Final Fantasy XV (previously Versus XIII) has finally released, after its first reveal back in 2006 fans have waited 10 years for its release. Sadly, with movements within Square Enix, directors being shuffled around and other projects given higher priority Versus 13 was cancelled. Reinvigorated back in 2013, reprinted as XV, FFXV has had a shaky development, from keeping ideas 10 years old with only 3 years to make a game out of what seemed to be a trilogy of games.
No game can live up to 10 years of hype, no game can recover from all of the contractual measures the team or the game were put under, certainly no game can be perfect. The new director, new team and new direction have done all they could with this game, releasing a new main line title for fans of the series whilst trying to appeal to a new audience.
FFXV starts off with an almost premonition of the future, an older cast fighting back against a fiery foe, only to be brought back to present day, as a younger cast push a broken down car to the local garage. Prince Noctis, his childhood friend Prompto, his royal guardsmen Gladiolus and “caretaker” of sorts Ignis. The 4 young men are tasked with heading to a planned wedding between Noctis and Luna, in hopes of quelling the wars of the lands between Niflheim and the rest of the world not under their control.
Starting off easy, the main goal is to get some money after spending it all on car repairs. Moving on from some easy hunts and tasks the party get their car and head off once more, but they soon come across a newspaper in their hotel that tells of their home Insomnia being attacked during peace signings. The party rush off back to their capital to help, but all is lost as their home is under control by Niflheim and its war machines. Contacted by their Marshal Cor, the party leave, in hopes of returning to reclaim their home.
A new task if given to our group, find the royal tombs so that Noctis can call on the power of his ancestors, go to the Astrals to ask for their power and build their experience in battle. After all their preparing is done, they can finally return to Insomnia.
The main story of FFXV is hard to put a length on, as my first playthrough lasted me over 60 hours with plenty of side content. If you were to rush it the game could be done in under 20. The game has countless hunts for monsters, fishing quests, collectables, levelling and skills, side-quests, optional bosses and dungeons etc etc. You can easily reach the before stated 200 hour mark with all the additional content at hand.
Final Fantasy XV is an action game, very close to the design of Kingdom hearts in parts. You move Noctis with the left Thumbstick, Attack with Circle or hold it for auto-attack, square for dodge roll in a direction or hold for auto-dodge, X for jumping or interacting with objects and triangle for blade warping around the field. Magic and weapons all hold a directional button, all being used with Circle, aiming magic can be done by holding the circle button. You currently equipped weapon will also be used in parries when you hold square when it pops up on screen, then pressing circle afterwards.
As you defeat monsters, complete hunts or quests, you will receive Gil and items to use at your leisure, you also obtain exp that is held for later use. EXP is tallied when you rest at a camp or inn, inns providing a bonus to the exp gathered and camps allowing you to gain buffs from food. Levelling up through EXP grants your characters a level between 1 and 99, increasing HP for all characters and MP for Noctis. Alongside EXP you will also gain AP to spend on the Ascension grid, a similar design to the Sphere grid of FFX. The ascension gird unlocks new attacks, abilities, buffs the current abilities and also the stats of all characters.
FFXV isn’t always an easy game, the later hunts and dungeons all prove to be a challenge, either through keeping track of your health and items or lasting several minutes against singular targets. Levels and items only go so far as skill is also required for a lot of the later segments, unless you solely focus on making the best magic in the game, allowing much faster battles.
Overall thoughts and feelings
The music in FFXV is top notch, like many other instalments, the sad thing is however you will find it hard to listen to any of it. A lot of the music is reserved for certain scenes of the game, cutscenes and boss battles. A lot of the game, spent running around and exploring is spent in silence or listening to the same track over and over again. For the greatness of the soundtrack to be hidden so much is a real shame. You can buy a music player to play previous instalment’s’ music as you go, giving a shed load of nostalgia, but I would of liked to hear FFXV soundtrack a bit more.
I never expected Final Fantasy XV to meet expectations of its “10 year development”, nor did I believe it to be an endless story of countless proportions. However it has shocked me at how well it pulled off some of its story elements and gameplay. Just looking at the game for what it is, and not what it could have been, I am truly happy with the outcome. The talk of cut content, delays, reimagining, contracts and all the bad blood, it only sours the experience and you would do best to ignore a lot of the rumours or objections to the game.
Thankfully, Square Enix and the team behind FFXV have heard some of the complaints from fans, saw some of their own critics and are working to fix them. With 2 patches releasing barely out of the gate of release, a proposed future schedule of patches and changes, DLC list and more, I can trust in the developers to further improve this game.
Overall Final Fantasy XV gets a 10/10, it ticks almost all the boxes I could ask for, it looks amazing, it plays fluidly with only 2 – 3 crashes in my 60 hour playtime. There is a truck load of content packed into the game with an enjoyable post-game. Every task serves to improve your characters, with exp, money and items, and the power gained through actions can be seen pretty immediately. There are some debatable story decisions, but in its own way those events serve to put more importance on other events. Like any other Final Fantasy, you need to dig to find the real story, which is always a treat when reading notes or talking to NPCs reveal the world, rather than giving you it all in 10 minutes discussions.