Review – Final Fantasy XV

While Cartridge Games focuses on covering all things Nintendo, I felt the need to review this game on here after a long Twitter thread that just clogged a lot of people’s timelines. My experience with the game through the demos was mixed at best, expressing concerns on the game’s focus on the car and its watered down combat system. Did FFXV surpass my expectations or should this be the series’s final ride?

The gameplay in FFXV is split into two sections, traversal and combat. The game’s traversal is probably the weakest aspect of the game due to various factors. Noctis is rather slow on foot and early on his stamina is rather low so he gets tired very quickly which slows him down. His jump is unsatisfying with many rocks that seem climbable actually being blocked by invisible walls. Additionally, Noctis cannot swim so if there’s a body of water that’s more than ankle deep he will be blocked from passing.  Later in the game you unlock the ability to rent Chocobos which are considerably faster and can actually swim which makes traversal considerably better. The game, however, put the most focus on the worst form of transportation: the car.

The Regalia, the car from FFXV, is your main form of transportation in the game. They tie fast travel to it and without the car going to new places is a massive chore. The thing is, the car itself isn’t fun to control. You’re essentially stuck on a lane and you can make suggestions with the analog stick. That’s if you’re controlling it, if you’re not then you’re just watching a car go from point A to B with no interactions. If you drive by a location you can unlock fast travel for it, so it does get better once you’re far enough into the game, but it also shows another issue with traversal in the game: loading screens. The game takes a long time and if you want to fast travel to your last rest place or your car you’re going to have to suffer through the loading screen. It adds up by the end and it’s rather unpleasant.

The combat is something I had a lot of issues with leading up to the full release. It has changed a lot since episode Duscae where you can assign specific weapons to certain attacks, now you switch between different weapons. Originally, under Nomura the game was seemingly supposed to be like Kingdom Hearts which would’ve been great. The new combat under Tabata is a bit odd, though it works at times. You hold down a button and Noctis will automatically perform a combo or dodge. The game’s hook is the warp strike which will teleport Noctis to a certain part of the map or to an enemy. Combined with the tactics options with your teammates the combat system can be good at times, but it presents some issues. Warp strikes are important since you can heal your magic and HP quickly, but some combat encounters lack WS points which breaks the combat. When it works it’s flashy enough to feel satisfying and it’s easy to pull off. Nothing deep and it doesn’t get deeper, but there’s enjoyment to be had.

The bulk of your experience with Final Fantasy XV will be walking and killing monsters which is most of the content the game has to offer. You go on hunts to kill specific monsters in a given area or you go looking for a trinket that’s usually guarded by monsters. Outside of that there’s not much to do in the world of Final Fantasy. It’s a large and empty wasteland with the occasional trinket on the floor. There’s a large map with a lot of distance in between locations, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that the space in between the locations of note house nothing of value. The game likely would’ve benefited from a smaller but more compact world. The Duscae area, for example, feels like the most concentrated area in the game with fishing spots, chocobo racing, a cave to explore, a well made hunt for the Behemoth.

“HD towns are hard” is a meme that originated by a statement by a SE developer regarding FF13’s lack of towns. FFXV does in fact have towns! …two of them….and they’re bad. There are outpost scattered around the map which contain a diner which can provide you with quests, food, and to fill in your map with points of interests as well as an inn and a shop. The two towns feature the same amount of content split up around various vendors so you’ll need to talk to various different quest givers. Not really ideal use for a towns in a JRPG. The second town is poorly laid out and lacks much to do due to its place in the story.

Just like the gameplay is split between combat and traversal, the game it also split between its first half and second half. While the first half focuses on the open world formula where you hunt monsters for money and experience points, the second half is a strictly linear affair. The game ramps up its story in the half, but the game itself becomes rather terrible. It feels like the game was rushed out and the second half suffered greatly for it just like 2015’s MGSV.

Final Fantasy is a franchise known for its story and it’s an important aspect in the genre, unfortunately this is where FFXV struggles the most. The game feels like it is missing several cutscenes of note. This picture, a key piece of art from the FFXV reveal trailer, features two characters that were in the game for a whopping 20 seconds. None of the main cast received enough character development which makes it hard to care for them. It’s especially bad since you spend the entire game with these guys. Ignis is the one that receives the most in terms of development, but it’s not much. Prompto receives a single scene which feels out of place and bizarre that it was even included. Gladio, on the other hand, receives nothing.  Stella’s change to Luna is quite unfortunate, she’s barely in the game now.

I’d imagine a lot of the narrative issues stem from being the creation of one director/writer being adapted half way through development by another director and then tying a lot of the character development to a movie and an anime. SE has enough troubles with story telling as is, they should be more careful in the future.

Overall, the gameplay manages to mostly salvage a product deeply affected by a rough development allowing the game to trudge slightly above mediocrity. It exceeded my low expectations, but a lot of troubling aspects I noticed hold the project back.