Final Fantasy XV Review (Xbox One)
If you are ready to embark on a journey that will leave you wanting more, look no further, because you’ve come to the right place.
Brutally obvious, Final Fantasy XV is the fifteenth installment to the main Final Fantasy series. Developed and published by Square Enix and other partners that they involved on this project, this game was already in development since 2006, and was originally meant to be a spin-off title for the PS3 called Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but as a result of multiple development issues, it was eventually rebranded in 2013, with a reshuffling of development teams, and along with the aim of keeping the vision true to the original version. Their hard work payed off with it’s release on 29 November 2016 for the PS4 and Xbox One Systems.
What is it really about?
The story revolves around Crown Prince Noctis Lucis Caellum, protector of Lucis, and Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, an oracle from the imperial province of Tenebrae, as well as a close childhood friend of Noctis’s. A treaty of peace has been agreed upon to end a years-long war between Lucis and the imperial Niflheim. As part of the treaty, Noctis is to marry Lunafreya to ensure this peace. After he sets out to meet with Lunafreya in Altissia, it is discovered that the treaty was a ruse, engineered by the Niflheim ruler, Iedolas Aldercapt, to destroy the magical barrier around the Crown City of Insomnia, to seize control of the city’s crystal. Noctis must journey with his most trusted friends, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto, to reclaim his homeland and the magical crystal, and finally, marry Lunafreya.
The story of the game is captivating from the moment you “set foot” in Eos. The King has a gentle personality, and he has a deep love for his son, although he doesn’t express it outright, there is much that alludes to this. Noctis has just as much trouble reading this. His personality can be seen as “brash”, but it is mostly in defense of the people he cares about. He cares little for the royal conventions and has no interest in being a ruler, but he is a passionate defender of what he cares about, especially when it comes to his friends and family. Gladiolus Amicitia acts as Noctis’s bodyguard, and mostly handles heavy weapons. Ignis Scientia is a prodigy military strategist and Noctis’s advisor. Despite these roles that they are assigned, they care about Noctis as their close friend. And then you get Prompto Argentum, the happy goof of the group who is a good friend of Noctis’s from a lower social class. The deep bonds that this group shares is apparent throughout the game and only grows with the events.
[miptheme_quote author=”Prompto” style=”pull-left”]I ride my Chocobo, everyday![/miptheme_quote]There are so many awesome moments and events in this game, with references to pop-culture even. Many of you may know the song “I Play Pokemon GO everyday”?
Well, after some time playing, Prompto, who has an impressively hilarious fascination with Chocobos, sings “I ride my Chocobo, everyday” in the same tone as the aforementioned song. I had to pause for a moment and make sense of what I had just heard, and then couldn’t help but burst into laughter. There are many moments like these during the events of the game, while exploring the lands, where the characters will have something random to say. I love all the responses given. What adds to this is how open the world is to explore.
When not playing a main quest, you are free to explore all over the entirety of the land mass, once you’ve unlocked certain areas (because the empire has decided to wall off certain places with blockades to track you and your friends down). It even get’s mentioned by one of the characters that the situation that the four are in reminds him of a game called “King’s Knight (Wrath of the Dark Dragon)”, an action RPG set in the Final Fantasy XV universe which Noctis enjoys playing, but is a remake of the 1986 Square Co., Ltd. title “King’s Knight”, and is going to be released as a free-to-play mobile game for Android and iOS platforms in 2016.
The Technical Stuff
The Gameplay mechanics are really good as well. There are a lot of systems in place, but organised in such a way that it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all, and everything gets introduced in sequence of necessity, in cases like with the Ascension tree, where you will only really need to know how to use it once your characters have leveled up and gained AP. The Level-Up System is also different to the conventional way as we know it.
In Final Fantasy XV, experience points accumulate while doing quests, killing monsters, etc. and will only be “applied” to the characters when they go to safe zones called “Havens” or at designated rest sites, such as Motels or Caravans. Rest sites offer EXP multipliers, but do not neglect Havens, because you can gain more AP from these zones by doing Training, and having Ignis prepare a meal for the group, which will grant bonus stats for a time during the next day.
That reminds me, every character has a Skill Set that each can train for bonus AP at a later stage, and also grants other bonuses in general. Noctis can fish, which is a pretty fun minigame. Gladiolus is a Survivalist. Ignis is a Cook. And Prompto is the group Photographer, and a later stage he will take random #selfies, sometimes at awkward moments too.
Round One… Fighto!
On to the Battle System; called Active X Battle (AXB). These battles all take place in real-time environments with no load times. Battles can take place, quite literally, anywhere, meaning the player can make full use of the environment, fighting enemies in front, behind, above, below, etc. There is also a “Wait Mode” that pauses in-game activity to be utilised to “analyse” your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Much like previous FF games, you co-op with your brethren to either attack different enemies or to do powerful “Link Strikes” against a single enemy and cause bonus damage. When you or your teammates’ HP gets knocked to zero, you enter a “Danger” status where you are unable to attack and your Maximum HP drops for a time.
Taking damage lowers the limit even faster. During this time, you are able to interact with them, bring them back into the fight and with the regeneration limit increased to 25% if it has fallen below that point. Items are able to fully restore these stats too fortunately. If teammates aren’t brought back and their HP drops to zero, they get knocked out from the fight. If this happens to Noctis however, the game is over. Then ofcourse there are other things like Weapons and Gear management, Techniques, Magic, Summons, the Ascension Grid where AP gets spent like a Talent Tree, etc. It is worth mentioning though, Noctis is able to sprint. When you sprint a green Stamina bar appears above his head that depletes over time while he sprints. If you time it right, just before it depletes, and you press the sprint button again, Noctis is able to refresh his stamina. (You’re welcome).
There is also other media released for the Final Fantasy XV universe, such as a feature film set as a prequel to the game, called Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and an anime-series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV which details the backstories of Noctis and the people closest to him. It is not necessary to watch before playing the game, but if you are interested in expanding your understanding of the lore, it is a nice little bonus that Square Enix has thrown in for us.
It is probably a good time to say that I consider myself a newcomer to the Final Fantasy series, seeing as I haven’t played any Final Fantasy games in what must be a decade. When the game starts, you are greeted with a title screen that reads “A Final Fantasy for fans and for new-comers”. This statement is not wrong whatsoever.
You don’t need any knowledge of the previous installments before playing the game, which is comforting. During the beginning tutorial you are given a chance to read some lore though if you so choose, which takes as long as 5 minutes, so this title is very “vanilla” friendly!
The goal for Final Fantasy XV was “a fantasy based on reality”, where the world you find yourself in being very similar to Earth, gets fantasy elements gradually intruding into the otherwise standard environments. The environments are absolutely stunning and the amazing quality of the graphics is only complimented by it’s beautiful soundtrack. This makes the game intensely immersive, along with all the other mechanics. The diversity in characters allows for you to identify with them in one way or another, which is also a plus. And like other Final Fantasy games, the story is amazing. What further impressed me was this: with the game having been in development for so long, the developers made sure there was enough content to make up for the wait, and they “anticipate” about 40 to 50 hours of gameplay in terms of the main story. With all the side-quests, clearing everything is said to take approximately 200 hours, with the chapters going from 0 to 15. Well done to you Square Enix!
Current Retail Prices for the PlayStation 4 version at R895.00 from BT Games and R1,629.00 for the Digital Premium Edition via PSN. For Xbox One you also pay R895.00 from BT Games and R1,185.00 for the Digital Premium Edition via the Xbox Store.