Final Fantasy 15 review
We’ve been teased about the release of Final Fantasy XV (15) for quite some time now and after enough waiting around, Square Enix have finally released their next big Final Fantasy Game that wasn’t a spin-off, a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII (13), or an MMORPG. This new iteration has been on JRPG fans minds for a while now, and even though it’s completely different from any Final Fantasy that’s cane before it, doesn’t exactly mean that it isn’t what they were hoping for.
There’s a lot to touch upon in FF15 – which is what I’m abbreviating it to now – so I’ve decided to kick things off with a brief look at the story; something that is key in almost every single RPG on the planet. Keeping it brief for spoiler reasons, the story revolves around Noctis and his 3 friends, who have been sent from their home capital by order of the king, whom is Noctis’ father. Noctis is sent out of his home capital to go to his wedding to marry Luna, a childhood friend of Noctis and if they were married it would unite both of their capitals to separate any further wars between the two nations. For reasons that I won’t delve into, some things go down and plans almost immediately change overnight that requires Noctis to follow his birth right and gain the power of the previous kings that came before him and his father. As I already said, I don’t want to delve too much into the story and spoil it for you, but I can assure you that the story definitely gets more detailed, elaborate, and interesting the deeper you get into it.
Just before I get into the real meat of the game and touch upon the gameplay, I felt it necessary to bring up the sprawling open world that FF15 has going on this time around. FF13 was chastised for being so incredibly linear almost all the way through and its subsequent sequels didn’t exactly improve on the matter all that much. FF15 however starts off the ball rolling and gives you (close) to complete access of the entire world, providing you can get there unhindered and alive, which is easier said than done at times. Thankfully, though, you aren’t forced to trek the entire way there and instead can make use of the Regalia, a car that is going to be your main transport for most of the game. With the Regalia, you can travel to an assortment of places, all of which are spread out evenly across the map and become fast travel points once you come across them for the first time; removing any need to backtrack so heavily in this JRPG.
The Regalia may be the first car in a Final Fantasy game and it may be incredibly useful for driving from one place to the other; the car in itself is incredibly dull to drive and almost the very second I started driving I wanted to be out of it. One of the main reasons the car is so boring to drive is because you have such a serious lack of control almost the entire time you’re driving it. You may be able to steer, do a U-turn, and accelerate as you see fit, but steering amounts to very little and ultimately is only ever used to steer the car onto a different road. At no point do you need to touch the steering wheel, as the second you start the car up you’ll drive perfectly along the road with little to no input coming from you as the player; other than holding the accelerator that is. Thankfully, however, if you want to circumnavigate just how incredibly boring the driving is, there is an “Auto” mechanic that has one of your friends drive for you and they take you exactly where you want to go; whether that’s a parking spot, a quest location, or wherever you choose on the map, they’ll take you straight to it.
To make up for the shortcomings that come along with the car, the game does give you access to a Chocobo after Chapter 3, and they can go pretty much anywhere you can, with the exception of dungeons. They’re a much faster way of travelling the world of FF15 when there isn’t a nearby road for your NPC friend to take you to.
Gameplay is one of FF15’s strongest points and keeps the longevity of the game high as you progress through the vast world and story. For the most part it’s fairly simple and gives a surprising amount of satisfaction when you’re using them. A lot of the time, your main course of action will be to hold the attack key, similar to that of an action RPG but with less focus on the combo’s, since the game does that for you. What you will need to be doing is holding the block/dodge button whenever you’re in a bit of a sticky situation or you can choose to escape using your phase abilities. These abilities are used both offensively and defensively; with the offensive way of things causing you to teleport towards your targeted enemy and plunging your weapon of choice into their body and depending on how much distance there is between the two of you, that’s going to increase the overall damage dealt on impact. Now, for the defensive use of phasing is that there are certain areas in a battle zone that you can “phase-warp” to and that will proceed to teleport you to an area far out of reach and it gives Noctis the chance to regen his health faster and his MP, which is used for phasing.
In terms of loot, there’s not much for you to make too much use of. The main useful pieces of loot that you can locate is weapons and accessories, as there isn’t any real way to gain new outfits without purchasing DLC; not that it matters all that much as it doesn’t improve your stats too much or anything like that; that’s where the accessories fill in the blanks. Weapons are where the real fun kicks in, as you’re given a bunch of different weapon types, from lances to swords, and even shields – and by that I mean you actually use the shield as a weapon, rather than simple defence and is part of the reason it’s one of my favourites. Weapon types aren’t all about personal preference, however, due to the fact that each individual enemy has their own weakness to certain weapon types and elements. If you use the correct weapon type against them, you’ll deal a significant amount of damage when in comparison to a weapon that they’re resistant to. This would be tedious if every weapon type felt exactly the same, but they simply don’t. Every single weapon type has their own move-set, speed, damage, utility, and feel when you use them and it makes for a great excuse to switch out weapon types when you’re getting a bit tired of swinging around a giant greatsword!
Unfortunately, as I’ve stated before and I’ll state again, no game is perfect and FF15 sticks to this rule. Other than the car being a complete bore to drive, there’s also the problem with loading times. Most games have loading screens, but FF15 has exceptionally long loading screens when you’re fast travelling from one far away location to another. If you’re nearby and decide to fast travel then the loading times aren’t nearly as bad and only take a few seconds, but when it’s far away, the loading times can vary from 2-to-4 minutes, maybe even longer on certain occasions. I’m giving the game the benefit of the doubt that because it’s so close to release the game is having some problems with loading, similar to how Bloodborne was when it first came out and eventually was patched to shorten them; but for the time being, this game’s loading times are just a tad too long for comfort.
My next issue is going to be the camera, especially in areas that are enclosed and even out in the sprawling, vast wilderness, it is way too common for the camera to be completely obscured by either a wall or one of the many bushes that lay about in the world. After a short while, trying to figure out how to fix the darn thing, it gets rather frustrating when you’re taking damage, all because a piece of scenery that you can’t do anything about is blocking your view.
This last one is less down to gameplay and more on the main character, and throughout my near 35 hours of gameplay in FF15, I’ve come to the conclusion that Noctis really doesn’t have much of a personality. On the odd occasion during cut scenes he will show some resemblance of emotion; yet, for the most part, he doesn’t do it anywhere else. For instance, your 3 friends who you spend the entire game with are some of his best friends in the world; people he can well and truly be himself around; so when they start to joke around and congratulate each other on their combat prowess and how well they’re doing. One guy will joke and call Noctis “the Prince of Pain” and instead of a smart, witty quip or even a resemblance of a smile or a laugh, Noctis just proceeds to say “yup.” These 4 guys are supposed to be friends, but when Noctis demonstrates just how lacking his emotions are a lot of the time, it really subtracts from him as a character and a person and it simply makes me reiterate on a regular basis that Noctis lacks a lot of personality.
Overall, Final Fantasy XV is easily one of the best Final Fantasy games to have been released in a very long time and is quite possibly the closest Square Enix has come to a game as successful and enjoyable as Final Fantasy VII in some time and it easily shows why. The story is particularly interesting, the characters that you encounter are all incredibly memorable and hard to forget, the environment is pretty darn good and begs for exploration whenever you see fit. Combat is one of the strongest parts about this game and is ladled with very few issues as a whole. Obviously the game isn’t without its foibles, with the main offenders being the driving of the car, the camera, and Noctis’ lack of a personality a lot of the time; yet even with these issues dragging the experience down just a little, it makes for a JRPG that is easy to recommend and completely understandable on why it is one of the best contenders for game of the year!
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