The Curious Case of FFXV: A Final Fantasy XV Review

Final Fantasy XV Review Featured Image

I put together a first impressions article of Final Fantasy XV for What’s a Geek two weeks ago. My conclusion was that the game was worth buying. Now that I’ve finished the thing, though, it’s time for a proper review! I’ll be referring to the points that I made in my last article and quoting from some sections.

Have no fear, by the way. Here there be NO spoilers whatsoever.


Let’s start this Final Fantasy XV review with a note on the gameplay.

Excuse my French: it’s the same old sh*t.

Linked that video up there for reference. It looks super shiny, right? Well…

Truth be told, everything is way too automatic. The combat sequences are confusing at worst, and beautiful to watch but hella redundant at best. […] If you’re looking for a challenge… expect to… reach a point in the game where battles – from random encounters to side quests to the actual story fights – are nothing but hassling and repetitive.

Beyond the meh gameplay, Final Fantasy XV possessed environment issues that were resolved by other RPGs years ago. Most of the quests that you can do still adhere to the tired formulae of kill “x to get y” or “go to point a to deliver b”. This is aggravated by an outdated UI. You can’t, for example, redeem your Hunter quests instantly: you have to walk all the way back to the nearest diner. You also can’t take more than one Hunter quest at a time. Why? No reason. You just can’t.

Don’t get me started on all the finder quests that could have benefited from proper markers on a mini-map either.

Just don’t.

 

…Some of the side quests are okay, though.

One set of quests that is solidly in the “you can’t miss these” category are the Tours. Final Fantasy XV excels in capitalizing on the little details that make a game endearing and in character development. The tours are all about character development. FF15 is “tl;dr four dudes go on an epic road trip”, and the Tours – along with the Photo Ops, the cooking quests, and the fishing challenges – communicate that theme best.

The other set of side quests that players should do are collecting the Royal Arms. Some of the dungeons ARE needlessly hassling (here’s looking at you, Costlemark) but most of them are fun crawls through nicely rendered labyrinths. You’ll occasionally get that odd Royal Arm that’s just chillin’ on the world map, waiting for the crew to drive on over and notice it.

Final Fantasy XV Review: Royal Tomb
Pro-tip: do not do what I did, aka forget for the longest time to equip these babies in extra slots for amazing stat boosts.

My honorable mention to top off this list is the chocobo farm-related side quests. I could wax poetic about those, but c’mon, guys! They’re side quests involving chocobos!

Ahem.

Overall, Sidequest Hell™ in FF15 is as real as it is in any good RPG, but I highly suggest that you choose which circle you’ll stay at instead of doing the whole run. Most of the stuff offers little of value beyond gil and item drops.

 

The main quests – what you probably signed up for – really deliver.

I’d also like to give credit where credit’s due: Final Fantasy XV‘s development team poured a lot of love into the main segments. They tried to change things up during several chapters, offering ludological shifts to the pace of the game. For example, there’s a short quest based purely on dialogue choices – kingly diplomacy embodied. There is also a dungeon that shelved the RPG tropes in favor of survival horror elements. And since good boss battles make gamers squee, note that Final Fantasy 15 has some of the most epic boss battles that I have ever had the pleasure of doing.

Final Fantasy XV: Titan
Like so.

Overall:

Advancing in the game isn’t just about killing the next baddie. More often than not, getting to that part entails doing – and seeing – some fantastic stuff. […] I haven’t gone through a quest that didn’t make me feel like I was a small thing in a big, frighteningly beautiful/beautifully frightening fantastic world. From what I can see, this was precisely the feeling that Square was going for.

Noctis is the latest in a line of kings with a heavy destiny. On top of having the aforementioned kings metaphysically peering over your shoulder all the damned time, your journey involves gods that you have to fight in order to win their aid. To make matters worse, their willingness to aid you is, on a plot level, as fickle as bad weather. Furthermore, Noctis’ noble heritage brings some nice internal conflict to the table. How do you deal with the fact that your lineage – something you were born into – gets people hurt or killed? How do the ones around you deal with that too? Does being the sovereign of a land mean being alone? How much should you sacrifice for your people? Will what you do ever be “enough”?

Another point of interest is FF15’s ending. It’s rather different from how the finale of a Final Fantasy game usually goes. As such, playing through Chapters 13 and 14 was an extremely rewarding experience. As Leandro – my video game bud from WAG – put it: “it will leave you in tears. Interpret that as you will”. I’m STILL in tears over how it all played out, from the first steps into the final dungeon down to the goddamned after credits scene.

At the end of it all, this is why I am INCREDIBLY conflicted.

 

Few things will match the sort of salt you may get from finishing Final Fantasy 15.

While it has the makings of a great game, Final Fantasy XV just doesn’t live up to expectations that people may have after spending a decade in development.

Let’s go and kill the big, fat, white Behemoth in the room. Square Enix hyped this game up too much – likely in an attempt to keep up interest – and ended up under-delivering. The movie prelude Kingslaive was a hot mess of nice CGI and plane-sized plot holes. The mini-episodes of Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood were animated fan fluff that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Set all of that against the long wait for the game, and it’s no wonder that many of us were, at best, cautiously optimistic about the game’s odds.

FF15 started out strong, carried itself well for eight chapters, then almost fatally fumbled its way through Chapters 9 to 12 before delivering a solid ending. You’re already dealing with so many redundant aspects in the gameplay and a multitude of tiny peeves. Playing through shoddy chapters after experiencing the sheer power of the game’s first half may be enough to make you raqequit.

Final Fantasy XV: Prompto
Posting a picture of Prompto here and now, without comment.

Let me repeat: Final Fantasy XV is still worth playing. I don’t hate the thing and wish that it didn’t exist. As I’ve told many people who have asked, the game’s a 7.5-8/10 for me. In fact, I am honestly looking forward to the DLCs that Hajime Tabata has promised us. But there’s the rub, isn’t it? Final Fantasy XV was in development for ten whole years. Don’t you think we deserved, y’know, a complete game?

There’s one way of explaining why Final Fantasy XV screwed up: Square cut content in order to meet deadlines. The game introduced so many elements – characters, plot points, and features – with a lot of potential. However, the execution of such elements felt rushed, or became footnotes that leave the characters blithely marching on and players wondering what the hell just happened. From a corporate standpoint, cutting out content to push the release of the game seems like the right thing to do. Can we really say that if it leaves your players feeling like you made them beta testers? Didn’t you promise them a finished product?

It’s sad how the beauty of the game’s finale only highlights all of the things were left out in the cold. Those huge lapses could have made a good product great from the get-go. Square Enix has screwed itself over by believing that their top franchises will always be gold to the video game community. They think that they can cut corners. People will forgive them anyway, as long as they apologize with more “shiny”. In the competitive environment of game design today, there’s the very real danger of Tabata’s planned rehauls coming in too late.


And there’s a wrap! Have you played Final Fantasy XV? Do you plan to after reading this review? Got any Feels to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts – but label those spoilers well!

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Pamela Punzalan
30, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, writes, DMs, watches shit, reads shit, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of What's a Geek, over at http://www.whatsageek.com!

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