fantasy has been a game-changer for the era of its release. Usually it’s through graphics and art direction. Final Fantasy XV is no different. The artistry in XV is positively breathtaking. From the enchanting environment to the fantastic beasts, the quality of XV’s graphics never diminishes, which is astounding. Previous incarnations had beautiful cinematics with pedestrian gameplay, that’s not the case in XV, its vast land of Eos is gorgeous throughout.
Speaking of vast land, this is the biggest and, possibly, most dangerous FF I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something. When you look at XV’s map, it becomes clear that walking is hardly ever an option. That’s where the important of Regalia, Noctis’ car, comes in. Most of the game is spent sitting in the car traveling from place to place. It gets pretty tedious after a while but the incredible sites, music, and dialogue do their best to levy the boredom. Travel becomes more inclusive when you gain access to chocobos. They allow you to swiftly ride, cross-country, on your way to your next objective or outpost/campsite.
Early on, it’s mentioned that dark creatures known as Daemons roam the land of Eos. However, they only come out at night, so outposts and campsites become extremely important while traveling through Eos. Several times I ventured out into the night, unafraid of the Daemons. That is, until I’d get confronted with a level 30 Iron Giant. Suffice to say my level 10 characters ran as fast as they could back to the outpost. If you’re a clever fox like me, you’ll think to yourself, “I can just drive away from them, that’s safe.”. You’re wrong, clever fox. In actuality, these Daemons will appear on the road, stop your car, and damage it and you in the process. These Daemons are no joke so don’t go out at night, until you’re strong enough.
Missions will help you get there and are a huge part of XV. If you want to skip all the side quests and get to the meat of the story, you have that option. If you want to fully experience the entire story of XV, you have to do the side quests, which make getting to the main story feel like it’s taking forever. However, the pro of doing the side quests is that you gain levels and AP quickly. In fact, Final Fantasy XV wants to you to level up. Square Enix made it a point to give gamers every opportunity to raise their game, quickly, through missions and bounties. In a two-hour sitting, I was able to go up 5 levels, just by doing the side-quests.
Simply leveling up won’t make your characters stronger, though. Final Fantasy XV uses a system of currency called AP, ability points. These points allow for gamers to upgrade health, gain new abilities, and earn more ways of gaining AP, like driving, fishing, etc., through the Ascension feature. Think of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid but much simpler and easy to use.
Plus, each character gets his own specific hobby, that winds up helping the team. As I previously mentioned, Prompto’s is his camera, which catalogs the journey. Ignis’ is all focused on cooking and creating new recipes. Each dish of his, that is eaten, garners significant stat boosts that will help for the following day. As for Gladio’s hobby, he collects hidden materials found in battle which can go for a high price or can be integral for survival. Lastly, Noctis’ loves to fish. It’s actually pretty amazing because, before this game, I never would’ve fished in any game. Contrary to those games, their fishing mini-games were never as rewarding or fun as XV’s is. That’s right, I said it, fishing is fun in Final Fantasy XV. It’s actually one of the few times you get true happiness out of Noctis.
Connecting the Content
Part of what makes XV so much bigger than previous games is that, Square Enix spent a lot of time and effort into creating tons of content that helps to enhance and complete the game. Content like the movie Kingsglaive, which shows the fall of Insomnia, and Brotherhood, an anime on youtube that explains the backstory of each character. At first, it felt like Square Enix was getting a little ahead of themselves with all of this content. I mean, the game hadn’t come out yet so why put so much into a game that may not even be worth it? That would be wrong way of looking at it.
Each piece of content does exactly what Square Enix intended for it to do. Brotherhood does a wonderful job of helping us to understand each character and where they come from. It allows us to forgive Noctis’ moodiness and relate to Prompto’s overwhelming excitement. If you haven’t watched it, start watching it after you finish reading this review. Then, you’ll be ready to play XV.
As for Kingsglaive, Square Enix took the time to add in key scenes from the film into the game. It creates a strange jarring effect, as it’s pretty obvious two different studios created the CGI cut scenes. Despite that, the addition helps gamers to understand how Insomnia fell. The problem is, the movie no longer becomes a must-watch film, simply because key scenes are already in the game.
A Love Letter to Final Fantasy’s Past
One of the aspects of Final Fantasy XV that I truly love is how it honors the games that came before it. The main way it does this is through the soundtracks of all 13 FF games (excluding the online games). As you drive through Eos, you get the opportunity to feel that nostalgia, while listening to some of video game’s greatest tracks. It’s a beautiful way to commemorate the history of an illustrious franchise. It doesn’t just end at the car, though. Square Enix even created an mp3 player to listen to this music as you run about Eos.
I pretty much alluded that I thoroughly enjoyed almost every aspect of Final Fantasy XV. Unfortunately, as with every game, it does have its fair share of faults. I mentioned a few previously like the prolonged drive-time and the Kingsglaive insertions. There are a few more things that I felt took away from the game, than improved it. First being, the continuous loop the characters were on when running through the wilderness. Often times, they’d say the exact same things more than I would’ve liked in a single mission. The jokes and teasing between the guys was fun at first but when you hear the same sequences over and over it takes away from the experience.
The second thing I didn’t quite enjoy was the magic use in combat. The combat mechanics, themselves, are great. In fact, I think this was the goal they’ve been trying to perfect since they introduced it in FFXII. I can’t say enough good things about how fun the combat mechanics are. Except for the magic. Unlike previous games, Final Fantasy XV utilizes what they call the Elemancy feature. It’s a menu option that allows for players to craft spells based on elemental energy they’ve gathered on their journey. The MP meter no longer counts against magic, you just have a limited amount of spells you can use before you can craft more. I, personally, liked the old way of using spells. This new way seems more tedious than anything, even though the spells do look pretty sweet and the effects on the environment are staggering.
Lastly, the load times on FFXV are ridiculously long. Just to load the world from the menu screen takes a good five or six minutes. I found myself folding laundry, checking my fantasy lineups, and making a sandwich in the time it took for it to finally load.
A Final Fantasy For Fans and First-Timers, Indeed
Overall, Final Fantasy XV is definitely a high point for the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s stellar combat, gorgeous graphics, and addicting storytelling make for an epic gameplay experience everyone can enjoy. As the author’s note says, in the beginning, “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers.” A note that is true to what this game is.