Final Fantasy XV review

by December 17, 2016 0 comments

Final Fantasy XV was definitely worth the ten year wait. They spent that time well creating a battle system that is fresh and exciting, an open-world that is rich, full and engaging and a brotherhood that feels uniquely human in a way no other Final Fantasy has before. It’s just a shame they didn’t bother to show the same love and attention to the story. Kingsglaive isn’t optional – it’s mandatory if you want to have any idea what the hell is going on. And Brotherhood doesn’t go amiss either. Because even with the last third of the game being a massive info dump, the tale of Final Fantasy XV feels incredibly amateur and obscenely rushed.

Final Fantasy XV sets you on a road trip with Noct and his three friends and protectors: Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto.

A Game Worth Replaying, A Story Worth Revising
By: Micah Rodney

Even very early fights are an absolute joy and spectacle.

The positive first though – this is absolutely the most fun you will have with a Final Fantasy game to date. It feels like you’re taking a vacation in a Final Fantasy world, backpacking with your bros across the open world. The game is almost based around side diversions – whether you like to go out fishing with Noct, partake in Chocobo Races, or join the Hunt to tackle some of the most ferocious Final Fantasy beasties ever seen, including some old favorites.

And then there’s the Regalia, your personal chariot, which comes outfitted with a collection of road tunes from classic Final Fantasy games. Visiting each town has the added benefit of finding new decals for your car, as well new soundtracks to purchase. While some soundtracks feel a little light (Final Fantasy XIV being particularly shafted here with about eight tracks) they are still a wonderful nod to the fans. One of my pleasures was listening to Archylte Steppe or Movement in Green while cruising through the scenery of Eos.

Gladiolus chats up Cindy, your trusty mechanic friend.

The game’s combat is also top notch, providing the delicate balance between quick cathartic beat-em-up goodness and the tactics you’ve come to expect from Final Fantasy. Elemental and weapon-type resistances are crucial, and knowing when to safely use magic (this being key since, as a first in the series, magic is an area of effect that can harm your allies as well) are all part and parcel of the combat experience. It’s a rich, refreshing system that made every fight I got into an absolute joy.

And the main four bros are a great group. While some argue that they are a bit shallower than your usual band of Final Fantasy characters, they are also a lot more genuine. The banter in this game is where most of the humor and heart comes from and you genuinely feel connected to your allies in this game. One particularly fascinating touch was Prompto taking photos of the adventure, some of which are stock and others which are uniquely yours based on your combat exploits. The ability to share these directly to Facebook is also a great touch.

Battles at night will pit you against powerful daemons, and the low light can make seeing your enemies tricky.

But I have to talk now about the major misfire of the game – the storyline. First off, the main plot is so much of a backseat that it’s absent until about Chapter 9; which depending upon your play-style may be anywhere from 20 to 40 hours into the game. Then, things begin to happen so quickly that it’s really hard to keep track of character motivations. Side characters flit in and out of the story completely at random and while the game does have some powerful moments- particularly it’s grippingly dark, if somewhat overplayed Chapter 13- it all feels like we’re being dragged along by the story rather than experiencing it naturally.

Not enough time is spent on character development where it is needed in the side characters. The main plot is paper thin, with a predictable twist. In many cases some of the decisions feel like they were added not because they belonged in the story being told, but rather because they needed to be in a Final Fantasy game – a rare case of Square-Enix pandering too much to the fans. One particular Chapter 13 revelation was a complete nonstarter, going absolutely nowhere, making no sense and leaving me feeling almost betrayed at how such a sloppy bit of writing could have been ham-fisted into this game so close to the finale.

Prompto delivers a lethal bit of ballistics to your group... but who's taking the shot?

Furthermore there is a sense of cheapness to a lot of the game’s emotional beats. It feels like the game is checking off a list of Final Fantasy tropes that it has hastily jam-packed into a story rather than actually telling a coherent story. This is kind of nice for nostalgia purposes, but in the end it feels forced and undeserved. It’s like Final Fantasy XV wanted so hard to be an all-round fan-pleaser that it forgot to be its own thing. We have confirmation that story patches are coming, as well as some side missions in the form of DLC, but considering the game made us wait 10 years, one would think that releasing the game early at the expense of poor story-telling (so bad they were forced to amend it) is a phenomenal misstep. We will now have early adopters and pre-orderers having first experienced the game with a lackluster story being forced to replay it later to get the “true” story.

The story isn’t what you’re here for though. Or if it is then you will probably be very disappointed. The game is otherwise a masterpiece, with great visuals, an incredible score and insanely fun gameplay. The first pack of post-launch DLC has been announced, a Holiday bonus full of new clothes, new gear (including a much desired ring to prevent allies from taking friendly fire from magic attacks; a pleasantly prompt bit of attention to fan concerns). There is also the promise of being able to be whisked away temporarily to a carnival like area, which has my mind reeling as to the possibilities. Just the fact that so much is being added in via DLC, some of it being free, others coming with the Season Pass, tells me that there will be more enjoyment to be had out of this game yet.

For all its flaws and missteps, I know that unlike the debacle of Final Fantasy XIII, the mistakes came out of a desire to do absolutely anything to please the fans. Nobody can say that Square-Enix didn’t try (and in most ways succeeded) to deliver an absolute love-letter to its fans. This is an open world that you really have to experience, let’s just hope that next time the writers spend a bit more time in editing.

And don't forget to go fishing!

No comments yet

  1. Thaddeus
    #1 Thaddeus 18 December, 2016, 07:04

    Speaking of spending more time editing, have you heard of a comma splice?

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  2. leadmyskeptic
    #2 leadmyskeptic 23 December, 2016, 01:44

    Interesting to read a review from a ‘fan’ (rather than a ‘critic’) perspective, but still with some detailed analysis and positives versus negatives. I haven’t gotten this yet, and I’m both excited and nervous about the prospects. In the old days, I played almost ONLY for the story…by ‘story’, I include conversations with townspeople, optional dialogue–anything that isn’t action, basically. The fact that that’s the one aspect of this that’s been almost universally slammed worries me, but I’m still ‘gon get it

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