Title: Final Fantasy XV
Platform: PS4 (reviewed) Xbox One
Developer: Square Enix Holdings, XPEC Entertainment, HexaDrive, Streamline Studios, Umbra
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: (VT) This isn’t the game I waited ten years for / (JG) Final Fantasy XV: Lads on Tour!
Price: PS4: £50/$60
Xbox One: £50/$60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Just as a quick note before we start; this is a dual review by me (Viki Taylor) and the wonderful Jay George. Our opinions are expressed in tandem. 

VT – Okay, so some background – are you a long time fan? How long had you been waiting for this game? What were you expecting?

JG – I started my love for Final Fantasy back when Final Fantasy VII was released in the UK, my Uncle bought it for me for my birthday and I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since. I’ve been waiting for FFXV since it’s announcement and excitement ascended into space once the first trailer hit the web. Nomura promised a more mature Kingdom Hearts battle system and boy did he deliver. The characters were lovable especially my boy, Prompto. Final Fantasy XV was everything I wanted and more, I mean a few years back I thought I’d never get to play this game ever.

VT – I didn’t get properly into it until a few years ago when it was still part of Fabula Nova Chrystallis, and it looked bad-ass. Then it got renamed and Tabata-san took over and he promised. He promised a lot. And I can’t say I blame him or the devs for the state of the game, but I do wonder what went wrong.

To say this game has gone through troubled development would be the understatement of the century. Starting out in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, originally envisioned as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos along with Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Type 0, it took a drastic swerve a few years back when its original director (Tetsuya Nomura of Kingdom Hearts fame) was taken off the project and it was given to Hajime Tabata (who worked on Type 0 and Crisis Core). Needless to say, there was an ungodly amount of hype about this game. It was originally marketed as a “dark,” FF game, rumoured for years to have a M/18 rating.

FFXV on the other hand, is about the farthest thing from a gritty, reality-based fantasy you can get, namely because it doesn’t make sense.

JG – It did kind of lose the dark tones we were promised. I watched a guy called YongYea do a countdown retrospective on FFXV and you can really see how much the game transitioned. I do hope the patch for Chapter 13 gives us more answers on the situation there… It seems Square has a problem with the number 13.

VT – And before we start a slanging match about how good or bad XIII was, I cannot emphasise enough about how much stuff from the original concept was changed to prevent that 18 rating – there was a whole thing about the royal family worshipping reapers (hence why black was the royal colour) but it was cut because it would push the rating up, which I think harms the game at its core – it has all these dark, mystical ideas, but never capitalises on them.

So before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about graphics. There were definitely noticeable lip sync issues with the NPCs but the environments and creatures were nice. The towns are detailed, albeit shallow (there’s not a whole lot of life in them), but the wildlife and fauna are interesting to look at. I felt the character designs were really boring this time, though XIII’s designs were bursting with colour and interesting bits and pieces in the hair and outfits… there was just so much black and relatively mundane outfits and designs.

Aside from Ardyn, everyone has sensible hair colours, for crying out loud! I do wonder if this was another theme they tried to push too hard (fantasy based on reality) and went too hard in the opposite direction – there’s no amazement and wonder, just a fancy car and stonework towns and a sensible shirt and jeans.

JG – I never really noticed the lip sync all too much, but the environments were beautiful, although it’s a shame we couldn’t explore Tenebrae… The creature designs were amazing, so many call backs to the original designs from the NES and SNES era of Final Fantasy. There was a noticeable contrast between XIII and XV, I guess it was to match the contrast of the games when they were apart of the Fabula Nova Crystallis. I guess because XV was a fantasy based on reality they didn’t want over the top designs (besides Ardyn).

Altissia was the perfect Final Fantasy town and it wasn’t as big as I’d hoped! Plus, the E3 trailer with the Leviathan fight was so much more bad ass than what we got! Still, awesome but the trailer made it look so much better… Guess hardware limitations put an end to that.

VT – On to the gameplay; much more streamlined than the demos, combat is so much easier and fluid compared to episode Duscae. I found the magic system kind of limiting without really having the worldbuilding to back it up. Like something vague about the crystals giving magic but only to the royals and that’s it? And where the fuck are my saboteur spells?

Also, warp strikes are open for easy abuse. I won the first mini boss fight at the end of Chapter 13 with Noctis alone, right at the end, seven levels below the boss’ one, by warping in and warping away. You heal and regain MP super fast when at a warp point, so this is far too easy to do. But the differing weights to the swords was a nice touch.

JG – It gave real depth to the game adding to the realism, unlike scrawny little Cloud who could spin the buster sword above his head with ease. The combat is awesome! Like you said it’s fluid and it’s easy to get to grips with. The link system with your team and the parry system just makes you feel so good when they pull off the different and unique combos together! They feel like an actual group of buddies taking on the world with their dialogue in battle.

The magic system is overpowered too! Anytime, I struggled with a battle, I just pulled out the magic and destroyed high-level enemies with ease like the group of three Kujatas just piling up together. Yeah, the Ring of Lucil controlled the truly devastating spells such as, holy and death.

With the right abilities, warp strike can destroy anything! That’s how you take down the Adamantoise! Just warp strike at the head and the different limbs and you can knock that thing down in an hour. I was so over levelled that I killed basically every boss instantaneously, I hope they patch in a hard difficulty as I hunt trophies and will be potentially going after the other platinum trophies.

VT – And now we come to the big one; plot. Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. 

JG – Final Fantasy XV’s plot starts off great but slowly diminishes towards the closing chapters. It’s not that the story is bad at the end, it’s just that the story leaves us with some many unanswered questions… hope this will all make sense by the time the story patch is released.

VT – I’m gonna say it, the plot is horrible.

It has some cracking ideas but is ultimately a big mishmash of themes and stories that never quite match up. What do they want it to be, a drunken fratboy road trip? A dark, reality based fantasy where real world politics make the rules? Or a dreamily romantic Romeo and Juliet-esque yakuza brawling match?

It can’t decide, so is a road trip at the start, then promptly remembers “Oh shit things actually need to happen,” and shoehorns in all the rest. It’s basically been rushed. I wonder if the open world is to blame?

Like they put so much focus into the open world after the backlash with XIII, the story was almost an afterthought? Lore is in tiny pieces in books you pick up. There are two hub towns, and the rest of the landscape is shallow and bleak. Villain’s motives are largely unexplained, and the characters are stock stereotypes and not a lot else.

JG – The story overall is rushed and the open world breaks the narrative up to take away from the fact that it is rushed. But I did enjoy the story as a whole just because it felt like me and a group of friends minus the fact in real life we don’t have monsters… XD

VT – I have the horrible feeling that it’s looking more and more likely they’ve deliberately cut events from the game to sell as DLC. And whilst that inherently isn’t a bad thing, DLC should enhance the game (Fallout: New Vegas is a great example of this), not stripping out essential backstory and development that’s the main backbone of any good story.

JG – I do love the lore and the characters on the cover are Bahamut, Ardyn and Shiva or Gentiana. I did love running around the world though either by foot or on chocobo and if you caught it right the guys would interact with the surrounding. For example, the bridge I think just outside Old Lestallum, there is the grounds of the old astral war and the guys will react to it and Prompto will take the usual photo. Luna and Ravus definitely need more of a backstory.

VT – Yeah this bothers me greatly. Some motives are just flat out not there and plot points are picked up and dropped within literal seconds. We don’t even know why there’s a war going on! Also the characters. My God, the characters are terrible. They’re literally bored archetypes that have no development – Noctis has no development! At all! He’s the same reluctant hero he was for the whole 31 hour run. Chapter 10 is the only time the characters appropriately react to events around them, and it shines in what is otherwise a mess of a plot. It’s the first time they act like people rather than cardboard cut outs of characters.

They all have the potential to be such good characters. With the time and the effort it could have been superb, but they are literally just stock characters whom are so shallow, I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to them.

So, overall?

VT – I’m actually making a separate post on how bad the plot was, with no holds barred on spoilers, because FFXV could have been so much more. The terrible story has let it down so badly, it doesn’t even feel like a Final Fantasy game, more like a book with half the pages torn out.

JG – Overall, Final Fantasy XV is great entry to the series, the combat was refreshing and the interactions between the Chocobros during battle or roaming around the open world was entertaining and funny at the same time (I’m a sucker for a bad pun or two).

Unfortunately, the story can let the overall experience down especially in the second half of the game as it rushes to the conclusion leaving a few unanswered questions… hopefully those questions will be answered in the upcoming story patch. I recommend Final Fantasy XV to veterans and first timers but stress them to watch both Kingsglaive and the Brotherhood anime or else the plot will be especially empty.

 

The Good

  • The gameplay is fast and fluid
  • What core story there is, actually reads pretty nicely
  • Florence + The Machine did the theme song

The Bad

  • It somehow managed to have a worse plot than The Technomancer
  • The characters have the personality of cardboard cutouts instead of actual characters
  • Is only 20 hours long, main plot wise, despite the promised 40.

Family Focus

Rated 16. There’s quite a lot of violence via mook and villain killing, and the occasional swear word and innuendo.

This review is based on a retail copy of the game, purchased for the purpose of this review.