Final Fantasy XV (2016) Review

Posted: December 14, 2016 in Console Games, New Releases, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,
Rating:
EU Release Date: Nov 29, 2016 (for XONE and PS4)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

Cover Art

EDIT: I previously rated this game 7/8, but the end of the game has vastly altered my opinion. See Review Part II for more details.

ORIGINAL: POSTED 14/12/16

This is the game I’ve been waiting for.

If you’ve not played Final Fantasy before, XV is a great place to start. It even describes itself as “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers”. I absolutely love the Final Fantasy series and this is definitely one of the best. It combines the best aspects of FFXII, in particular the vast, open map and the real time battles and combines it with something similar to the battle controls found in Nier or perhaps Lightning Returns.

The game focuses on Prince Noctis and his companions as they try to retake their homeland Lucis from the world-dominating empire Niflheim. The plot is really that simple – a return to the basic narrative of the older games in the series where the characters are what matter. Prince Noctis and his buddies are definitely a strength of the game and a welcome change from some of the irritating and miserable protagonists of the series’ last few releases. Rather than just being a bunch of dudes you got lumbered with on a coach trip, they feel like your friends – people you might actually want to know.

The world map is another strength. At first glance, it seems big, but then you start running around in it and you realise it’s not just big, but enormous. You’re glad you have access to a car. Trying to walk from one side of the map to the other would probably take about a quarter of an hour real time and in game time, a whole day might have passed. But on map so big, at least there are things to see. From little outback settlements nestled in sandy scrubland to busy cities, forests, fields, caves, craters, lakes and the sea, there is a lot to look at and explore and all with virtually no loading screens. Along the way, you also find little puzzles and mini games, such as pinball and chocobo racing. There’s treasure to find, hunting quests, weapon upgrades and thousands of customisation options for your car.

As for the combat system… well, it has its downsides – most notably that camera sometimes gets stuck in a tree, leaving you with a screenful of leaves and no idea where the enemies are. Most of the time, however, the real time system is far better – and more realistic – than the turn-based systems of the older games: you can react to enemy attacks, change tactics mid-turn and even run away from the battle entirely if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. The lack of loading screens also makes battling weaker enemies so much easier in that you can take them out with a couple of hits and not spend just as long waiting for the battle to load as you do actually fighting. And despite the fast pace of the battles, tactics are still important. Nothing makes that as clear as the magic system; if you hit one of your friends with a mass of ice magic, they’re going to freeze just as much as the enemy will. Although the gameplay is easy to master and the controls are straight-forward, the game itself isn’t without its challenges and there will always be an enemy way tougher than you are. Sometimes, you’ve even find yourself in two battles at once; at any given moment, Niflheim troops could drop from the sky, whether or not you’re already fighting something.

Paradigms

Battle time!

On the negative side, there a few little niggles. For one, the ‘interact’ option and the ‘jump’ are on the same button which often leaves Noctis bouncing up and down in front of stuff instead of opening doors, reading signs or whatever he’s supposed to be doing, like a hyperactive child. Then there’s the music and while the soundtrack itself is not bad, the way it is incorporated into the game can be jarring, switching from one track to the next on the world map like a skipping CD. On the positive side, there is an optional portable music player that lets you listen to a selection of tracks from other Final Fantasy titles, which completely negates that issue. But the biggest weakness is possibly the plot; if you play the story in a straight run, ignoring side missions, the chapters can feel disjointed – happy one moment, angry the next. But for the most part, even that isn’t so bad – pace yourself and it seems fine.

Overall, I would recommend this game to anyone, Final Fantasy fan or not. It’s easy to play yet challenging with a lot of light touches that make you feel like this is a world you could actually live in. What’s more, if you love the game, there’s even a brilliant feature-length film (Kingsglaive) and short anime series (Brotherhood).

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