These are my personal thoughts of Final Fantasy XV, which I managed to finish recently. This post is spoiler free, but if you’re sensitive about all kinds of information, and would want to avoid any kind of information regarding the game, please come back after you’ve played the game and finished it.
“This is a fantasy based on reality.” is one of the phrases that always stuck with me from the old trailers of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is something that I thought about quite a lot when the game moved on from being Versus XIII to XV. Is that concept still present? Does it still play a major part to what XV is all about? Now that I’ve played the game, I believe the answer is yes, the concept is still present, not just contextually within the game, but also realistically, as our dreams of finally experiencing the game was almost a fantasy, but it is now for sure, a reality… And reality never lives up to fantasy.
The world of Eos:
One of the major aspects of FFXV was the open world. You get to explore a rich world that is a hybrid between modern day technology and fantasy, and mostly it works very well both aesthetically and idealistically. The developers managed to deliver this concept properly, and it was showcased early on in the trailers and the movie Kingsglaive. It’s wonderful and distinctive, which is something that I appreciated very much. There just seems to be a lot going into the lore of the game, and how these small lore bits coincide within the world around you is nothing short of amazing.
How does exploring this world fair though? For the most part, it fairs great, but it does not give a very good first impression. The beginning area of the game felt empty, lacking the proper amount of interesting activities or encounters to make it fun to explore, and most importantly, no reward whatsoever, but that changes once the game truly opens up, mainly because the game presents challenges and interesting places once it does, some of these places include dungeons, tombs, and high level deamons roaming about, and while it might not be wise to engage with these interesting bits in the world, it peaks your interest enough for you to want to come back.
As much as the world is beautiful and engaging though, things can get pretty tedious. A huge portion of the game’s side quests are boring fetch quests with no real significance, and lack of cities can sometimes kill the immersion of feeling like you’re being in a live world.
The world can be explored by foot, but the game also offer a couple of other ways instead of just walking around. There’s the luxurious Regalia, and Chocobos. The Regalia can drive only on roads, and they often feels like a railway road with no proper control over the driving, which is totally fine by me. it just felt right with the design of the open world, since it would be weird to have it driving around the terrain. Chocobos also feels superb to control, and they can take you anywhere you want (Except inside dungeons or closed places) unlike the regalia. You could also fast travel to certain parking spots using the Regalia, and enjoy previous Final Fantasy music on the car.
All in all, the world is mostly interesting and engaging, but it just falls tedious when it comes to the countless tasks people seem to give you. Why would a royal prince go and collect food supplies for restaurants? I seriously have no Idea. There’s also the matter of cities, which was quite disappointing. There’s so much potential here in the world, cities mentioned, but never visited. It could have benefited more from that.
Stand Your Ground!:
Combat was a major concern for me, as I did not like it at all in both the platinum demo and episode duscae. However, that’s not the case with the final game, the combat has been tweaked and balanced to actually feel really good and has it’s variety, yet still having problems. Problems such as weird animation hiccups that usually makes a special move not hit an enemy. A lot of times, whenever I do a technique by any of the companions I have, this animation hiccup would occur, and I would lose two technique bars for nothing. When the combat works though, it works pretty well. Evading system is still as weird as the first time it was, but I got used to it with time.
Leveling up in the game is similar to Final Fantasy X, but dumped down a million times. You gain experience points as you finish quests and kill enemies, and they would raise your level alongside your stats, but there are Action Points (AP) that you manage to collect in the journey, and these action points are used in a grid like leveling tree called Ascension. It unlocks certain abilities and such, but never felt quite balanced or significant. it does start making a difference further on in it’s progress, but it’s not a necessarily a good leveling tree.
Magic is back in FFXV, but magic is bad in FFXV… Really really bad. I always had this vision that the magic would work kind of like Final Fantasy VIII, but sadly that was not the case. You can collect elemental powers throughout the world in specific places (Fire, Ice, Lightning) and once you do, you use these elemental powers to mix them together, mix them with items, or just craft them alone. It’s just an illusion of mixing though, as the only difference it makes is magic potency, and that’s not good for you, wanna know why? When you cast a magic spell, you also get affected by it alongside your companions, which does not make sense whatsoever. This made me forfeit myself from using magic a lot, the only times I had to use magic were moments were I had to use magic.
The Road trip:
Despite thinking that the road trip and all bro party wouldn’t work pretty well, I think it’s the highlight of the game and is executed pretty well. All party members are great, and the same goes for their usual banter. This works properly because of the game’s pacing, it takes it’s time to focus on them more than anything else. A problem with the pacing though, is that it takes it’s time… A lot! I was almost 8 chapters in, and there was nothing major happening in the story, other than character related stuff and fillers. I’m not saying nothing important was happening, it just that there was no basis for the story or sense of direction in the first 8 chapters, and that’s a lot, which is probably because of the open world design. It felt as if they had this plot they wanted to make, but did not know how to implement it in the open world, so what they did was put small little filler things in the open world part, and then let everything escalate quickly afterwards in the linear parts of the game. It felt weird, but at least what happens in terms of events afterwards was nothing short of greatness.
Another thing related to the road trip and the guys is the skills they have. Prompto is a photographer, Ignis is a cook, and Gladio is a survivalist. These skills level up and improve as you keep on doing them on regular basis, but their leveling does not have any impact. Though the moments in the campfires were pretty good, and sometimes would trigger some personal little quests with the guys.
It ain’t Final Fantasy without proper summons, and yes FFXV has summons (Called Astrals), great summons too, not in terms of usability, but in terms of design. I never was a fan of how significantly changing the summons design and looks had to be done in FF games, because sometimes they would look over the top. But with the nature of FFXV’s lore, the summons almost look very abstract, and very reminiscent of their original concepts as summons, and while they’re not a lot in terms of quantity, they’re superb in terms of quality. Here’s the problem with summons though… You can’t call them whenever you want, they only trigger whenever you’re in grave danger, and even in that moment, you can’t choose who to call, it’s randomized every time it happens. The outcome is great, it’s superb, but being unable to call them whenever I want or choose to call just seems like a weird and irrational design decision. I didn’t like that, didn’t like it at all, but the summons themselves make up for it I guess, to an extent.
Yoko Shimomura is a hero, she’s a masterful composer, and because of that, FFXV has some of the best music I’ve heard in any Final Fantasy game for a while. It’s personal, it’s atmospheric, it’s intense, and it’s variable! I can literally say nothing bad about the music, except for the fixed dungeon and night combat music, other than that, what a stellar set of music to accompany you in your journey! Tracks like Omnis Lacrima, or Somnus just feel like a huge set pieces of the game, and I genuinely believe that the game wouldn’t have worked without them, and I’m not even mentioning some of the other amazing tracks out there too. If there’s anyone that make quality and emotionally powerful music for FF games other than Nobuo Uematsu, it’s definitely Yoko Shimomura.
Tale of light and darkness:
Story was the thing I always waited for the most, it’s the most important aspect for me, and Final Fantasy XIII was a huge disaster for me story wise (Actually in all aspects) so I really wanted a good story with XV, and the I think it delivered for the most part.
Without getting into spoilers, I mentioned before how the story doesn’t really go anywhere in the majority of the game, it’s all over the place, with no proper basis or sense of direction. Once you reach the linear part of the game though, the story really picks up and events start to unfold a lot more (except for one very tedious part). It’s a simple and subtle story, but it works with it’s simplicity, mainly because of it’s ending, which I loved! For me personally, the game ended perfectly, sticking to it’s core theme from the beginning, and avoiding the usual cryptic and ambiguous types of endings that some FF games have. It doesn’t compromise itself by simply wanting to be convoluted.
The story is complemented with a good set of characters, but some of the characters just seem to have no role in the story whatsoever, even though they were shown in trailers and promotional stuff a lot as if they were important, but seriously, they don’t even exist, and that was just straight cheap for me.
All in all, I genuinely believe the story was great, with a perfect ending! but lacked proper pacing in it’s open world part, and had meaningless characters.
Stand by me:
Is Final Fantasy XV a great game? the answer is yes, but it’s also a flawed game. It’s not a masterpiece by all means, but it’s miles better than XIII. The problem with FFXV is that it wasn’t successful in avoiding the usual problems most modern RPG’s try to avoid these days, such as the tedious and boring fetch quests, and having weird design decisions that hold it back. But on the other hand, it has a great story, an enjoyable combat system, spectacular music and visuals. I loved it, but it is nonetheless flawed.
With this, I bid you farewell. Till next time…