It was a long time coming, and after 10 years, setback after setback, delay after delay. Final Fantasy 15 finally arrived at the end of November. The game did not disappoint, despite its flaws (there were plenty of them) overall the game was a memorable and hugely satisfying experience.
“You weren’t even waiting that long, you just decided to buy it after playing it at Euro-gamer this year”
Hey, I have friends who have been waiting years for this and regularly been reminding me!
Right from the very beginning, you’re set loose in the world of Lucis, where you spend majority of your time: completing side quests, searching for materials, hunting creatures, finding hidden dungeons etc. You travel as a group of four and you control Prince Noctis, although in combat you can perform combos with another member of the party.
“The opening song and pushing the car at the start, really set the tone for what kind of game it will be”
At first the groups main goal is to travel to Accordo’s capital city of Altissia, so Noctis can marry Lady Lunafreya to formalise a peace treaty between the kingdom of Lucis and the all conquering Niflheim. However a number of events occur and as the plot unravels there will be a few twists and turns to what the main goal of the group of four is, and more specifically the fate of Noctis and the kingdom of Lucis. However the plot plays a backseat to exploring Lucis, which you will not be surprised by when I listed the number of things you can do in this world. So it is a good thing, the land itself is beautiful, with varying locations and great landscapes for you to un earth.
Your main transport is the Regalia, a car in which you can also modify with paint jobs and decals to eventually getting it airborne. Early on your companion will mostly be driving it, while you will have to drive at night when there are Deamons about.
Driving the car manually is an on rails experience, and you can only fast travel to places you have previously visited, which can be an annoyance for some. But honestly I did not mind, because it gave me an excuse to stop and admire lucis, see the land in the distance as you approach it and even listen to the banter between the friends.
“Sometimes I would go and prepare my dinner or go on a toilet break lol”
Another way you can travel is with the Chocobos, which you at first unlock with a very exciting side quest. You can rent them up to seven days a week, and they will come to you instantly by blowing through a whistle. Unlike the car, you can use them travel to travel non road paths and even cross water. The more you use them, their level increases which boosts their stamina and even gain abilities to help you in combat.
“You can also race your comrades with them, but I keep losing to Gladious. His Chocobo is eating something to give him an advantage I swear!”
The big change in this game, is that it is no longer turn based fighting and now free form. It isn’t that deep either: you have your main strike button, dodge button and target lock. During combat you will sometimes get prompts to press the evade button, which will then prompt you to press the parry button that will result in putting the enemy in a vulnerable state for your attacks to have a more powerful effect on them. Furthermore, you can activate special combat moves that a member of your team can perform for extra damage on your enemies, and as you unlock more abilities through the skill tree they can perform more powerful attacks, or give a temporary stat boost.
“Time your attack right with a comrade nearby and you will perform a double attack, happens so fluidly..Thats when you know these guys are tight!”
Then you have the Armiger state, which will be available after a certain amount of attacks are performed, which will put Noctis in a specially boosted form, where he attacks much quicker and can perform more powerful combo attacks.
“I call it Super Saiyan Mode”
The strategy comes from keeping an eye on your enemies move patterns, to know when to avoid and parry as well as blindsiding them to cause more damage. However, quite often you will be fighting several enemies at the same time and as it is all happening so quick, most of the time you will be warping from one side to another in the battlefield to avoid attacks.
“Legit, Warping was my best friend”
Unfortunately targeting enemies can also be a pain, as the target will change as the camera moves with you, which you will also be fighting with as it just cant keep up with your movements. Making it hard to have a nice fluid tactical fight with your comrades, but luckily you have quick access to potions and instant access to changing weaponry and forging spells to compensate.
The enemies themselves are varied and the difficulty progresses at a good pace with the higher level they are. The main attraction here is, the creatures you have to hunt and the further along the game you get is where the real ones appear. The ones that are so large, they take up most of your screen, and even your comrades start to question whether they should be fighting these beasts. But you will fight them, just for their ferocity and how dangerous they are. Some will take you a very long time and a boat load of potions to take down, but when you take them down the satisfaction is pure joy and relief.
As you travel the world you will find safe heavens known as camping spots. Here you will get the opportunity to attribute the XP you have gained, and a member of your Party called Ignis will cook food for you. The food you pick will boost certain attributes for a certain amount of time. As you travel: the more ingredients you find, beasts you hunt and different restaurants you eat at. Ignis will learn more recipes which in turn will mean he cooks better food for stat boosting.
Gladious who is the muscle of the group will increase his survival extinct, which will improve his ability to find secret items on the map and picking up items while in combat. Prompto, takes photos of your escapades and every time you rest he will show you all the pictures he has taken and you can choose which ones you save. The more pictures he takes, the more filters he can use and the quality and types of pictures he takes will also improve. Noctis himself likes to fish, and you increase this by fishing at different spots and catching new species of fish all in their varying sizes. This is done as a mini game, which is probably the best iteration of fishing from any game I have played so far, it is very addictive and challenging and when you finally catch that large fish and see all your friends reaction to holding it, truly gives you a sense of accomplishment.
As you progress through the story, you will also find secret dungeons containing a royal weapon that Noctis can use, each of these dungeons are like a maze and contain creatures who are more dangerous than the open world ones, and you have a boss creature you have to take down at the end. In addition you have Hunting quests that you can accept from local tipsters, the more hunts you perform the higher your hunting rank will get, which in turn will unlock higher level and more dangerous beasts.
The first half of the story, will keep in you in Lucis and before you start the second half (where you travel to Altissia ), the game will warn you that you will not be coming back for a while. Due to this warning, I spent almost 40 hours exploring Lucis doing hunts and side quests to increase my character levels and find all the hidden mysteries of the land. But because of this and the lack of a proper narrative in the first half, my interest for the story was almost non existent which is quite disappointing considering it is an RPG. The game does not really introduce you well to the main plot and why certain events are occurring, even in the more crucial plot lines in the first half are kind of glossed over, when it should be getting you more emotionally attached.
“My advice, watch the movie Kingsglaive and the short anime series ‘Brotherhood’
Yes they will fill in the plot holes, shame the game relies on these two pieces of media to make up the narrative.
On the bright side, as you’re exploring you get to really bond with the four main characters and even do a couple side quests with each individual which open up a few conversations with them, to show the real companionship they have for one another. Also they regularly interact with each other in battle, complimenting you or another party member when they have done something good in battle or shouting warnings when they are in danger.
Luckily the second half of the story, it puts the narrative at the forefront and the weight and impact of the actions Noctis has to take are really felt with the world around you and the characters he is close with. But in order to achieve this, the games takes you away from the open land and in a more linear level by level approach, starting with your arrival at Altissia.
For many this was a downer, but for me I actually enjoyed it, because as I said before I spent 40 hours exploring Lucis previously, I had exhausted the land and what it had open to me. I was ready to focus on the story, and even though there were a few plot holes, the game concluded magnificently and saved the story from being another flat ‘End of the world’ plot into something much deeper and meaningful.
So, aside from some of the quirks of the combat and lack of real story telling in the main half of the story. What else was wrong with the game? Well the load times for starters, it can seem for like forever just to boot up the game. Then when you are saving or starting a new checkpoint there is another extended loading times, when you approach a new section of the map there is another loading screen. As they add up, you can find yourself leaning towards your phone to do something on there while you wait for the game, which is quite frustrating.
“I ended up watching youtube videos”
I liked how the game did not overload you with side quests, but there were still way to many generic fetch quests while others just felt to similar and was just giving you a different excuse to hunt down a creature. Which is made more boring, considering you already have hunting missions you can do. Don’t get me wrong there were still a few side quests that had some epic moments and had you to do something different with a memorable ending, but at the same time way too many generic ones as well.
“Still pick this over, having a million side quests like Dragon Age Inquisition had”
Following on, there is a lack of meaningful un-lockables in this game. Maybe because I’m coming from playing the likes of Mass Effect and Dragon age I feel this way. Even-though I was boosting my characters stats, I was hardly unlocking any better weapons or different set of attire for them. Which annoyed me, because when I was facing tougher enemies I knew my characters were more than ready to face them, but their instruments for battle were not, so I had to rely on potions more than I felt I should have.
“Believe me, my weapons were so weak for the whole main story!”
Finally the summons are hardly ever available…You have a few scripted moments that appear in the main story quests, but the opportunities to summon the deities in other open world battles or side quests are extremely rare. Which is very disappointing to say the least.
Ultimately the game does not have that depth in quality that other top quality RPGS have come out over the last few years. But when you consider how long this game has really been in development for, the fact it has been re branded and re packaged and moved on to a new generation of consoles completely. There were a number of hurdles it had to face, and it managed to deliver a beautiful world to explore, one that is not hindered by technical faults and bugs. The story will ultimately get you pulled at the heart strings, and you will feel that sense of adventure as you travel with Noctis and his friends. By the time you finish the game and put it down, you will forget its faults and just be happy you played this game.
“The feels at the end were deep, ‘Rolling in the Deep’ deep”