- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 22 March 2017
- Written by JOHN MORANO | STAFF WRITER
Final Fantasy XV is a game I, and many others, have been waiting to play for a very long time now. The game was originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII way back in 2006, it spent about seven years in development before many elements of its core concept was scrapped and the title changed to Final Fantasy XV. FFXV released in Nov. of 2016, 10 years after it was announced. I guess at this point, the big question is, was it worth the wait? My answer would be yes, Final Fantasy XV is the core series first masterpiece since Final Fantasy IX.
Final Fantasy XV follows Noctis, the crown prince of Lucis, in a tragic story of brotherhood and loss. The story is multi-media, with parts being told via a movie, Kingsglaive, an anime webseries, and a demo (available for free via the Playstation store). The world of Final Fantasy XV is beautifully designed, and aside from linear narrative sections, the game’s experience is largely an open world one. At the start of the game Noctis’s father, King Regis, is killed, and his kingdom occupied by the Niflheim empire. Noctis had been on a journey to wed his childhood sweetheart, Lady Lunafreya, and establish a treaty with the Niflheim Empire, her captors. His father’s assassination changed the situation, forcing him to turn around and go on the offensive. Players spend most of the game traveling around, helping Noctis’s subjects and disrupting Niflheim in an open world environment.
Initial praise aside, the game is not above criticism. Final Fantasy XV can only properly be referred to as a flawed masterpiece, with its three biggest flaws, in my mind, being the plot’s poor use of the open-world, the action gameplay, and the imprecise camera. My largest criticism of this game is that it makes poor use of the beautiful open world. The latter half of the story, which contains most of the important events, is entirely linear/separate from the open world, whereas most of the game prior had made use of the open world. Not only does this make the game’s ending feel rush, and it also creates a sense of inconsistency. I’m not convinced that Square Enix knows how to write side missions and mesh them with the gameplay. Most side stories and associated characters were rather shallow; anyone who has played games from series like The Witcher or Elder Scrolls would expect more. That said, the core narrative is so well done, I was willing to overlook this glaring flaw.
My second major issue with FFXV is the action combat, mainly that it doesn’t feel like fastpaced action to me. Standard enemies typically fall into one of two categories, weak ones who die in just a few hits, or tanky ones which require a prolonged assault, often surviving several minutes. Inconvenience aside, neither of these represent much of a threat to the player, especially considering the amount of consumables provided. The combat controls also felt too passive for my tastes. The camera is quite flawed; it follows action poorly and even locking on to enemies felt imprecise. Oftentimes when I needed to be looking toward the enemy I was facing, my camera was staring stupidly at a bush or a stone.
Final Fantasy XV features a number of standout features, such as Prompto (one of your companions) taking pictures of the world as you adventure through it, which you can choose to save. The fishing mini-game is the best such system I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Also, the cooking system gives players an interesting and immersive way to boost their power for challenging encounters.
One thing that I can’t praise enough about this game is the latter half of the narrative. There are numerous scenes and fights which take place on an epic scale; Eidolon encounters were my personal favorites. In a lesser game, these fights would have been a simple cut scene, or series of quick-time events, but Final Fantasy XV worked them into gameplay and they turned out to be some of the best moments in the series.
Now it’s time to discuss the ending, which, for obvious reasons, I can’t go into too much detail about. That said, this is one of the most satisfying endings I have experienced in video games, let alone the Final Fantasy series, for ages. Also, if it’s possible for a tragedy to have a happy ending, which is quite debatable, this one arguably did, which is a plus for many players.
Finally, there’s the issue of DLC, which FFXV does have. Personally, I’m not a fan of DLC. I typically see it used as an excuse for developers/publishers to release half-finished games, and charge their customers more money for the finished product. That said, DLC is becoming a reality, and I feel it would be wrong for me to criticize Square Enix and Final Fantasy for conforming to it. Suffice it to say, Final Fantasy XV lacked an epilogue (details about its world after the game’s climax) and DLC is supposed to fill in the blanks.
In conclusion, I’ve been a fan of the Final Fantasy series for about a decade. That aside, I found it to be well worth the wait, being my third Final Fantasy to date. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who found this story interesting; that said, anyone interested should regard it as a flawed masterpiece, as it absolutely has flaws. I would rate it at 8.5/10, and state that it has, to a large degree, reignited my interest in the Final Fantasy series, which was beginning to wane. If I have learned anything from the Final Fantasy series, it is that each fantasy is anything but final, and I am now looking forward to the next more than ever.
IMAGE TAKEN from www.youtube.com