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Ten years after being announced, Square Enix has released Final Fantasy XV. The first thing displayed on-screen when starting the hotly-anticipated game lets you know that this game is “a Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers.”
For the most part, this holds true thanks to solid role-playing game (RPG) mechanics and a great world. Let’s see if this RPG adventure is worth your time.
Disclaimer: I played about 15 hours on PS4 and reached Chapter 5 in the main story and completed about two dozen sidequests.
While Final Fantasy is a long-running series, its games are only loosely connected. Thus, you can jump right into XV without prior knowledge of the franchise.
This time, you play as Noctis, a prince who sets out for his wedding with the Oracle Lunafreya. Their marriage plans to mark peace between two states in turmoil, but the plan changes quickly when Noctis’s hometown falls under attack.
Most of the time in XV, Noctis is accompanied by his three close friends Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. Each of the party members has a different skill and personality. From the beginning, the game does a fantastic job of building the camaraderie between the party members. Whether the dialogue is story-related or random, these characters are fun to travel with and are anything but stale.
The game’s world of Eos is a hybrid of typical RPG medieval fantasy and modern flair. Noctis and company drive around the world in a ritzy car, and there are convenience stores and gas stations. At the same time though, you’re still fighting with swords, and can use magic to attack enemies. It’s a cool combo, and works well for the game.
Strangely, there’s a bit of product placement from Coleman and Cup Noodles found in the game. This feels out of place, but isn’t a huge flaw.
Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful game. It takes place in an open world with a diverse structure. You’ll tromp through deserts, navigate ice caves, and wade through marshes just a few miles from each other. While wandering around, you might even stop to take in the world’s beauty. Prompto’s photography serves to highlight these moments, as well.
The music fares just as well: this game’s soundtrack is phenomenal. Whether it’s the twangy hillbilly tune that plays at small towns, the creepy atmospheric tune in caves, or the grand overture for exploring, the music always sets the mood and is a highlight. One of the most epic tracks is from an early boss battle, which really brings the tension that a fight against a colossal enemy should have:
It’s not a perfect world, though. Character animations in conversations are a bit awkward and repetitive, and you’ll notice graphical pop-in on textures sometimes. In all, though, XV has few graphical problems, and brings an enjoyable world to explore.
Gameplay and Quests
Final Fantasy is primarily an RPG series, but you won’t find any turn-based battles here. Instead, XV takes a real-time approach to fighting monsters. When you approach some foes, the space around you turns into the battlefield.
Though you aren’t taking turns, the fighting still follows an RPG structure, with stats for everything. Holding one button will attack a nearby enemy, while holding another will brace in defense. You can equip magic to deal massive damage to an area of enemies, and your allies use abilities that help out in battle. It’s not quite as combo-drive as an action game like Bayonetta but not as slow-paced as a 16-bit RPG.
The battle system takes a bit of getting used to, and it’s hard to tell if you’re performing well or not. A variety of healing items makes sure you can recover from mistakes, however, and it’s never frustrating.
Noctis can equip a variety of weapons, while his allies each specialize in one type. As you complete quests, you’ll earn ability points (AP) that unlock new abilities in a tree. These range from helping the team recover to granting bonus experience outside of combat.
So Many Sidequests
After a few basic quests, Final Fantasy XV pretty much lets you loose to explore bits of the world. Take a walk around, and you’ll soon have more sidequests than you know what to do with. Restaurateurs contract you to hunt down dangerous monsters, shop owners ask you to retrieve stolen cargo, and others ask you to find certain gemstones or take photos.
While these sidequests are fun, they do start to get a bit repetitive. Most quests involve going to a specific point on the map and either killing enemies or picking up an item. Since most characters give you a second version of their quest after you complete the first, your “to-do” list can start feeling like a chore.
Final Fantasy XV features a day and night cycle. At night, it’s obviously harder to see and dangerous creatures come out, so the game advises you should avoid traveling at night. At any time, you can rest at an inn (which costs money), or make camp at certain points in the wilderness (free). These tally up your XP and advance the clock to 6 AM.
This is a neat idea, but it ends up making questing kind of choppy. It ties into another problem: car navigation.
During the day, Ignis will drive the car to any point on the map automatically. This can take five or more real-time minutes for long drives, during which there’s not much to do. You’ll probably be checking your phone during long rides, which makes them feel like filler. Once you’ve visited a location once you can fast-travel to it, relieving this problem.
However, at night, Noctis must drive the car manually. Because you can’t fast-travel at night, getting stuck out in the field at night means driving all the way to an inn, or risking your life to find a camp. Being limited to the car for long trips is boring, and turns quests into multi-step annoyances that they shouldn’t be.
Despite navigation being a pain and nighttime being an inconvenience, Final Fantasy XV succeeds in its quest of being an RPG for first-time players and fans of the series. Fantastic characters, a beautiful world, and an all-star soundtrack add up to a great RPG. The abundance of sidequests means you could spend a lot of time in this game, so it’s a great adventure to sink your teeth into if you’re looking for something meaty.
Our recommendation: If you’re an RPG fan or a Final Fantasy diehard, Final Fantasy XV is a must-have. First-time players should have a great time in this world too; just know that there are some slow moments, and the navigation makes questing pretty choppy.
All this talk about Final Fantasy have you itching for more? Check out little-known games in the series you should try.
Have you been waiting for Final Fantasy since its debut? If you’ve played the game, let us know what you think about it!