As I write this it is currently coming up to Christmas and with needing to buy presents for everyone as well as earning just enough to stay poor, the flood of new games has crawled to a stand still. As such I am catching up on the backlog of games I have played that I can review, putting them in reserve for a later date. This time around another Final Fantasy in the form of number 15.
“Not so Final” Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos, you play Noctus, Prince of Lucis whom at the onset of the game is traveling to Tenebrae for his arranged marriage with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. This being a condition of Lucis armistice with the Niflheim Empire. Accompanying Noctus on his journey is his royal guard and bestest-best buddies. As expected inn true Final Fantasy style not everything goes as smoothly as planned. Whist away from the capital the armistice signing is ambushed and Noctus’ father, the King is killed. It is then up to Noctus to gather the royal arms of past Lucis kings and take back his home & kingdom.
Final Fantasy XV was one I was quite excited about since it’s days as FF Versus XIII. It seemed like it was going to be a darker, more serious game than FFXIII. Although I was right on the money with this it still falls short of some of the other games in the series. One of my main grips with the game is the combat, when I say that don’t get me wrong, the change to a real time more fast pace combat style is defiantly a step in the right direction but in doing so they over simplified it. I managed to get through a fair portion of the game by only using attack and dodge, I didn’t bother with any of the magic crafting and barely used any of my team mates abilities. The game also suffers from an ailment I like to call “Fahrenheit Syndrome”, the main symptom of which is the game shitting it self halfway. In the case of Final Fantasy XV the game goes from having such an open expansive world to being coming a completely closed off corridor-fest. Although the game does have an expansive lore (e.g. The Astrals), it’s very much unexplored by the party during the events of the game, only accessible by reading books found in the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that later on the lore becomes a pivotal to the plot and unless you’ve been reading and learning along the way the meaning behind a lot of the happenings seems very nonsensical.
Now that I’ve gotten that over with lets get on to the better points of the game. To start with despite the group having as much character depth as a puddle on the pavement, there does seem to be a great chemistry between the 4 four of them. Their varying personalities makes each character unique and makes for excellent banter between them. Gladiolus is the stoic protector of the group, Ignis is the tactician and brains of the operation, Prompto is the ‘happy-go-lucky’ one & Noctis is a whiny bitch. The character design outside of the main party as well is worth a shout out too, each character feeling very unique with their own distinct personalities and quirks. The Kingdom of Lucis in which the majority of the game is beautifully varied, from the deserts of Leide, to the plains of Duscae to the rocky mountains of Cleigne. This sense of open luscious scenery however disappears once to leave Lucis, past this point the vast majority of the world is closed off to the player. I personally love a game where I can explore the world, finding new and interesting places (which is why games like The Elders Scrolls & The Witcher resonate with me so well), this longing to travel was sated for the first half of the game, be it with great annoyance as when I first played the game as off-roading wasn’t unlocked at that point. Upon leaving Altissia there was no more opportunities to explore despite being in a whole new land which judging by the map must be at least 50% bigger than Lucis being stuck to see the arid wastes, luscious green mountain ranges and icy vallys as the pass by through a train window.
A lot of my complaints about the game (besides the final third of the story) comes from material that seems to be missing from the core game. Depth of character for instance, each of Noctus’ companions motivations never get any deeper than “Because he’s my prince” & “Noctus is an entitled asshole”. I believe that the reason this game suffers is due to the developers desire to create the Final Fantasy XV Universe without creating a series of games. This means a lot of the material would be taken from the main game is taken and re-deployed in other media. Going back to the character depth, a lot of the characters background and motivations are found in the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime and in the DLC packs. This waters down the main game and ruins it’s overall appeal as a single unit, it’s like being making an extremely weak glass of Ribena then have them hide the rest of the cordial in an abandoned library on a completely different plain of reality. From a marketing perspective I get it, “If you want the whole FFXV experience you must play all the games, read all the books, watch all the TV series, eat all the branded yogurts etc.”. This train of though breaks down when the core game (the gooey caramel centre to the whole story) doesn’t interest me enough to want to go beyond the core game. This was the same story with FFXIII. Final Fantasy X on the other hand was a game that stood up on it’s own but was enhanced by the introduction of X-2. The difference here was Square-Enix went into both XIII & XV wanting to create a universe with several elements or using several different mediums, but with FFX the aim was to create the game, it was only after the game was complete and on shelves did they start on FFX-2. Although this meant longer production times and costs but meant that the end products were better for it. This can be seen by calls for fans for X-3 18 years after the originals release, while nobody is asking for another FFXIII game.