Final Fantasy XV Review – PS4
It has been a long 10 year wait for Final Fantasy XV, so the natural question to ask is, has it been worth it? On the whole it seems the answer is yes. One thing for sure is a lot has changed since it was first announced as Final Fantasy XIII Versus. From the very first trailer I saw all those years ago I have been dying to discover the story behind Prince Noctis and his companions so when I finally got my hands on the game late last year it was like Christmas had arrived early. I don’t believe I have ever wanted to play a game more than XV so naturally I was a little nervous it might disappoint. I am very happy to say for this gamer at least it definitely did not!
Square Enix hoped to create a game for both old school Final Fantasy fans and new fans to enjoy and I feel that they succeeded greatly in this goal. For those that have no prior experience of the Final Fantasy franchise the game can be enjoyed fully as an entry to the series. The game also definitely has elements that fans of previous games will love and yet still offers new and refreshing gameplay. If previous games have put you off because of their turn based combat system or you felt that they were too far too long to dedicate time to, then this may just be the Final Fantasy game for you. Compared to some other Final Fantasy games the story feels rather short, which original fans such as myself feel is the games biggest flaw. This will hopefully be resolved with future DLC, however a product should always arrive complete. It is obvious that a lot has been cut from the story, for example certain characters, locations and background stories.
Final Fantasy XV is set in the world of Eos. The kingdom of Lucis has been at war with the militaristic Niflheim for many years and follows the journey of the crown prince Noctis Lucis Caelum to regain his throne. The story is helped given more substance through the “Final Fantasy XV Universe” which includes the Brotherhood anime and Kingsglaive movie, though it is perfectly fine to play the game without them I seriously suggest watching both beforehand if you can, especially Kingsglaive which follows events just before the game begins and explains what happens to King Regis and Lucis. Square Enix created this universe in order to keep XV as one game rather than a series which also explains many of the cuts to the storyline. Despite the cuts I found the storyline enjoyable, the further it progressed the more engrossed I became, I advise you now to prepare for an emotional rollercoaster.
The relationships between the characters is truly what makes this story special, particularly the relationship between Noctis and his three travelling companions, Prompto, Gladio and Ignis. Even just listening to these four friends interact with each other while exploring is extremely enjoyable. Everyone needs friends like these! Which leads me to what I feel is the most impressive element of the game which is the huge open world and gameplay. Driving around in the Regalia doing hunts, side quests, optional dungeons or even fishing gives you plenty to do and will keep you entertained for many hours. I became so engrossed in this open world when first playing the game that it was not until more than 10 hours of gameplay that I started the story quests.
Action-based real-time battle system, dubbed the Active Cross Battle system replaces the turn based system of previous games. Though I enjoy turn based combat this felt like a refreshing change for me. Prince Noctis has a special ability which allows him to warp in battles which is important when blocking. Warping to high up areas whilst in battle allowes Noctis to recover HP (health points) and MP (magic points). Warp striking enemies causes extra damage and subsequently killing an enemy with a warp strike gives you extra AP which you can then use on the Ascension grid, which allows you to build up character stats and unlock techniques. A threat meter appears when you approach enemies and the battle begins when you are spotted or attack the enemy. Running out of the combat zone ends the battle, ideal for when you come across enemies too high a level for you to currently defeat. A “Wait Mode” is also available which freezes the battle when you stand still. This gives you a great opportunity to strategize or use something called “Libra” that scans an enemy to tell you their weaknesses and strengths.
Noctis has access to a wide range of weapons, including single and double-handed swords, polearms, axes, shields, firearms and daggers. The key is to use the correct weapon or magic against the right enemies depending on their weakness and resistance. His companions can only use specific weapons, for example Gladio uses a Greatsword and Prompto uses a firearm. They are however able to hold a secondary weapon or spell. Each also have special techniques, which can be unlocked. For example Ignis’s “regroup” technique is very helpful when the group is low on HP. Team up attacks and teammate techniques are enjoyable and feel rewarding to use. After each battle you will recieve EXP (experience points) which is needed to level up, however this will not happen until you rest at a campsite or at a rest stop.
Campsites allow you to take advantage of Ignis’s cooking skill in which each food consumed by the party will give temporary stat boosts but staying in a caravan or hotel gives you an EXP bonus. The bonus depends on the rest stop which each cost a different amount of in game currency (gil). As you fight you’ll see the characters support each other through helping each other up, fist bumps and cheering each other on so no matter what you are doing the bond between these protagonists is always developing and I do find it amusing that Prompto finds times to photograph battles while his friends fight. Unlike previous games magic spells are crafted within XV and can create some interesting effects such as experience boosts or poison. Graphically Final Fantasy XV is absolutely stunning in every aspect and I feel that the summons is one example of where it really shines. It is just a shame that summons do not play more of a role, or are not available more freely within the gameplay.
Even after over 100 hours of gameplay I am not bored of Final Fantasy XV in the slightest. The four protagonists feel like family and I feel like I’ve been through a true adventure with them. The story played with my emotions and gameplay was thoroughly enjoyable. If only the story had been developed even futher then I feel that XV would have been the perfect game. Future updates and DLC will hopefully help but I just don’t feel like it will work as well as it would have if it had originally been in the story to begin with.
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