Almost 10 years since the game was initially announced; Final Fantasy XV has arrived. The game had been pushed back multiple times; it’s been renamed, reworked, and completely redone to fit on the current generation of consoles. So the question now boils down to, was it worth the wait? Short answer: Yes. Long answer…
You cannot begin to discuss a Final Fantasy game without first talking about the plot, and I am happy to say that Final Fantasy XV has one of the most straightforward plots in recent memory, for a Final Fantasy game at least.
The game begins with Noctis Lucis Caelum, prince of Lucis and his friends as they push their broken down car along the road towards a repair station. Noctis and company are heading toward an arranged marriage with Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, princess of opposing nation Tenebrae. While on this journey, Noctis’ home of Lucis is besieged by the Niflheim Empire and his father is killed, effectively making him the new King of Lucis. Before Noctis can return home to reclaim his throne however, he must first journey to various corners or the planet, gathering up his strength and rallying allies in order to drive the invading force out of his home.
The plot is standard Final Fantasy affair, there is a crystal, there is a Cid along with his daughter Cindy, (missed opportunity for her to be called Cidney) and there is a villain you will see coming a mile away. Where the game really shines though, is in its main cast of characters.
Noctis is joined by his three closest friends during his journey; Ignis Scientia, Noctis’s tutor for most of his life, Gladiolus Amicita, Noctis’s bodyguard and trainer, and Prompto Argentum, Noctis’ best friend since childhood. Together they make up the most cohesive and relatable group of characters that I feel a Final Fantasy game has ever had, and is by far one of the game’s biggest selling points.
Throughout the game, story snippets will be divulged between characters during conversations as they progress, either by riding around in the Regalia (their car), walking around the vast landscape of Lucius, or riding on the series trademark mounts, Chocobos. These conversations range from discussion of important story elements, such as where to go, who to see, or what to kill; to mundane conversations that many of us have had with our friends, like what to eat for dinner that night.
It’s these small conversations that do nothing but build the characters of your main group and a part of what makes me care about what happens to them throughout the course of the game. Unlike many of the protagonists that have come before in Final Fantasy games, these characters, and Noctis in particular, feel like real people. They have motivations, weaknesses, and character flaws; they are not all simply the walking stereotypes of games past.
No Final Fantasy is complete without a great battle system and XV is no exception. With a much greater emphasis on action this time around, the combat favors strategy and positioning over simply unleashing the most powerful spells and techniques you have over and over.
Magic has always been an integral part of the Final Fantasy experience but unfortunately it takes a back seat in this entry. Magic usage functions somewhat like grenades and have a cool down period between each use. The biggest downside to magic however, is friendly fire. Most magic that you use while allies are in range will affect them as well, often damaging and/or incapacitating them in the process. This is a huge downside to the system and as there is no real easy way to get your allies out of the way, I usually opted to not use magic at all.
Simply put, this game is beautiful. Square Enix has really outdone themselves and is forgiven for taking so long with this title. The world of Eos comes alive and feels very lived in. Simply driving around and taking in all the sights really gives you the impression that the developers took a lot of time and care to make sure this was a world that players would want to spend hours getting lost in.
Final Fantasy games have always had some of the best scores you could get for an RPG, and on this point XV fully lives up to its pedigree. The score by Yoko Shimomura is beautifully done with the help of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and you can tell a lot of care and consideration went into the creation of this soundtrack. Each piece of music seems to be tailored specifically for the mood, location, even time of day that the characters are in.
The sound effects are a bit hit and miss on the other hand; often time characters would grunt and make noises that sounded like it did not come from their original voice actor, but someone else entirely. Other times, characters footsteps would have an odd echo to them, as if they had a second set of footstep sounds that the foley artist recorded somewhere else.
This might just be my favorite Final Fantasy game to date. From characters you care about to a combat system that keeps you engaged and wanting more, you can definitely see where all the time and energy was spent over the last ten years, making sure that this game was everything its fans wanted it to be and more.
When you boot the game up you are greeted by a splash screen that simply says “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First Timers”, and I am happy to report that it well and truly is.
Pros: Excellent character development, engaging combat system, beautifully rendered world, fantastic score leaves you wanting more
Cons: Game gets overly linear towards the end, magic system feels underwhelming, leaves you wanting more