After years of delays, one of the most anticipated video games of all time is finally released. But does it live up to the epic wait?
Square Enix has been making Final Fantasy XV, in one form or another, for over a decade now. Whatever else you say about it, the fact that it’s playable, enjoyable, and relatively coherent is a testament to the developers’ sheer bloody-mindedness in getting the game finished. But although much has changed in the games industry in the last 10 years, Final Fantasy XV avoids the pitfall of feeling old-fashioned before it’s even released. Instead, its greatest failing is one of gaming’s oldest problems: it has no idea how to tell a compelling story.
Every fan of the series will have a different opinion, but we don’t think many would argue that Final Fantasy XIII’s strongpoint was its intriguing plot and strong characters (and that’s regardless of what you think of Lightning). And while the soon to be remastered Final Fantasy XII is our favourite in terms of gameplay, it was also let down by an undercooked plot and a focus on the wrong characters. Or at least characters that the majority of Western gamers found uninteresting.
Who exactly Final Fantasy XV is aimed at lies at the heart of understanding and appreciating the game, and despite Square Enix’s attempts to make inroads into the West it’s clear that the primary audience is still young Japanese men. If you’re already into anime or Japanese role-playing then the tone and style of drama will seem welcomingly familiar. To anyone else though the blunt storytelling and simplistic characters will appear awkward and unappealing. Although, as we’ve already suggested, that’s not necessarily an impediment to enjoying the rest of the game.
At a surface level the plot of the game is very simple: you control Noctis, the heir to the throne of a fantasy kingdom, who along with his three closest friends goes on a road trip to the neighbouring country to meet his betrothed. Almost instantly their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and their country is invaded. Crystals are stolen and monsters are fought, but unless you’ve kept up with the enormous amount of ancillary content (including, but not limited to, a CGI movie and an anime tie-in) understanding the finer details is near impossible.
That’s far from a deal-breaker, but what is vital to enjoying the game is whether you like the main characters or not. And again, that largely depends on your familiarity with, and appreciation of, similar games and anime. None of the leads are exactly nuanced: there’s Gladiolus the tough guy with a heart of gold, Ignis the irritating know-it-all, and Prompto the lowborn comic relief. Noctis is… a video game hero. Brash, cocky, but ill-defined enough that you can also project your own personality onto him.
From the moment the quartet were unveiling everyone started comparing them to a boy band, and that’s still exactly what they look like – with their black leather clothing and spiky hair – and act like. Their dialogue is melodramatic and unsophisticated, especially as it tries to grapple with genre favourite subject matter such as loyalty and sacrifice. We’ve still heard much worse, but the voiceovers certainly don’t manage to elevate the script. Instead they’re the weakest link, and surprisingly amateurish. Even more surprising though, is that there’s so few other memorable side characters – with almost no one but the main four getting any kind of proper characterisation.
Game review: Final Fantasy XV is an epic, but flawed, role-playing game
Final Fantasy XV (PS4) – everything was epic
We’ve been entirely negative about the game so far because the story is, as with any role-playing game, at the heart of the experience. And it’s easily the worst bit. Which is not to say the rest is unequivocally good, but it does at least have a much broader appeal. Despite the series’ history the combat is not turn-based and you only control one character at a time – although you can give some limited commands to the others.
There’s still a hint of active time battle in the way you have to wait for special abilities to recharge, but the emphasis is on making sure you’re in the right place at the right time, as you quickly swap between multiple melee weapons. Noctics has a teleporting warp power that makes this easier than it might be, often allowing him to get some height above the battleground and a better insight on the tactics necessary; as well as the chance to initiate a more powerful warp-assisted move. This works well, although the camera and lock-on system are not the most reliable and often fail to show the action properly.
Magic is handled in an unusual manner for Final Fantasy, and has to be prepped beforehand with collected resources. That means you can easily run out of magic attacks mid-battle, and since most of the attacks carry a serious risk of friendly fire the whole thing often seems like more trouble than it’s worth. The same could be said of summonses, which have very specific requirements to activate and even then you’re not guaranteed that they’ll work. Sometimes your astral allies will turn up to turn the tide of a boss battle… and sometimes they won’t. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
In terms of visuals Final Fantasy XV stands up surprisingly well considering the mammoth development period. It’s not hard to spot low quality textures here and there, but the quality of art design, as well as the size and scope of the world, is more than enough to compensate. The weird juxtaposition of real world-looking technology and buildings, together with fantasy monsters and landscapes, is yet another thing that will attract or repel in equal measure, but you can’t deny the game doesn’t look distinctive.
Final Fantasy XV has an unusual structure, that is the opposite of Final Fantasy XIII. It starts off with an open world environment that you’re free to explore and scour for side missions, but after around 15 hours it begins to narrow; until it becomes much more linear and focused on just Noctis. Completing just the story missions can be done in less than 30 hours, but there is a lot of side quests and end game content.
All these provisos and caveats mean that Final Fantasy XV is one game where the score is almost completely irrelevant. But that hints at the game’s greatest failing: that it is not going to surprise either its fans or its critics. If this seems like your type of thing then you’re almost certainly going to enjoy it. But if you usually turn your nose up at Japanese role-players then this is not the game to convince you otherwise. Because despite its achievements, and genuine attempts to move the genre forward, this does not feel like the last word in Final Fantasy.
Source: LinkFinal Fantasy XV review – the good, the bad, and the beautiful by admin