XI
you are not logged in
Review

Final Fantasy XV Review

Route 15.

It’s been a long time coming. Final Fantasy XV’s decade-long development has seen worrisome changes of name, director, and console generations that could so easily have ended up an unadulterated mess. Fortunately, under the leadership of Hajime Tabata, Final Fantasy XV has managed to rise above its troubled past. It’s still unsurprisingly inconsistent at times, but if anything that makes it all the more endearing.

Following the journey of Prince Noctis and his retinue – Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto – your adventure sees you embroiled in the ongoing conflict between Lucis and Niflheim as you attempt to make your way to meet up with your betrothed, Lunafreya. Set in an open world, you are often free to roam the incredible world of Eos, picking up various quests and tasks as you go.

Final Fantasy XV shares some DNA with previous entries in the franchise, formerly having been part of the loose Fabula Nova Crystallis subset of games that includes the XIII titles and Final Fantasy Type-0, but largely it feels unlike anything else in the series. Its focus on action-heavy combat is an evolution of the combat seen in Type-o, with often frantic battles that rely on swift reflexes and an ability to read the situation.

Overall the combat is enjoyable stuff, especially once it all clicks into place, though in the standard mode it’s easy to get lost amongst a large crowd of enemies before being overwhelmed. Holding the Circle button sees you unleash pre-programmed combos depending on the type of weapon you have equipped, but it’s in the well-timed blocking, parrying and positioning of your character and your teammates that combat takes on real depth.

Noctis is also able to warp out of danger, either dodging out of the way or leaping to a vantage point where he’ll hang from his weapon embedded in a wall or tower. You can slow things down by opting to use Wait Mode, which in essence introduces an element of turn-based control to proceedings, but I found its staccato pacing far less enjoyable. While the combat works well on the whole, magic is mishandled and can be largely ignored, and there’s an odd lack of summons for a Final Fantasy game. When they do crop up they look incredible, but you won’t be rolling them all that often.

Sometimes the biggest problem you’ll have during combat is fighting with the controls and the camera. At various points it won’t quite do what you want it to, whether that’s attempting to warp out of the fray to a safe point or merely trying to see where your nearest enemy is. When later stealth sections appear, the control issue becomes more of a problem than a mild annoyance, and you’ll likely be re-running through portions of what are the game’s least enjoyable moments.

ffxv1

Final Fantasy XV has it’s own unique rhythm, and part of that is down to the way it deals with gaining experience. Instead of completing each battle and having your experience immediately dished out, here you have to make camp out in the wilderness or stay the night in one of the game’s various lodgings in order for your accrued experience to be added to your team. When you make camp you’re also able to peruse Prompto’s pictures that he took throughout that day, as well as have Ignis prepare a stat-enhancing meal for you to feast upon.

Both Prompto’s pictures and Ignis’ cooking continually make the experience wholly personal, and it never failed to raise a smile when skimming through the day’s photos to find one where Gladiolus had his eyes shut, or an image that seemed to depict Noctis performing some kind of misdeed to a giant wasp. Ignis will often shout “I’ve got it!” after you find a new ingredient, and he’ll add a new recipe to his tasty-looking repertoire. Each of your companions, Gladiolus included, actually makes the whole game hang together, and it’s in their relationships that the game is most successful. Far more than the overarching narrative, it’ll be this group of four, and the way they interact, that will be your overriding memory.

Along the way Final Fantasy XV cribs any number of ideas from its peers, with some of the excellent dungeon exploration feeling deeply reminiscent of Square Enix’s own Tomb Raider, while the ill-advised stealth sections are magic-infused retreads of Assassin’s Creed’s most annoying moments. Some of your encounters with the larger enemies have the same ebb and flow as Capcom’s Monster Hunter, and taking one down is similarly triumphant. Somehow it all works when taken as a whole, and there’s enough inventiveness and heart to overlook the less successful segments.

ffxv3

Given the opportunity, FFXV is easily one of the best-looking console games of all time. With a PS4 Pro and a 4k HDR TV to attach it to, the results can be absolutely phenomenal. The world of Eos is joyfully designed, from the lush fields of Duscae to the drowned architecture of Steyliff Grove. There’s miles and miles of rolling countryside to explore, and thankfully you don’t have to do it all on foot.

Your journey begins with you travelling in the luxurious Regalia, an aggressive-looking automobile suitable for a combative prince, and while you can take some control of it should you wish to, you’re better off letting Ignis drive and putting your feet up while the landscape swings by. It’s here, amongst these calmer moments, that some of the small incidental details catch your attention. From the leather stitching of the Regalia’s seats, to the way each character’s hair blows in the breeze, the level of craftsmanship is incredible.

Beyond the visuals, the conversation between Noctis, Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus while you travel is often warm and believable, and while it won’t necessarily further the narrative, it draws you ever further into this circle of friends. It’s commendable how well this sense of companionship is conveyed, and I can’t remember any recent RPGs to succeed so fully in making a party of well-crafted characters into a believable group.

Besides the Regalia you’re also given the opportunity – once you’ve completed the requisite quest – to ride on those feathery fan-favourite Chocobos. The giant birds not only look the part, but the merry music that kicks in every time you take them for a jaunt makes travelling by them a great deal of fun, allowing you to jump and glide across trickier terrain. The more you ride them, the more that your kinship with them will increase as well, and they’ll begin to join in when you hop off to face down a monster.

ffxv2

Things begin to fall apart a touch when the game’s too obviously starts to funnel you down a set path or slow you down. A journey with Iris which could take five or ten minutes is purposefully strung out with additional stopovers and quests. While she’s with, you you can’t travel by car at night, forcing extra camp-outs on top of this. It’s not that the stopovers are boring or useless – far from it – and with Iris in your party you suddenly find yourself with a dedicated healer which makes encounters flow even better, but the journey feels artificial, as does much of the close of the game.

All of the visual frippery also comes at a price, and the standard PS4 has a handful of technical issues from texture and item pop-in to poorly handled frame pacing. Even running on the enhanced PS4 Pro, the problems continue, though to a lesser extent. They’re problems, but none of them do anything to detract from either the beauty of the world or from the gameplay.

While it’s a fairly common issue in Japanese developed games, the treatment of women in Final Fantasy XV is also problematic at times. The majority of the adventure boasts an all-male party, and the short period where Gladiolus’ sister Iris joins you is telling, particularly as she’s one of the only fully dressed women in the whole game. Sure, mechanic Cindy and mercenary-for-hire Aranea are strong, empowered women, but their clothing is for little more than titillation, and doesn’t sit well with the rest of the art direction. At least you can opt for the gents to run around in tank tops if you want to vaguely balance the books.

What’s Good:

  • Incredible graphics
  • Wonderful sense of camaraderie
  • Fun combat system
  • Fresh approach to Final Fantasy

What’s Bad:

  • Troublesome camera
  • Poor stealth sections
  • Disappointing treatment of women
  • Under-utilised magic

Final Fantasy XV is a unique offering, both for the franchise and RPGs in general. Placing the onus on the relationships of your party, rather than the narrative, has meant that this is a game that strikes not just an emotional chord, but a personal one. While Final Fantasy stalwarts will likely balk at the action-heavy combat, the spirit of the franchise remains, and is better served here than it has been in many years.

Score: 8/10

Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro

 

Read more: #
10 Comments
  1. NicholasHeathfield
    Member
    Since: Apr 2015

    “problematic”

    Well, there’s the magic word. I’m not even a fan of impractically dressed characters in the fantasy genre but I don’t want to stick around to be lectured to.

    This is where Eurogamer went horribly wrong…

    Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 13:16.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      I don’t think we’re lecturing. If you don’t mind it, then you can freely overlook the point, but Dom’s simply saying that it can be jarring and doesn’t fit the rest of the game very well.

      Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 13:59.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      It’s an observation, not a lecture. We know how Japanese games can often be and it’s highlighted here. However, I don’t think they’re being overly harsh about it.

      Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 14:15.
  2. MrYd
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    You would think the “action-heavy combat” would put off fans of the series, but surprisingly it works. I’m enjoying it.

    But, I turned “wait mode” on, which definitely makes it a weird action/turn-based hybrid thing, but works well. And makes magic slightly more useful if you can think about what you’re doing, and not just lobbing spells around (which look rather nice, really)

    Haven’t seen any technical issues though. I suspect that frame-pacing thing is something nobody is going to notice.

    The dungeons deserve to be listed under the “what’s good” section though. Not annoyingly long, well designed, generally look gorgeous, and have fun battles at the end.

    It’s definitely more of a Final Fantasy game than it appears. Even ignoring all the random little bits they stuck in that appear in all the games. (There’s a Cid, Moogles, Highwind, Biggs and Wedge, and loads more)

    Cindy is a complete disgrace though. Top marks for the character herself, but then they put her in those clothes and have her thrusting her tits in your face washing the car windscreen.

    Ignis is getting annoying for me now with his constant discovery of a new recipeh. (Not a typo, that’s roughly how he says it every time!)

    And Prompto is amazingly gay, however much he tries to hide it.

    Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 14:08.
    • Sammy
      Member
      Since: Oct 2016

      I think the fans accept new combat since it’s quite similar to Kingdom Hearts, and KH2 was pretty much the last good FF game!

      A lot of the music in open-world fighting, when you’re hunting animals is reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts, which is very cool!

      Comment posted on 07/12/2016 at 08:44.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        FF12 came out after KH2, didn’t it? XV is more like that in some ways. Control 1 character while the AI does the others, and XV if you play it with Wait Mode on reminds me of that quite a bit.

        And really, you should be playing it that way. It gets much more tactical. Magic becomes practical and useful when you’re not just frantically spamming attacks and you can slow down and scan enemies for weaknesses to take advantage of.

        So KH2 wasn’t the last good FF game. Apart from 12, 13 was ok, 13-2 was good (LR was an abomination though), and the recent WoFF is better than it should have been (and so adorably cute)

        Comment posted on 07/12/2016 at 10:25.
  3. coxy1701
    Member
    Since: Apr 2014

    I’m certainly enjoying the game so far. I feel the battles can get overly cluttered when there’s a bunch of enemies. Like when airships fly and drops 8-10 baddies for which they can easily defeat you if ur not paying attention. This is just my opinion tho. There are some great farming locations like the cactar but can become tiresome as you can only do it once a day. I’m loving the scenery and the banter the lads have and it’s definitely worth the score given.

    Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 20:24.
  4. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    I have to admit, this doesn’t look like a Final Fantasy game and it is giving me a “Not Final Fantasy” vibe due to it’s setting along. Hearing that Magic is not that useful or something that isn’t worth using is disappointing as I love magic. The whole boy band adventure idea isn’t really done in gaming and it does seem to work. I mean, Final Fantasy does do the close relationships and people from all kinds of backgroudns aspects well so this doign that well is as surprising as finding out water is still wet.

    Major shame about it using fanservice clothing as FF does do strong female characters. It even used the conception against everyone to trick us into thinking what we are used to. E.g. Tifa Lockhart is intially deemed fanservice-y and flirty and energetic but she is none of those things whilst Aeris(It’s still Aeris to me, dammnit!) wears an innocent dress and is deemed innocent yet is a bit flirty, messes around, jokes a lot etc.. 13, whilst I dislike it a lot and it is one of the games I refuse to ever play again, it had it’s fair amount of strong female characters.

    But oh well. Tis just part of gaming culture. Fanservice happens. By that, i mean, it is ok to have fanservice but not at the cost of a character being a character.

    If i get torn apart for this, I blame Brexit. :P

    But back on the subject,

    FFXV could have been a massive disaster but tis good to see that 2016 had all 3 decade long develpment games not turn out to be disasters. Doom,TLG and XV bucked the trend.

    …..

    Right, who’s going to mess up? Come on, we’re waiting.

    TL:DR: Steven likes how it turned out. Steven doesn’t view it as a FF game due to it’s presentation and setting but likes how it’s turned out. Steven probably will buy it in the future.

    Comment posted on 06/12/2016 at 21:34.
  5. MadBoJangles
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    I have to say that I am loving it.
    I’m a massive Final Fantasy fan and had this pre-ordered aaaages ago.
    The battle system is good, fast, fluent and just the right pace for me, still haven’t tried the “wait” mode yet though. I actually quite enjoyed the battle system in 13 too tbf.

    About 60 hours in and plenty still left to do, now that is value for money.
    Season Pass purchase pretty much nailed on :)

    Comment posted on 08/12/2016 at 08:58.
    • MrYd
      Member
      Since: Mar 2011

      The battle system in 13 (and 13-2) was quite good really. It was just Lightning Returns that was horrible.

      Comment posted on 08/12/2016 at 10:21.
Final Fantasy XV
  • Developer:Square Enix
  • Publisher:Square Enix
  • Platforms:PS4, XBO
  • Release Date:30/11/16

Latest Comments