Review: Final Fantasy XV

Developer: Square Enix | Year: 2016 | List Price: $34.99 | Buy from Amazon

Final Fantasy XV, the latest instalment in the long-running Final Fantasy series of role-playing games, is a game that has been in development in some form or another since 2006, a whopping ten years before its final release in 2016. I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy, having played most of the other mainline titles in the franchise, so I was excited to see the newest developments in the series, but I had definite reservations about the direction Square Enix decided to take in this instalment. Having now finished the main story, I can tell you that Final Fantasy XV is, at once, one of the most wonderful and one of the most frustrating experiences in recent memory.

Final Fantasy XV follows the adventures of Crown Prince Noctis and his friends Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis. Unlike in earlier Final Fantasy games, all these characters are in the party from the start, and they’re already great friends. This is one of the strongest points of the world and premise. Although the dialogue is sometimes a little silly  (I’m not sure if this is down to the original writing or the translation), the constant banter among the four friends really gives the player a warm sense of their friendship.

 

There are numerous sidequests and monster hunts to keep you busy but unfortunately most of these are simple fetch quests. I did spend a lot of time doing these to level up my characters and work towards the platinum trophy (which is quite achievable), and they were fun enough, but in a post-Witcher 3 gaming ecosystem, having so many simplistic quests in a big-budget game is simply unacceptable.

Final Fantasy hasn’t truly been turn-based since Final Fantasy X, and this instalment isn’t one to go back on this trend. The real-time combat, dubbed the Active Cross Battle system, involves different commands mapped to different buttons like most action RPGs, but a Wait Mode is also available that pauses the battle if the player stops moving. This gives you the chance to plan out your actions and can create a pseudo-turn-based experience. All in all, I wasn’t a big fan of the combat. Even after 40 hours of playing I still felt like I didn’t really know how to play properly and battles ranged from being entirely too easy to long drawn-out ones against enemies who had far too much health. I’m sure there is some depth to be had, but it really isn’t intuitive and I beat the game mostly by spamming warp-strikes and normal attacks. Adding to the frustration and chaos is the fact that you only directly control Noctis. His three friends are mostly AI-controlled and spend most of the time getting themselves killed.

But my main complaint is really the main story. It’s honestly a hot mess and even having beaten the entire thing, I have no real idea of what is actually going on. It speaks to the general likability of the characters that I was even able to finish the game, because every hyper-dramatic plot twist and epic cutscene only served to emphasise how ridiculous and overblown the whole story is. And for all the bad things I had to say earlier about Final Fantasy XV’s sidequests, I actually enjoyed the fetch quests more than the main game and after each chapter of incoherent storyline, I always found myself drawn back into aimlessly running around on a chocobo or trying to catch bigger fish.

Verdict: Final Fantasy XV has high highs and low lows. I spent 43 hours slowly trudging through the main storyline, which I didn’t much care for, or even understand, frankly. But I still feel there is more to be enjoyed (I’m intending on mopping up the last few trophies for the platinum). However, this game certainly isn’t for everyone and I would urge anyone considering this purchase to think about what they want from this game. If you’re interested in exploring a world filled with interesting locales and enemies to fight, there are honestly better games out there. I’m not even sure this game can be recommended to old-time Final Fantasy fans, as there isn’t much in common between XV and say, VI or VII from a gameplay perspective. But there is a certain special something about Final Fantasy XV that I can’t put my finger on exactly, but that makes every frustration and every gripe feel worthwhile once it’s all over.  Score: C

Developer: Square Enix | Year: 2016 | List Price: $34.99 | Buy from Amazon

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