I grew up in my younger teen years, playing Final Fantasy. I had dabbled into the genre a bit when I was younger but it was the PlayStation era that really got me into the franchise. These days, everyone seems to have a different preference to what Final Fantasy is the best, or which one resonates with them the most as each one has different story and mechanics. After numerous delays of Final Fantasy Versus and it being changed into FFXV, does it come through being an experience worth the wait? Much like all the other Final Fantasy games, that’s going to be up for debate forever.
Final Fantasy XV takes places in the land of Eos, where once sparing Kingdoms have been in turmoil for years. At the center of the story is Noctis and his group of friends, where the King sends him off to marry his longtime friend Lunefreya, in hopes of finally bringing peace to the world between these rivaling factions. Like most stories, thing don’t go as planned and this starts off a chain of events that will see Noctis and his pals growing together as a team.
The story here is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not to say that the foundation of what is at stake and the events that transpire are not awe inspiring. Some scenes here had my mouth drop in excitement and awe and just what was occurring on screen from both a visual and story viewpoint. It’s the way the story is told and the fragmentation of it all. Things occur off screen, sometimes weeks pass by with little more than blank screen with words on it. Story details sometimes come in the form of loading screen text after a mission is complete. There are some saving graces for the story elements though, which come in the way of world building. For those that take their time, explore, overhear NPC conversations, stumble upon extra scenes, there is more details to be found that add to the story. It’s a bit like Dark Souls in ways, where not everything is exactly spelled out for the player. Trying to take the story at face value, only going through the main story will nab players and interesting tale and one with an amazing ending. It’s just so haphazardly thrown together, it will leave people scratching their heads.
The gameplay is where we see the most difference in comparison to other Final Fantasy games. Taking on an open world approach, Eos is a sight to behold. From crystal clear blue skies, stormy weather, and huge landmarks in the distance, this is one world that feels extremely enjoyable to explore. Taking on main quests will progress the story but with a world so full of side quests, it’s hard not to be distracted. From hunts, to hidden dungeons, and even odd side missions, there is plenty to keep content hungry folks happy. After beating the game, there is even more content that can unlock for players. It’s a lot to chew on but it becomes almost addictive at one point. Using the Regalia, a car that the 4 characters travel in, is basically equivalent to the boat or vehicles used in prior entries for transporting characters around the world. It’s got a fast travel and manual option, for those that want to hurry things up, or take in the sites and listen to some classic Final Fantasy tunes.
Combat is real time, with an emphasis on using the right combination of weapons based on the enemy’s weakness. Swords, guns, dagger, and more are at the players disposal, with each weapon set offering a plethora of various moves to use. Combat is engaging enemies while pushing or holding down the attack button. Depending on the direction engaged when fighting, different move sets occur, and weapon switching mid battle is not only possible but is encouraged. Dodging and blocking is also performed with one button that allows players to leap out of the way, sideways step, or even block and then counter evade. Warp striking, teleporting to a vantage point, regaining MP, and jumping back into the fight is both exhilarating and fun. Magic also comes into play but more as an all-out magic grenade, versus typical casting. Fire, Ice, Thunder are used to concoct various spells that can then be equipped much like a weapon. I found myself very rarely using them at the start but later in the game, I realizes just how powerful these can be for mobs of enemies. That said, the team does take friendly fire which is unfortunate, but in the long run still very much worth using as it can change the battle monumentally. Fighting leads to AP and EXP points earned. AP is used to unlock new moves for Noctis and friends, critically improving combat and abilities. Warp striking, countering, and special moves litter the battlefield at times to create a fun and chaotic battle filled with beautiful effects.
The visuals and soundtrack are also a high point for Final Fantasy XV. Bright, colorful, and yet dark and desolate at times, it’s an experience that totally encompasses the classic feeling of older Final Fantasy game. In the fact that players are working together, with a team, and exploring a vast new world, it just stroke a cord of nostalgia. That said it brings along with it changes that are completely new to the franchise in many ways. The open world is huge, filled with content that could last for hours, the main story, is seemingly a bit short if that’s the focus. I find personally that a good mix of the two works wonders and when I finished the game I was around 53 hours. Yet there are questionable design flaws here, the most jarring of them is the story presentation I mentioned earlier. What is here, is great, but then is gets extremely rushed towards the end, things happen off screen, and it leaves players with more questions than answers. It resolves with a great finale and ending and I could ultimately piece together what was transpiring, but it wasn’t what I expected in the slightest, which is great, I just wish it was better told overall. Combat, as fun as chaotic as it can be, is also hampered by the camera at times. Either it’s zooming in to close to large enemies, or providing a hard to see viewpoint, leading to frustration. It’s doable but definitely caused some headaches in my play through.
After finishing the game, I felt like a great journey had ended, even if it wasn’t the most thought out story. I had gotten to know more cast of characters, their journey and what was at stake. There was a lot of side characters and other interesting choices when it came to those not in my group. Yet I sat there, at the end of my journey, thinking back on everything else that came before it. The ending sequence, resolution, and what is at stakes truly makes this element of the experience shine, even past the oddities and problems. The wait for FFXV was a long time and as of now it looks like it might just be my GOTY. It’s not the most coherent story or perfect pacing, but the combat, exploration, and world building lead me to a game I couldn’t stop playing, which says more than enough. Even after completing it, I’m back for post-game content and I couldn’t be happier.