Final Fantasy XV Review
Final Fantasy is a series that has touched the hearts of countless gamers over the years, myself included. Being the latest entry in the collection of RPG titles from Square Enix, Final Fantasy XV now carries the torch – but does it live up to the legendary standard of the beloved series?
The moment you begin Final Fantasy XV, you’re placed in the shoes of Noctis, heir to the throne of Lucis. Departing your kingdom of Insomnia, you set out to meet your bride to be with three loyal companions in tow. And so your journey begins. As you overcome one hardship after another, you get to know more about your friends; there’s Prompto, the lovable idiot, Gladiolus, the no-nonsense tough guy, and Ignis, the refined and responsible one. In contrast to previous entries in the series, these three will be your party members for the entire game, save for the occasional swap around with a few supporting characters. This actually compliments the overall theme of the game, which I’ll get to in a moment. The story is full of twists and turns both heartwarming and heart-wrenching as you pursue the legendary astrals on a pilgrimage to wield the power of kings, all while fighting off the empire of Niflheim. This may sound like a lot to take in at once, but the game does a fine job of pacing itself, allowing you to get properly accustomed to everything going on with the story while you play. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the length of the main story, stating that the story content is lacking, but personally, I’d say that so long as you’re willing to pay attention it’s all there. I’d also say that those people missed the point of the game entirely, specifically the overall theme I mentioned earlier.
Final Fantasy XV is entirely about the journey and less so the destination. This much is made clear in the opening scene showing you and your pals working together to push your broken down car to the nearest gas station for repairs, all while “Stand By Me” plays in the background sung by Florence and the Machine. You see, Final Fantasy XV is a game you need to take your time with to truly appreciate – if you rush through the main story, details are going to be missed, details that will affect your attachment to the main characters. Not all of their character development is tied to the story itself, and one scene that stood out to me was a rather introspective heart-to-heart with Prompto, which only actually triggered once I slept at a particular inn. The meat of the game is in the vast world it’s set in, you’re encouraged to explore and carry out sidequests, of which there are literally hundreds, in fact I’d go so far as to say there are too many and some can feel void of any real purpose, but as far as optional content goes, there’s always something to do in this game. From journeying across the massive world map in your fancy car dubbed the ‘Regalia’, to fishing, to posing for pictures with Prompto, or deciding which meal to eat for the night and thus which unique bonus you gain for the following day, it can be overwhelming just how many activities are available to you. Final Fantasy XV does offer a New Game Plus option, but with no real reward there’s relatively little incentive to make use of it.
You’re going to be fighting a lot of different things in Final Fantasy XV, so it’s fortunate that the combat is snappy, as is the gameplay in general – Noctis and his friends have very natural movements about them, and it can be a joy to warp around from one point to another. You can switch between attacking and evading at the press of a button, and as you progress you can unlock countless new abilities for Noctis and his friends. Though the combat strays from the normal turn-based system earlier games used and loses a fair amount of strategic depth as a result, it doesn’t fall short in terms of presentation and exhilarating action. One issues that becomes more and more apparent the more you play however, is the fact that combat is made extraordinarily easy if the player stocks up on plenty of healing items; even death can be negated if the player uses a phoenix down quickly enough.
Visually, this game sets the bar. It continues the Final Fantasy trend of offering an elegant and beautiful aesthetic, just about every detail has been thoroughly polished; from flashes of magic to the bombastic summoning of the astrals, though there is a notably difference in the quality of the main character’s models as opposed to those of the numerous NPC characters offering sidequests, acting as shopkeeps, or providing conversational tidbits. For the most part, the game is an absolute spectacle and frequently delivers epic set pieces for the player, whether you’re escaping the rampaging Titan or darting through the streets of Altissia during an imperial attack, there are numerous memorable and exciting moments to enjoy. As is often the case with Final Fantasy, the score is sweeping and memorable, always fitting each scene well.
But does it hold up to the expectations everyone had? Between overzealous marketing and some slight missteps with the game itself, I would have to say not quite. Despite its vast and ambitious nature, the game is actually best described as simple for a Final Fantasy game. The story is all there, but it makes less of an impression that previous titles, ultimately making it somewhat more forgettable in the long run. Similarly, the gameplay suffers from a lack of overall complexity, and once you become powerful enough most encounters will play out in a similarly straightforward routine. That said however, the game is a worthy successor to the more legendary titles of the series, boasting very well-developed characters with immense amounts of dialogue between them, and an overwhelming sense of realism. The boys come across as people you could feasibly meet out in the real world, and it makes their friendship that much more believable. Final Fantasy XV may not be the most memorable or breathtaking quest for you to embark upon, but it will certainly be the most enjoyable road trip you’ll ever have.