The original concept for Final Fantasy XV was to be a separate game set within the universe of Final Fantasy 12 called Versus 13. However, it was cancelled but was eventually brought back as the 15th entry in the series. The game contains many of Versus 13 story elements, themes, and gameplay mechanics but it is reworked to be completely its own game rather than to be set in the world of Final Fantasy 12. This game, like many Final Fantasy games, is very accessible to newcomers and also contains many elements that’s also familiar to veteran players of the series. The version I am playing is the Royal Edition which contains most of the DLC that was previously released.
The story focuses on Noctis Lucis Caelum who is on his way to Insomnia to get married to Lunafreya as part of a political treaty. He is accompanied by his royal retinue when he learns that Insomnia has been taken over in a coup led by Nilfheim and his father has been killed. Nilfheim is now in charge of Eos. He then has to embark on a long arduous journey to find a way to reclaim the throne and achieve his great destiny.
Themes such as heroism, self sacrifice, crystals, personal tragedies and bravery resonate in this game. Death is another theme ever present in the game and it is something to embrace rather than fear. Past kings are revered and you have to be prepared to kill or be killed. The main plot of this game is the journey of becoming a true king and the friendship between Noctis and his retinue.
Noctis had a very protective upbringing and this plays a large part in forming his personality. He is introverted and he keeps things bottled up to himself, he is also somewhat lazy and like to sleep a lot. He has the burden of a king on him reluctantly and to others, he is cold and distant but to his closet friends he is a loyal, kind, and brave friend who is willing to do anything for them. Noctis has a hard time dealing with his emotions and he spends a lot of time trying to run away from it and responsibility is something he can be very nervous about. He is very close to his friends whom he has known since childhood and treats them as equals despite their contrasting backgrounds.
Gladious is Noctis bodyguard and is part of the Amicita family who serves as the king’s bodyguards. He is also in charge of security in Noctis homeland Insomnia. Despite his intimidating physical presence and ferocity in battle, he is charming, friendly and easy going.
Prompto is the more optimistic and lighthearted member of the group and to others he is very outgoing and eager. His optimism helps his friends through the dark and long road trip. Prompto is a commoner and this gives him a feeling of insecurity.
Ignis is the strategist of the group. He was a prodigy and was given special education to nurture his talents. He is careful and precise and likes to plan ahead than to do anything unpredictable. He is calm and quiet and a perfectionist and if things do go according to plans, he gets flustered. He has a dry humour and takes great pleasure in making his friends happy. Ignis’s family serves as the retainers for the Lucius Caelum family.
Outside of Insomnia Noctis’s title as prince means very little. He has to work with many different people on his journey. This trip enlightens him on what the world is really like and that many people have different perspectives outside of where he lives.
Arydyn is one of the very few successful villains in the series. He is not evil for the sake of being evil, in fact he was a healer once and was beloved by many for his actions. But jealousy from a king has struck him with being cursed by a Daemon and this has in turn made him immortal but his immortality is also a curse. He is amusing and appears randomly. While he is a prankster, he also helps others if they have a mutual goal. He has a wait and see approach to things and is very patient and manipulative.
Most of the characters in this game are multilayered and the character development for Noctis is one of the game’s highlights. The overall story was very emotionally driven and very engaging from the beginning to the conclusion which was bittersweet and shocking. There is a good balance between dark and brooding atmosphere and many well timed lighthearted comedy moments.
This is the first game I have played where the objectives are displayed and the marker tells you where to go next. The user interface is improved vastly from the previous games and the controls are easy to learn. You can switch weapons and items at any time now instead of micromanaging and going back and forth through menus. A new feature allows you to select either easy or normal difficulty to help make the game more accessible and familiar to new and old players. In the easy mode, you can be able to get a mysterious ally to help you in combat, when you lose all of your health, he will restore you back to full health. You can buy and sell many different items in the game and each shop has its own unique items to purchase.
The game has a dialogue select option where you can choose what words you are going to say to make decisions such as whether to accept missions or not. Some parts of the game, you can even choose depending on what dialogue choice you made to either increase your xp points or stats like strength. This game has many elements of open world and this allows you to explore freely. Transitions are now seamless and the world is fully connected instead of exploring one place and waiting for the loading screen to open up.
The world of Eos is very large and there are many locations to discover. There is a dynamic weather system and day and night system which affects the world around you and how missions objectives are completed. Each place you visit has its own unique charm. Certain enemies like Daemons can only be out at night or dungeons can be open at night but not at day. You can explore dungeons and some have their own puzzles. Solving them will give you a new weapon for Noctis to use. Some dungeons have hidden safes and unlocking them can give you access to rare items not normally found.
You can travel around either on foot or through your car the Regalia. The Regalia can be driven either manually or have Ignis be the driver for the set location. While driving, you can stop at designated parking spots or in the middle of the road. You can turn on the radio either to listen to music with famous songs coming from all previously released Final Fantasy games and even other Square Enix ip music like Nier and also the games own original soundtrack. You can even listen to music on foot once you pick up an mp3 player.
The Regalia is very customizable you can change its appearance and add stickers or decals to any parts of the car. You can upgrade the Regalia by finding car parts in dungeons during quests or purchasing it at shops. This can include increasing the acceleration or how long it takes to refill the gas. The Regalia is used for going shopping and it can also be used to run through enemies. However, this damages the car. Driving by night is very dangerous for the Regalia as enemies can attack you while driving at any time. You need to refuel your car from time to time. You can place your regalia at certain locations for a fee. You can even go through time trials in the Regalia where you can win car parts depending on how well you did. Driving in the regalia was overall a fun experience. You can even change the types of Regalia. One version can be a monster truck for offroad terrain or the other can be a convertible jet with infinite fuel to travel the world even more freely.
You can fast travel to locations you have revisited either instantly for a price or you can just sit back and have Ignis drive for the estimated time it takes to reach the location.
Chocobos is another way to get around and they come in handy when traversing rough terrain. You can rent them for a set amount of days and they return to their barn once the rental period is up.They can be customized in appearance depending on what food you can find for them and some of the food you can feed them can be used for temporary stat boost like increasing stamina to run. Sometimes they can even help you in combat and help you perform blindside link attacks to enemies. You can even level up your chocobo to increase their stats like their agility. Chocobo racing is something you can take part in where the winner gets a prize.
Leveling up in the game is different than in the previous games, after you finish a fight you are graded based upon how well you did and how long you have taken to fight an enemy. The higher your grade the more xp points you have and it tallies up all of the current xp points you have at the moment.
To level up in the game you have to either make camp or stay at a hotel. You can eat meals in the camp but not in a hotel and the higher quality the hotel the quicker you can be able to level up. Camping can be done in certain spots where you can also train with your allies or wait for the time to pass.The more you train with your allies, the more difficulty options you can choose and the more ap points you can earn.
Each of the characters has their own leisure skill that plays a part in exploration.
Noctis skill is fishing, a childhood activity he often partakes in and he can use different types of fishing rods and fishing bait to catch fish. There are numerous kinds of fish but certain types of fish only appear during different times of the day or weather. When the fish gets the hook in it will try to break free and you have to reel it in quickly and move the rod from side to side. Once you get the fish you can either use it for cooking or to sell off the scales for gil.
Ignis has a special interest in cooking and he can learn different recipes by finding ingredients on the road,vbuying cookbooks or eating food. If the party members eat their own favorite meals they can either deal more critical attacks or increase the tech bar quicker. Quick recipe is something Ignis can do. He can prepare easy to make meals with the required ingredients so you and your party members can benefit from the status boosts for a period of time. Eating food is another notable thing about the game. There are various food to choose from and eating can give you temporary status boosts during exploration. Restaurants also provide you hunters quests and information about the area periodically which can be very useful. Completing quests for them occasionally give new menus items.
Gladious has a special interest in outdoors and is responsible for helping set up camp. His knowledge of the wildlife is vast and encyclopedic. The more he walks around, the more items he can find to help you on your journey.
Prompto has a special interest in photography he takes out many pictures during the journey either automatically or manually. There are even certain spots in the game that is meant to be photographed and the occasional quest has you finding spots of pictures for Prompto use. You get to choose the camera and filters and when to use them. You can hold up to 200 photos in the game and this symbolizes the trials and highlights of the journey Noctis and company goes through. The consoles social media features are used to share video clips or pictures between you and your friends.
The more the characters use their skills the more powerful they become.
Ascension is the perks system of the game. Each has its own unique branching tree to choose what you want to be more experienced in. This is used to powerup your allies thus increasing their prowess in combat, make it quicker to summon and power the Arengeir, and to improve exploration and to increase the rate of how much ap points you can possess. They are earned from performing actions in combat or through exploration like setting up camp. The more ap points you have the more powerful your characters will be in the long run. You can also go through the archives to learn more about the lore of the world and also learn many tips on how to defeat the enemies.
The game uses real time fast paced hack and slash gameplay similar to the Kingdom Hearts series. Enemies attack in many different directions and at anytime. You can dodge roll, block and parry as defensive maneuvers and counter attack at the right moment. Link striking occurs when your party members are nearby to perform powerful combos to debilitate enemies. The red circle in the map indicates you are in a combat zone. Leaving the red circle will end combat immediately. Enemies will be on alert and if they catch you, it will initiate combat. Health restores overtime and if your party members are wiped out without using any curatives or phoenix downs, its game over. You can even lure enemies in by using a special whistle to entice them in.
Each character has their own personal playstyle and special abilities to use in combat. You can be able to play as different characters in combat when you unlock the ascension perk and some missions have guest party members for a period of time. Combat happens when you approach enemies instead of it happening randomly. The party AI is very competent and they work as a team.
Sometimes in combat, your party member will approach you with an idea on how to take down enemies and this gives you an opportunity to earn AP points for ascension perks. You can sever body parts from enemies in order to temporarily make them vulnerable.
Blindside links happen when you and a party member attack at the same time. The enemy is unable to hit you and this can deal a massive amount of damage. You can approach enemies in a stealthy manner and attack them by surprise. You can also use turrets at certain locations to attack enemies. Many enemies from previous game return while also introducing new enemies.The boss fights in the game are very large scale and intense. Just as in previous games, enemies can inflict status ailments to you and your party.
You can find parts to upgrade your weapons in the game whenever you visit the hammerhead. Noctis can use 4 different weapons and he has the ability to use the Arengeir which is a special magic related to the Lucian royalty that gives Noctis a special power. To use the Arengeir, Noctis must keep on attacking enemies and he can use a barrage of powerful attacks at free flowing agile system. He also has the power to warp attack which makes him strike enemies from place to place and he is also able to dodge enemy attacks at the same time. He can warp also from ledges to restore his mp meter as it takes up magic and he is put in statis to recharge until he can use it again. Noctis can also use summons during near death moments to use the power of the gods to deal massive damage to enemies.
Each accessory and weapon has its own benefits and flaws and they can either increase health for you or your party in exchange for lowering your defenses. You can use magic by absorbing 3 different elements lighting, fire and ice and you can use flasks to carry up to 3 of them. They are secondary equipment for you and your party members and they work like a grenade. You can also equip flasks to your weapons to give them an elemental boost for a period of time.
Prompto uses guns instead of swords due to his commoner background. His special moves in combat is being able to take a selfie and then shoot the enemy.
He uses third person combat and he has to reload from time to time depending on the gun he uses. His secondary weapon can be either a crossbow or a portable chaingun.
Gladious is the heavy hitter of the team and he uses giant swords and a shield as his secondary weapon. The more he attacks enemies, the more he powerful his meter gauge will charge to use a special attack.
Ignis uses throwing daggers and holding down the attack button lets you be able to charge your attacks and hit points to where you want to strike at an enemy.
His secondary weapon is using pole arms to attack enemies from a distance.
Later on in the game, he can use elemental explosives to cripple enemies based on their elemental weaknesses.
Technique bars are charged up during combat as the team keeps on delivering successful hits. You can equip and level up different types of techniques to use in combat. There is also a brief qte section where you hit the circle button at the right time to deliver another devastation blow. Technique bars are also used to get out of the enemies hands while they are damaging you and your allies can save you just to get out of that section. You can equip a variety of different accessories as well and each outfit you wear also comes with its own set of special bonuses like increased health or stamina.
The combat overall is customizable, unique and a great take for this game. Voice acting is very well done for most of the characters and it is also fully voiced instead of using dialogue boxes as in previous games. The script of the game is pretty entertaining.
The graphics are highly detailed and it mixes in the realistic elements and also the anime fantasy sci fi elements perfectly. The shadowy visuals and striking lighting effects fit perfectly with the dark atmosphere and storyline. The art design and gothic punk type character designs by Tetsuya Nomura are very distinct and unique. It looked very highly detailed. The real time cutscenes and its cinematography is excellently made and the animation is superbly executed. The musical score by Parasite Eve and Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimoura was very well fitting in this game.
There are many different types of quests in the game. Hunters quest are side missions where you hunt down rarer and harder to kill enemies in exchange for gil and special items. This gives you more xp than usual combat and the more missions you undertake, the higher you will rise in the ranks. When you get promoted, you also earn special items as a reward for your hard work. Some side quests can help you unlock new features in the game. Each side quest has its own overarching story and is part of Noctis development as he learns more about the world around him.
Tour quests are hangout activities for you and your friends. They place Noctis and company in either laidback or bizarre situations, from Ignis losing his glasses to a black chocobo and Noctis having to pose for a picture while a dangerous beast is nearby. They also show the close bond between Noctis and his friends and this helps solidify their relationship even more.
Crossover side missions appear in this game such as one being a crossover with Final Fantasy XIV and the other between Terra Wars. This is outside of the canon and is not a part of the main story for either games.
Timed quests are missions where you are given a certain objective like defeating an enemy in a set period of time and beating the quest and the time limit will give you quest points to gain powerful equipment or xp boosts.
There are lots of extra content and secrets to discover. You can fight new bosses and go to new locations through the DLC that is now in the Royal Edition of the game. A minigame called Justice 5 is a pinball game based on the in game lore where you have to face off against demons. This story has cleared up many of the major plot holes such as what made Ignis blind or Gladious mysterious scars through the episodes dlc. There is an open combat mode in the title screen which lets you practice your combat skills freely. New game plus is available once you have beaten it. Insomnia is now expanded upon and is made much larger. There is a new first person view included in the Royal Edition.
As in previous games, there are many references towards other Square Enix works and religious allusions. There is some pop culture references and Easter eggs in this game to discover. There is new treasure to be discovered once you finished the game. You can also explore the world more freely once you finished the game and be able to travel to Altissia or Lucis at any time. Chapter select is available if you want to go through missions again.
There is a co-op multiplayer in the game where you and your friends can go through missions. You can also garden in Cape Caem,one of the safehouses for vegetables to trade to a local restaurateur in exchange for gil, equipment or car parts. In Alitsia, you can trade the oracle coins you find for very powerful items depending on how much you have.
Some of the dungeon designs were confusing and it was not clear what you were supposed to do or where was it you had to go next and it felt pretty cramped as well. There were occasional glitches such as Gladious floating in midair and the gps being blacked out until it loads back. This mainly happens due to how large design of the game.
The chapters format in this game made it feel very linear and it went against the open world design of the previous games. The first half of the chapters felt very much like padding and filler and things only start to get moving when the middle and later half of the story occurs. Some strange story decisions were added in as well. Despite being Noctis love interest ,Lunafreya does not have much interaction with him and as a character herself she is no different than a typical priestess in a JRPG story.
Chapter 13 was one of the worst levels in Final Fantasy history. The stealth was forced in and was padded out to be very lengthy and it forced in plot points that came out of nowhere and was never mentioned in the game. Prompto suddenly is an Imperial bred solider even though it was nowhere mentioned in the game and only explained in his episodic DLC. If you use the Ring of Luci, it is going to take a lot of your mp and you have to wait for it to recharge multiple times. It is also the only weapon you have in the chapter and when you get the sword of the father, you will get another weapon but this drains your health each time it is used. The design was very bleak and your only weapon was the Ring of Luci which is not really that powerful. Exploring it also felt very cramped and tedious as you had to go back and forth without any clear indication of where to go. You have to stay close to the walls to take cover or else you are going to be accidentally pressing the square button to jump a lot. Combat happens when you really do not want it to occur with many enemies showing up to do battle. Jump scares are even added just to make things worse.
Save points are sparse and not easy to really find. Keycards have to be grinded over and over again until you find the right one. Ironically, the game is focused on teamwork, but you have to go in alone without any help and if this was a game like Metal Gear it would be part of the core design but not something like a JRPG. In the latest patch you are better off skipping this section and play Gladious instead finding Noctis. This was without a doubt one of the worst levels I have ever played in a video game.
Sometimes the dialogue choices you make have no impact as the story still plays the same completely ignoring your choices. Invisible walls pop up preventing you from exploring places. Many of the quests were tedious fetch quests.
Despite the flaws and the horrendous chapter 13, this was a fun game.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
This is the bridge between the previous Final Fantasy games I have played. I am eagerly looking forward to play the upcoming remake of Final Fantasy 7.