Final Fantasy XV REVIEW
Before we say anything about the quality of Final Fantasy XV, let’s take a moment to realise the impressive feat of how anything close to a cohesive game came out of its decade-long development. It’s been one heck of a rescue job, and while the finished product is a mess of ideas, set pieces and mechanics stitched together into a JRPG abomination that’s undeniably ugly, it’s also fascinating to admire.
To begin with, there’s the near necessity to have watched the stylish but empty-headed prequel movie Kingsglaive, as well as five-part anime series Brotherhood. It’s abundantly clear just how slapdash and incoherently Final Fantasy XV has paid attention to storytelling. Without this extra material, huge sections of the drama Final Fantasy XV centres on occur off-screen or in seemingly innocuous moments.
Supporting characters flitter in and out without so much as a chance to establish themselves before being forced into scenes of apparent importance. Major stories in the Final Fantasy series have regularly skirted the realm of overbearing, jargon-laden nonsense: XV’s can add a lack of an entire structure.
Where it does succeed is in the smaller moments between Prince Noctis and the three pals who have joined him on his quest to reclaim his throne from the invading Niflheim army and join his wife-to -e, Lunafreya. A significant section of the game plays like the group of lads are on a jolly road trip: cruising around in their snazzy open-top car, taking selfies in cool locations and camping together at night while sharing a delicious meal. When Final Fantasy XV hones in on these close character moments between Noctis, Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus, and the unbridled joy of its open-world, you can sink into the game.
A player’s preference towards a certain tone will play a key part in how much they’ll enjoy the game too. While both offer compelling open-world RPG experiences, there’s a harsh difference between the grim and looming menace of The Witcher 3 and the breezy anime-inspired nature of Final Fantasy XV. The former undoubtedly excels in terms of quest design, consequence and narrative, but the latter delivers a playful sense of adventure and wonder that’s easy to get caught up in.
The nature of their journey may have serious undertones but the party of Final Fantasy XV are having fun along the way. Their camaraderie plays a big part of this even outside of conversations and seeps into every aspect of the game. For example, in combat you can call upon your allies to perform powerful link techniques and they’ll celebrate executing them together with cheers and high-fives.
Yet, for every brilliant decision that’s been made there’s an equal number of silly ones. Adding intensity to combat with exciting and frenetic action-oriented battles is fantastic, but then magic is squandered with a convoluted crafting system. You can roam free across the gorgeous plains of Eos on the back of a Chocobo, but it’s hard to be inspired when you’re doing it to collect a tomato for a local chef. Then there’s the suffocating momentum-killer of the game’s final third that miscues awfully to dampen the game’s more powerful and emotional closing moments.
Again, personal preference will dictate the significance these faults have on your overall enjoyment of the game, but it’s impossible to ignore them. The extended development time on Final Fantasy XV has taken its toll and birthed something convoluted, clumsy and at times crushingly disappointing. It can be argued, though, that there are enough times when it reaches for big new ideas that inspire and amaze or it manages to capture the pleasure and spirit of long-since missing Final Fantasy adventures of old.
Review by James Pickard