It’s been a long wait to be able to get a Final Fantasy XV review together! Starting off as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006, Final Fantasy XV was stuck in development hell. It stayed like this for over 7 years before being rebranded as FFXV in 2013.
After a long 10 year wait, the game finally hit the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016, alongside a movie, Kingsglaive and 6-part anime series, Brotherhood). Both of which explained the backstory of the characters, and what happens during Noctis’ absence from the city of Insomnia.
With a lot of changes from the initial story, and the downward spiral the franchise has been in. Square Enix really had to go all or nothing to make this game the best it could possibly be, promising to be the best yet.
But did it deliver?
Here I will talk about all the elements of the game. The good that keeps you playing for hours, and the bad that shows the impact of the overly long development. Please do drop a comment using Disqus or Facebook and the end of the article. I’d love to read your thoughts and don’t forget to share this with friends and other gamers on social media and spread the word.
Look and Feel – “A New Recipe!”
To start off, this game is gorgeous. The graphics were stunning, and the colours were vibrant. The Luminous Engine that the game uses really strives to create a majestic open world in which you can visit every corner. Standing on a giant hill while watching the sun go down and cloaking the world in shadow is a breathtaking moment.
Travelling through the world was mostly a smooth experience with no major problems. Although, sometimes the Regalia would be going too fast for the game to be able to load roads quick enough. It took me out of the experience but otherwise, it didn’t break the game or make areas unreachable.
Playing on Xbox One, I had no framerate issues throughout the entire game. Other than the surprise loading screens every now and then, the experience was mostly stable.
The characters themselves are all incredibly detailed with some beautiful facial animations. The character design has been the victim of some internet mockery, and many feel it gave off a ‘boy-band in black’ vibe. Personally I love the design. And while they may share the same colour of clothes, their personalities clearly show through what they are wearing.
The same can be said about the side characters and Luna.
The music was catchy and memorable, but no surprise considering that it was composed by Yoko Shimomura. She is best known for her soundtrack to the Kingdom Hearts games. Somnus is a true work of art and will be in my head forever. Playing with my headphones on, the sound and music in this game is amazing. One stand out moment was my first summon and I was blown away by the bass of a huge explosion. It was just awesome.
Story and Gameplay – “Noct another one out!”
The story for FFXV has changed drastically since it’s reveal as Versus XIII. The removal of Stella being the most notorious change. In addition to the removal of entire levels and story elements, it’s a completely different story now to what was shown before.
The battle system in this game has completely changed and is now real time by default. You have the option to choose Wait Mode however. This changes the combat system to be more turn based like older entries. This time, you can hack and slash as much as you want. The enemies are in the field and attacking them doesn’t put you in an arena. Just fight until you win.
Escaping is still an option though, just run out of the red circle on your mini-map… but no respectable Final Fantasy player does that now, do they?
Magic too has also had an overhaul. Now as you collect loot from monsters, you can craft flasks of magic, combining different aspects and potencies. Want to burn an enemy and do freeze damage at the same time? Now you can, just by combining the right items. Creating spells however requires magic flasks, and although you can find more as you play, you always have a limited amount so you must decide what spells to create wisely.
The story starts with you playing the role of Prince Noctis. Right away you are saying goodbye to your father, King Regis and leaving the Crown City of Insomnia. You, and your entourage are heading for Altissia where you will wed your betrothed, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. The actual gameplay starts with you pushing your car which ran out of gas barely outside the Crown City, while Florence Welch sings her beautiful cover of ‘Stand By Me’.
In these first few moments, you get a feel for what the story will be like, and how these 4 friends are really just a bunch of nerds on a road trip. Perfect!
The first half of the game takes place in the huge open world, you can accept quests, take on hunting missions, go fishing, look for dungeons, etc. This is where the game shines, as you can literally go anywhere you want and driving around in the Regalia listening to previous Final Fantasy soundtracks is great. The dungeons are especially fun, and getting to the end of each one feels appropriately rewarding.
Different from other Final Fantasy entries, you don’t receive XP right away. The world is littered with designated camping spots, staying at one of these for the night will tally all your accumulated XP and level you up. You also benefit from buffs for the next day depending on what you have Ignis cook you. Staying at a hotel instead will multiply your XP, so just finding somewhere to sleep can be a big decision in itself. The camp where you can potentially get extra attack and HP, or the hotel which will double the amount of XP accumulated?
The second half of the game is when it gets linear and the story starts to unravel. There are numerous plot holes and events that don’t get explained in-game. Lot’s of questions get asked which don’t get answered, and the game kind of falls apart.
The infamous Chapter 13 is a prime example here, this is when the game adds horror elements and hiding mechanics which don’t really work. Trying to hide with the ‘A’ button just made Noctis jump like an excited child. The plot is a bit all over the place, and relying on Kingsglaive to show a whole chunk of story wasn’t the best idea on Square’s part either. If you didn’t watch the film, then you wouldn’t understand exactly what happened in Insomnia, as the game doesn’t really tell you.
The recent changes to Chapter 13 and the added New Game Plus is a great excuse to play through the game again, albeit being super overpowered depending on how much you went out of your way to get powerful gear. With the upcoming DLC’s for Gladio, Prompto and Ignis, hopefully these answer some questions and add new places to explore.
Even though it has many flaws, FFXV tried its absolute best and deserves your love. It started out great, the open world is one of the most fun open worlds I’ve played in…. But later, it loses focus as the game becomes more linear and the story gets jumbled.
However, Square’s more westernized approach to RPGs does work, and although they just needed to nail down the story a bit more, the gameplay feels terrific and it’ll leave you wanting to play more.
Since the release they’ve announced new updates for the story, and even an avatar system, so we’ll see how it all turns out. For now however, I urge you to give Final Fantasy XV a chance, it might surprise you how much you like it.
Walk tall, my friends.
About this Final Fantasy XV Review
Developers & Publishers: Square Enix
Gaming Platform: PS4, Xbox One
Genre: JRPG, RPG
Final Fantasy XV Verdict
Graphics - 9/10
Story - 7.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Fun Factor - 9/10