Final Fantasy XV is the latest installment of Square-Enix’s massive RPG franchise, a game that has been in development for over a decade. In May of 2006, the game was announced as Final Fantasy versus XIII, it was to go along with the newly releasing Final Fantasy XIII at the time.However, Square had different plans with this IP, and decided to make it its own game. The creation of Final Fantasy XV, is a recreation of the game itself, attempting to blend many of the great elements of the past, while still meeting today’s modern gameplay standards; as excellent as the game is it seems to be short just a few features; features that may be key to some, and considered a critical part of the Final Fantasy experience.
The game is focused around four protagonists, Prince Noctis, and his monochromatic royal guard; Ignis the strategist, Gladiolus the stoic badass, and Prompto the wise crack, although they each fit a simple thematic troupe, they do it so effectively that it never removes you from the game. Being an anime fan will help the characters be more likable but are fine regardless, and the voice acting is top notch across the board. A big thing this game has going for it is you don’t have to try to immerse yourself in the world, the game does it for you, embracing western culture and fusing it with that great Final Fantasy flavor all to deliver a dish of this game franchise that is fairly new.
There are nods and Easter eggs for almost every previous Final Fantasy title, from albums to listen to in your car as you cruise the countryside, to using stylistic pixel representation for characters in the item menu, that give that nostalgic wash of FF III. The graphics, they are amazing; running on an Xbox One at 1080p 30 frames per second, the quality of the game itself is setting the bar for future titles, the amount of detail right down to the smallest textures, the leather on the seats of the car, the changeable clothes, weapons and people all meld together so well you would think this was a real-life simulator.Developers used the Luminous Studio engine which allowed them to get photorealistic quality images for almost everything you see in the game.
The Frame rate does drop sometimes creating an awkward slow blur, and there are some clipping and flickering of surfaces at times, but its far and few between, and can be patched in future updates. The story is fine, very safe; to sum it up, Noctis and his crew are trying to make their way back into his home city, after its occupied by the enemy state of Niflheim and his father is killed in the fray; it’s also a journey of self-discovery through the eyes of Noctis, seeking power as he comes into his own as the future king, it’s not completely on par with other titles like Final Fantasy IV, XII or IX, but it is worlds better than many of squares more recent FF releases.
Some of the issues with this game go beyond its story; first off, the summons, although cool they took a back seat to traditional summoning methods, where before you could call upon your ally to help you in the midst of battle at any time, now, they are limited and can only be activated during specific situations and quick time events. Also, the magic, is again very cool looking and is effective enough with its intertwining of items and the three elements of fire, ice, lighting, but they have completely removed healing, white and black magic, earth, wind, water, heck even demi isn’t in the game, although a form of gravity does exist in an item form; it’s disappointing to see that that stuff removed.
The car is kind of odd too, although it is drivable, it’s not anything like Grand Theft Auto or the like, you don’t have full control over the vehicle and can even take a completely hands-off approach, as the road acts as automatic guided rails car transforms and becomes much more exciting to drive. Driving is not the only option for transportation as the fan favorite Chocobo makes its return, and it’s super fun to run around on, drifting sharp turns and joining in on races, the game also allows you to develop a bond with the animal and can join you in combination attacks during combat, giving a new dynamic to that aspect of gameplay.
Exploration is as good as any modern game, with a multitude of quests, side-quests, and hunts to go on, there are well over 100 hours of gameplay to be had, and according to the YouTube channel, The Leaderboard, the game world is massive boasting a map twice the size of that in Grand Theft Auto V and sixteen times bigger than Skyrim.
The biggest change to the franchise comes about in the form of combat, where every title before took some approach to a turn based system, this game breaks that trend and enters the 21st century with a fast-paced, often chaotic, 3rd person hack n slash, as Noctis warps around the battlefield with his royal fighting technique able to summon swords and various weapons out of thin air.
A “wait” function was added into the game to acts as a pseudo turn based system, allowing you time to think in-between each step you take, only activating when you stop moving; it changes how combat is approached and is a welcomed feature for those looking for a more traditional combat feel. Easily the best part of the game, is the music, and after ten years in development expectations were high, whether it’s the open field, a dramatic battle or a creeping dungeon, the music sets the mood so well and is so beautifully composed, there is no imaging this game without it.Final Fantasy XV gets a score of 8/10, Far from perfect but even with all the changes it’s gone through this game is still up to snuff, the graphics are stupendous, the gameplay is simple and fun, and the story is engaging enough to invest in emotionally, this will be one to go down in the history books as one of the better Final Fantasy titles.