Final Fantasty XV tries a lot of new things for the franchise yet the result feels rather average
Over the years the Final Fantasy series has been either hot or cold for me depending on what Square Enix decides to do that year. With this release, they decided to go with something a bit more action based which does fit closer to the style of game I tend to like better. Yet does it go far enough in that direction to make it feel like a fun game to play? By the time I’ve finished writing this review we shall know that answer. So let's get started with a quick synopsis of the plot.
The trials and tribulations of Noctis, Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis make up most of the journey. Noctis is a prince while the rest are his loyal friends that stick with him till the very end. The adventure starts with them taking a road trip to get their prince to his royal wedding with Lunafreya who is an oracle that must guide the one true king to his destiny. Unfortunately, their car breaks down a few days after they start the trip which is only a minor inconvenience compared to what they will have to go through to succeed. While their car gets fixed the game sets up a lot of the new mechanics that make this Final Fantasy unique. The combat and the open worldness are the main new factors so I’ll go over that next.
Most of the continent of Lucis is explorable by the group of friends. It is too bad the list of things you can do is slightly underwhelming the more time you decide to explore. Sure the list of side quests is quite staggering but a lot of them consist of running around to pick up random items or beat a bunch of jobber enemies for cash. A few times they do break the trend but the norm felt like I was getting the same mission from the same NPC way too many times. Going around collecting parts for the car for Cindy is fine the first time. Once she gives out the 3rdsimilarr mission it just starts to get boring. A lot of the little moments still got to me more like watching the guys camp or even playing the fishing mini game was a lot funnier than I expected. So yeah the open world is mediocre but it does get balanced out a bit with the combat.
Other than a few very dramatic moments that play out via CGI the combat had some of the most enjoyable parts of this game when it felt like more of a character action game. It doesn’t quite feel that way all the time though. Combat consists of only controlling Noctis since his friends do their own thing other than whenever the player decides to tell them to use one of their special skills. Which is usable via an energy bar that slowly charges as a battle continues. The skills they use are governed by a simplified version of the sphere grid from FFX. Now called the attribute system it mostly gives out skills instead of stat boosts (Extra damage from behind or auto use skills like first aid) or more AP bonuses which are what you use to buy upgrades. Meanwhile, the combat is action based with a focus on multiple weapons. Swinging around a sword works but it does take some tactics to get the advantage on tougher enemies. The number of things you can do isn't huge but using the right magic or weapon type will make battles easier. The moments where I felt like I was playing a character action game was rare yet it felt really cool during certain scenes. For example, most of the fights against a human boss character were more exciting gameplay wise than fighting a giant monster.
Both of these factors come together a bit better thanks to the fact this is a very pretty looking game. The visual design of some of the spectacle moments is top notch. Whenever something cool was happening you’ll never think it looks bad. Yet all the flashy moments can’t make up for a ho hum story. Almost every character feels so one note for most of the game. Way too often any conflict gets resolved too easily. Even when it does feel like a desperate struggle it never feels like enough context is given to get to me to care about what is going on. Eventually leading me to be disappointed by it by the time the credits rolled.
Overall I enjoyed this game for some of the 25 hours I put into it. It has plenty of highs and many lows but I never felt like I should stop playing. Between the few effective emotional moments and crazy battles, I kept wanting to see more. Some of the elements were a bit rough around the edges but as a complete product, this is worth playing.