Final Fantasy XV (2016)
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Why I Chose It: I am a longtime Final Fantasy fan and with this new release for the PS4 also being one of the only JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) available to us in North America, picking this up was a no-brainer.
Get ready to be at the center of the ultimate fantasy adventure. Enter the world of FINAL FANTASY XV, and experience epic action-packed battles along your journey of discovery. You are Noctis, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, and your quest is to reclaim your homeland from the clutches of the imperial army. Joined by your closest friends, you will take the wheel and experience a voyage like no other, traveling through the breath-taking world of Eos encountering larger-than-life beasts and unforgiving enemies. You will learn to master the skills of weaponry and magic, channeling the power of your ancestors allowing you to effortlessly warp through the air in thrilling combat. Fresh faces and long-time fans, fulfill your destiny and experience a brand new kind of fantasy.
Spoiler free review below!
This is the first video game review on this site but also my first video game review. I’m going to break it down to each major aspect of the game into chunks people care the most about. Keep in mind I haven’t actually finished the game; I’m through most of it and have over 25+ hours and have gotten very familiar with each feature.
I’m going to start with gameplay in order to describe the setting. This is one of my favorite parts of the game and it was very unexpected. This game is basically a very long road trip for you (playing as Noctis), and his three buddies/protectors: Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis. The game starts with you leaving your kingdom to be married, and you and your entourage pile in the Regalia (a cool car) to begin. Of course, not everything works out, and the gang must solve mysteries and battle to save the kingdom.
Instead of running through a map, you basically drive the Regalia to different cities and pit stops. There are dive bars, diners, scrap yards, dusty roads. Throughout the landscape you can come across monsters and fight them. It’s all open world. It’s dangerous to stay out at night so each night you have to rest — either you set up camp in designated camp spots or you head to a motel. This also adds to the feeling of a road trip as you camp around a fire with your friends.
Unlike previous Final Fantasy games you don’t gain any more party members (although you may unofficially battle alongside NPCs), so you have a lot of time to get to know your party. The group initially comes across as very serious and dark, but as you progress on your adventure, you come to know their personalities and they are all very likable. They often chat to each other while you play and it really seems like a close group of friends. Each character has their own skill: Fishing (Noctis), Photography (Prompto), Survival (Gladio), and Cooking (Ignis). Photography, in particular, is one of the coolest features of this game. Each day Prompto takes photos of your campaign and at the end of the day, while you camp, you can pick which photos to keep in your album. He often takes selfies.
The Regalia, your car, may also be considered a character. You can take her to the garage and tune her up, you can collect special materials to customize her look, or even buy decals from various vendors on the road.
As previously mentioned, the setting is open world. Battles start by coming across either wild monsters or human enemies. If they see you, you go into battle stance and you can fight them. There’s no switch to a battle screen; it’s completely seamless, and unlike classic Final Fantasy games in which each character takes a turn, this one is pure real time action. You can dodge, attack, or initiate special attacks in real time while fighting your enemies. I’m a big fan of action style fights rather than turn-based action so this really appealed to me. Fights are quick and easy to avoid if you prefer, so it’s really simple to stay on track. In other RPGs it’s often easy to get frustrated having to battle every single time something pops up. I’ve never felt that way in this game.
Look and Feel
Just by taking a look at the screenshots included in this review you can see the game looks amazing. There’s a very realistic quality to the style (a contrast to Final Fantasy XIII). Although there are clear science fiction elements (high tech machinery and human enhancements), the setting looks very much like our own society. This makes the game easily relatable but also speculative enough to enhance its cool factor and feel like you’re in a special world.
So far I have seen just a couple true cut scenes that are full CGI and they look as good as any animated movie out there. The quality of the animation is the best I’ve seen in a game in a long time.
In Conclusion: Final Fantasy XV is one of the best RPGs I’ve played in a long time. I was a big fan of Final Fantasy XIII, but this one is going to surpass that. The graphics quality, the endearing characters, and the Supernatural-esque road trips and beloved car is just right up my alley. Square Enix calls this game one for long time fans and new fans. You don’t need any knowledge of the previous games to play this, but if you do, they offer lots of Easter eggs to discover.
One missed opportunity here is including female representation in the main team. Lack of female representation in video games is already an issue, and I feel Square Enix could have made more effort here. There are two main female characters (if you don’t count the inanimate object — the Regalia). One is a car mechanic, which is cool in itself, but she is only there for sex appeal. The second is the Princess engaged to Noctis. She represents most of his motivation and we barely see her on screen. As long as that isn’t a major blocker for you, I highly recommend this game.
Images from Gamespot.