Title: Final Fantasy XV

Platform: PS4, Xbox One

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: JRPG, Action, Adventure

Players: Single player, Co Op



Written by Whistler 10th December 2016
























It’s always a mystery in itself when you dive into the many twists and turns that happen during a game’s development, but how does a 10 year development cycle effect the final product?

Initially set in the world of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries, what was then known as FFXIII-Versus, Final Fantasy XV was meant to release alongside FFXIII, and FF Agito (which later became Type-0). Together they were inteded to tell a tale of epic proportions while offering contrasting perspectives with central themes often seen in that of Greek mythology. Conceptualization began back as far as before FFXII’s completion and development for the first entry in the subseries, FFXIII, sometime in 2004 originally intended for release on the Playstation 2.


To this day I still wonder what happened to this carefully planned out project for it to see so many delays and eventually it’s world divided.


But this at least helps explain why Final Fantasy XV feels so, disjointed.

In fact after my first 10-15 hours of playtime and again after 30, it felt like I was almost playing three entirely separate titles. FFXV is one part Final Fantasy-esque Witcher 3 romp through a sundried western heartland that focuses on our four brothers-in-arms, then equal parts traditional FF story alongside themes of prophecies, deific beings and sacrifice.



























Following the tale of one Noctis Lucis Caelum, XV’s story begins with the fair prince leaving the crown city of Insomnia with his three companions, Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis, as they make way for the kingdom of Altissia. He is to be wed to his childhood friend and Oracle, Lunafreya in a political move to secure a peace treaty between Insomnia and the Empire.

Of course things don’t go as planned when before he can even set sail as the events of Kingsglaive transpire and suddenly Noctis’ world is flipped upside down upon hearing the events that have transpired.

Now the newly appointed King must search the land for relics of his lineage and sire an alliance with deities of old to fulfil the prophecy and take back what was once his.


At least that’s the idea.

Whether due to the open world elements in the first half or how the story is told, it feels like FFXV is constantly hampered by two elements.

The story often feels disconnected, emotions and drama that are built up in story missions are dropped the second they’re over. There was one moment early on where Noctis practically breaks down in a cutscene, only to follow that up with some quips with his compadres barely a moment later.

These moments really sucked out the immersion at times and honestly made some impactful moments go sour afterwards. Then there’s aforementioned open world elements; even when tension should have been ramping up as certain events unfold, it felt like there was little to no urgency until it all hits you at once during the more linear 2nd half.

Plotlines feel so haphazardly put together at times especially when the antagonist’s motives are laid bare. Often the main story feels rather aimless and our protagonists done really get much development or backstory (which perhaps explains the purpose of the short anime FFXV:Brotherhood).


Especially when you consider the multimedia universe building, FFXV story feels like the result of having to piece together the journey for an already made climax after it was separated from the Nova Crystallis series.

This is especially made all the more apparent when the late 2nd half more so resembles the original vision Nomura had intended. Final Fantasy XV manages to shine through however, when it comes to delivering a living world for what is possibly the most realistic companionship in gaming.



























While the end goal never really seems all that focused, the journey of Noct and his three compadres is certainly an endearing one. It’s so refreshing to have a team of four who genuinely seem like they’re pals and not just a collection of archetypes rubber banded together. Through your journey they’ll fight together, travel as one and share quips, opinions and the sort with one another. They don’t just spout compliments either, they’ll scold each other for silly decisions like when Ignis will strongly discourage the act of traveling at night, and they’ll show worry for one another when injured (which can be surprisingly helpful during the more hectic fights as they call out status ailments too). That being said it would be nice if they commented more on quests and storyline objectives as they only do so for a handful of them and you’re likely to hear the same quips many times over.

Truly though the road trip I had with these guys was something magical to experience, even the most common or mundane of activities were made enjoyable thanks to plenty of surprisingly warming moments.


Combat will likely be a polarizing subject for both fans and newcomers.

The franchise has seen no shortage of reinventing itself (you need only take a glance through my previous articles on this to see how true this is), and even FFXII was the first to fully throw out any semblance of the ATB system.

Here the system is more akin to that of Kingdom Hearts with some hefty modifications. Featuring entirely real-time combat fighting sees you solely take the reigns of Noct while your AI companions back you up, where holding the attack button will allow you to perform combos.

This can be incredibly awkward at times and tends to taking control away or not play out as intended but after some growing pains I personally enjoyed it coupled with a weapon swapping mechanic akin to that of Devil May Cry.


In fact I grew to really enjoy the mechanics of combat, playing something like Witcher 3 and the Batman: Arkham games it allows you to think more strategically and enjoy the dazzling spectacles in fights. This is all the more appreciated especially when you face up against behemoth-like creatures such as mechs, dragons, serpents, and well, behemoths which compliments the three dimensional space as you dart around. While it’s not quite as smooth as the action seen in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, some fights are absolutely exhilarating as you manage several weapons and use the warp command for strategic placement of attacks. That being said it’s a shame that the Ascension Grid mostly like FFX’s Sphere Grid gimped and overly simplified. By doing various tasks like combat, quests, fishing and even taking photographs you’ll accumulate AP. These are spent on the game’s skill tree to gain bonus stats, new technique moves and the like, but there’s little on the grid itself and they rarely feel all that impactful.



























It’s second act is really where I find myself divided though.

Once you’ve become accustomed to the open world and you’ve likely sunk more hours into side quests and monster hunts than you’d like to admit to, FFXV throws most of it out the window for a linear sprint towards the end. While I enjoyed the more story focused 2nd part, it felt so juxtaposing and will likely leave most of us perplexed. It’s not helped either by sudden plot twists, story developments and sudden character focus on side cast that don’t get nearly as much development as they should have.


Even as the story races towards it’s finale with a rather dark turn, there’s something endearing about it, even being a mess kinda plays in its favour to help capitalize the feelings and emotions both player and characters are going through. FFXV is a mess, no doubt about it, but it’s a beautiful one at that. It never quite achieves the lofty heights of it’s insurmountable ambitions, but it’s refreshing stray from conventions and focus on it’s characters has some great emotional payoff at the end of the 20-30 hour journey. Some will see this as all too different from its predecessors, but in my opinion, is that not what makes it such a great Final Fantasy?



Pros:

Smooth action packed combat,

Endearingly heartfelt protagonists,

Best roadtrip ever,

Solid soundtrack,

Great exploration.


Cons:

Disjointed story elements,

Disconnected gameplay segments,

Awkward camera and controls at times,

On rails driving can make trips a bit uneventful,

Uncooked magic system.


Final verdict,

While not quite the grand return to the golden days, the long awaited Final Fantasy XV scores a 7.5 out of 10.

 

Written by,

Whistler

 

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