Final Fantasy XV is one of the most sought after games in our lifetimes. Even as I type this I can’t believe that it’s finally releasing to the public this Tuesday, let alone that I have been playing it the last few days. Ten years since it was announced as Final Fantasy XIII Versus, it’s achieved status as one of the most anticipated titles of all time – alongside the likes of Half Life 3, Kingdom Hearts 3, and the polarizing Duke Nukem Forever. That’s why when I found out I would be professionally reviewing it for Pure PlayStation, I prepared myself to be as calculating and proficient as possible. Plus, my fangirl emotions inside erupted too. The series, and its weird Kingdom Hearts cousin, have a special place in my heart for all the adventures it brought to people. Specifically Final Fantasy XII which I spent over two hundred and fifty hours in and completed one hundred percent. Enough of my rambling and proving of my gamer creds though, you’re here to see if Final Fantasy XV is any good. I’ll frame it in terms of my associate asking, “Yay or nay?” My response? “I’d say a very weak yay.
I’ve put in two, all day gaming marathon sessions for the game so far and will probably double that by Tuesday. However, it’s a JRPG and even with all this time under my belt there is so much to learn and experience. That’s where the review in progress comes in and is definitely not my final say on the game. First up I need to express the notion that both Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and Brotherhood Final Fantasy are required reading (you know what I mean). The former being a set-up movie on how main character Lucis’ kingdom fell and the former being about your rag-tag group of characters. Without these you’d be missing a lot of plot information (that so far hasn’t been divulged in the game itself) and much-needed character development for your party. So much so that I could tell things had been cut, edited, and remixed to make as much sense with the resources and assets Square Enix already had. After all this game was originally supposed to be a spinoff game of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy.
I may be getting ahead of myself though. Everyone should be aware of what I’m about to tell you as it has been included in pre-release videos and press releases for years now. Plus, my knowledge gathered from watching the Kingsglaive movie. Don’t worry, I have no intention on spoiling anything beyond that. The back story for the entire game (which, again, you need to watch the CGI movie to really understand) revolves around an empire called Niflheim who has conquered a good portion of Eos (the in-game world). They had their sights on the nation of Lucis because it was the only place to hold a magical crystal which was giving to the denizens of the world by gods. They’re also after the reigning king’s ring, Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, because it acts as a conduit to the gods.
Long story short, even though Lucis has much magical power and a sprawling kingdom, Niflheim has the numbers and the technology to force King Regis into peace talks. The invading empire then uses that as a way of finally destroying the vast city and removing its king from the picture. Before and during this the king had sent away his son, Noctis Lucis Caelum, to a safe location for his betrothed wedding to a childhood friend. What we’re still unclear about is that this wedding was a part of the fake peace talks. Obviously things don’t work out with the ceremony and everyone who supported the country of Lucis was scattered in retreat.
This is where your party comes into play. You control Noctis while his bodyguard, Gladiolus Amicitia, advisor, Ignis Scientia, and close friend, Prompto Argentum, follow along in tow as A.I. protectors. They set out on a cross-country journey to the wedding’s set location before it is interrupted by news of the chaos. They rush back to see it for themselves and are promptly set out on a path to seek revenge and acquire power to do so. That’s the story so far but it wouldn’t be a JRPG without a bunch of other stuff to do. Unless you are in a dungeon or linear story mission, the giant open world is your oyster to play around in. There are collectibles to find such as treasures, magic deposits, weapons, and more which are added to your map through one of two ways. You simply stumble upon them with your mini-map or you head to a settlement’s diner location. You’ll be able to get the scoop on nearby pickups and the like. It is also in the restaurants that you can sign up for hunts. Fans should know this is where you go out and kill monsters for experience points and cash. Lastly, these places will also sell you food (who would have guessed, right?) They’ll give your group temporary stat bonuses and some will even allow you to recreate similar dishes at your campsites.
No doubt there are side missions as well. Some will require you to come across them in the world and others can be acquired through people with a question mark above their heads. Don’t worry about missing these; they’re very clearly marked on the mini-map. In typical fashion they’ll have you killing things, retrieving items, helping others out with items, and delivering parcels. Other outstanding marks on your wayward guide are weapon dealers, hotels/trailers where you can spend the night for gil (money), chocobo-“pens” where you get the famous, giant, yellow bird, and car customization points. That’s right, the car that’s been advertised throughout all media can be decked out with colors and decals of your choosing. Once you earn them of course. Sadly, those expecting to perform Grand Theft Auto stunts with it will be disappointed. The car can be manually driven by Noctis or his compatriots but it is an incredibly simple thing. There are no direction controls other than inputting what way to go when you come to a turn. Besides that, there are turn around, stop, and acceleration buttons. It definitely gets you to places faster but also allows you to fast travel to approved points like parking spots and settlements for a small fee.
Otherwise you’re hoofing it across the land which can actually be annoying due to the stamina feature. This little darling only allows you to sprint for so long before you’re forced into a slow jog until your stamina recharges. That’s right, someone thought it would be a good idea to hamper movement in a role-playing game. I’ve already wished they be put in the same dunce corner as the person who said to put a time limit on Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. If it happens to be the same exact developer, then they really need to sit down and explain why they think this is a smart idea. Luckily, your travels will bring you across campsites which act as a brief respite of sorts. Then, when you’re too lazy to walk back from a mission, you can return to your last camping place or wherever you parked your car. It definitely helps the fact that traveling on foot can take a while but it doesn’t solve the mess that is the stamina bar in the first place.
The neat thing (or irritating depending on how you look at it) is EXP earned from completing missions and killing monsters isn’t immediately bestowed upon our characters. You need to reach and enact a rest location (campsite, hotel, etc.) for them to take effect. So you definitely need to save often if your objectives don’t involve frequent trips to a bed and breakfast, else you’ll lose your stat boosting numbers. Quickly speaking of which, the autosave so far hasn’t given me any problems and the manual save function works well. That is if you aren’t in a story mission or dungeon. Then the manual save option is bupkis. Any who, back to making your manly men stronger. When you perform a myriad of actions through the world, including battling and listening to your comrades, you’ll receive AP. These will then be used in the Ascension sphere of the in-game main menu. If you haven’t guessed this is where you learn abilities and other functions. They can be spent in seven different categories ranging from magic, recovery, techniques, combat, teamwork, stats, and exploration. Most of them are self-explanatory on what you can earn from each and I’ll save the specifics for my full review. The in-game main menu will also be the place you can select quests, equip weapons and gear, ponder over skills, hover over items, view character stats, and craft magic. The interface for it all is nice and very easy to understand as is every other aspect of Final Fantasy XV.
Now I’m sure some of you are saying, “but Kyle what about the gameplay?!” Hold on baby birds, I’m gonna feed ya. The gameplay, combat, and battle system for this game are superb. It’s a real-time, action combat system. No turn based or waiting for a meter to fill, well, unless it’s magic of course. And honestly the game is better off for it. The battles feel incredibly fluid and dynamic and is something you can’t get with taking turns. I especially love the warp strikes where you teleport wherever you throw your sword. Besides that there are your basic physical attacks, magical attacks, and the newly added link attacks. The latter being when you meet certain requirements on the battlefield and double team an enemy with a partner. There is also the ability to perform a joint attack manually but it can only be used once as there will be a cooldown. Again, I’ll save the itty bitty details for the full review but know that the gameplay and combat for Final Fantasy XV are easily the best features.
The last thing I’ll give my impressions on are about the technical side of things. Unfortunately, the voice acting is the only good thing here. Outside of cut scenes, it’s very apparent that this game has been in development for ten years. The graphics remind me of a middle of the road PlayStation 3 title. Especially when in open areas that you can see as far as the skyline. Within cut scenes though is fantastic as Square Enix always is. Colors pop, clothing is detailed, hair is finely tuned, and shapes in general have a defined and concise look. Lip syncing may be even worse however. The majority of the time, there was no effort whatsoever being put into making the lips match the language. Truthfully it was kind of insulting. As I mentioned though the voice acting is great and most characters set themselves apart and form unique identities. The actors did a really good job expressing their emotions from a wide variety of personalities. Oh and I have to mention the loading screens take forever. Once again hearkening back to the early PS3 days.
So far a lot of the story missions have been linear but I found myself most interested when this was the case. The time I’ve spent in the open world can be a bit drab due to the issues I brought up. Still, I mentioned I turned myself into a calculating person and I didn’t go into Final Fantasy XV expecting it to be the JRPG to end all RPGs. What I’ve found so far is definitely worth investing in if you’re a fan of the genre and more time will tell if the title can truly be a great game for old hats and newcomers alike. We’ll have our full review of the game when we feel we’ve covered enough to truly make a great representation of such a highly anticipated product, but in the mean time we hope that this non-review will help satisfy a few impatient fans.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a physical version of the game bought at retail at the expense of the reviewer. It was reviewed with the latest patch available (1.01) and was played on a base PS4 console.