It’s as much a marketing trick as anything else, making the game more visible across social media, but it’s just one of many great ideas in Final Fantasy XV. Yet for every stroke of genius, there’s an equally poor decision that results in a frustrating experience.
Expect plenty of goofy pictures
It’s a beautiful open world that you’ll want to explore, especially to uncover its myriad dungeons. Hidden in the depths of the world are these self-contained labyrinths that host some wonderful design, tense boss battles, and new hidden weapons. They truly make you feel like an explorer and make this adventure worth investing in.
The world is stunning
Best of all is the relationship between Prince Noctis and his three companions, clearly a focus of the game from its comic opening that sees their car broken down, to the closing credits paired with a cover of “Stand By Me” by Florence + The Machine. Whilst their chatter can get repetitive and there’s little individual development, the bond between them is well written and believable. Noctis himself regresses into typical moodiness at times, but his friends are there to pick him up – often literally when it comes to gameplay. That said, it’s at the expense of the periphery characters: the shallow villain, the abomination that is Cindy the “sexy” mechanic (not to mention the general lack of female characters), and the overall plot itself.
Oh the plot. It’s here that Final Fantasy XV stumbles most critically. What’s most frustrating is that there’s the skeleton of a fantastic story, a coming-of-age tale about friendship, kingship, responsibility and sacrifice. Yet the gaping plot holes are unforgivable; it’s like a theatre play where half the story occurs off-stage. Partly this is down to the open world, a decision that seems to fit more with the vogue for open world games than it does to implement a satisfying narrative. For that, linearity is required – something that does occur in the game’s later stages, but they’re missing the expected emotional weight due to earlier plot holes. The game crucially lacks dramatic impetus or urgency, so quests are uncovered and completed with little explanation of motivations or character development. That’s not what you expect from the usually dense lore of most Final Fantasy games.
Battles are spectacular, if too easy
Lastly, there’s a distinct absence of challenge. The multiple side quests may distract from the story, but anyone who completes them will end up so overpowered that the main story quests can be breezed through. Get used to the rhythms of the battle system and there’s fun to be had, but it’s all too easy to beat enemies by simply holding down the attack button with little strategy. And if you’re close to dying, the summon command pops up whereby grand beings can be summoned to battle and most likely destroy your enemies in one hit – even bosses. Their power is pleasingly undeniable, but the game isn’t transparent about the circumstances under which they can be summoned. As such, they’re rarely seen beyond a fail-safe as opposed to being part of the player’s strategy – a disappointment when they’re so spectacular to behold.
I think this is a frog? Thanks Prompto.
Despite all these faults, the game has charm enough to warrant play and becomes strangely addictive. Perhaps it’s to cruise around this beautiful world with your buddies listening to retro tunes. Perhaps it’s to check off the lengthy list of quests. Or maybe it’s to see what crazy pictures Prompto comes out with next. Final Fantasy XV is a curious experimentation for Square Enix that’s uneven in its execution but enjoyable nonetheless.