Final Fantasy XV is a game about a long road trip taken with friends. It all starts in the most idyllic way possible. It sputters. It comes to a full stop at points. There are arguments. There are plenty of outright fights. But, it all concludes in an almost surreal way. The funny thing about it is that I can’t imagine a better analogy for my experience playing the game.
I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this review a dozen times over in the last few days because I was (and still am) having difficulty putting my feelings into words. I have been anxiously waiting for this game almost as long as I have had children. My love for the Final Fantasy franchise is well documented so this is a tough one. But, I am a professional (sort of) so here it goes.
Final Fantasy XV is by no means perfect. There is no way that a game in development for as long as it was could be. But, it is a remarkable game that stands alongside its peers. Very few people will mark this as the high point of the series, but that’s ok. XV was never meant to be the best. It was meant to be a reminder to fans (lapsed and otherwise) what Final Fantasy is all about: transformation.
Final Fantasy XV follows the adventure of Prince Noctis and his three best friends as they travel, via a sick ride called the Regalia, to his arranged marriage to the Oracle Lunafreya. This is as straightforward of a premise as you can imagine, but things don’t stay so simple very long.
(This isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens very quickly.) Noctis’s home kingdom of Lucis comes under attack very quickly and succumbs to the might of their neighbor Nifflehiem. Everything from that point forward funnels our heroes toward an epic conflict.
I won’t lie to you. The story takes some wacky turns, but I found myself legitimately interested in what was going on and what was going to happen next with every twist.
It is impossible to talk about the story without addressing the main characters. Noctis is joined on his journey by his three best friends (Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto). Their friendship is a focal point of everything that happens. You see how it impacts each of them and you see the stress that it puts on their friendships. The real key is that this is a group of men who truly care about each other. There is none of the obnoxious testosterone-fueled bravado that we find in other games. The fact that I was able to see men on the screen that were genuine and honest with each other and their feelings was refreshing.
The biggest difference from previous games in the series that people will notice, aside from aesthetics, is that XV is an action RPG. They have stripped away the turned based combat from previous games and replaced it with a fast-paced battle system that requires you to warp around the battlefield and switch between a variety of weapons to help build combos on your enemies. The description I gave may make it sound chaotic, but it doesn’t take much time at all before you are racing around the battlefield like a crazy person
One theme that XV manages to reinforce through gameplay mechanics is how small and personal this journey is for Noctis and company in spite of how epic their quest is. The biggest expression of this theme comes in the idea that the game is broken down into days. You are all but forced to rest at campsites throughout the world each night. While resting you are able to bank the exp that you earned during the day and you can even have Ignis combine ingredients you found in the field to make stat buffing food items. The fact is that these adventurers on a world spanning quest to save all mankind
Final Fantasy XV is rated T for teen. The bulk of that T rating comes from the combat. Realistic characters are participating in action-packed combat against all manner of robots and fantastic beasts. The rest of the T rating comes from some mild language.
At the end of the day, FFXV is not a game for children. It earns its T rating and parents should be confident in that.
The Take Away
Final Fantasy XV won’t go down in history as one of the best games in the series. But, it is an excellent game that is worth playing. Final Fantasy fans, especially lapsed ones, should absolutely play this game. Everyone else? This should be on your radar if you like stylish action RPGs.