After ten years of being teased at through various stages of development, Final Fantasy XV was finally released on November 29, 2016 on PS4 and XONE consoles, and has been well received by critics and players alike. It seems these days that games with long development cycles often get pushed to the side before being completed, or are at times disappointing in their final product, but it turns out that Square Enix has pulled out all the stops to make FFXV one of their best yet.
The Final Fantasy name has been turned into something of a cash cow of late, with some releases being “Final Fantasy” in name only, one of them even a fighting game. The last few releases in the main series, though fun in their own right, didn’t really give off that familiar FF vibe experienced through the classics, and of course the enthusiasts were vocal about it. The loyal community wanted a game that harkened back to the classics, something more like Final Fantasy VII, but for one reason or another it just didn’t seem to be something that Square Enix was capable of delivering.
Enter Final Fantasy XV. If an adventure is what you’re looking for in a video game, then look no further. The tale has a bit of a shaky and maybe even somewhat confusing introduction, but once you start playing it has a pretty good hook. Without going too much into detail, the story follows the main character Prince Noctis and his friends on an adventure through the countryside of a land called Lucis. The trip is taken under the premise of travelling to perform a marriage between Noctis and the other main character in the story, Lunafreya. Things take a turn for the worse, however, and Noctis is forced to search for a bunch of legendary weapons in an effort to reclaim his throne after his father is assassinated.
Though the circumstances for their adventure are somewhat grim, Noctis and his friends enjoy their cross-country road trip much like anybody else would. The only difference is that these guys might pull over every now and then to eliminate some monsters on the side of the road, instead of for the occasional pee break. There’s probably a lot more to the story than that, but I’m only about a third of the way through the game myself, and I don’t want to spoil it for any of us! As you turn the game on, one of the first screens is the one you see above, and this game most certainly embodies that statement. Final Fantasy XV has possibly set the standard for RPGs for some time to come, and here are just a few reasons why:
It’s All In The Details
It seems like the developers went out of their way to give this game that familiar old RPG feel, at the same time as having it look really crispy and play like a modern action RPG. For some people, an RPG is all about playing through the story missions as quickly as possible and smashing the game in record time. For a lot of us, though, it’s about the little things that draw you into the game’s world that really make it fun.
One thing that stands out right off the bat for me is the fishing minigame. Some people may find it to be a mostly unremarkable throwaway minigame feature, but the fishing minigame has always been a staple in some form or another in many of the best classic JRPGs (Breath of Fire comes to mind), and the FFXV fishing minigame doesn’t disappoint. The minigame itself is not that complex, so it’s fairly easy to get into, but can be difficult to master as the fish get more aggressive!
The map is littered with fishing spots for you to find, with a fairly large array of different fish for you to catch. Of course, you’ll have to spend time finding all of the lures, and experimenting with them in the different fishing spots to make sure you catch everything. Not only that, but the fish differ in the fishing spots from day to night. As an added bonus, some of the fish can be used as ingredients for dishes cooked up by one of Noctis’ friends while camping. The meals that can be cooked at the campsite are so well rendered, I found myself wanting to discover every recipe to try it at least once. I also frequently found myself hungry while playing.
Camping is a key part of the game, as it’s where the party’s experience is tallied up, as well as where you can cook food for your party, imparting bonuses on each of the party members for the following day. It’s not the only place where the party can wind down for the day however, as there are plenty of hotels and motels along the way, as well as little camper trailers at some of the parking spots where they can stay for a fairly small fee.
Of course, it’s not a road trip without a car, and Prince Noctis can’t be seen in just any darn thing, so he and his pals cruise around in a vehicle called the Regalia. They could have just put a car in the game and left it at that, but plenty of customization options were included for you to personalize the car to your own tastes, and of course so that they could add in more items that you’ll have to spend time scouring the massive map to find. That’s not such a problem though, since…
The World Looks Fantastic
It’s come to be a bit of an expectation that any game in the Final Fantasy flagship series is going to have a world of epic proportions. That being said, FFXIII and its spinoffs were a bit of a step back in that regard with their mostly linear maps. Though the beauty and detail was certainly there in those games, the lack of an open world made the maps feel quite literally closed off. FFXV has plenty of inaccessible areas in its open world, but there are a great many areas like the weird looking volcano pictured above that are able to be explored by the player.
Of course, what better way to enjoy the wonderful sights and scenery on such an epic adventure than to have your own personal photographer with you? One of Noctis’ pals is a crack photographer when he’s not busy helping you save the world, and he manages to both get candid pictures of the party in action, as well as initiating some miniquests to get group pictures at some of the vistas spread throughout the map.
So, the game looks good, and there are plenty of fun little activities that’ll keep you running around and not doing the main story quests for a decent little bit of time. There is, of course, one very important element in every RPG game which must not be overlooked:
Fast Paced Action (If That’s What You Want)
Battle sequences in the Final Fantasy series through the years could be considered by some to be hit or miss, whether it’s the traditional enemies and allies lined up on either side of the screen, or FFXIII’s slightly frustrating rhythmic party switching battles. The battles in FFXV are most definitely a hit. They have a fast paced feel to them, with the player being able to move freely around the battlefield and choose their targets at will, but have the option of being a bit more slow paced for the more methodical players. Many veterans of the Final Fantasy series will be familiar with the “Active/Wait” combat option, and that is absolutely present here. If wait is selected, the player can freeze all of the action simply by not moving.
This gives the player a chance to get their bearings and figure out which target would be the most appropriate to attack, or if they need to assist one of their party mates. It doesn’t at all take away from the fast paced nature of the battles however, as once things start moving again, they can really get moving at a blistering speed! Noctis has the ability to teleport to his various weapons, so you’ll often find yourself bouncing from enemy to enemy while your entourage tries to keep up.
One could almost argue that the battle style is almost like a very much evolved version of the style used in old games like Secret of Mana, where there’s no physical transition between the battle mode and the exploring mode. The controls are fairly intuitive, so there’s not too steep of a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to survive in battle, and the game gives you plenty of help along the way in the form of tutorials, tips, and training. Lastly, battles can vary in intensity depending on what time of day it is. At the early stages of the game it’s actually best to stay in at night, with the most treacherous enemies patrolling the roads once the sun goes down. All told there are plenty of exciting battles to be had in this game, and it doesn’t tend to feel like a chore when you run into them.
In the end…
That’s just a small portion of the things to both do and see in this game, it’s up to you to give it a try to find out more! The developers have done a fantastic job of taking inspiration from the classic RPGs before them, and packaging it in a fresh, engaging format that can appeal to many different playing styles. If you’re a fan of the Final Fantasy series, or even RPGs in general, this one is definitely worth a look!