Final Fantasy XV review: A Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers alike
Part old-school Final Fantasy, part Grand Theft Auto style open-world game and part road trip movie, Final Fantasy XV manages to feel both familiar and exciting, both nostalgic and innovative. Final Fantasy XV is a must own.
Available Platforms: Playstation 4 and Xbox One
Platform reviewed on: Xbox One
After 14 core games, countless spin-offs, comic books and animated feature films and a massive worldwide following, Final Fantasy XV was always headed for commercial success (FF XV is the fastest selling game in the series) regardless of how good it was. The series though was in danger of losing all its charm after the tragedy that was the Final Fantasy XIII series. The XIII games were formulaic, linear and boring. Final Fantasy XV is any thing but that.
Final Fantasy XV had been in development for over ten years. But despite this (or maybe because of it) arduous development path it is a masterpiece. It channels some of the franchise's greatest moments as well as bringing something new to the ailing Japanese-Role Playing Game(JRPG) genre.
Part old-school Final Fantasy, part Grand Theft Auto style open-world game and part road trip movie, Final Fantasy XV manages to feel both familiar and exciting, both nostalgic and innovative. Whether the player wants to experience quirky characters, polished Japanese art styles or engaging combat, Final Fantasy XV is a must own.
On the surface it is a road trip story about a group of four young men trying to avoid a war. But a deeper dive into the game reveals that Final Fantasy XV is modern reincarnation of the series' old school classics: a party of four men, exploring a vast wilderness, discovering exciting towns, picking up weapons, gear and skills. Along the way the fight scary monsters and try to avoid the apocalypse (no pressure).
You dive into the game without any fanfare or a massive back story. You play the role of Noctis, the prince of a kingdom called Lucis. The game starts with Noctis being sent from his kingdom to take part in a political marriage that's meant to bring peace between the warring factions of Lucis and the Niflheim Empire. He's accompanied by three of his best friends from childhood.
Noctis' friends are loaded with the classic Final Fantasy charm. Prompto, is the lovable awkward doofus who cracks bad jokes; Ignis is calm and knowledgeable; and Gladio is strong, loyal and extremely protective of his friend Noctis.
While the quest they undertake has massive consequences, the band of brothers treat it as a road trip, a 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' style final romp before Noctis gets married.
The game is driven by a real-time combat system. It is a hybrid between the strategic turn-based action of classic games and a swift action style of modern Role Playing Games. You only control Noctis, and he can swap between any of the game's half-dozen or so weapon types.
The mechanics of combat are simple and accessible for newcomers but there is enough complexity to keep veterans interested. You can hold a single button to continue a series of attacks on your target, modifying the angle and style of each swing by holding the left stick in different directions. Another button blocks and dodges, and another allows you to throw your weapon and warp toward an enemy, or warp out of battle if things get tough.
The biggest annoyance the game has is the terrible camera during combat. When you are out open spaces at the beginning of the game, everything is fine. But when you move in to closed off spaces that camera moves around to find a good angle but inexplicably settles behind a wall or object, cutting you off from the action. This is a bigger issue with side quests rather than the main story.
Side quests are a big part of Final Fantasy XV. The first half of the game has a main quest and scores of little side quests spread across the map. While most of them are simple fetch this item, kill this monster, but they remain engaging because the setting of Lucis is so interesting and detailed. You can spend tens of hours ignoring the main story for these bonus activities.
The game is best summed up by its opening text, this is "a Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers alike."
The second half of the game carries Noctis and friends out of Lucis and into the wider world of Final Fantasy XV. This section of the game is more linear and restrictive in its design. The best parts of this are when the game borrows from games like Uncharted and Tomb Raider with Hollywood-style set-pieces or classic anime-style monsters. But unfortunately it also gets grating when the game slips into wonky stealth sections or when it tries to experiment with jump scare horror.
The game is best summed up by its opening text, this is "a Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers alike." Final Fantasy XV represents a refreshing comeback not just for the franchise but Japanese Role-Playing Games in general. It nowhere close to perfect but the game tries to take risks and massively delivers. The health of the Final Fantasy franchise is in many ways representative of the of blockbuster games coming out of Japan. For a long time discounted as formulaic and boring, the country which gave birth to the modern video games industry is mounting an epic comeback.