Final Fantasy XV is a title that’s been in development for 10 years and there were multiple times that critics and consumers alike thought they’d never see its release.
Originally named Final Fantasy Vs. XIII, it was rebranded as the next main entry in the iconic franchise in 2012.
Final Fantasy XV proclaims itself to be “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers” and honestly, it’s very difficult to argue against this. It features a unique blend of gameplay complemented by a storyline that focuses far more on character development and relationships rather than saving the world and because of this, it’s one of 2016’s greatest games.
Final Fantasy XV Review: Story
The story kicks off in the middle of a desert, with the game’s protagonist Prince Noctis and his friends, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto pushing a car along a road.
The four of them are travelling to the neighbouring capital city of Altissia, on an important mission. The prince is set to marry Princess Lunafreya as part of a peacekeeping operation to bring an end to hostilities between the Kingdom of Lucis and the Niflheim Empire.
Of course things don’t always work out as planned and Noctis’s life becomes a lot more complicated. The prince soon learns that his home has come under attack by an outfit called The Empire and reports indicate that his father, King Regis is dead.
Shortly after this, they encounter the Crownsguard commander Cor Leonis who instructs Noctis to take up the ancient weapons of past Lucian kings, fight against The Empire, reclaim their home and restore peace to the world of Eos. No pressure right?
Final Fantasy XV Review: Characters
The true beauty of the story doesn’t lie in its plot arches of impending doom or romantic interplay fans are used to seeing in Final Fantasy games. In Final Fantasy XV the real draw is the relationship between Noctis and his friends. Their camaraderie hooks players and reels them in completely. The theme of “Brotherhood” is what makes the game’s story so enjoyable.
Players will be become acquainted with each of Noctis’s friend’s personalities almost seamlessly as they progress through the game. You could for example be taking on a group of enemies and the banter between Noctis and his friends cuts through the combat, felling so natural and legitimately heart-warming.
The unbreakable bond these four friends share is palpable and that description may sound cringeworthy, the game does a great job of conveying through some fantastic writing.
Final Fantasy XV – Mechanics
Final Fantasy XV is a massive departure from turn-based combat seen in a main series title. Pressing and holding the Circle button sets Noctis off on a combo attack reminiscent of titles like Devil May Cry or God of War. Square lets you evade enemy attacks while draining some of your mana in the process. Additionally, players will be able to parry certain enemy attacks and counter with a devastating blow of their own by pressing Circle at the right time.
Triangle initiates Noctis’ unique warp skill which can be used for attacking or retreating. Noctis and his allies will also perform “link strikes”, which combine their attacks as a team. Another level of complexity is added by the addition of a Techniques menu where players can order Gladiolus, Ignis or Prompto to perform a specific pre-assigned attack in the heat of battle.
Magical attacks in FFXV however are rather lacklustre compared to previous Final Fantasy games. Players are limited to Fire, Ice and Thunder spells and slight variations thereof. This is primarily because magic has been reduced to Noctis concocting alchemy based bombs from absorbed energy found in elemental stone deposits. These magic bottle bombs are also subject to lengthy cool-down periods as they can wipe out masses of enemies in an instant.
Summons in Final Fantasy XV are completely over the top with victory guaranteed should they be called to to the fight. The only drawback is that summoning requires specific battle parameters to be met.
For example, the player’s character might need to be badly injured in battle or they might need to be in a large open space before being able to call forth one of the Astral summons to assist them. This turns summoning into quite a treat if and when you’re able to make use of it in battle but many Final Fantasy veterans would probably have preferred to use summons whenever they want to.
Final Fantasy XV Review: A mix of old and new
For the most part, the combat in Final Fantasy XV is incredibly fun. It might have been simplified for newcomers but it’s still so satisfying pulling off cool ‘link strike’ combos. The camera angle does become obscured at times in tight spaces and this can become annoying especially when using warp attacks.
Outside of combat, exploration and the open-world provides players with ample activities to keep them busy throughout the game. Noctis can fish, ride and race a chocobo, drive his royal car, go on hunts, take up a multitude of side quests or play an arcade mini-game located in most cafes in-game.
Final Fantasy XV is filled with things to do, gorgeous locales to see and a rich story to enjoy at every turn. Not being able to select more than one active quest or hunt at a time is a problem though and is an oversight that hopefully gets rectified with a patch in the near future. Loading times are also quite long should you opt to use fast travel to get around the map.
Final Fantasy XV has adopted a leveling up system where players need to camp or rest before experience points gained get applied to their characters. A secondary form of leveling up makes use of the Ascension Grid, which is quite similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid. This grid uses Ability Points or AP to unlock nodes which grant specific skills or stats and this can be accessed at any time in the game.
Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto also have their own signature skills to level up (Survival, Cooking and Photography respectively) and one of these adds another layer to the game which honestly makes it even more special. This skill being Prompto’s ability to take photos in-game with his camera. Every time you rest in game you’ll be treated to new photos of your adventure and while It sounds gimmicky, Prompto’s photos document your escapades so beautifully you’ll end up saving or sharing so many of them. Your party members will also talk about the photos occasionally as you go through them.
Final Fantasy XV mixes old and new mechanics elements quite well and the end product is simply fantastic, in spite of its slight drawbacks.
Final Fantasy XV Review: Presentation
Visually, Final Fantasy XV is absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail in the environments, characters and creatures is breathtaking. At times players will be tempted to stop playing and take in the beauty around your them. The dynamic lighting and weather effects further enhance the game’s aesthetic; watching puddles form in real time from the rain never gets old.
The soundtrack is no slouch either. The battle is never annoying and keeps up with the fast paced combat. The most notable soundtrack related positive though is the fact that the game lets you access a select library of songs from each main Final Fantasy titles simply by using the royal car’s radio or Noctis’ MP3 player. This was a nice touch on the part of the developers and pure fan service to series veterans since they’ll be able to play iconic tracks from earlier titles in the franchise throughout the game.
Final Fantasy XV: Verdict
After 10 years of development, Square Enix has delivered a game that’s filled to the brim with quality content. Final Fantasy XV is genuinely “A Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers”.
Final Fantasy XV’s blend of old and new works perfectly and delivers one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences in years. The franchise may have stagnated somewhat with Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels but Final Fantasy XV sees a return to form, whether you’re a veteran or giving this franchise a go for the first time.
- Final Fantasy XV was reviewed for htxt by Sahil Lala. Review code was provided by the publisher and the game was reviewed on a PS4