To say audiences have been waiting a while for Final Fantasy XV would be an understatement. Originally not a numbered entry in the Final Fantasy series, the game has seen many changes over the years. At times this shows in the finished article. What also shows is a great amount of love and care for what is being made. It’s by no means a game without issues but it’s a game that earns its place as a numbered entry in the franchise.
It begins in a fairly low key fashion. You’re Noctis, the crown prince of Lucis, yet you still find yourself pushing your broken down car towards the nearest petrol station with your friends, Prompto, Ignis and Gladioulus. Your sheltered life in the city you lived in is quickly exposed and you find yourself running small errands to try and raise funds to help get you on your way to Altissia, the city you are to be married in to Lunafreya, the Oracle. It’s a simple start that helps you find your footing, although that in itself is a problem.
Before you start the game you have the option to play through a tutorial. It helps give you a bit more background information on the world you’ll be exploring and helps you get used to combat. Although it’s useful it feels a bit disjointed and you’ll feel like you’re retreading what you’ve just learnt in the opening chapter. Once you’ve completed the opening chapter though, the game really begins to open up. It’s at this point you should consider watching the film set in the Final Fantasy XV universe, Kingsglaive.
Although Kingsglaive is far from a classic it does help add some depth to the early parts of Final Fantasy XV that drive home the transmedia experience the creators of the game are going for. The events happen before and during the opening chapter of the game and so it’s best to wait until you complete it before watching the film. It’s not essential but you definitely develop more of an appreciation for what is going on if you do watch it and gain a better understanding of some of the characters.
It’s an appreciation that is needed as the story of the game is definitely not its strongest point. The world is great fun to explore and it’s occupied by some interesting and lovable characters, but it’s easy to overlook why you’re doing all these things. Part of the reason for this is how addictive side quests and dungeon exploration can be. Side quests are the easiest way to gain currency in the game and they can vary from collecting an item for someone to defeating certain enemies after you’ve triggered a hunt. Fairly standard side quest stuff. Part of what makes the way side quests are handed out so effective in Final Fantasy XV ,though, is the reoccurring characters that provide them. Thanks to this you begin to warm to them as you find out a bit more about who they are and what they’re doing.
Side quests can also lead you to some of the games dungeons. There’s quite a few out there to hunt down and explore, which provide you with a good reason to load the game back up even after you’ve beaten the final boss. Some are puzzle heavy, some are enemy heavy and some have boss fights, but all of them provide something slightly different and add a new challenge to the game. As you progress through Final Fantasy XV there will be certain chapters where you’re encouraged to explore these side quests and dungeons, and then chapters that will be dedicated entirely to forwarding the plot. The game is always clear with you when you are about to move on to a section that will mean you’re tied up for a bit, which is beneficial to helping you figure out if you’re done with a chapter or not. All quests you’re pursuing provide you with a recommended level, so you know if you need to level up before advancing the story or not.
To level up you will need to rest at a camp site or hotel, or finish a chapter. Staying at hotels can result in experience boosts, whilst camping gives you the option to eat stat boosting food. Another way to build your experience for levelling is fighting. This can be done in two ways. The normal way of fighting is fast paced and similar to many other third person action games where you press a button to attack, another button to dodge and a combination of buttons to trigger special moves. In Wait Mode all of that is still there, but you have some time to think about what it is you want to do next.
Wait Mode is the middle ground between turn based and real time. It gives you a moment to analyse an enemy so you can find its weaknesses, which leads to a more tactical style of play. It’s also great for those that like to take their time in a battle, or just lack the reflexes to play an action game at full pelt. Due to combat not being the most difficult thing to get your head around it makes it easier to just appreciate what’s there. Final Fantasy XV is a very good looking game with some lovely enemy and world design. Watching your team move about whilst fighting looks great and is especially handy when trying to time your use of magic.
Noctis is the only character that can create magic but everyone can equip it to use. You’ll have to try combining magic with items to alter how many you have in stock or add further status effects to it, otherwise each batch of magic you make will be able to be cast three times. Your three main elements to play with are fire, ice and lightning. When you run out of magic it doesn’t automatically replenish, even if you have some stored in your inventory. It’s a small thing but when you’re in the midst of a battle it means jumping in to the pause menu mid battle to equip some more.
Magic looks lovely, especially the more powerful spells, and it can be quite funny looking through Prompto’s pictures after a battle and seeing the singed faces and hair after a fire spell gone wrong. As you progress through the game you’ll also be lucky enough to see summons, some of which are just mesmerising upon first seeing them. It’s the small attentions to detail that really drive home how much care went in to the game. It’s just a massive shame at times it feels like parts have been removed that really should’ve been there. The one positive is Square Enix seem willing to keep tinkering with the game even after release and may add in more cutscenes to help clear up some of the weaker parts of the story along with some small issues with certain enemy types.
Despite the shortcomings of the game, when it gets it right it really gets it right. The main story is nowhere near as interesting as finding out about Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladioulus as you slowly progress through the world. The building of the characters and their silly conversations will last longer in your memory than most of the main story beats. The combat is slick and fun, the dungeons are some of the best ever in a Final Fantasy game and the graphics are lovely. It will be interesting to see how Final Fantasy XV evolves over the next year through DLC and patches. For now though it is a lovely experience. Warts and all.
You can watch me play 2 hours of side quests below, where I go in to more detail about other features of the game.
+ Looks lovely
+ Fun combat
+ Team chemistry is great
+ Lots to do
+ Some of the best dungeons in a Final Fantasy
+ Lovable cast of characters
- Story isn't explained as clearly as it could be
- Some weak chapters
- The troubled development shows at times
- Some odd glitches