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The Final Fantasy franchise is one of the few JRPGs that is well known around the world. After 10 years in development, Final Fantasy XV is finally out and fans of the franchise around the world rejoiced. But should it have stayed in development a little longer? We think maybe it should have.
A Final Fantasy for first-timers and fans. That’s what greets you every time you boot up Final Fantasy XV. We obviously belong to the former category in this case. But hey, we know a thing or two about the Final Fantasy franchise and we were quite to psyched to try this one out after seeing that amazing trailer and the flashy gameplay.
Final Fantasy XV is many things, and like any RPG it’s filled with sidequests and various activities to do. And there’s a LOT to do, the map is HUGE and will take a considerable amount of time to fully explore. However, after our playthrough we found that we could progress through most of the game without actually needing to do much of the side quests or activities. It would definitely help with the main game though, as completely avoiding everything would make the main quest all that much more harder and frustrating due to lack of levels. The good thing is, while they’re completely avoidable, we found ourselves doing them anyway. For one thing, the completionist in us wouldn’t let us leave so many quests unfinished so we HAD to do them. And the other reason was we didn’t mind doing them, they were fun. There’s many things that Square could have done to make the experience even more enjoyable, but we’ll get to that part later.
The combat is flashy and stylish, something we’ve come to expect from Final Fantasy games these days, but Final Fantasy XV is unique in the sense that it’s the first main title to employ real-time combat. In our opinion, it was definitely a step in the right direction, but then again, some would argue that the turn-based combat was something that was considered synonymous with Final Fantasy games, so this was a big step by Square. Did it pay off for them? Looks like it did for the most part. Again, there are problems here as well which we’ll get into in detail.
As for the story, there’s a lot going on. An impending war between nations, a romance, a prophecy, some immortal evil chancellor, to the point that it gets overwhelming and confusing at times. But we’re new to this franchise, and from what we’ve heard, this kind of overwhelming plot is normal for a Final Fantasy game, so we’ll leave it at that. Anyway, enough summarizing! Let’s get into the details.
The game starts with the protagonist, Noctis, the Crown Prince of Lucis, leaving his capital to go meet his bride-to-be, Lady Lunafreya. Noctis has a ridiculously long name by the way, which we don’t really remember (we’re lazy, sorry). Noctis is accompanied by three others, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto, who are officially his bodyguard, but they’re really more like his childhood friends, or brothers to use the analogy of the game itself.
Now when you begin the game, the setting is light and breezy, the mood, the music, it all screams road-trip and happy camping. How it goes from that to end of the world is for you to find out on your own. We’re going to avoid spoilers since the game is still kinda new.
But what we did realise from all that time spent exploring the world and doing quests was that the core of the story revolved around these four dudes on a road trip. Sure there’s a lot going on and of course the road trip determines the fate of the world but hey, the camaraderie, the bromance, that’s what it’s all about. And we have absolutely no qualms with that. It’s been a while since we saw such a closely knit group in a game, and as you play you learn more and more about them, their personalities, their likes and dislikes, why they do what they do in a particular way. It’s all integrated so seamlessly into the game, you don’t realise it but it’s not just Noctis, but you getting closer to them as well.
Most of the game revolves around exploring the world as your progress through the main quest. You have your Regalia to help you get to places and you can fast travel as well. But you need to have visited the place at least once before to be able to do so. Then there’s the Chocobos which are a blast to ride, they help you travel faster off-road and to places where your Regalia can’t go.
The various restaurants around the map offer bounties for you to hunt down and food for you to eat which provide buffs for a certain amount of time. Travelling takes place in real-time, and travelling and questing at night can be dangerous so you need to be careful about how you manage your time. The leveling system works by having you gather experience but it’s only tallied when you rest. So you could gather up a lot of exp and level up a whole bunch at once, which is what we did (ten whole levels at once!). As you progress through the main quest you eventually come to a point where you can no longer access the open world, except via time travel(yes, time travel), you can go back in time and do all the exploring and side quests you want, and return to the main quest whenever you please simply by resting. Now while there’s many things we greatly enjoyed about the game, there’s also some that frustrated us, for one thing you can’t have more than one bounty active at a time, and there was no means to sort side quests. So we couldn’t really do that age-old RPG trick of gathering and turning in all quests at once. But that’s still not as frustrating as chapter 13. Chapter 13 was a nightmare, and it was the only time during the whole game that we wished it would just end already. It was NOT fun. You go from a vast open world to a level that’s just basically a corridor. Yes, the whole level is just a winding corridor that just keeps going on and on and on. Eesh. But at least, we finally get some sort of closure when we finally finish the game, when everything finally falls into place(we think?).
Final Fantasy XV took a step away from previous titles with its real-time combat system and initially, it’s really awesome. It looks stylish and flashy and feels impactful, but over time you realise certain things. There is a sense of the game wanting you to actively do things in combat, like trying to blindside enemies for extra damage and attempting to perform link strikes with your teammates but it’s not enough. You can just hold down the circle button to perform a continuous combo with your melee weapon and hold down the square button to dodge everything, as long as you have mana to spare. Warping adds to the combat experience and there are often warp points around the battlefield which you can warp to and give yourself a short breather before warping back in, with awesome affect many a time might we add, but the combat still feels like it’s lacking. The camera can be your bane at times, especially in tight locations (f***ing chapter 13). It can completely block your view at times, making combat a real hassle.
There’s magic, which is limited to three tiers of the three basic black magic skills, fire, blizzard and thunder. The only way to use magic is via Elemancy, a skill only Noctis has that allows him to store magic inside magic flasks. These flasks can be used by him or anyone on the squad. Noctis can also add effects to the magic, such as causing it to heal allies, or poison enemies, however, we rarely found ourselves making use of that feature. Magic also had a cooldown, so if you missed you would have to wait a while before you could cast again. However, magic was still useful as despite being pretty basic, it made up for it with big numbers in damage.
Your teammates, for once, were actually useful in combat (as long as you kept their equipment up-to-date that is). We found ourselves making use of their abilities quite a lot, some of them, such as Ignis’ Regroup technique for one, we thought almost essential and never switched out. Link strikes were also pretty cool whenever they did proc and just made that ‘teamwork’ feel all the more prominent.
Summons have always been a big part of the Final Fantasy universe, and Final Fantasy XV also obviously has them. However, you get your first summon after a good hour or so into the game, which is a long time. Another thing that bummed us out was that you couldn’t summon at will, summons only became available after certain criteria were met during combat, and we don’t know what those criteria are. Because of this we don’t really get to see the summons as often as we’d want to, and we really wanted to see more of them, the way they wipe the field is just awesome.
|Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Price: PlayStation 4: 3,499
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Developers: Square Enix
Publishers: Square Enix
Graphics and SOUND
We’ve come to expect a certain quality from Final Fantasy games and they definitely didn’t hold back with XV. Everything is full of detail, from the very first monster you encounter to the smallest of furniture. You could definitely say that this game looks gorgeous. The render distance, the vast open world, the huge bosses, everything looks amazing.
And the music, oh the music. Final Fantasy is known for its amazing scores. Be it the radio while you’re driving around in the Regalia – which might we add, has some nostalgia as well with soundtracks of older Final Fantasy games included – or the music that starts playing during combat and of course the boss battles. The music definitely just makes the whole experience feel even more epic.
Verdict: Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV attempts to marry the old with the new, while Square is definitely trying to lure in new people into the franchise, they still maintain the essence of what they think Final Fantasy represents. It shows that they aren’t afraid to try new things, and while we do indeed have many qualms with the game, be it with the level design or the combat, we got an RPG experience that was fun at the end of the day, despite its frustrating moments. We feel like all of this could have been avoided if the game had stayed in development for a little longer, a lot of the issues could have been ironed out. Fans waited 10 years for this game, we’re sure they could’ve waited a little longer. Because we’d rather wait longer and get an amazing game, than not wait and get an half-assed one.
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Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh
If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.