Final Fantasy XV review

  • This is my first post in the EZA forums. Can't wait for more discussions.

    Final Fantasy is my favorite videogame franchise. I think it is important to contextualize my following arguments with that premise, because, not only my past experiences with this series molded my journey through Final Fantasy XV, but also because nostalgia can be a powerful bias. For example, last year, I ended Metal Gear Solid V with feelings of anger, frustration and sadness due to nostalgia. Metal Gear Solid is my second favorite videogame franchise, and seeing how Phantom Pain was so poorly built in terms of open world design and progression systems made me react in a more hyperbolic way than I anticipated. This year, my reaction to Final Fantasy XV was the complete opposite: happiness, grandness and hopefulness for the future.

    At first, XV is not a very impressive game. The game looks good but a bit flat and empty. For me, it was not the occasional PS3-looking texture that was bugging me, but how antiquated and lifeless some nature and human settlements were designed and populated. Still, as the hours passed these minor disappointments started to be superimposed by iconic landmarks, a beautiful skybox (that makes the player be connected to one of the central themes of the game) and even how diverse and realistic the “always boring” dungeons looked like.

    What also did not help with my first impressions of the game were the voice acting and some of the tunes of the game. Voices I can somewhat live with, yet, in 2016 I should expect more honest performances and less archetypal tones. But the game does a good job complementing that excessive characterization with hobbies and fighting styles of your companions, and even the main protagonist, that, by the end of the journey, you start to tolerate some of the overacting and underacting. Music, on the other hand, is a staple of Final Fantasy. And, even though, Yoko Shimomura (the composer of this game) is revered as a very great musician and has a portfolio full of quality, I think she performed below hers and Nobuo Uematsu’s (legendary Final Fantasy composer) standards. In particular, I felt that some of the human settlements’ themes were a bit on the nose. On the other hand, I should also give credit where credit is due, the battle themes were some of the best in Final Fantasy history.

    One aspect, which immediately makes for a good first impression, is how Noctis (the main protagonist of the game) controls. Running around the open world, fighting groups of small enemies or single giant ones, combining evading with defense and attack always feels good with great animations and pace, and that helped mitigate some repetitiveness and lack of depth of some encounters, as well as the emptiness of the world I talked about previously.

    Talking about that gameplay loop and how you progress through the game is where Final Fantasy XV shines the brightest. You are on a journey with your companions to reclaim your throne. The city you are supposed to rule has just been destroyed by an evil empire and your father – the King – has been murdered. And despite being fairly young and inexperienced, you and your three companions (Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto) are tasked to travel the world of Eos to garner the power of ancient kings, ancestors to you, and also to go to key landmarks where Gods are said to reside and ask for their support in your fight against the rise of evil.

    Pretty generic, right? Yes, but the game manages to convey the dimension of that adventure in a very convincing way through gameplay and other quirks that give heart to this story. First of all, I think the game does a masterful job in making you feel the dichotomy that is the cornerstone of this game’s message: you might be powerful by name, but you are nothing without your friends. You might have access to magic, potions and all other powers but the game starts immediately with concepts like scarcity in money (even fuel to travel in your one-percenter car has to be paid) which leads to initial constraints for easy curatives in battle, making you relying on a nice mechanic where you have to physically reach your companions to recover a bit of health. Magic has natural limits and has to be collected from deposits throughout the world. Or even summoning the Gods ends up being a rare phenomenon, because you have to be in particular battle conditions for each one, turning those grandiose audiovisual moments into something much more meaningful than in past Final Fantasy games.

    The gameplay loop rapidly encourages you to do side-quests to earn money and experience, and with that rises an interesting facet of the game: knowing the people you are supposed to be King of. Instead of doing one side quest for 100 different NPCs you do several quests for 10 to 15 people or so, and that gives a flavor of the perception and relationship the “common folk” have with their political leaders and world-changing events. Nothing on the level of The Witcher 3, but still, a direction I want more open-world games to try.

    And, even though, those side-quests are not filled with detail, they never felt tedious because the game has two interesting solutions to pace them properly. The day-night cycle and camping to cash-in the experience gained. When travelling from quest to quest you can do most of the distance by car, but there’s a catch. At night, the roads get populated by a different kind of enemy – Daemons – and these foes are, most of the times, stronger than your own party. So, there is a trade-off: you either try to fight them and gain proportionally more experience or you run to a safe spot to camp and ensure you cash-in the experience you gained throughout the day. Once again, nothing on the level of the Souls games, but it manages to imbue in the player a wariness of the night time and makes you appreciate even more the subtle changes that occur in the beautiful skybox. Oh, and camping is amazing because Ignis (your companion) cooks some of the most beautiful food in videogame history.

    Talking about the main quest and its story, the phrase I would say is: it grows on you. As I described before, the plot is generic. But, instead of focusing too much on a line of events that would not surprise any player, the game creators clearly knew where the weaknesses might emerge from, and turn the focus of the drama to the characters and their arches. For me, the narratives that feed the progression, ground the world building and give credible life to the fantasy, are three: the main villain’s past story, the secret that Noctis’ father and Noctis’ love interest share, and the evolution of the friendship between the four companions.

    Yes, the world is plagued by larger than life problems and advents. But those three main themes of the game use all that lore as a canvas and not a pretext. A beautiful and properly scaled canvas, if I might add. In the end, the creators knew where their limits were and focused on giving identity to the game and not overexposing the player with information that would only serve as a distraction from core concepts like human condition and the human constraints of the fate to do good. I was positively surprised by finding myself engaged in understanding the villain’s motives. I was surprised by how unconventional the love story was. And I was really surprised with how well the game captures the evolution of true friendships when you go through hazardous times.

    Final Fantasy XV has its problems: the world is a bit empty; you don’t really get the feeling that you are driving the car; the combat lacks some weight; having to use the main menu to manage strategies in combat is a step back; constantly curing your companions breaks the pace of the real-time combat; and when the game leaves the open-world and goes linear the decrease in quality is evident.

    Still, all those issues are mitigated by something truly great on its own: the landmarks on the empty world are beautiful and give flavor to your journey; the car is where you get the best conversations between the companions; the combat lacks depth but makes you feel like a true future King; I never expected this game to have old Final Fantasy strategy and was so happy that it has; having to cure your companions is in line with the main theme of the game; and the linear parts have some of the most iconic moments of the game – the beautiful city of Altissia, a travel by train that rekindles most of the magic of past Final Fantasy games, the infamous Chapter 13 that was poorly executed but you understand the idea behind it, and the last chapter which is worthy of the “Fantasy” legacy.

    Hajime Tabata (the game Director) said several times, throughout the hellish development this game went through, that Final Fantasy fans would be the biggest challenge this game would have to face. He called it “Final Fantasy disease”, because the franchise has so many memorable moments in a story full of critical and commercial successes. And, as I said before, I include myself in that diagnosis. The last Final Fantasy I played was X, in 2001, because I felt that the following entries did not have the cure for that disease. And I was convinced this was going to be the last straw. Oh boy, was I wrong! Not only does Final Fantasy XV manage to make me feel like those games did, but also, I no longer crave for a good “AAA” turn-based JRPG.

    Now, I am looking forward to Final Fantasy XVI.

  • Banned

    I think Tabata did a fairly decent job given what he had to work with.

    Square was all like "We know you've only done handheld games, but here's a giant landmass that Nomura made. We need you to finish it in a few years cause It's gonna be the next Final Fantasy."

    On the subject of Directors though, who do you think had to clean up the bigger mess? Yoshida fixing XIV or Tabata finishing XV?

  • If you want some feedback I can read it later and share my thoughts when I have a little more time.

    @Art said in Final Fantasy XV review:

    I think Tabata did a fairly decent job given what he had to work with.

    Yes, the problems with FF15 isn't directly because of Tabata. In fact based on interviews and articles I dread to think what the game would've been like had he not taken over. He seems like the kind of director japanese devs need right now, especially the way he reworked the team (basically removing strict hierarchy).

  • @suplextrain said in Final Fantasy XV review

    I would appreciate it =) thank you

  • i believe that f15 was the last hold over from the old square enix (from the merger till about 2014 they were shit) and this is the last project from that time and how tebata saved it and made a a good game this game is gonna sit in the middle of final fantasy quality wise somewhere between 5 and 8. the one thing this game gave me was hope for the future if we had another 13 the series was gonna die for me but this game while having its problems gave ,e hope for the future.

  • @FF7Cloud Completely agree