Release date: November 29, 2016
After ten years, the most anticipated RPG of the year is finally in our hands. Billed as a Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers, XV has a lot to live up to and after my first hours in the game, I can attest to the changes brought to the franchise (even if they don’t always work). As I'll be taking the time to play this game in its entirety, it’ll be awhile before I can complete a full review despite being almost 30 hours in. Until then, here are some of my first thoughts.
Noctis and his friends take on a different style of battle than the previous games. Think less like the turn-based or semi-turn based battles of the past, and more along the lines of the seamless transitions to battle from the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Noctis warps, slashes and hacks his way through a number of enemies, but the intricacies of the larger battles will leave the button mashers reeling from powerful attacks. Even on normal difficulty, the combat takes some figuring out and precision will always be rewarded over basic brawling.
With a full AI team, one of my main concerns was regarding my teammates' abilities to be useful in battle. FFXV has thus far avoided the issue of having an overpowered main character by making each of Noct’s pals indispensable in battle. Whether they’re picking me up after rushing into a horde or dealing the final blow on any particular baddie, they never feel like pointless placeholders.
As I’ve yet to see the completed storyline, take my comments with a grain of salt. FFXV has so far felt akin to other open-world titles from the past year such as The Witcher III or Metal Gear Solid 5 by having a minimalist approach to telling a complex tale. That’s not to say you’re left completely in the dark as in the Souls franchise, but there has been less focus on a strict through-line when compared to other Final Fantasy games.
It’s hard to tell if this style of gameplay will end up having a negative effect on a franchise known for concrete and engrossing storylines. For me, however, listening to the interactions between the four main characters has been a great way of distancing the franchise from the criticisms of FFXIII. Whether my gang is collecting vegetables or looking for the best photo op, the antics are always appreciated.
For players who have yet to begin, I would recommend watching the Kingsglaive film prior to starting FFXV. Despite being occasionally confusing in its own right, the film provides context that helps to clarify early moments in the game.
So far, despite encountering some bumps, Final Fantasy XV has been an absolute joy to play. Utilizing different weapons, ignoring the main story in favor of sidequests and just listening to the banter between the four friends has been a standout experience when compared to other games in the franchise.