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.