Final Fantasy XV (PS4)
My favorite video game of all time is Final Fantasy VII. That being said, I haven’t exactly kept up with the franchise over the years. I liked Final Fantasy X well enough, but X-2 was so disappointing that I didn’t pick up another one until Final Fantasy XIII. In spite of the unbelievably confusing storyline, I actually liked XIII quite a bit, and I think Lightning is a really cool character. The two sequels to XIII were mostly diminishing returns, though, particularly Lightning Returns, which did away with the battle system that’s been such a beloved mainstay of the game. Still, I was optimistic enough about the general direction of the series after XIII to pick up Square Enix’s first attempt at a Final Fantasy game for seventh gen consoles, Type-0 HD, and I hated it so much that I was back to thinking I was done with the series for good. That was really my own fault, though – had I read anything about the game before buying it, I never would have done so. And then someone convinced me to give the FFXV playable demo a shot, and it pulled me right back in…
At this point, I’m about 20 hours into Final Fantasy XV, and I’m really enjoying it thus far. Part of the reason for that is that while there are enough familiar elements (Chocobos! Cid!) to satisfy my nostalgia for previous installments in the series, this is a very different sort of Final Fantasy game.
– Visually, the game is just stunning. The landscapes are gorgeous, the creatures look really cool, and the level of detail on the big bosses that I’ve encountered thus far has been incredible. Leviathan in particular looks really fucking cool.
– The setting of the game is far more realistic than previous installments. For starters, the characters have a car, which was a bit odd at first. The cities look more realistic, with gas stations and diners. The characters don’t wear bizarre clothing, or have unrealistic anime hairstyles. There’s also a more realistic emphasis placed on sleeping and eating regularly – EXP is only tallied when the characters stop for the night, and you can earn status boots based on the meals you consume.
– The mythology of the game, which still somewhat convoluted, is much easier to follow than some past installments. Blessedly, there’s nothing about L’Cie in this one.
– For the most part, the characters are well-developed and likeable, and it’s easy to get emotionally invested in their journey.
– All of the main characters in the adventure party are male, and they’re all kind of bro-ey. This isn’t a huge deal, but Final Fantasy doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to male characters; Cloud (VII) was kind of a doofus, Tidus was a bit of a spoiled brat (X), and Hope and Snow were both so irritating that I spent a fair amount of XIII wishing they’d get killed off. It’s usually the female characters in these games—Tifa, Rikku, Lightning, Vanille—that balance out the general cluelessness of their male counterparts. There are a few minor female characters in XV, but the game is primarily all about the bros.
– The battle system is still set up to favor button mashing over strategy.
– The side quests aren’t that interesting – they mostly involve hunting down and killing monsters.
The Final Verdict
With its realistic setting, gorgeous visuals, and engaging characters, the good definitely outweighs the bad with Final Fantasy XV. It might be time to finally accept that they’re never going back to the turn-based battle system, though.
EDIT: Okay, in the interim between when I uploaded the draft of this review and when it’s scheduled to run, I finished the game. I like it less after finishing it than I did when I wrote the bulk of this review. As tends to be the pattern with Final Fantasy games, there’s a major swerve that completely change the tone for the rest of the game. And while the swerve this time around was actually kind of predictable, the dark turn the game took after the swerve was more unexpected. It’s not the dark that bothers me, though – it’s that so much of the character work from earlier in the game flies out the window, to the point where at least one of the main characters becomes pretty unlikeable. The ending is also kind of a hot mess, with the final boss battle in particular being something of a letdown.
On the whole, I did still enjoy the game, and I do think it’s probably a better Final Fantasy game than XIII, the last few hours are kind of a slog to get through.