Video Games

Review: ‘Final Fantasy XV’

Gabe Young ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Final Fantasy XV is a game that’s been in development for ten years. It’s had a tumultuous development cycle, several ups and downs, announcements, rumors, and cancellations, leaving the eager public to sit and watch. But now, all that is over and the game is finally real. So, was it worth the wait?

Image Credit: Square Enix
Image Credit: Square Enix

Well, yes and no. Final Fantasy XV is a strange game that feels sort of like a Frankenstein’s monster of several different games, probably a side effect of the number of different versions that came before it. Its combat, its story, its world, they all feel a little bit off, like they don’t quite fit together in an intended experience. At the end of the day, Final Fantasy XV is still a fun game and one of the better open world experiences released recently, but it’s more complicated than just being fun. Parts of it are good, parts of it are bad,  and they mix together to create something that’s sort of hard to define.

Let’s start with the plot. Probably what the Final Fantasy series is best known for, the plot of Final Fantasy XV is surprisingly not all there. For starters, watching Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (the animated companion film) is essentially required to understand the plot. Otherwise, so much of the world is glazed over and unexplained, especially major plot points, and a lot of the time the game will literally cut to footage from the film in an attempt to show some of those points. While they are visually impressive,
they don’t do a good enough job to cover the gaps in the plot. Now, all Final Fantasy games have plot holes, but these are more than just logical inconsistencies. These are entire plot points and objectives that are underdeveloped. It’s hard to care about the character’s quest when you don’t understand what the quest is in the first place.

Image Credit: Square Enix
Image Credit: Square Enix

Other than that, the plot itself has little impact on the game. You play as a pretty boy
prince headed out on a journey with three bodyguards when your nation’s capital is invaded and your father is killed. You then have no choice but to start a resistance against the invading Niflheim soldiers and foil the plots of the evil Niflheim leaders. It’s enjoyable enough, but the massive international conflict is really just a framing device for the game’s real focus; the four main characters. Prince Noctis and his bodyguards share amazingly well written relationships. They are all close friends, each with their own wants, needs, and personalities, however most of their characterization is done with amazing subtlety. In short, you come to care about your four boys more than anything else in the game simply because you come to know and love them just by talking with them and watching them interact.

So, the plot is fine and the writing is a joy to experience, but what of the gameplay?
That’s where the disparity sets in. The plot seems to have a focus on playing like a scrappy underdog, under constant attack from an overpowered enemy, but in practice, the game plays a lot more like Dragon’s Dogma. Fast travel is not encouraged and you’re made to travel across a decently sized map by car. You can go anywhere at once and just wander into some amazing natural environments; however, there is a distinct lack of villages, characters, interesting side quests or anything else that Final Fantasy overworlds are known for. The world map just feels like it was made for a game with a focus on exploration rather than combat and plot. The map itself is also rather small compared to expectations. The map is a decent size but rather cramped for the game’s scale. It grows incredibly small when you realize there are only about two distinct areas in the overworld, both of which become so much smaller once you get used to them. If the side quests and extra characters provided anything interesting, there might have been more fun to be had in the environments, but unfortunately the side quests are pretty lame. They are just excuses to get the player to go to a location, kill something and come back. Fairly basic, boring stuff.

Image Credit: Square Enix
Image Credit: Square Enix

Unlike previous Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XV takes inspiration from real time JRPGs instead of the more traditional turn based games. There is little to no finesse or skill required in the combat. To perform a combo, you simply hold a button and Noctis will do it for you. To dodge, block or parry, you simply hold a button and Noctis will do it for you. All your bodyguards fight on their own, either helping you out or not based on unlocked skills and strategies. This is a weird trade off that makes the combat like something between a true real time action game and a turn based action game. The animations are entirely polished and amazing to witness, ensuring that combat never gets stale visually as it simply looks so good. The combat, however, does lose its shine after a while. It’s certainly fun but once you figure out the little depth it has then all challenge is gone. The focus is taken off of pulse pounding real time action and placed more on strategy. This weird mashup of gameplay styles does provide for a good amount of entertainment and solid combat, but it can also result in frustrating moments when you feel like you’re fighting game more than the enemies. Also, the camera is… not the best. It gets caught on corners during lock on, hides your view in bushes, and is generally unfriendly. It’s not game ruining, just plain annoying.

Image Credit: Square Enix
Image Credit: Square Enix

Though it has several flaws and quite a few underwhelming elements, Final Fantasy XV is still a fun experience and a worthwhile buy for fans and newcomers alike. The experience itself, while a strange and monstrous amalgamation of several different game genres and design philosophies, somehow gets away with just being really
fun to play. The game itself really increases in enjoyment near the last half where encounters begin to feel more handcrafted with all the game mechanics in mind. Although that might not be enough to make up for a ten year wait, there’s fun to be had with this band of boys, and this is one Final Fantasy that’s worth returning to.

 

 

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