I’ve beaten Square Enix’s ten-years-in-the-making magnum opus. I do eventually want to write a review, and doubtless it’ll be a long-winded opus in and of itself since I have a ton I want to say, but I thought I’d share some quick impressions now that I’ve resurfaced from my sixty hour journey into a world of magical beings and stupid anime haircuts. Mostly to collect my thoughts on my time with it and also because not writing for me is like holding in a big shit after chugging a pint of coffee.
If you haven’t succumbed to a decade of hype and bought the game already, here’s my entry level takeaway: for every high Final Fantasy XV achieves there’s at least two frustrating lows. It’s a game at odds with itself, no doubt a symptom of a protracted development cycle that switched hands halfway through its gestation. But it’s an immense amount of fun, highlighted by addictive and challenging combat, an engrossing world, and memorable characters that rise above a particularly forgettable storyline. It’s a strange one, to be sure, especially for an open-world game but something compelled me to keep on playing obviously or else I wouldn’t have even made it to the ten hour mark.
Now here’s some thoughts:
- I’m 60+ hours in. Haven’t completed every sidequest and bounty hunt, but I did see the whole story through and earned a Platinum Trophy (that’s a fact and bragging if you didn’t catch on).
- The camaraderie between the mains (Noctis, Ignis, Glaudio, and Prompto) is standout. If you’re looking for further context on these characters, watch the Brotherhood vignettes on Youtube. Yes, it sucks to have to look outside the game for background – it’s a huge faux pau that should forever be avoided – but they’re well done.
- That said, Noctis is such a non-character. I get that JRPG’s love to have a stoic lead (I’m a huge fan of Squall, too) but his stoicism borders on comatose. I had no goddamn idea what he was feeling or thinking at any given time. Even when his bros would outright ask him! “Noct, you excited to get hitched to your childhood friend?” “…” Did somebody spill coffee on the script during translation?
- Combat is really, really good. Strong focus on parrying and targeting enemy weak points. There’s a Wait Mode option if you want to get all tactical with it but I never needed to. Fighting is fast and fluid. The Ascension Grid has immediate, and appreciable, affects on combat. You can learn more skills for your crew and their link attacks really cook.
- Why can’t I stack Bounty Hunts? Why?! You’re locked into one and have to return to a “Tipster” to turn it in before taking on another. Completely arbitrary.
- NPC’s like to take advantage of you the same way. Just completed “Fuck a Toad Monster with Your Sword?” Awesome! Here’s “Fuck a Toad Monster with Your Sword II.” Get on back out there, hunter!
- Huge world like The Witcher. Really archaic mission structures, unlike The Witcher. Expect most, if not all, sidequests to either be a beast hunt or a fetch quest. Like an open-world game from, funny enough, ten years ago, FFXV saves its more intriguing shit for the main story.
- An NPC says the phrase, “Git r’ done!” Square Enix, I would like a public apology. I’ll Prompto to exclaim “O-M-G!” but this? This won’t stand.
- For a franchise that spotlights strong female characters, FFXV uses its women as plot crutches rather than provide a meaningful perspective outside of your roving sausage party. Lady Lunafreya is utterly a plot device.
- The dungeons are fantastic. Discovering a new one is a genuine joy. Not all are the requisite “creepy cavern” either. A gorgeous summer glade served host to a winding, floral “dungeon” with a gigantic tree ent monster at that end. Another was simply an upward hike atop a volcano. A latter level dungeon was a mix between medieval architecture and ethereal technology, forcing me to solve environmental puzzles that slowly led me to the center of a castle’s keep. My favorite parts of the game were had in dungeons.
- The world can be gorgeous. Breathtaking, even. I wish there were more geography to discover beyond Lucis’ rural aesthetic, though. It feels vast but all too often very similar to what you’ve already seen.
- Prompto’s my boy. Especially if you watch his Brotherhood segment. I was a friendless fat kid, too. Of course, it was less “hard work, exercise, and the hope of befriending a prince” that got me in shape and more “drinking water, smoking cigarettes, and hoping girls notice me.” Still, relatable.
- The fishing mini-game isn’t bad. Think Ocarina of Time.
- Building up your Survival Skill is a taxing experience.
- Using the car; also a taxing experience. If fast traveling weren’t tethered to it, I probably would never had used it.
- Chapter 13 is a sweltering garbage fire. All of the charm and enjoyable gameplay we’ve grown accustomed to up till now is thrown out the window. It’s overlong, contemptuously dour, and relies on a sneaking mechanic that’d make Hideo ugly cry. Square doesn’t need to patch it – they need to nuke this chapter from the game.
- No amount of Kingsglaives or “extra scenes” can fix this story. It jumps the shark almost precisely when you leave the open-world. Everything about the final succession of chapters feel rushed. Nothing ties together seamlessly, and the finale doesn’t feel earned. There isn’t even enough substance behind the story to call it convoluted. Big disappointment especially for a series known for some terrific storytelling.
- Like practically every open-world game, FFXV is at its best when you’re pursuing your own goals. Be it bounties, collecting old FF soundtracks to blast in your car, racing chocobos, or fishing… when you’re free to do what you want, you’ll want to do more of it.
- I doubt we’ll see fundamental changes to the game, but hopefully future content expands on what works: bounties, dungeons, high level weapons. I’d also very much love to see new areas to explore outside of Lucis (we get glimpses but they’re incredibly linear, forgoing the open-world element).
- Fuck you, Adamantoise, and the three hours of my life you stole.