Final Fantasy XV – Review

finalfantasyxv-1After ten years in production that long time awaited Final Fantasy XV has arrived in November 29, 2016. as a longtime fan and being Final Fantasy my favorite series in videogames and Final Fantasy VII being my all time favorite game, I took my sweet time to play it to completion.

With such a legacy standing behind it, so many memorable stories, characters and worlds throughout the series and most of all, the very controversial reception to Final Fantasy XIII, this game had a lot to prove right from the get go. So, how did it do?

I’m happy to say this game is fantastic! Final Fantasy XV surely is a love letter to longtime fans of the series. Now it is not perfect and it does have its flaws yet still it’s enjoyable from beginning to end.

First and foremost, I would like to point out that I have so much to talk about in this game and surely there’ll be some things I’ll probably forget, so forgive me if I got back and forth on a few topics but there’s so much to say about it that making it simple is harder than beating the game.

Without going too much into the story, at least for now, it starts with you, Prince Noctis pushing your car that ran out of gas in the middle of the road. Soon you learn the city you live in has been attacked by the Empire, the antagonists of the game. If you have seen the movie Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV most of the background of the story should be pretty obvious, if not, I highly recommend watching the movie before playing the game. While the movie is not really good, it sure is a guilty please, enjoyable and does what it was supposed to do which is set up the story for Final Fantasy XV and better flesh out some of its characters like King Regis and Lunafreya.

Noctis will travel across the world of Eos with his friends Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis with the purpose to reclaim his throne. With a party of 4 people, fans of the series might question why such a small party. I personally liked this smaller party since it helps flesh out the characters more. In honesty, one complain to have about the game is that the three companions could have been better fleshed out by the end of the game so I can’t imagine having even more people. On its favor, though, while they aren’t as fleshed out as I hoped, the comradery between them is great and it grows throughout your adventure and by the end you can feel their genuine friendship  and even get concerned when something occurs to one of them.

One big new thing Final Fantasy XV has introduced to the series is that it’s an open world game. Sure, as the director of the game said, Hajime Tabata, the game will be more linear on occasion to focus on the story but the majority of it is an open world game. I do have to say that I’m and pretty happy with it. I just wished the execution were a little better in some areas but overall I loved this approach to the franchise. Since the original goal of the game by Tetsuya Nomura, the original creator of this story, was to make it feel like a roadtrip among friends, I think they succeeded immensely. While you are in story parts of the game it certainly feels more direct and it feels great but when you are just exploring the world it feels so liberating, so good to just walk around and discover new things to see and do.

The combat had some big changes with it going full action in lieu of the classic turn based combat the series has been known for. While it is on many ways simple is also very fun, flashy and enjoyable until the end of the game. You unlock more abilities while leveling, the spells, while few, look incredible and they really affect enemies, like making them look burned after dropping a huge fire spell on their heads.

If I could have asked for something else in the combat it would be the option to play as your companions from time to time. Not only for variety in gameplay but sometimes you just want them to get away from an attack you saw coming from a mile away and yet they stay right there just waiting for it and you’re the only one evading it.

With the game being an open world RPG there are a ton of good things but unfortunately some bad things too. The bad thing is that many of the sidequests are not meaningful in any way. Most feel like fetch quests but on the other hand, in many you get to fight some nice monsters, some of witch can be a real challenge and leaves you with a great feeling after defeating them. The thing about sidequests like these is that it really depends what kind of experience you want and how much you can take repetition, fortunately these are really what they are named after, “sidequests”. In no way you are forced to do them. If you want more gil or levels they sure are the best way to go about it but the game has a good progression that unless you want to tackle some really hard optional creatures you are hardly required to do sidequests.

While progressing you level up as usual by RPG standards. What makes it different is a grid in style of Final Fantasy X but is divided in areas like exploration, combat etc and here instead of each character having his own grid they all combine the same one. It’s a good system, I just wished there were more room for customization because as you reach the end of the game or at least start doing harder dungeons having some abilities are almost mandatory.

One big nod to this game is its dungeons. From the first to the very last optional dungeon, they gradually increase in difficulty, mechanics but what really impressed me was that they really made you feel like you are in a dungeon. A desolate and dangerous place.

Sure the first ones you come across are a little linear, but soon enough they’ll became harder to navigate. Funny that the best dungeons in the game are all optional. I may understand the developers not wanting to “force” something a little more complicated to casual players but I think they could’ve found a middle ground to include some harder dungeons in the main story, not harder in enemies but the lovely puzzles you find in the later ones.

While searching for all the Royal Arms, the weapons of previous kings, you’ll run into some really nice dungeons and encounters. My favorite fibrin of the game though is completely optional, all that is required is that you upgrade your car, the Regalia, to the max. With it upgraded you’ll be able to reach the Pitioss Ruins.

I think the Pitioss Ruins dungeon to be so frustrating yet so fulfilling it deserves a space of its own. The first thing to point out is that there is no combat here, not a single enemy. But you wonder how the only dungeon without combat would actually be the hardest content in the game, well, let me explain.

You start the dungeon by arriving at it’s door but it only opens at night. It has some symbols at the door and once inside your party leaves you, forcing you to travel alone in this maze. Here you’ll find all sorts of puzzles. I’ll refrain to spoil them but I assure some are mind bending. It’s so clever yet sometimes so obtuse it makes you wonder who in Square Enix came up with this idea. It’s brilliant but I admit I would not want to do this ever again. While traversing it there are many treasures to find, some in plain sight and others a little more hidden. In the very end of the dungeon there is an item called “Black Hood”, which in my opinion will make your life a lot easier when fighting some harder enemies. It took me about 3 to 4 hours to breast this dungeon and that was using a guide which I have no shame admitting but beware and save yourself some time when deciding to do it since you can’t save inside it, so it’s a real commitment.

Graphically this game is gorgeous. Sure there are a bunch of repeated assets throughout the world but the art direction is fantastic. This is what I love about Final Fantasy, they go all the way when it comes to “fantasy” when compared to other fantasy games or media. I do love playing medieval fantasy games, and while I do think the fantasy setting is one people have the most room to be creative, when Final Fantasy comes, it makes any other fantasy game look too familiar. In the case of Final Fantasy XV, it is “a fantasy based on reality” like the game itself tells you but it doesn’t stop the game from giving you a visual spectacle at every possible moment.

This abundance of fantasy is always welcome in my eyes giving the fact that in the previous console generation we had to endure so many games with a barf brown and cement gray color palette.

Now what would be of Final Fantasy without its music? I’m glad to say the music of Final Fantasy XV is nothing short of amazing. The composer, Yoko Shimomura, know also by composing the soundtracks of Kingdom Hearts and Parasite Eve, did a fantastic job! There are so many songs I can see myself humming from years on end, just like some songs from previous games and Parasite Eve, one of my all time favorite games, especially in the soundtrack department.

If I can have one complain about the music is that our should play more often. So, that’s not really a complain about the music itself but when walking on foot there are some big silent moments until a song starts to kick in. While traveling by car, at least you can select some selected tracks of the previous Final Fantasy games, which was an amazing thing to include. If you’re a big fan of the series like me, you can’t help but feel nostalgic when listening to those tracks. I admit I rarely used fast travel just so I could enjoy the music while riding the car and enjoying the view.

Overall I loved my time with Final Fantasy XV. It has a few issues and things to complain but considering all things combined I loved it! Bare in mind I am I huge Final Fantasy fan so this review is certainly biased and I won’t even try to hide it but I think anyone who is at least curious about it should give it a shot. If you are a longtime JRPG player like me, or a fan of the series, know you can safely jump into this world and have a ton of fun!

 

By the way, I want my Cindy car washing DLC!

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