NOTE: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SLIGHT SPOILERS
The release of Final Fantasy XV has been a long time coming, around ten years in fact as the game was originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII for PS3 via an E3 2006 trailer.
Moving on a decade later Final Fantasy XV has released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 29th November 2016.
Final Fantasy XV is an open world action role-playing game where players take control of main protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum during his journey across the world of Eos.
Final Fantasy XV opens with Noctis and his friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto traveling to Accordo’s capital city of Altissia, where Noctis’s wedding to Lunafreya is to take place. Along the way, however, they receive news of Niflheim’s betrayal of Lucis and the destruction of the capital city of Insomnia, along with the reported deaths of Noctis’s father – King Regis, Lunafreya and Noctis himself. They meet up with Crownsguard commander Cor Leonis, who tasks Noctis with retrieving the weapons of the ancient Lucian kings to fulfill his role as king and take back the crystal to save the capital and bring peace back to Eos.
Combat and Ascension
How FFXV brings the biggest change to the Final Fantasy franchise in years is in the form of real time combat. Almost every single Final Fantasy game ever released since 1987 has featured random enemy encounters followed by turn based combat. FFXV changes this by putting you in control of Noctis with combat similar to iconic hack and slash games like Prince of Persia, God of War and Devil May Cry. Noctis is able to swap out an array of different weapons, block incoming attacks, dodge and parry. Noctis is able to throw one of his bladed weapons in front of him or at an enemy and warp to it at will, utilizing mana in the process. The combat is near perfect and had me waiting for the next fight through out the entire campaign of over twenty hours. A “wait” mode is also available in which you can strategically plan your next strike on your enemy while the game is paused for a short period of time. After each quest or fight you will receive experience and points to utilize on your Ascension. The Ascension grid allows you to level up aspects of each player such as increasing the damage output of Noct’s warp strikes or increasing their health based on their player level.
FFXV features summons in the form of Astrals, which can be summoned after defeating them and then while in combat when a the player meets a few requirements. An example of this is Titan, the first astral you defeat early in the game. When a party member is down and you’re in a large open space there’s a chance you’ll see the press L2 to Summon. Holding this down will then summon Titan to completely obliterate your opponents. A video of this can be seen below.
Aesthetics and Open World
After ten years of development you can rest assured that Final Fantasy XV looks absolutely gorgeous on current systems. Character detail is superb with cloth and hair physics as well as character rigging and animation creating a level of realism to every character in the game. Every NPC and creature has great attention to detail and it doesn’t stop there. The open world of Eos is vast and has great foliage, variety of texture, weather effects and brilliant colour representation. Square Enix added support for the PS4 Pro with improved visuals, 4K support and HDR. I don’t yet have a PS4 Pro so check out the video below to see the difference between the PS4 and PS4 Pro on Arekkz Gaming‘s YouTube channel.
Characters and Skills
Ignis is the logical voice of reason to guide Noctis on his journey. Ignis was raised via a high end education to be Noctis’ counsel. What is probably the most interesting yet partially lacking aspect of FFXV is the progressing skills of the main cast. Each character has a unique skill which levels up as the player progresses through the game. Ignis’s skill is cooking, derived from his ability to use daggers, which allows him to prepare meals for the cast using ingredients that can be collected or bought from stores, as Ignis’s cooking skill levels up, more recipes unlock for the player. If the player buys a meal from a diner Ignis will usually inspect the meal and make a recipe for it so that he can produce it for the team at a later stage. The meals each provide the team with a certain buff such as extra health for a small duration. What lacks from the cooking skill is the ability to combine ingredients yourself to come up with new meals.
Prompto is the youngest and weakest of the bunch, being the only member brought up outside of the royal circle. Prompto and Noctis are close friends having met in school at a young age. Prompto is capable of wielding an array of different Rifles and Handguns. He plays as the comic relief in the game, usually trying to ease tension in the group. Prompto’s skill is photography, it allows him to take photos through out the campaign. These photos are generally taken at random where you will be able to view them at the end of each chapter or when resting, you can then select the photos you want to keep and have the option of sharing them via Social Media. What’s slightly frustrating about all of this is that more often than not due to the randomness of the photography I found most of the photos unusable as they were mid combat while Noctis was warping, or the camera angle was so bad I had no idea what was even going on in the photo. The positive of it however is that it took some good photos in between which I would not have had the time to take a screenshot of while playing.
Gladiolus is the eldest son and lord of the noble House Amicitia, which is sworn to protect the crown. Gladiolus is basically Noctis’s bodyguard. Despite this, the bond between “Gladio” and “Noct” goes deeper than simply being one of duty, but is instead one of brotherhood. Gladiolus’s skill is survival. After finishing a battle, he can find various items that can be used through out your journey. The survival skill level will increase as you walk and set up camp. As your level increases, so does the chances of getting more unique and valuable items. When at a campsite Noctis can also challenge Gladiolus to a training battle.
Finally, Noctis is the main protagonist of the story, the character you waited ten years to play. Noctis’s skill is fishing. Not diplomacy or strategy, Noctis the king of kings, has FISHING. he has the ability to use a fishing rod to catch fish at fishing spots located at random through out the game. You select what line and lure you want, cast your line and then reel it in and hope for a bite, quite similar to Link’s fishing mechanic found in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Catching fish can complete quests, be ingredients for recipes or just be an item to sell to make some extra gil. What’s completely lacking is the ability to fish where you want, move one meter from a fishing spot and you wont have the option to fish. Really Square Enix? You give us a pointless ability on our main character to pass time and don’t even let us chose where we want to fish?
Traversing through the lands of Eos is made possible in a number of ways. One option is going on foot from one point to another or riding a chocobo! Yes, the birdlike creatures you’ve loved and adored for years have made a return to the game and are unlocked by completing a quest in the early stages of the campaign. The chocobos can be rented at 50 gil per day and called to your aid at any time you are outdoors. With enough riding on the chocobos they can level up and aid you in combat to escape tricky situations.
The other option is driving the Regalia, a beautiful classic car given to Noctis by his father for his journey. The Regalia is usually driven by Ignis, with the option of you taking over as Noctis. Driving the Regalia is a simple task as the car sticks to roads only and is usually on an automated path, a semi boring experience but the fastest option to access new areas. Parking spots can be found along the way and used as quick travel points when traversing long lengths. The Regalia can be upgraded and customized on the inside and out with vinyls and various paint coats. Something extra that was added that brought me an immense amount of joy was the in car radio. You’re able to change tracks and listen to the Official Sound Tracks of previous Final Fantasy games! Listening to the sound of balamb garden from FFVIII while on the open road took me back to the days of my childhood playing on my PS1. FFXV also features guest music from Afrojack.
“A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers”, words used to perfectly describe final Fantasy XV. It’s a magical blend of the old and new, a mash up of all the things that made Final Fantasy an amazing series for decades, combined with real-time combat and an open world. Final Fantasy XV is probably the best game to ever release in it’s franchise and without a doubt my game of the year.
Have you picked up Final Fantasy XV? Let us know in the comments what you think about the game, and what platform you’ll be playing it on.
Final Fantasy XV was reviewed on a PS4 Slim (CUH-2000)