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After an agonizingly long(?) period of anticipation, several development shifts and a hell lot of hype, Final Fantasy XV was released on November 29, ten years after it was announced on May 2006. I’m a little over a week into playing the game, and that’s more than enough time for me to give an initial verdict:
While it has the makings of a great game, Final Fantasy XV just doesn’t live up to expectations that people may have after spending a decade in development. That said, though, it’s still worth buying. I’ve got four points to back this up.
The gameplay isn’t all that it’s chalked up to be.
All of the trailers and demos of FFXV might have left you thinking that the gameplay took a page out of the popular Kingdom Hearts formula, then shook things up. Truth be told, everything is way too automatic. The combat sequences are confusing at worst, and beautiful to watch but hella redundant at best. Fighting in game and leveling up are way too easy to get a hang of. Casual gamers may appreciate this, and anyone watching you play is bound to find the combat sequences shiny. If you’re looking for a challenge, however, expect to very quickly reach a point in the game where battles – from random encounters to side quests to the actual story fights – are nothing but hassling and repetitive.
Speaking of hassling and repetitive…
The side quests seriously lack creativity.
Here we are again, with the old misconception that hassling quests are more rewarding for players in the end. There isn’t a lack of things to do in Final Fantasy XV (the map is huuuuge!), but from what I’ve seen so far? Square Enix took only a handful of unique ideas and repeated that ad infinitum. They only differ in their location and (supposedly) their level of difficulty. Almost all of them involve the classic “kill x to get y” or “go to point a to deliver b” formulae too. I feel there’s no excuse for this, especially since we’ve reached a point in game design where it’s a lot easier to program diversity in gameplay. Games like Witcher 3 managed to do it (recall: “A Princess in Distress”). Heck, old classics like Suikoden pulled it off back in the day too! Overall, many of the quests leave me thinking, “I waited ten years for this?”
Final Fantasy XV, however, compensates for this by throwing in a lot of flavor in other aspects.
Those issues aside, the main quests seem pretty cool.
I can’t mention specifics given that I don’t want to spoil anybody, but I will say that the developers clearly poured a lot of love into the main quests of Final Fantasy XV. Advancing in the game isn’t just about killing the next baddie. More often than not, getting to that part entails doing – and seeing – some fantastic stuff. I’m already on Chapter 6 in the game. So far, I haven’t gone through a quest that didn’t make me feel like I was a small thing in a big, frighteningly beautiful/beautifully frightening fantastic world. From what I can see, this was precisely the feeling that Square was going for.
The Final Fantasy franchise is all about spinning the idea of a “final fantasy” around a theme – love, companionship, legacy, family – and make everything in the game work towards expressing that theme. Not every entry into the franchise has succeeded in doing that. From what I can tell, however, Final Fantasy XV isn’t going to be one of those fuck ups.
Capitalizing on the small stuff that matters, however, is helping a lot in that direction.
A lot of FFXV’s beauty is in the little things.
Final Fantasy XV is “four dudes go on an epic road trip” embodied. You can fuss over everything about your car, from your playlist to the paint job. Beyond helping you kill in-game hours, toggling long drives opens the possibility of toggling quests en route. Also, the world of Final Fantasy XV is beautiful. It’s both familiar and eerie, reminiscent of a fantastical United States of America. The soundtrack of the game certainly helps in that direction. Even more flavor behind the world is present in the ambient conversations that you can pick up.
Other aspects of the game only build on the road trip theme. Ignis learns recipes on the road (sometimes literally after you’ve killed a monster), which he can cook for dinner (mouth-watering close-up included). Prompto takes liberal photographs of the party in action or even when they’re just dicking around in a new place. You can even break the monotony of questing around by fishing or doing chocobo races. Bits and pieces about the characters also unfold in the banter between the four friends on the world map. There are also random “tours” that occur between Noctis and members of his party after making camp. Those are good, digital fall backs to those sudden heart-to-hearts that companions on actual road trips tend to have while killing time.
So buy the game. It’s worth it.
At this point, it’s going to take something pretty serious for me to change my mind. Final Fantasy XV sells itself as a “Final Fantasy for fans and first timers”, and it’s delivering that promise well. It’s not the best game out there, but it’s a solid entry nonetheless. If you miss playing a decent Final Fantasy, or you need to scratch that J-RPG itch, this one’s for you.
Stay tuned for possible follow up to this article in a proper review!
Do you agree with my wrap on Final Fantasy XV? Got any feelings to share? Let me know in the comments!