Ed: Pure PlayStation’s Kyle is back at it again, this time it’s Final Fantasy XV getting a dressing down for not providing the emotional tugs that he so desired. Fair enough. If you’re still fresh on the game, it might be better to come back here once you’ve finished. Spoilers and all that…
I have no doubt that some people read our Final Fantasy XV review and were upset. Such a big, anticipated title and one that belongs to the Final Fantasy series getting a “low score.” You can read it here if you haven’t already. Off the bat I would like to remind everyone that our review scale is a little bit different from what’s been made the standard for ‘OK’ and ‘not good’ as of late. Here at Pure PlayStation a game that scores from 6.0 to 6.9 is considered ‘good.” So I genuinely found Final Fantasy XV to be an enjoyable time thanks to its open world, gameplay, and exploration.
However the story was, in my opinion, just awful and lacked any character development or world building. Despite this, I am seeing a lot of people really enjoy the title, praising the story, and it being a person’s favorite entry. That’s great! I am happy that you were able to experience something I was not. Honestly, I’m a little jealous as I would love to be in your shoes and not the saddened state I am in for not enjoying FFXV as much as I’d hoped I would. Know that I take no joy in saying that. Final Fantasy is easily one of the my favorite video game series of all time and contributed to making me the person I am today. I could find something nice to say about every entry into the series (well, maybe not Lighting Returns) but know that I am an honest journalist as well as a gamer who has nothing but admiration for the franchise. With all that said, let me go into all the reasons the story fell flat for me and why the plot was one of the weakest in all of Final Fantasy history. Also, major spoilers. Duh…
I’ll start off with the pacing and tone. As everyone should know by now, the game takes place after main character Noctis’ father, King Regis, is killed and his kingdom is overrun. So a father is killed and the son loses his birthright. Should be pretty emotional stuff right? Not really beside a minute long cutscene after our heroes find out about it. There’s disbelief and sadness for a very short while, but after that? It’s all bromance, jokes, and life is great immediately after this pretty heavy plot point. I understand that character’s grow as a person when heavy responsibility is thrust upon them but it takes time for that to develop and for them to get over what’s bothering them. Not immediately after where life is great and you’ve accepted what’s happened to the point where it doesn’t bother you. Seriously, after the first two chapters the group rarely ever mentions the former king’s name or what happened.
Then halfway through the story Noctis’ love interest, Luna, is killed (which I’ll also be touching upon soon). The developers did a better job with this loss of life but still not an acceptable one. The next two story missions show Noctis in a funk, depressed, and angry to the point where his comrade, Gladious, tells him off. Which should have happened in some similarity when his father died but the hot piece of buns is more important. Then after a decent speech by his other comrade, Ignis, our hero is suddenly over his love’s death lickity split. It’s not very normal for a person to admit they’re wrong, they’ve been acting selfish, and they’ll rise above their issues in one fell, 30-second swoop. Things take time to develop and doesn’t happen as quick as ripping off a band-aid. There were other small things like these pacing and tone issues through the story but those were the main two.
Throughout the story our characters also made bad choices or didn’t know something they should in order for the plot to move along. The prime example is Ignis or anyone else not knowing who Ardyn was. Ignis is basically Noctis’ adviser, mentor, and tactician. He knows everything he needs to in order to protect the future king. Ardyn is a chancellor with the Empire which is the force that killed King Regis and took over Noctis’ kingdom. Eventually, the main bad guy, Ardyn, shows up (even uses his name) early in the game and offers to help our protagonists acquire power. No one knows who he is but they admit they’re reluctant to trust him. Doesn’t matter though because they go along with him. Not too long after that, Ardyn reveals who he is and Ignis’ response is more or less, “wait, that chancellor Ardyn!?” You mean to tell me that the royal adviser (or again anyone in our ragtag group) knew an enemy leader but didn’t know what he looked like? I don’t buy that. This one scenario set up so many future plot points that shouldn’t have happened.
The biggest, but certainly not last, problem Final Fantasy XV had was character development and lore building. First off, the plot is all about Noctis, Gladious, Ignis, and Prompto traveling the world to obtain former king’s weapons and the gods’ power to get revenge. That’s it. There’s no in between or other conflicts. As I mentioned in the review, the whole story felt like a Point A to Point B instead of a winding, satisfying journey. Plus, some simple unanswered questions. Why are there former king’s tombs scattered throughout the world, why aren’t there maps or people who know all of their exact locations, if that’s the case how did people know where exactly the gods themselves like to hideout at, why was one god randomly pissed off at the people trying to help it, why did the gods need to channel their power through Noctis if they felt threatened and knew of the dangers facing the world, why did the gods favor the Lucis bloodline, why did they put their crystal in the care of said bloodline, and other similar qualms are never answered let alone touched upon. The Kingsglaive movie literally had more setup and backstory than this game. Which by the way is kind of required viewing to even understand the smaller things in Final Fantasy XV.
By far worse though…character development. Aranea, Ravus, Iris, Talcott, Jared, Cor, the Empire’s higher-ups not including Ardyn, and the goddamn frickin Emperor himself were not even needed for this story to work. You could remove all these semi-main characters and the story wouldn’t change at all. Aranea is a boss battle that comes out of nowhere because apparently she’s been hired to take out our heroes and then appears as a bodyguard for a later level. That’s it. She’s never seen again and only talked about a few times in dialogue. Granted they gave her a personality but she served no purpose to the story and removing her wouldn’t affect anything. She also had two subordinates that made an appearance, were given names, and even attempted to give them a backstory. They were gone after a half of a mission. Ravus is the older brother of the oracle, Lady Lunafreya. Why he is in this story at all I couldn’t tell you. His screen time probably clocks in at around ten minutes but that’s only because of his boss battle. The first time he shows up to our heroes, he comes out of nowhere and taunts the group before being restrained. Like what? Why did he come here to mock us? There was no given reason for him to be there as well as the entire game. We didn’t know why he was helping the Empire or why he turn-coated towards the end. All we know was that he cared for his sister.
Iris is Gladious little sister and clearly has a crush on Noctis. The levity she brings is nice and all but again doesn’t serve a purpose. Unless your Prompto and really like her cooking. She contributes nothing to the story and the most interesting thing regarding her (Jared dying) was done so off-screen. Speaking of which, Talcott was a young boy whose grandfather, Jared, ran a hotel in Lestallum. They appeared in the story to give the protagonists a place to stay in that world and for the younger one to kiss the future king’s behind. Also, Talcott was supposedly the only one who knew of a widely known urban legend in what was to be revealed as a former king’s tomb. You’re telling me a six-year-old (or whatever age he is at that time) knew where a royal king’s tomb was but no one else did? Then suddenly Jared was killed by the Empire off-screen, everyone was sad, and we the player were expected to feel something? Don’t get me wrong, death is usually a sad experience where a life is lost. But we just met this guy who was given name, occupation, family members, ideals, and opinions but died a half an hour later. It felt like the devs wanted us to feel disheartened but I certainly wasn’t.
Cor is another waste of potential. This man is a great warrior who had the nickname “The Immortal.” He somehow escaped the Empire’s invasion, failed to protect the king, didn’t make an appearance in Kingsglaive, and showed the group where the first king’s tomb was to get the special weapon within. He also expresses his disappointment with himself because he couldn’t save King Regis from the empire. So I thought, alright this guy is super strong and considered one of the best fighters in the game. I can’t wait to join up with him at random times as we both work to get our revenge on the people who wronged us. Nope. He accompanied us to the tomb and another mission to unlock the full open world for us to discover. Then sometime later he appears all mopey to wish us well on a journey we have to take across the sea. Which was a three-minute cutscene. He’s never to be noticed again. What was the point of introducing him? We found all the other tombs on our own, so why would he have to show us to the first one? Cor was also in charge of the Royal Knights of Lucis. You’re telling me he wouldn’t go on his own adventure to get revenge on those that destroyed his home?
That enemy is also run by the Emperor. He is in charge of the Niflheim kingdom and forces. From what we could tell he wanted to take over the entire world for his own benefit. Surely we would cross paths with him on multiple occasions as we try to get justice for everything he’s done to the world and Noctis? Again, another big fat nope. His screen time is a woeful sixty-second cutscene towards the beginning of the game. Never makes another appearance, is killed off-screen by the real, main antagonist, and was a non-factor in every regard except in the prequel movie. You have an entire invading force commanded by the ruling commander and you don’t use him for more than a minute in a forty hour adventure? We could have seen why he was doing what he was doing, how he got tricked and betrayed, or in general what his thought process was. Instead what we assume is the main bad guy for half the game is no more important than a Shamwow commercial. A rule of thumb should be, if a character can be replaced by a no-name NPC and the part still makes sense to the story, you’ve done something wrong.
The worst offender to lack of character development however, belongs to the oracle Luna. She is supposed to take on the role that helps Lucis kings and be Noctis’ beloved. She only appears in a few, short cutscenes that show her and Noctis as a child before we finally meet up with her halfway through the game. Up until this point we only knew that she was dedicated to her job and the gods. Not much else. I was so excited for her to join our party, learn more about her, actually learn the history and importance of the oracle role, and see if the two lovers hit it off. You can probably guess where this is going. She’s killed off and we’re supposed to feel that Noctis’ life is shattering down around him. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Again, it was sad that a life was lost and one so important to our main hero, but they didn’t build Luna up in any meaningful way. We still didn’t know the specifics of what the oracle does besides helping kings and communicating with the gods, we didn’t get to know her as the player, how much did she truly care for Noctis, and why such an important piece was only around in less than twenty minutes of screen time?
A more minor problem involves our final comrade, Prompto. About 75% through Final Fantasy XV, he is kidnapped by Ardyn and taken back to the Empire’s stronghold. Naturally we eventually make our way there, fight the daemons infesting the place, and rescue Prompto. Once we do there appears to be no way to proceed until our buddy starts unlocking things with his wrist. A bit of backstory here. It’s revealed that the Empire started working on creating soldiers and people in their labs. Artificial life to the extreme, if you will. Turns out that Prompto is one such creation. Cool plot twist right? Nope x3. This was never touched upon at all leading up to this moment and we were given no reason to believe that Prompto was ever born anywhere near the Empire. No weird childhood memories or inconsistent history. Then after it’s revealed the subject is never touched upon again. Also, you probably guessed it, but less than a few minutes was spent on this unexpected development.
Lastly, is the end story and Ardyn’s motivation itself. Long story short, Ardyn was wronged by previous kings, banished, and lived in exile for a while. He wanted revenge and even says himself that his only goal is to end Noctis’ bloodline. It also turns out our antagonist is more or less immortal and when he “dies” he goes to the beyond just to return shortly after. So the only way to end him and his revenge scheme for good is to kill him in the beyond with the power of all the Lucis kings. Now it suddenly makes sense why the power of kings was needed. Still a little too late at this point. So Noctis comes to the realization that in order to do this, he needs to basically sacrifice himself. He needs to gather the power of his former relatives inside him all at once, go to the beyond, and unleash the power on Ardyn there. Then immediately after the strain kills him and he too leaves the in-game world. You see the problem right? As it stands now, the solution to stopping our bad guy is to do something that in effect achieves the enemy’s goal. There is no more Lucis bloodline, unless Noctis had a kid somewhere which I honestly wouldn’t be surprised with how little the story tells you, and no more kings. Good job Square Enix. The problem isn’t that the bad guy won, the problem is that our hero’s idea of saving the day is to give him what he wants.
If I opened your eyes to the problems of Final Fantasy XV then I am sorry. I just had this driven passion to explain my side of things regarding this tale. I still love the series and the gameplay for this entry is phenomenal as I have mentioned. I’m happy that the game is the second biggest launch for the franchise in parts of the world and I can’t wait to enjoy Final Fantasy XVI. At the end of the day though, reviews are meant to be viewed as references for gamers deciding on whether or not to buy a title. They should compare all the reviews and reviewers they trust and then decide to make a purchase if they decide it’s worth it. Is Final Fantasy XV worth sixty dollars? Yeah, I’d say so since I rated it in our ‘good’ category. Will you be enraptured by a beautiful story? Probably not. You’ll feel like more than half of the game’s cut scenes or script is missing.