I have not been truly invested in a game for quite some time. There have been games I have liked, even games I have loved but no game that truly gripped me. The last game to do so was Mass Effect 3. I was so invested in the trilogy that I could not help be invested and gripped by the final installment. Since then however I have enjoyed playing games but none have had me losing track of time. That is why I was surprised when Final Fantasy XV did just that.
I have played a few Final Fantasy’s before. Both Final Fantasy X and XIII but I did not really care for the story. I even spent many hours in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. No game in the franchise ever gripped me like Final Fantasy XV did. The first night I started playing I started at 6pm and before I knew it the sun had come up the next day. So it’s fair to say I loved it.
The story in Final Fantasy XV focuses on Noctis. The Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis. As Noctis you go on a massive quest to retake the throne back from the Kingdom of Niflheim and rid the world of Deamons. Along the way you will face off against Gods, Raid dungeons and meet a whole cast of interesting people.
Noctis is not alone on this Quest. Three of his closest friends join Noctis. First up there is Ignis, Raised alongside Noctis since he was a child. Ignis is to become Noctis’s advisor when he comes king. Then we have Gladious, Noctis’s sworn sword. Gladious’s family has always served as the protectors of the Kings of Lucis and Gladio is the same. He would happily give his live in service of Noctis. Lastly we have my personal favourite, Prompto. Prompto went to school with Noctis but they did not become friends till high school. Since then they have always stuck together and it would be hard to find a closer group of friends.
The bond between this group of friends is the real shining star of the story. All my favourite parts from the story involve delving deeper into the relationship between these characters and seeing them interact together on the journey. Some of the best parts come from just sitting around the campfire with your friends and looking at the pictures Prompto took as Ignis cooks a meal.
The main storyline however seems to be at odds with itself. The first 7 or 8 chapters I find it hard pressed to remember any of the story. This is due to there being far more interesting things to discover in the open world. I spent 40 hours in the game before I even advanced the story half way. The last 5 chapters however have some of the best story beats I have found in a game. The story improves at the expense of gameplay however, as the last chapters are extremely linear as you leave the open world behind for new areas.
The gameplay loop in Final Fantasy XV is truly addictive. In the first 2 acts you are completing quests and monster hunts as you explore the open world. How much you get out of the game depends on how much you put in. You could complete the main storyline in 25 hours with ease and leave it at that. However if you put in more time and effort, complete the many side quests and explore the world for dungeons and other secrets. The experience becomes a whole lot better and interesting.
The combat in Final Fantasy XV is far closer to Kingdom Hearts then other Final Fantasy games. The turn-based combat of the rest of the franchise is gone. A more action based melee system replaces it. You choose what weapons to use and when to use them. The magic system in the game consists of finding magic deposits around the world and using the magic to craft consumable spells to throw at your enemies. While I would prefer a magic system more like the old Final Fantasy games, this does add a tactical element to the game. Your friends also have their own special skills you can trigger when needed.
The leveling system is also different in Final Fantasy XV. Instead of getting the Exp you earn straight away, it is stored till you rest at a Haven or Rest Stop. This also adds a little tactical element to to the choice of where to rest as well. Due to the fact that when you rest at a Haven Ignis will cook a meal to boost some of your stats temporally. While sleeping at a Motel or Hotel adds a modifier to the amount of Exp you get to where you can double or even triple the Exp you have saved up.
Graphics & Sound
Final Fantasy XV is an extremely stunning game. The character models in the game our some of the best I have seen. The only problem is some of the female characters are to over sexualized for my liking. The most stunning part of the graphical masterpiece however is the world. Each of the different areas have their own unique feel and aesthetic to them. The Vistas are absolutely stunning. Looking out from the city of Lestellum to the meteor that is still on fire is one of the most awe striking moments in the game. I can not fault a single thing about the graphics.
The sound design in Final Fantasy XV is as always with the Final Fantasy games amazing. They have included the music from previous installments in the franchise as collectibles you can buy for your MP3 players. The best music in the game comes from the fights with the six gods. The music during these moments chapter the game perfectly.
The voice acting in Final Fantasy XV is also incredible. Each character feels perfectly realised and believable. The only hang up I have is the animations were made for the Japanese voices. This means that the lip syncing sometimes feels a little off and weird. Overall however the graphics and sound in Final Fantasy XV is some of the best this generation has to offer.
When I first started playing Final Fantasy XV I found the controls obtuse and confusing. Fortunately after about an hour the controls began to feel natural. The combat was simply a combination of holding circle to attack and square to dodge. Its simple but effective. The changing of weapons added a little more tactical options to the game. There is also the option to enable “wait mode”. This mode means that when you stop moving in combat the game pauses and you can examine your enemies to check for weaknesses. This made the game feel more tactical and I recommend everyone to enable this option.
The difficulty in Final Fantasy XV is hard to gauge. The difficulty all depends on what the players does. For instance I completed most of the side quests and monster hunts before continuing with the story missions. This means I was massively over leveled for the story and the fights became little more a cake walk. However the side quests and monster hunts pass the main storyline in difficulty quite early on. These offer a rather large challenge for people playing them even if they are of the recommended level for the quest.
If you want a challenge in Final Fantasy it is easy to find. If you want that challenge to come from the main storyline you may be disappointed. I was fairly happy with the difficulty but found that the last chapters of the game offer no challenge and become boring gameplay wise.
Final Fantasy XV is not a game I shall be replaying again from the beginning. That does not mean there is no need to come back to the game once the main story is complete however. There is plenty of new content to unlock once the main story is complete. More secrets to find. There are even harder raid like dungeons to explore. I will be coming back to Final Fantasy for a while longer before I put it down for good. Which is a lot to be said for the game considering once I completed the main story, I rarely carry on playing a game due to my backlog.