Final Fantasy XV Review
About the game
Final Fantasy XV is a real time JRPG developed and published by Square Enix. Its gameplay derives from the typical time-/turn based combat from the Final Fantasy series and replaces it with a more fluid and dynamic system which focuses on active inputs, combos and defensive maneuvers. You play crown prince Noctis through a 30-40 hour campaign. The first half of the game plays in a very open world, followed by a more linear and story driven experience in the second half which is more typical for an entry of the Final Fantasy series.
Story and Atmosphere
The game drops you straight away in a fantasy open world as the main character crown prince Noctis of the kingdom Lucis. He is on a road trip with his supportive cast of advisor Ignis, Bodyguard Gladus and friend Prompto. The crew is one of the strengths of the game. It actively interacts and comments a given situation believably. This makes the cast very likable and fuses the group together as team while adding to the atmosphere of the world.
The world of Final Fantasy XV is massive, looks stunning and is beautiful. However this comes at the cost of occasional frame rate drops. Further the game could do a better job of introducing the world and the intentions of the participating parties since it just kinda throws you into it. If you care about the background we recommend watching the full length movie Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive which sets up the context of the game. Fans of the franchise will meet a lot of familiar monster, items, spells and soundtracks.
About the first half of the game plays in an open world. As crown prince you follow the path of your ancestors to obtain powerful artifacts and blessings to reclaim your fallen kingdom Lucis. Lucis has gotten invaded with a deceit by the opposing kingdom of Niflheim. Niflheim has a massive military force and already took control over most parts of the world. However the first part of the game focuses more on exploration and a huge amount of side missions than on the story. While a lot are simple fetch quests, they are mostly interesting and reward you with boss battles towards the end. Several dungeons with a special boss and treasure are allocated across the world for you to discover and to tackle.
There is a lot of running around and driving with the crown prince’s car called Regalia which follows a path with fitting road trip themed songs and old Final Fantasy tracks which along with the crew and world adds a lot of atmosphere and immersion of the world. However at times it can feel a bit stretched out and if you are the type of player that just focuses on the gameplay it might bore you a little. Fortunately once you have visited a place you can reduce the travel time with a fast travel function and later in the game you can rent and mount chocobos which accelerates travelling further.
The second half the game is more linear and story driven. It takes away the open world aspect with the exploration and side quests and builds up the story with twists and turns to a conclusion. You can still return to the open world and finish the things you missed out on and explore some higher level content. The change of focus does the story well and it’s better than the one of its predecessor Final Fantasy XIII but other games in the series stand out much more. This part of the game also contains the biggest weak point of the game, which is its pacing. In one part the game takes away your abilities and forces you to relearn a completely different combat style with tedious and mandatory stealth sections. While in other parts the story makes small leaps and only tackles some areas briefly. This disrupts the flow of the game and was in our view a poor design choice. However the rest of the story, atmosphere and the epic boss battles and cut scenes that final fantasy is known for more than make up for these flaws.
The combat of this series entry got completely redone and reminds more of the combat of a kingdom hearts game than final fantasy. It now runs in real time and is more active. You attack and dodge by holding down a button. However dodging drains mana which limits its use. The spells no longer use mana but are craftable consumables. The crafting system allows for a lot of experimentations. You can mix the different magic schools, or even add items which can apply various effects like chain casts, poisons, debuffs and so on. Thee ingredients for those and other consumables are collectable throughout the world.
Crown prince Noctis can swap between four equipped weapons or spells fluently based on the situation and use warp skills to attack his opponents and teleport to walls to refill his mana points. The combat is based around finding the weaknesses of your opponent (either weapons, spells or specific body parts) and using combos with your three AI companions to deal damage while dodging their attacks simultaneously.
Against many opponents or in close quarters, fights can end up quite hectic but otherwise the system feels well made and is a strength of the game. The game further features mini games like fishing or chocobo racing to diversify its content.
Character Customization and Leveling
The game features a diverse amount of weapons and amulets which lets you customize your characters. However this gear and progression system gets overshadowed by the fact that you just mostly buy new items and equip them at the next vendor. The leveling system is unique in that you earn experience points but they are stored up until you set up a camp to rest at certain places. During the night more dangerous monster appear and roam over the world. Since you need to rest to level up this adds a daily cycle to the game. During camping your advisor Ignis can cook a meal granting you a stat buff for a couple of hours of the next day. While camping you can select a number of pictures from your photographing friend Prompto to memorize the journey. This daily cycle adds to the immersion and atmosphere. From leveling up you earn talent points which you can spend over multiple talents trees adding further customization and the flexibility to adapt to your play style.
The change of direction for the latest entry of the final fantasy series was certainly successful with a very atmospheric world and a revamped combat system. Parts of it can feel stretched out, tedious, and could be better paced. Furthermore the world could be introduced better. However the very likeable cast, the world exploration, the imaginative story and the very memorable boss battles kept us entertained and was very enjoyable over the game’s 40 hour long play time. We recommend this game for any long term series fan that’s open for a more active combat system and anyone that enjoys active JRPGs with an imaginative story.
Images by Square Enix
(out of 100)
Final Fantasy 15 is a great game that takes the franchise into a new direction. If you enjoy exploration, the imaginative stories of JRPGs and real time combat, this game is for you.
Rate our Review: