Despite its decade-long development, and subsequent release in 2016, Final Fantasy XV has only just been finished. That’s probably far from ideal. Then again, despite its naysayers the game was no real slouch when it first appeared, and everything that’s been fixed or added has only made a good game a greater one. For many fans, the release of the Windows Edition and the associated Royal Edition on console is the final step of Final Fantasy XV’s journey. It is undoubtedly the best version of the game; it’s feature complete, and as close visually to the developer’s original vision as it’s possible to be. That is assuming you have the necessary hardware to do it justice.
The Windows Edition draws together the Final Fantasy base game – this in itself has evolved tremendously from its original form – as well as the additional DLC episodes that focus on Noctis’ retinue of Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis, and the additional Comrades multiplayer pack too. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a huge amount of content, and it’s one that’s spent in the company of arguably some of the most likeable characters of the last few years. (When I say arguably, that means I think they are, and everyone else is wrong).
The stripped back opening alone, with the group pushing their broken down car along a highway before the camera pans out to a melancholic vocal rendition of Stand By Me, tells you everything you need to know about the game, and its focus on friendship, camaraderie and relationships grounds everything to an emotional core. In comparison the story itself is fairly straightforward, and the way in which it’s delivered through both cutscenes and the natural, incidental conversation of its protagonists, lends everything real life and warmth.
There’s even a smattering of new content and features for the Windows and Royal editions. The Insomnia City Ruins have been expanded with new quests and enemies, the Royal Vessel is now fully controllable, so you can explore between Cape Caem and Altissia and do some fishing, there’s a first-person camera mode.
Besides returning to the world of Eos, the biggest draw of the Windows Edition for many people is likely to be the chance to put Square Enix’ Luminous Engine through its paces. Though the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro do a decent job of upping the resolution and improving a few of the graphical effects it looks as though they’re only hitting around the average settings for PC users and those with the necessary grunt will be able to push much further past them.
The resolution will be a key sticking point for a lot of people, and you can push things all the way up to an astounding 8K if you’ve got a monitor that goes that high, though you’ll then want to download the 63GB texture pack in order to make the most of it. You’ll need at least 16 GB of RAM for that, though chances are that shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re targeting 4K resolutions or above anyway.
On top of the usual settings, you’ve got an array of NVIDIA-specific effects to dump on top of that, though HairWorks is largely unnecessary thanks to it doing absolutely nothing for any of the main characters. TurfWorks meanwhile does offer an obvious improvement to grass and foliage, and really fills out the landscape with lush grass. Going back to the console version (or using an AMD graphics card) after getting used to these niceties really feels like a substantial visual downgrade, but rest assured you’re not missing out on any of the storytelling.
As with most things on PC, it’ll take a bit of tinkering to see what works and what you can live without, but I was able to run everything on highest settings at 1440p by dropping to a locked 30fps (Core i7, GTX 1070, 8GB RAM) and it looked fantastic. Those with more powerful rigs will be able to push things even further, on what was already a remarkably good-looking game. What’s clear is that the optimisation work has been worth the wait, and while pushing the game to its limits will still chew through your RAM like a restless puppy through your slippers, you should still be able to have an enjoyable experience on less powerful set-ups.
Final Fantasy XV has been a prime example of the trend of huge RPGs that grow and become more rounded over time. With the game’s release on Windows and the final additions to the game on console in the Royal Edition, it now feels that Square Enix have put the final brushstrokes to their masterpiece. As Final Fantasy XV comes to the end of its long adventure, it’s fitting that it do so in such style, letting people savour the artistic vision behind the game in such glorious detail.