Final Fantasy XV review

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After 10 years, Final Fantasy arrives expressing itself as a “Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers.” As a long fan of the series, I saw a reawakening, giving the player figments of the old and new in this latest chapter. The game hopes to be a precise mixture of the two, but the game does combat itself of what Final Fantasy used to be to what it is today. By the end, the games beautiful open world and devotion to the bond between four friends keep the game together against the threat of a messy story and design.

Story

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Final Fantasy presents Noctis, the crown prince of Lucis, travelling with bodyguard Gladiolus, advisor and military tactician Ignis, and longtime friend Prompto to marry fiancée Lady Lunafreya, an Oracle and a former princess of Tenebra, to ease political tensions between the lands. During their travels, they receive news that Lucis has been a subject of betrayal by the empire Niflheim which results in the destruction of the capital city, and Noctis’s father (King Regis) and Noctis himself have been reported as casualties of the war. As a result, Noctis must find the thirteen royal weapons to retrieve the crystal and fulfil his role as king.

From the beginning, if the player has not watched the accompanying movie, Kingsglaive, the player will struggle to understand the events happening in the first half of the game. From seemingly important characters getting lost or rarely seen in the story to characters not matching the rest of the environment with little to no explanation, this removes the player from the story that XV is attempting to convey. While the political turmoil of Lucis is hardly addressed until the tail end of the 40-hour story and the love interest never hooks, the togetherness between the four friends is completely fleshed out whether they are fighting a massive behemoth or simply having fun on the open road more than makes up for the missteps. As soon as their introduced, the group is not shown as a typical band of warriors, but a longtime brotherly bond against a lingering evil. They show inseparability and kinship that shines the brightest from the games often too confusing story, which I absolutely loved throughout the course of the campaign.

Gameplay

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This current iteration replaces the classic turn-based play style with a fully realised real-time combat system reminiscent of games such as Kingdom Hearts. This may push away longtime fans, but it fully makes up for it with the synergy you and your three partners have as a cohesive fighting unit. The game rewards you through the finesse you have in battle such as, using flanking strikes to activate duo attacks for massive damage to your enemies and also building up to beautiful team attacks and special abilities that form entertaining and thematic battles.

At face value, the game may seem complicated to perform well, but the battle mechanics are actually pretty simple. Pressing circle along with pushing the analog stick allows Noctis to perform strings of combos that continue unless interrupted and Pressing Square has Noctis dodge or phase through almost everything thrown at him as long as Noctis’ mana bar allows him to do so.

Unlike past Final Fantasy’s, magic and the awe-inspiring summons do not play a prominent role in the gameplay. Magic is now gathered through elemental stones and crafted using equipable magic flasks where the player is able to measure the potency and extra effects that your spell can perform. As for summons, certain objectives must be fulfilled during the battle for the option to summon to appear. With that, battles do not require much strategy and thinking to get through much of the game, unless you count the often egregious camera that tends to fight with you in closed areas and sometimes during wide open climatic boss battles.

Throughout the campaign, the player has the option to pass out accumulated points on an Ascension grid that is reminiscent to the Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy X. The grid does seem smaller than its predecessor, but the tree is separated to multiple trees according to stats, skills, abilities, etc…

With that, XV is able to include a fun and functional real-time battle system without barring the classic RPG elements that the series pioneered years ago.

Vast, Open World

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The open world of Lucis does not disappoint. Not only is it humongous in scale, but there is a profound amount of activities and side missions to do that keep you occupied while exploring. With tremendous monuments and sweeping valleys, the player will have to get used to traveling this massive land. This would include: thinking about Chocobo rentals for long trips off road, whether to spend the evening building a campground or booking a motel, and even what to eat. This may all seem like a burden, but the minor details make getting from point A to B more like an actual road trip that submerges the player in the world along with allowing characters to properly develop amongst the four friends. Fortunately, there are fast travel options, but the player must have had visited the area first which requires making the sometime long drives through the beautiful Lucis. Beware travelling the roads at night, however, every evening powerful daemons appear that complicate driving. The majority of these daemons mark the return of many fan favourites such as Iron Giants and Basilisks. Along with the fan favourites, older monsters such as the Catoblepas received a gorgeous redesign that is straight out of Natural Geographic.

While travelling Lucis, the player will encounter many tombs to find rare weapons, numerous dungeons, and many enemy bases that are available to raid. Unfortunately, the game does shed away the open world for a more linear story line at the latter half of the game. One of the later chapters forces Noctis to not only lose his abilities, but his friends as well, forcing the player to go through many uninteresting, narrow areas for a painful two hours. Of course, the game does allow the player to go back to the open world with no penalty, it is just unfortunate that the player does not have the option to progress through the most exciting part of the story along with enjoying the open world the game spoils us with for many hours prior.

Final Reaction

From traversing the vast environment, interesting main cast, and gigantic battles, XV does a fantastic job with bringing the classic Final Fantasy to a modern audience. It is disappointing that the game funnels itself for a narrower version of gameplay that dilutes itself from the colourful world that it has. Besides that, Final Fantasy XV is the game that was 10 years in the making and it shows, it just comes with many compromises that long time fans will have problems coming to proper terms with.

Rating: 4/5 Atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

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