This review of Final Fantasy XV will probably be all over the place because there’s a lot to cover. I’ve never played any FF game all the way through. I got pretty far in FFXII but that’s about it. Just giving you a heads up because I am more or less a FF newbie.
I do recommend watching Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV before playing the game. It does suck to have to buy something else besides the game to get the full story but the movie does a better job of explaining the back story than the game has so far. Plus it’s a pretty good movie with decent characters and some awe-inspiring action.
The game takes place on the world of Eos. The main conflict is between the kingdom of Lucis and the Niflheim Empire. The Empire is technologically advanced and has waged a campaign against the other nations on the planet. Lucis has been able to stand against them for two reasons. First, they have a powerful Crystal that sustains a force field around the Royal City of Insomnia. Second, King Regis has magical abilities that he is able to grant to other people. He gives these powers to men and women who are refugees from conquered nations. They form the Kingsglaive. However, Lucis is still losing the war. The Empire comes to Lucis with an agreement: Have Prince Noctis marry Lady Lunafreya and give up claim to all territory outside of Insomnia and the war can end. Regis agrees, but he sends Noctis and his three friends/bodyguards out of the city while the Empire visits. It turns out to be a trap, and the Empire steals the Crystal, kills the king, and devastates the City.
Prince Noctis, best friend Prompto, tough guy Gladiolus, and intelligent driver/cook/tactician Ignis are far away from the Royal City when they hear the news. Noctis must now find a way to beat the Empire and free his people from the Empire’s rule. If he can tear himself away from the ultimate road trip, that is.
That’s the game’s greatest strength and possibly its greatest weakness. Noctis and his friends are basically just four guys in their twenties on a road trip where they go on random quests, stay at motels, and camp under the stars. It works and makes for a different approach to an open world RPG than what is normally seen. However, the overall story has suffered somewhat because they don’t really act like people who have lost their king and kingdom. Likewise, the people populating the world don’t act like anything significant has happened. As the game progresses they do talk more about wanting revenge when you go on main story related missions but it still doesn’t quite feel like they’re reacting to the loss like most people would.
Unlike other RPG games (and I’m assuming other FF games) you don’t add more characters to your party. It’s Noctis as the playable character with Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis as the computer controlled followers. There have been two instances where an additional character has briefly joined the main four but they don’t become a permanent addition to the group.
That’s fine for me, because it allows the game to really flesh out the four main characters. They’ll talk and bicker and joke around with one another as they traverse the map and go into battle. Noctis is a little bland but it’s probably hard to strike the right balance with him because he has lost his father and is now on a quest to reclaim his kingdom but at the same time he can’t be depressed or crying about it all the time.
Prompto is the fun loving energetic member of the group. He’s always taking pictures (which can be reviewed and saved when you level up). He loves chocobos and likes to eat. In fact, the others give him hell about eating and say he’s going to get fat. He’s also really insecure, which is revealed after the group stays at a motel. Noctis and Prompto have a long talk about how Prompto doesn’t feel like he fits in and is just faking it. Like in Mass Effect or Dragon Age there are conversation choices that could send the conversation in a few different directions or end it all together.
Gladiolus is the muscle of the group and the one who is the most competitive. He has a younger sister that he’s worried about early on because she was in the Insomnia when it fell. She managed to get out and make it to the city of Lestallum and Gladio wants to head there right away. Ignis is probably the most adult/serious one in the group and the one most likely caring for the others. He’s always cooking for them and he even mends Noctis’s shirt when it gets torn up a little. He also does most of the driving if you leave it in auto (which I do most of the time).
I’ve played around 53 hours so far and I feel like I really know these four characters. The interactions between them all are great. Yes, they do repeat lines a little too often (they make the same complaint about the weather a lot) but there’s always enough new stuff in there to keep things interesting.
The game map is huge. By the third chapter basically all of it is unlocked aside from the city of Insomnia, and two other areas. Those areas unlock a few chapters in. There’s a good variety of locations and lots of NPCs around. What I love is that you can drive from one end to the other with no loading screens or wait times. If you can see it, you can drive to it.
I feel like I keep saying this every time I review a next gen game this but the graphics in this game are simply stunning. The world looks amazing, as do the characters and monsters that inhabit it. The foursome was driving over this bridge spanning a canyon and there were amazing vistas on both sides that left me stunned. The characters were too because they commented on the view as well.
The combat is real time in this game instead of turn based. You can activate the Wait Mode, which freezes the game when Noctis remains still. In Wait Mode Noctis can scan enemies for weaknesses and better target different areas on the enemies.
Noctis can equip four weapons at a time and switch to them on the fly. There are the regular swords which are pretty fast, broadswords which deal a lot of damage but are slow, daggers, and guns. The three friends can have two weapons equipped at a time.
Warping is a major factor of combat. Noctis can warp at enemies; this is called a warp strike and it can deal a lot of damage, especially if you upgrade it. He can also warp away from battle, which instantly refills the warp strike meter and also slightly speeds up healing. Warp strikes are a lot of fun.
Magic is handled a bit differently here than it is in other RPGs. Instead of being its own system, Noctis basically makes potions which he can throw at enemies. He can collect fire, lightning, and ice and use those elements to craft a spell. He can also add in food items or the random items you collect during the game like coins or metal bits or parts of creatures that you get for defeating them to make the spells even more powerful. For instance, I created a blizzard spell that healed Noctis and friends when Noctis used it. Another spell was a lightning storm that poisoned everyone it touched. They can be extremely powerful and take out a lot of enemies at once. However, magic can hurt the good guys. I threw a lightning spell that caught Prompto and Ignis in its area of devastation and hurt them, though not by a lot. Afterwards they were both covered in black soot from the spell. Later all four got caught in a blizzard spell I used and had ice covering them afterwards.
Just mashing the attack button won’t win fights, though. There’s still an element of strategy. If you hit an enemy from behind you perform a Blind side Link, which has one of the other three characters join Noctis in a more powerful attack. If you dodge an attack and parry it you can create a Link attack with another character. The same is true with warp striking.
Gladio, Ignis, and Promto have techniques that can be used in battle. Right now I have Ignis equipped with Regroup, which calls all the characters together and heals them. Prompto has Recoil where he uses a big gun to blow the crap out of an enemy. Gladio has Dawnhammer which sees him launching a vicious attack with his sword. Noctis can also add an attack to the techniques if timed right. Only one technique for each character can be equipped at a time, but they can be swapped any time, even during combat. If I’m fighting a group of characters I might switch to a technique Gladio has that is useful against large groups. There is a technique bar which fills during combat but it fills quickly enough that I don’t have to worry about not being able to use a technique.
Battles can be hard, especially against large groups or just a single foe that is high level. Some battles are really battles of attrition. As long as you have enough potions equipped for health and to clear away certain status effects (the group can be petrified, turned into frogs, made confused, etc.) than you can probably win a lot of battles. This isn’t always the case, obviously. If an enemy is around ten levels higher than you more than likely you’re going to die and die fast.
One of my hardest fights were against these Cthulu type monsters that used magic, summoned skeleton warriors, and blasted out a petrifying ray. It took me forever to take them down, and I was the same level as they were.
Fights can be frustrating because of the camera. If you’re in an enclosed space or just surrounded by a lot of enemies it can be hard to tell what’s going on and where Noctis is.
Leveling up is a little different here. The EXP you earn during fights doesn’t get applied to the characters until you sleep either at a motel or at a camp site. Then it’s tabulated and characters gain a level (or two or three depending how long you go between sleeping). This is also when, if you’re camping, Ignis will cook a meal. Different meals provide different benefits so choosing the right meal is key.
A nice little touch is that Noctis and his friends will start to look grungy the longer they go between rests. Their clothes will look dirty and they might have dirt on their faces and arms.
Some frustrating things include the A button. It is what has Noctis jump but it’s also a context button that has Noctis camp, open doors, use ladders, enter the Regalia, etc. A lot of the time I hit it to do a specific function and Noctis jumps instead. Also, sometimes during battle I’ll warp strike an enemy and then the game will automatically warp me to a safe point even if that’s not what I wanted. It’s also annoying that after a battle Noctis slows down as the points are scored. In dungeons Noctis also walks a lot slower than normal which is just so annoying.
There are dungeons spread throughout the world. Some you encounter on missions and others you have to discover on your own. Each dungeon has a boss to battle at the end and also gives Noctis one of the King’s Arms, special weapons that are really powerful but drain Noctis of health with every strike. The dungeons are fun but can be frustrating. The sewer dungeon I’m working on now is causing my blood to boil because it’s such a confusing maze of halls, stairs, locked doors, dead ends, etc. The map isn’t a big help because it’s just way too confusing.
There is additional content outside of the main quest but I’ve discovered that it’s quite repetitive. The main activity to do is go on hunts. Just about every little town or rest spot in the game has a diner and every diner has a tipster. From these tipsters you can get locations of items on the world map, buy food, and go on hunts. The hunts are a great way to get EXP, gil, and good loot.
There are also characters that give you side quests. There’s a hunter, a scientist, a chef, a reporter, a magazine owner, etc. They each task you to do things for them. This is fine, but it’s always the same thing. The hunter always wants you to collect a dog tag, the scientist always wants you to find frogs, the reporter wants gemstones, the magazine owner wants pictures, etc. The locations and enemies you fight change but nothing else does.
That brings me to one of the game’s biggest weaknesses. There are dungeons, side-quests, and hunts to do. However, none of them really come with any story to them. The side-quests are essentially identical fetch quests; it’s just the object that you’re fetching that changes. The dungeons are cool and have led to some great moments (and some bad ones as I went into one dungeon and encountered a boss that was way higher level than me and killed me very easily) but they are starting to feel the same now too. The hunts are fun but are becoming more of a chore. A lot of hunts are locked for me because I have to be a hunter level 6 (I’m level 5 right now). To get to level 6 I have to do more hunts. However, that means driving all over the map and going to diners and hoping that they have hunts for me to do.
With a map this large there should be way more stuff to do. None of the various towns or rest stops really offers anything new to do. Lestallum, the biggest town so far, did come with a few side-quests but they were all the go fetch something variety. There were no story specific quests for the city itself. I guess I was expecting something like Dragon Age or Kingdoms of Amalur, where there are lots of side quests that have their own stories and a lot of unique towns that also have their own side-quests and stories. FFXV doesn’t have that.
Still, I’m enjoying this game immensely. It’s a lot of fun and I’m trying to take my time with it because I don’t want to end it any sooner than I have to.