Final Fantasy XV – Review
PS4, Xbox One
Final Fantasy is one of my favourite game series in the entire world, this is no secret, and for anybody who knows me, no surprise. VII was my gateway FinFan, VIII was my favourite and XIII was where started to stop giving a shit. However, I thought XV could be the phoenix down the series so sorely needed…
It starts off strong, with a Florence and the Machine cover kicking the narrative into action as you slowly begin to learn about the relationships between the four guys. Our characters this time round are Noctis; the prince, Ignis; the smart guy with glasses, Gladiolus; the big tough bloke who doesn’t believe in shirts (no complaints- he’s hot as balls) and Prompto; the happy go lucky jester of the group. Together they make the entourage you follow around the place, and truth be told, they’re pretty damn funny. A lot of their banter had me laughing out loud as I drove around the world, and enough of it has been recorded that you don’t often hear repeated lines or jokes.
Final Fantasy has always done characters well (except in XIII but we don’t talk about that two-dimensional, bland mark of doom on the series’ history) and XV is no exception. Each character has a very distinct personality which comes through when you’re battling bad guys, handling side quests or simply driving around in your car. However, much like any road trip where you’re stuck with the same four people for over 30 hours, it gets to the point where you want to individually throttle every single one of them. Oh, Prompto wants to take another photo? Sweet, that’s not getting old. Oh look guys, Ignis has discovered another recipe. EXCELLENT. I AM SO KEEN TO HEAR ALL ABOUT IT IGNIS, PLEASE TELL ME MORE.
Like I said, it gets annoying, but like most friends, it doesn’t take long before they say something redeeming and you’re back to joking and laughing all over again.
As you advance in the game you open up a range of side quests that can be undertaken should you want a break from the story. These provide a better view into the world around you, as well as the characters within it. Plus it’s a great source of income and items, and most of the quests are pretty simple to complete. Go to point X and kill/collect this- it’s not rocket science. My favourite quests of the whole lot however, were the ones where you wasted half an hour of your life fishing for food so you could feed a cat. Yeah. You heard me. Cat’s gotta eat!
It is through these side quests that Final Fantasy XV builds on the legacy of the more successful FF games. In one side quest you have to go and collect frogs, which for anybody who played IX, brings back memories of running around as Quina Quen catching frogs for hours. It also brings back dungeons reminiscent of the very early titles, where you’d run around to explore the entire map and find every single skerrick of treasure there is. It’s a pleasant trip down memory lane for fans of the series and a great way of introducing dungeons to those who aren’t familiar with the concept.
Where the game falls down however, is the battle system. Yes, it’s dynamic and fluid, but it gets rather old very quickly. Even with the difficulty set on normal, I felt the need for strategy was non-existent. I kept picking up these accessories to nullify certain elements or protect the guys from poison etc but not once did I ever find the need to use them. Every battle was cruisy, except for one or two fights where I had my arse handed to me, and it got to the point where I could just hold down ‘attack’, close my eyes and come out on top.
The first few hours of XV are a fan’s dream; there’s enough throwbacks, references and nostalgia to get anybody smiling. But what starts as a fun road trip with some buddies soon turns grim as the story progresses, and the tone never quite returns to the happy-go-lucky feeling present in the beginning. For people familiar with the series however, this shouldn’t come as too big a surprise; a FF game isn’t complete without some sort of impending doom or tragedy.
Final Fantasy XV is good, but not great, and after a decade in development I feel it should be better. If this game were packaged under a different title (“Prince Noctis and his Band of Merry Men’ perhaps?) rather than as a Final Fantasy game, I’d enjoy it a lot more. With the name ‘Final Fantasy’ comes a lot of high expectations it doesn’t quite meet. That being said, if you’ve never played a Final Fantasy before, this is a great gateway into the series and one I would recommend giving a go. Plus Gladio doesn’t wear a shirt. Did I mention that? Because he doesn’t wear a shirt. And it’s GLORIOUS.