Review: Final Fantasy XV

It is finally here! My full review of the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV! And in record time, might I add.  This review took me less than a month, but unlike those other day-one reviews you’ll find on the web, all of my playthrough reviews are only written after I’ve completed a game from start to finish and poked through every nook and cranny. (Don’t believe me – check my PSN trophies).

As you most likely know, the hype train behind this game was running at a fever pitch. So, let’s start off by talking about about what made this game one of the most anticipated titles in years. Final Fantasy XV began development almost a decade ago. That’s a long time for a single game. Originally announced under the title “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” – it was initially intended to be part of the Final Fantasy: Nova Fabula Crystallis sub-series. (A spin-off of FFXIII) But after several years and management changes, it was re-announced as the next major entry into the main series. Since that time, teasers, leaked footage and interviews caused the game to develop a huge following. Now it is finally here.

So, before we dive into the game itself, let’s do something I dread and take a moment to discuss the various editions and incentives.  For FFXV you basically have three (realistically two) choices; The Standard Version, The Deluxe Edition, and the Ultimate Collectors Edition.  The latter was available directly through Square Enix only and is no longer available for purchase.

  • The standard “day one” edition comes with the game only and a DLC sword.
  • Both the Deluxe and the Collectors editions come with the following DLC perks: A stat boosting costume, the sword from the standard edition and a vanity skin for the in-game vehicle. Both the deluxe and collectors editions also come with a Blu-Ray copy of the FFXV: Kingsglaive motion picture.  – I purchased the Deluxe Edition.
  • The Ultimate Collectors edition also comes with a few exclusive DLC perks that includes in-game discounts, uncommon and exclusive items, etc. But in all honesty, these do not prove to be very valuable. This edition also comes with a playart statue, art book, Blu-Ray copies of FFXV: Brotherhood / Kingsglaive and a special soundtrack.

So now, *Sigh* – let’s talk about the pre-order perks.  Basically, there’s really only three that you need to know about.

  • If you preordered the game from PSN or Xbox Live, you get the Angler set (some fishing-based items from the Collectors Edition), and an exclusive vanity skin for the car… Meh.
  • If you preordered the game from Amazon, you get three exclusive mid-level weapons and three of the four DLC item sets from the Collectors edition. Nice!
  • Finally, if you preordered the game from Gamestop, you get a second Final Fantasy XV mini-game called “A King’s Tale” for free!! … WOW!!!  – I preordered my copy from Gamestop, but I managed to snag an extra copy of the Amazon DLC codes from a friend who received two in error.   

There’s a few other random skins and other worthless freebies given out through contests and promos, but nothing really worth mentioning.

I’ve included a handy-chart below that provides details for every single possible purchase option for the game. (Because this is way more confusing than it needs to be).

*Click to enlarge*

*In a nutshell: If you have the Deluxe Edition and preordered from Amazon to have 99% of the digital perks from the Collectors Edition – If you missed out on any of this, please don’t worry. None of these perks are particularly game-breaking or game-boosting in the overall scope of things, and knowing SE – it wouldn’t surprise me if these don’t appear for sale in the future as individual DLC.

Speaking of downloadable content, the game has a handful of DLC planned in the coming months. These will be available individually for purchase or you can pay the reasonable price of $25.00 for a season pass. At the time of this writing, only the Holiday Pack is available for download. (More on this later).

So. Now that you’ve figured out which version of the game is right for you, I would like to make suggestion. Before playing the actual game itself, I highly recommend installing and completing the free Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo. The demo is a unique scenario that does not exist in the game itself. Not only does it do a great job of teaching you the combat mechanics of the real game, but upon completion it unlocks a special perk within the retail copy of the game. (A special summon).

FFXV Platinum Demo

So… you’ve watched the Brotherhood anime and the Kingsglaive Motion Picture, you’ve played the demo… you’re finally ready to play Final Fantasy XV. Here’s what to expect from the storyline.

The story of Final Fantasy XV takes place in a world called Eos. The majority of this world is ruled by the militaristic Empire of Niflheim. However, to the north, the small Kingdom of Lucis remains free from Imperial rule. Lucis, protected by a magical barrier, has been able to ward off the Empire for generations. Recently, peacetalks between the Empire and Lucis have manifested. One of the conditions in the peace treaty requires that Noctis, Prince of Lucis is to marry his childhood friend Lunafreya, the oracle of Tenebrae (an area under Imperial control). The game itself mainly focuses on the character of Prince Noctis and his three companions as they journey to the nearby nation on Tenebrae, for the Prince’s wedding. However, shortly after leaving the Crown City of Insomnia, their car breaks down – halting their journey temporarily. While awaiting repairs on their vehicle, the news reaches Noctis that the peacetalks were nothing more than an elaborate ruse. The Empire has occupied the kingdom. The King, Noctis’s father, is said to have been slain. Now, last of his line, Noctis undertakes a journey across Eos to claim the magic powers of his birthright and retake the kingdom from the Empire.

Despite having a backstory this epic, a large focus of Final Fantasy is actually on the relationship between Noctis and his three friends. The first half of the game can appropriately be described as the ultimate Bro Roadtrip. Three guys, hanging out.. being guys. The banter between Noctis and his companions really does a great job of making you care about all of the characters on a very personal level.  In the entourage we have; Noctis – the Prince. Gladiolus – Noctis’ bodyguard. Prompto – Noctis’ childhood friend. And finally, Ignis – Noctis’ personal adviser and attendant.  Each character has their own personality and quirks that you’ll grow very familiar with throughout the game. Gladio is a bit rough around the edges, Prompto is easily excitable and obsessed with photography, Ignis is the straight-man and an accomplished chef, often preparing meals for the party when they camp out in the field.

The game is split into 15 chapters. To be quite honest, the main scenario of the game can be completed in just over 20 hours by most players. This is actually a fairly short time for these types of games nowadays. However, there’s way more content in Final Fantasy XV than just what is found in the main storyline. There’s tons of sidequests littered throughout the game. Most of these can be discovered pretty easily by playing the game normally. But there are a handful that can only be uncovered by venturing a bit off the beaten path. With a few exceptions, you have free reign to explore the entire world at your leisure. You can do so on foot, via car, and after a certain point in the game by Chocobo. Most the time, the car will be your main mode for transportation.

When cruising the roads in the Regalia (the model name for the car), you can instruct Ignis to drive to various destinations on the map. After a certain point in the game you will also unlock the ability to drive manually. Driving the Regalia is fun at first, but it does get tiresome after a while. During your time on the road you will treated to banter between the guys and occasionally some important exposition. One neat little feature during these roadtrips is the car stereo. Just like in games such as Grand Theft Auto and Sleeping Dogs, you can scroll through the channels and listen to cool music. Expect in FFXV the track selection can include soundtracks from other games in the series! Tracks can be purchased throughout the game when visiting gas stations and rest areas. I thought this was a nice touch.

The downside to these drives is the time it takes to get from place to place. Thankfully, once you’ve arrived at a particular area, you can fast warp there in the future for a small price. This certainly saves time, but to be honest – the loading times when warping from place to place, or even when loading new chapters and cutscenes in the game seem unusually long. Sometimes, I found myself sitting on a loading screen for well over a minute. (This was my experience playing on the original Playstation 4. Perhaps this is not an issue on the Xbox One or on the new PS4 models… I dunno). But, it’s long enough to be an issue.

Sadly, I was not as impressed with the soundtrack for this game as I usually am with Final Fantasy titles. There are a good number of great tracks in FFXV, don’t misunderstand. But overall, the background music just feels “off”. Even when the songs are catchy… to me they just seem a little out of place. But this could just be me being quirky. My 8-year old son absolutely loves the music. He likes it so much, I had to make a CD of game tunes at his request so he can listen to it when he goes to bed at night… So, take my opinion with a grain of salt here.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. To date, it’s the best looking console game I’ve played. If you have one of the newer model PS4s, FFXV will take full advantage of the hardware as well. The game can also be tweaked even further for HDR televisions and home theater audio.

Progression in the game is tallied as you complete sidequests and battle monsters. Experience points earned by your characters are paid out whenever you rest in camp or at an inn-room. This serves to level your characters up. Your party also earns AP during their adventures. These points are spent unlocking new abilities.

Combat in the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Especially at first. Starting out, I had a hard time grasping it. The combat controls felt awkward and not very intuitive. But, as you continue to play and unlock more combat skills, it starts to come together. By the end of the game, it felt like second nature.  My biggest complaint has to be not with the control scheme, but with the in-game camera during combat. More often then not, battles take place in dense outdoor areas or in confined dungeon spaces. The camera tends to go haywire and it can be difficult to focus on what you need to see. A prime example of this can be found during the mega-boss fight against the Adamantoise. The boss is so massive that the camera doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. This is very long fight, and my biggest problem with it was not the battle itself, but dealing with the darn camera angles. This seems like something that might be easily fixed with a patch. Time will tell.

All in all, Final Fantasy XV is a very different type of Final Fantasy game. Square Enix has declared that this entry is intended to appeal to both veterans of the series as well as new players. When I first settled in to play this game, it wasn’t at all what I expected. I think my JRPG-mindset may have kicked in too hard at first and I misplayed the game from the get-go. Out of the 80 hours I clocked in playing FFXV, I’d say the first 40 were spent in the first four chapters alone. I grinded sidequests and hunts like nobody’s business.I was hesitant to proceed with the main story until I completed absolutely every bit of optional content I came across. While this was great in terms of leveling up and getting ahead of the curve, it made for a very slow start.  Once I managed to put this aside and just enjoy the game for what it was, everything fell into place. By the end of the game, it ended up feeling very much like a Final Fantasy title.

Wrapping things up, I want to touch a bit on the game patches and DLC.  At the time of this writing, the game has received an important day-one update and a small bugfix/feature patch.  So I’m going to assume anyone playing is going to have installed these. The developers have expressed a desire to further patch the game – adding some additional cutscenes and possibly making major changes to the 13th chapter of the game itself. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Having already completed the game, I hate to think I might miss out on some crucial story elements. We’ll have to see how this manifests.

To date, only one piece of DLC has been released: The Holiday pack. This comes in both a free download and an special paid-for version. For the most part, there’s not much of value in this package currently. A few random in-game items, and a costume that will be unlocked at a later date. The real gem in this DLC is the upcoming limited-time carnival. Apparently, SE is waiting until after Christmas to open up this event. Details behind what this carnival will contain are still sketchy, and I’m not really sure how I feel about having a time-locked event as part of a DLC package… but we’ll see how it all plays out. As more downloadable content is released, I’ll review them separately on the site.   – But in regards to this carnival, don’t let this pending release stop you from playing the game to completion. Upon finishing the game, you have the ability to continue playing. So anything you may have missed and any new add-on content like this, should be available to experience.  In fact, there’s even a secret optional dungeon in Final Fantasy XV that’s only available once you have completed the game.

All in all, I found Final Fantasy XV to be a solid game and one worthy of the franchise. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of the series. Despite experiencing a slow start, I found my enjoyment of the game to grow the longer I played it. The storyline is second to none, certainly one of the more impactful in the series, in my opinion. I feel that longtime fans will be divided on what to think of the game. But, putting nostalgia for the previous games to the side, FFXV certainly stands on it’s own.  I look forward to seeing what’s to come in terms of the upcoming add-on scenarios.

Difficulty: Variable –  Final Fantasy XV has two difficulty options: Easy and Normal. Easy mode turns down the difficulty of battles considerably. Also, when Easy Mode is enabled, if you do die and you have the Carbuncle summon unlocked from the demo, you get an instant raise. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Carbuncle, in fact, only appears when the game is on the easy setting – as I never saw him appear once when playing the game on Normal. I would recommend Easy Mode only for players that want to experience the game story with no challenge whatsoever. Normal mode is really not that difficult as long as you spend a little time grinding and preparing. Plus, you miss out on one of the coolest fights in the game if you play to the end using the easy setting. As usual, most the really difficult content comes in the form of optional bosses and dungeons. These are intended to played post-game.

Story: The storyline presented in FFXV is simply amazing. It stands just fine on it’s own, but backed up with Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, the lore behind game is just fantastic. In the later part of the game, a lot of concepts are introduced at a pretty fast pace, so if you’re not paying attention it will be easy to miss some key elements.

Originality: For a series with no less than fifteen installments, it can be difficult to keep things feeling fresh. But Square Enix always seems to manage to pull something new out their hat, while keeping the elements that make a Final Fantasy game a “Final Fantasy game”.  This is certainly true here for XV where we have a game that is both somewhat hub-based, yet also very open world. Many of the concepts in this game are indeed recycled from previous entries; Hunts are a prime example. Yet, the setting that encompasses the game manages to keep things feeling new. One shining feature here is the social media integration. SE has flirted with this before, but never got it right until now.  Throughout that game, Prompto will randomly take photographs. Every time you rest, you have are able to review the pictures he’s taken and share them on social media… pointless, yes. But fun.

Soundtrack: Don’t misunderstand what I said above. The music in this game is very good. It’s beautiful and well composed when it needs to be, and quirky and playful when appropriate. But, when compared to other games in the series, the bulk of it does not seem as memorable.  The exception to this gripe is the main theme “Somnus” – This is an absolutely lovely track. When it comes to voice acting, the game has it’s ups and downs. Noctis and his companions are overall, very well done, but their banter can become repetitive after a time. The side characters on the other hand… are cringe inducing. (I’m looking at you Cindy and Dino).

Fun: Final Fantasy XV, for me, was very enjoyable. RPG fans should have a field day. Heck, even my 8-year old is in love with the game. But, I feel like large portion of games just won’t “get it”. If you like RPGs that don’t hold your hand, there’s a lot to like about FFXV.

Graphics: Incredible. The scenery and most of the models in the game are absolutely excellent. There’s a few odd exceptions, but overall Final Fantasy XV is once of the prettiest games I’ve ever played.

Playcontrol: This is where the game suffers the most. But, in theory, this is something that could easily be fixed. Number one, as mentioned above, the camera during combat is big a issue. Second, the jump-button also serves as the button needed to initiate dialog or interact with objects. This often leads to you trying to select an NPC for conversation, only to end up jumping in their face for no reason. Annoying.

Downloadable Content:  Yes. Free and paid DLC.

**This section will be updated with links to more details as they become available and are released**

Mature Content: Some language and scantily clad characters.

Value:  The base game retailed for $60.00 new. The Deluxe Edition sells for $80. As recent as a month after release, the standard game has been seen on sale for as low as $35. – To me, considering the amount of content the game offers, it’s well worth the $60. To be fair, considering the $80 version also comes with a Blu-Ray movie as well as additional in-game content, this amount is also justifiable.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Final Fantasy XV is a great game. But, it has it’s share of flaws. Its not a perfect title by any stretch. Considering how long the game was in development, some of the issues are quite honestly, inexcusable. But, none of them are major enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the title.  There’s plenty to enjoy in this game, and the story presented here is absolutely breathtaking.

Available on: PS4 and Xbox One

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

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