REVIEW: Final Fantasy XV
10 years in the making, Final Fantasy XV is everything a Final Fantasy game should be in 2016. Full of character, an immersive narrative, and beautiful visuals, this is a must-get for both newcomers and veterans alike.
Set in the vibrant world of Eos, four close friends known as Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto are given the task of taking back the Crystal. Once homed in the country of Lucis, this mysterious, yet extremely powerful Crystal has been stolen by Nilfhelm, an enemy nation hellbent on conquering all of Eos. Sounds pretty standard, right? Go kill some bad guys and retrieve a crystal. Believe me, there’s much more than I can begin to explain without horribly spoiling anything.
You’re quickly thrown into the expansive open-world, in which you are free to go where you please for the most part. The first thing I noticed was just how stunning the visuals are in this game, whether it’s those initial landscapes you come across, or the sheer amount of detail put into the environment around you. Final Fantasy has always paid attention to its graphics, but to see how such a beautiful universe can come alive as it does in Final Fantasy XV – is something truly special.
Practically from the get-go, you are given the option to either follow the main storyline, find some sidequests, or simply explore on-foot or in the Regalia, a stylish black convertible fit for a prince. Oh, I should mention – you do play as a prince. Prince Noctis, to be exact. He, and his distinguishable friends have a special relationship, a bond that you’ll see tested time and time again as you go against what seem like impossible odds.
Now, the Regalia is great at first – it can take you from A to B at a generally fast pace, however its novelty does soon wear off and you may find yourself simply fast traveling instead. I recommend simply walking to your destination as you’ll come across treasures, items, and other useful goodies. A car is quicker, but you’ll miss a lot of good stuff.
The battle system in Final Fantasy XV, known as Active Cross Battle, takes advantage of real-time battle scenarios, giving you the option to attack with a variety of different weapons and spells whilst managing your items simultaneously. It’s often fast-paced, and it seems a lot is going on, but after a while, it becomes generally easy to master.
There is the option to play in “Wait” mode, which when utilized, allows you to critically analyse enemies and gives you room to think out your next move. “Active” is essentially no stopping whatsoever, forcing you to never miss a beat. I personally preferred “Active” as it felt like an increase in challenge, whilst providing more of a satisfying experience overall.
In battle, there are many ways of getting the advantage over your enemy, whether it be blindsiding them by attacking from behind, performing a link attack with a party member, or going for a warp strike. I found warp strikes to be the most useful as you can perform an impressive amount of damage at ease. Warp strikes do eat up your MP quite quickly, so best to use in bursts as opposed to spamming the attack.
Noctis can essentially “warp” anywhere he throws his weapon, opening up the option to avoid being attacked by simply warping to a spot further away as you regain your HP and MP. This is a fundamental mechanic to battle, capable of getting you out of sticky situations at the press of a button. The more you master this, the better you’ll become at taking on anything the game throws at you.
Magic use is interesting in this game as you must create your own spells beforehand using elements such as ice, fire, and lightning. The real term is “Elemancy”, and this allows you to fuse said elements together that you’ve gathered throughout your journey. You can simply go down the route of creating a ton of basic spells, such as fire, ice, or lightning, dealing satisfying damage to your foes. It becomes much more interesting when you start combining all three elements with different items – this makes for some unique spells, which prove to be much more powerful.
Each spell has a good chance of dealing area damage, which is great against large groups of enemies, but this time around, magic can actually damage yourself and party members around you. This creates a strategic train of thought before casting a spell as you don’t ideally want to freeze or burn your friends. It just sucks when you accidentally confuse and poison your entire party…
You don’t simply level up as soon as you gain enough EXP – instead, you must rest and the points will be accumulated into your character’s development. You can either setup camp at one of the many Havens scattered around the world, in which Ignis will cook up a meal, usually giving you buffs for a limited time. Or you can sleep in a cosy caravan/inn/hotel, and often gain additional EXP for doing so. It’s an interesting concept, and very satisfying when you’ve gathered a ton of EXP and finally get the chance to absorb it all.
In between all that fighting and questing, there’s a lot to do in the world of Final Fantasy XV. Seek out bounties for various hunts to get some generous EXP and gil, do a little fishing, find various dungeons to explore, or ride around on a Chocobo because why not? There’s always something to do in this game, which is refreshing compared to a little game known as Final Fantasy XIII. You are free, and can discover new places without anyone telling you otherwise.
I’m not going to lie here – after 60 hours of gameplay, I did encounter a few glitches along the way. Most notably was Noctis falling through the floor into the depths of hell. Or something like that. Another was during a Chocobo race, in which I got off the Chocobo by accident and when I tried getting back on, I simply couldn’t. I couldn’t finish the race or quit out, so was forced to reset the game. Sad face.
However, I can forget all of that for good reasons; this game had me so emotionally attached to the characters and its narratives that I was simply in awe a lot of the time. I haven’t truly felt that way for a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X. Practically all aspects of the gameplay are executed perfectly and with ease. It’s an incredible experience, one that introduces a ton of new ideas to the Final Fantasy universe, ideas that should be welcomed with open arms.
There’s probably a lot of stuff I’ve not even touched upon in this review, but in all honesty – you should just go and experience everything this game has to offer yourself.
Available On: PS4 / Xbox One