Final Fantasy XV

Platforms:
Xbox OnePS4
Released:
November 29, 2016
Publisher:
Square Enix
Developer:
Square Enix

Review

Final Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos. With the exception of the Kingdom of Lucis, all the world’s countries and territories are under control of the empire of Nifleheim and their vast magitek armies. Noctis Lucis Caelum, the crown prince of Lucis sets out to marry his childhood love Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, but on the way discovers news of Nifleheim’s betrayal of Lucis on the day of the peace treaty signing. Thus his quest transcends into one not only of love, but of recovery and ascension for the new King of Lucis.

The storyline of Final Fantasy develops nicely until about halfway through the 15 chapters that comprise it. From there onwards two things annoyed me greatly. The first is that the game almost expects you to forgive the lack of several large plot chunks with little or no information as to what’s happening in them. The second is that key places mentioned in the storyline that I was desperate to explore in depth are given to you to look at, but not experience.

In terms of gameplay, the middle chapter also acts like the edge of a coin. The first half is light-hearted. The guys laugh, joke and revel in the playfulness of their brotherhood. The second half is much darker and the bonds that are formed are put to the test many times before the inevitable climax.

Noctis

The Crown prince of Lucis and the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XV.

In battle Noctis is able to use all weapon types available in the game as well as the powers of Lucii ; Phantom weapons of tremendous power and several kinds of magic (Ring and elemental).

Noctis’ skill is fishing, which is possibly the most relaxing activity in the game, and taken to a whole new level in this title.

Gladiolus

The hunky bodyguard type of Noctis’ entourage, Gladiolus wields greatswords, shields and magic in battle.

Gladiolus’ skill is survival, which is improved by travelling on foot and camping out. He scavenges for items after battle which improve in type as he levels also.

Ignis

One hell of a butler and competition for Sebastian to be sure, Ignis wields daggers, spears and magic in battle.

Ignis’ skill is cooking, which plays a significant role in the game. Food confers a variety of stat boons on your party which you need to take advantage of throughout your travels.

Prompto

The highly enthusiastic whiz with a camera, Prompto wields guns, machinery and magic in battle.

Prompto’s skill is photography, which really allows you to get closer to the world of Eos as you play. As he levels this skill you gain access to new filters and types, which of course includes selfies.

One area where Square Enix really took a noticeable step back in this game is gender representation. From the very first title in the franchise there have always been playable female characters, and to me, Final Fantasy XV does feel like a bit of a sausage fest. The female characters that are portrayed are either fragile or hyper-sexualised, which also detracted from their involvement. I’m looking forward to the promise of other playable characters in upcoming patches, and am desperately hoping that a few prominent female leads are included in this line up.

The world of Eos took my breath away. It is enormous. It is beautiful. A significant part of the experience of this game is getting lost in it visually. In true Final Fantasy form players are exposed to a wide variety of environments. What is new to this winning formula is the new age convenience that has been added, and the synergy with which the two work together. Showcasing the new direction the series is heading, settlements equipped with motels and service stations indicate civilisation. The most beautiful of the cities is Altissa, with Insomnia coming a close second. The dungeons of the game are well crafted, nestled inconspicuously in the scenery, and are transitioned to flawlessly.

Other than running, getting around Eos comprises two main forms of transportation; the Regalia and chocobos.

The Regalia

A beast of a vehicle and a constant reminder of where Square Enix has attempted to modernise the game. Throughout your adventure you need to fuel and care for the Regalia, and there is a whole series of side quests dedicated to upgrading it. Investing in these upgrades is definitely worth it, especially if you want to see Eos from more than just behind the wheel.

The quick travel option is only accessible when you hop in the Regalia which I thought was a great touch of realism to the game. You have to have been to a location to quick travel to it, but it is a feature that this game would have been foolish not to include.

Driving around

Chocobos

One of the greatest joys for me personally in this game was the way in which the chocobos were integrated into it. While they have obviously been in previous titles, they formed the backbone of getting around for me in Final Fantasy XV. They’re also included in the camping cutscenes once you unlock them, where you are able to feed them different foods to do different things. They level up the more you use them, gaining more stamina, jump height and even getting the ability to help in battle. Rather thank just being passive modes of transport they are given a life of their own, and there is nothing quite as fun as seeing four grown men weave throughout the undergrowth with their mounts kweh-ing to their hearts’ content.

Kweh!

Combat

Final Fantasy XV introduces a new system called the Active Cross Battle system. Instead of using a menu system the player employs certain actions by hitting specifically mapped buttons, and hotkeys four weapons to the directional pad. Noctis is the only controllable character in battle and can do the following:

  • Standard attacks/ magic
  • Warp attacks
  • Defending/ Parrying

Combat in Final Fantasy takes the form of an intense and complicated dance that gets as wild as you want. Different weapons have different attack and reaction times. Warp striking across the battlefield looks amazing and does extra damage. Blocking triggers counterattack opportunities that take a surprising amount of skill to do. Wait Mode is a customisable option that, if player input stops, greyscales the game and allows you to Libra information from your enemies to tailor your approach.

In addition to normal attacks, there are attacks that deal more damage based on Noctis’ position called sidestrikes or blindsides. Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus can also get in on these strikes to deal even more damage again. Noctis’ companions are controlled exclusively by AI, and believe me, it could do with an evasion algorithm.

Battles continue to take place in the immediate environment rather than transitioning to a separate arena. When approaching enemies, a threat meter appears that grows in intensity the closer the party gets to enemy mobs. The battlefield is outlined in red, and if at any point things get too much for you, simply step outside of them and the battle is over.

On top of the traditional HP/ MP mechanics, if a character loses all of their HP they enter Danger Mode, a period of time where they must either be rescued or a restorative item used. On top of this, in some situations the damage you take comes off of your max HP and won’t regenerate naturally without use of an item/ resting, meaning you need to take care you don’t get beat up too badly.

Magic

Magic is separated into two kinds; Ring magic as mentioned earlier and elemental magic or elemancy. Ring magic becomes accessible to Noctic at a late stage of the game via a particular item. When you get to that point yourself, I hope the same sense of omnipotence that I did, it was somewhat intoxicating.

Elemancy is a skill unique to the royal Lucian bloodline and as such is Noctis’ to wield. Noctis is able to absorb elemental energy from the environment and then contain it in magic flasks to create spells. In my opinion, this instantly connects Noctis to his kingdom in a powerful way, and experimenting with spell combinations is a lot of fun. Alongside the primary elements of fire, ice and lightning, you can add various items you collect to the mix to create a variety of extra effects. Curiously there is no cure magic present independent of adding it in via items, so battles (especially endgame) can become incredibly item heavy.

The summons/eidolons/aeons return as the Archaoens (also referred to as the astrals) and are considerably more intimidating in this incarnation. Once unlocked, which Archaeon assists you via summoning in combat is seemingly determined by a range of factors, and I have only seen 3 in battle to date.

Levelling up and character development falls under the category of ascension, which I feel is greatly appropriate given the context of the game.

When it comes to levelling up you are faced with two choices. Levelling up is achieved by tallying up the experience points you have by resting. You can either elect to stay in paid accommodation to receive an experience multiplier, or camp out and prepare free stat enhancing food if you have the raw ingredients. 

It is incredibly frustrating that the AP is shared between the four guys rather than having individual pools, however, looking over the various skill trees, it becomes apparent as to why that is (your team would quickly overpower most enemies).

What will you sacrifice to banish the dark....

With a consistent and reliable battle system and incredible world to explore that stems from the classic and explores the new, I am still thoroughly captivated by this game. Yes it is flawed, but when there are moments that stick vividly in my mind after 50+ hours of playtime, the formula clearly works.

Things like watching the adamantoise erupt from a mountain, Shiva giving a frozen kiss of death and one of the most sinister (and psychotic) antagonists in Final Fantasy history coaxing you towards the final confrontation are epic moments. As far as the collection of gaming memories in my mind are concerned, I have several new entries to file.

This is yet another fantastic tale of magic and crystals, love and despair, kinship and broken bonds. If you are looking to experience any of the above leave your preconceptions at the door and get lost in the ride.