It’s pretty well known to those who have known me for a while that I am not a fan of the Final Fantasy series generally. Sure, I like the older titles, who doesn’t? But I feel that the series peaked at IX. Which is a full two games after the one everyone loves.
I fact I know more than a handful of gamers who will be surprised by this review, because I love FFXV. I think it’s a return to greatness in both gameplay and storytelling for SquareEnix’s flagship franchise. This time around I understand why the fans go nuts. And I fully and wholeheartedly believe that it has happened because of one thing and one thing only.
The overhaul of the combat system. Square has done right and completely removed the gods awful turn based mechanics that they previously revamped and renamed for each instalment of the main series and have replaced it with an active combat mechanic reminiscent of western RPGs like Dragon Age. Now this doesn’t mean that you can hold attack and be a-ok, you still need to juggle using weapons, summons, items, and managing the health and stats of your party members. It can become quite a mess if you can’t keep u with the newer, faster paced combat that is normally much slower in a JRPG.
The party system has changed too. You start with 4 members and for the majority of the game they are your party. No new characters to worry about levelling, no party management over picking characters who you like more. You have your foursome. And the Chocobros are all you need, for the most part. Sure some special characters join your party for a quest line or 2, and some of the bros go off to do their own thing for a bit, but by and large its all one team, a car, and a few big assed birds.
The car is of course the Regalia. And I think this is probably the weakest of the mechanics of the game. The driving is very much an on the rails affair. But when you let Ignis drive you get to sit back, do your party management and listen o the soundtracks of the previous games and enjoy the view. But the car is customisable and does become your airship in time. The paints you can craft for the car are beautiful and the various decals are funny and add a personal flair to your ride.
But for a better ride I recommend unlocking the chocobo rentals as early as you can. These magnificent raptor like chickens are an excellent way to get from A-B. They are faster than walking, can handle terrain the car can’t, can help you in battle, and can swim. The swimming is actually very important when you need to cross a lake to, say, a campsite when is raining and you need to avoid daemons in he dark. And you can even customise your bird. Giving them a unique name and colour as well as decorating them with medals won in chocobo races.
Which, of course, are just one of the many hundreds of ways you can distract yourself from the main quest line of the game. There’s fishing, cooking (i.e. collecting ingredients, camping and letting a party member cook meals for status buffs, who then comes up with new recipes.), Photo ops, Hunting (monsters and treasure), dungeons, and the myriad of side quests available from NPC’s and one finicky feline who I took to calling Sir Fluffybottom the Third.
But don’t worry, they didn’t skimp when it came to the main quest. And they do that magical thing that games are doing more and more recently… they manage to make you give a damn about the characters. You spend that much time playing them, and leading them through this struggle that you can’t help but care about them. And that is something that means there are moments when you do find yourself with almost a tear when things go sideways in the worst way.
And yes, I have deliberately kept this as spoiler free as possible because damn… this is something you have to experience first hand to get the full impact of. The sheer size and scale of some of the creatures cannot be put into words, the breathtaking beauty of the game…. I cannot describe.
But Final Fantasy XV did the impossible. It made ME care about Final Fantasy. So it at least did something right even if you don’t like it.
What are your thoughts on XV? Have you played it? Have you beat it? Are you unsure about it? Let me know!!!