Final Fantasy XV Review

Final Fantasy XV Review

The Long Road Is the Destination

They always say the journey is better than the destination, and that’s a good thing to keep in mind for Final Fantasy XV . I don’t know who decided to revitalize this legendary series with a road trip RPG, but it was a brilliant idea that steers this title through the rocky waters of its lengthy development time and multiple directors. It’s an ambitious title with lots of moving parts that don’t always fit seamlessly together, but boy does it ever provide some great moments along the way.

If you’ve been living under a rock, this is the story of Prince Noctis, reluctant heir to a major royal burden. A fun road trip with three friends to his arranged wedding turns into a desperate quest to save the entire world. You know, as these things do in RPG-land. In a new twist for the series, though, this quest takes place in a huge, semi-open world featuring tons of side content and plenty of places to explore off the beaten path. It’s a fully-realized place that exists somewhere between fantasy and modernity, with cars and rustic road stops hanging out next to mythical beasts and legendary gods.

The land you’re traveling is one of the major stars of the game, helped out by the fantastic visual and auditory design that we’re used to from Final Fantasy . It really does remind me of my various road trips across middle America, especially the pine forests and badlands of the first two major areas. There’s been a tremendous attention paid to the world’s details, from a roadside restaurant chain with its own animal mascot to the detailed cities, each with its own culture. All the while, you’re serenaded by fantastic tunes, both the ones written for the game and the classic soundtracks you can listen to on your car radio.

While you’re taking to the open road in your classic car, the Regalia, or perhaps trotting over the hills on chocoboback, you can admire the mix of realistic and fantastical scenery and the game’s more realistic take on classic Final Fantasy beasts. You’re meant to spend time savoring the travel experience, and are rewarded with chances to customize your on-the-road life with a plethora of car customizations and even the ability to change clothes and dye your chocobo. It may sound boring at first, and there are some quick travel options, but I actually grew to love riding along with the boys, listening to their banter, and checking out which colorful personalities could be found in the next town down the road.

Paralleling your open-world adventures is a relatively linear main storyline, which alternates between taking the wheel and letting the reins loose so you can explore, do side-quests, and play mini-games. The best part about the main plot is the amazing set-pieces it has to offer. I know the word “epic” gets thrown around too much in gaming, but there’s really no other way to describe the encounters you’ll have with the deities and monsters of the land. Best of all, there’s not a QTE in sight, even when you’re sneaking past a slumbering behemoth or tumbling down a crumbling mountainside. Other developers, take heed!

There are downsides to this parallel open-world and traditional JRPG story design. Although it’s common in many RPGs, the disconnect between the urgency of your quest and the plethora of side activities on offer feels particularly glaring here. I think it’s partly because this world is grounded enough to require you to sleep regularly and keep your gas tank full, and partly because your characters sometimes seem to snap between being dead serious to joking around, taking selfies (really), and going fishing a bit faster than feels appropriate. There’s also the problem that the main story often feels like it’s dangling the information you need to understand what’s actually going on just out of reach. I don’t mind stories that prefer to show rather than tell, and actually find that angle refreshing in a JRPG like this one. I just think Final Fantasy XV needs to show us a bit more sometimes.

Final Fantasy XV Screenshot

You’ll often forget about the confusing parts of the story, though, because it’s just so much fun to hang out with your buddies. Sure, they’re a little stereotypical, but they’re good guys. It’s easy to get attached to them. Prince Noctis is far less apathetic than he appears in the promotional material – it’s more that he’s socially awkward and obviously dealing with a lot of inner conflict. His complicated friendships with his bodyguard Gladio and strategist/butler Ignis, as well as his simpler and more natural friendship with civvy Prompto, come across naturally in the dialogue they have, both in major events and while just driving from place to place.

Final Fantasy XV Screenshot

I personally found the main cast’s voice acting quite appealing (some of the minor characters, especially Cindy, are a bit cringeworthy – but they’re all obviously having fun), and it’s worth riding along in the car or trudging on foot through a swamp just to chat with them – to hear Gladio and Ignis bicker like an old married couple or to listen to Prompto get the Chocobo Song stuck in his head for the umpteenth time. Some of the banter can get a bit repetitive, but overall there’s an impressive quantity and quality of it. Not to mention the puns. Oh, the puns.

When it comes down to brass tacks and it’s time to pull out the swords and spells is where I suspect Final Fantasy XV will be inspiring debates for years to come. I’m the kind of RPG fan who loves turn-based and action combat equally, but this is like no other action-RPG system I’ve encountered. Some parts are brilliant, like Noctis’ ability to warp around the battlefield, his extensive arsenal that can be swapped around on the fly, and the flashy (and incredibly useful) cooperative attacks he pulls off with his party.

Other parts of the combat system are questionable. I’m still not sure how I feel about holding down buttons to auto-dodge and to pull off weapon combinations. The camera (even with the patch that improves it) has issues that can lead to moments of major frustration. And battles with lots of enemies can be overwhelmingly chaotic. I definitely had a lot of moments where I felt like I wasn’t really in control as I was learning the system. I’m better at it now, but I’d love to see further camera improvements and a “wait mode” that really lets me survey the battlefield instead of limiting my point of view. The system definitely grew on me as I played through the game, but it’s going to annoy some action gamers with its idiosyncrasies and frustrate the generation that is in love with the classic, more turn-based Final Fantasy battle system. Even with the “wait mode” ability to stop time when you stop moving, there’s nothing turn-based about this game’s combat whatsoever. It is extremely fast-paced.

Final Fantasy XV Screenshot

If it feels a bit like I’m of two minds about many elements of Final Fantasy XV , it’s true. I love its world, though there are aspects of it that fall apart or simply aren’t explained if you start looking closely are asking too many questions. I love the epic moments delivered by its storyline even while the actual story feels a bit thin and underdeveloped. And I have a blast with the combat except when my camera gets stuck behind a wall just as ten ugly scorpion monsters decide to stick their stingers in me.

That’s what makes Final Fantasy XV an ultimately fascinating game. It’s an attempted masterpiece that feels somewhat fractured by years of development and multiple directors. Thanks to its moments of brilliance and the warmth behind its casts’ relationships, it manages to become more than the sum of its parts. Even when I’m feeling a bit frustrated with it, I’m still compelled to push forward, search for new challenges, or simply take a joyride down the highway listening to tunes from Final Fantasy IX and seeing if Prompto finds us a good place to take some pictures of the scenery. I’m glad Square Enix stuck with it despite all the years of struggle and shifting priorities. It was a game worth making that will no doubt inspire other developers with its creativity and bold choices.

Final Fantasy XV is imperfect, but the high points of this journey outweigh the messy bits. I recommend you learn to go with the flow, spend some time with your bros, and really get lost in the game. Don’t try too hard to be a completionist, but don’t forsake the open-world adventures and cling too much to the main storyline. It’s in the balance between the two that this tale is at its absolute best.

Occasional grotty textures aside, this is a gorgeous, fully-realized world to explore. The scenery is amazing! 3.5 Control
When both it and you are firing on all cylinders, the combat is a blast. The camera and controls don’t scale properly to all encounters, however. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Brilliantly scored, with excellent effects that bring the world to life. Voice acting ranges from questionable to excellent. 4.0 Play Value
It can take some time to really get into the flow of Final Fantasy XV, but if you grow to love it, it offers a unique experience and a ton of things to discover, even after you finish the game. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Get ready to be at the center of the ultimate fantasy adventure. Enter the world of Final Fantasy XV, and experience epic action-packed battles along your journey of discovery. You are Noctis, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, and your quest is to reclaim your homeland from the clutches of the imperial army.
  • Joined by your closest friends, you will take the wheel and experience a voyage like no other, traveling through the breathtaking world of Eos encountering larger-than-life beasts and unforgiving enemies. You will learn to master the skills of weaponry and magic, channelling the power of your ancestors allowing you to effortlessly warp through the air in thrilling combat.
  • To gather the strength needed to uncover the truth and reclaim his homeland, Noctis and his loyal companions must overcome a series of challenges in a spectacular open world filled with larger-than-life creatures, amazing wonders, diverse cultures and treacherous foes.

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