Final Fantasy XV Review
Pause Resume’s Casey Wilkerson takes on our Final Fantasy XV Review. After almost a decade, was it worth the wait?
Final Fantasy XV is a bit of an odd duck for JRPG’s. On one hand, it’s one of the best I’ve ever gotten to play, and it’s fixed so many of the niggling issues that have plagued the genre as a whole for years. On the other hand, it seems to have replaced these issues with a plethora of different ones.
Initially, thoughts were pretty low on the game when a ten minute installation was followed by another forty minute one that could be waited out in a horde mode, but this was quickly forgotten once the true game began.
Right after the initial wait is concluded, the fantastic begins to show. The graphics from the get-go, even the aforementioned horde mode, are phenomenal, it’s easily the most beautiful game that I’ve seen run on the PS4’s hardware. True to form, Square Enix went all out graphically and obviously sunk all those years of development time into making a fine looking game. The jump from pre-rendered cutscene to actual gameplay has almost no visual difference in the art style and smoothness of animations.
Animation is exactly where the game’s second great strength lies, as the designers took every chance in the beginning to have their characters interact with the in-game world without a single hitch. When combat begins, the characters interact with one another in shockingly well animated attacks that make the combat feel visceral.
The main gameplay can best be described as someone taking The Witcher 3 and dipping it in Monster Hunter, as, at points, the comparisons can be uncanny. It’s a typical open world, not quite as densely packed as The Witcher, but easily as beautiful and varied in environment. The main activity to do on the side consists of one of two types of quests, ‘find x for me’ or ‘hunt x for me’ becoming incredibly reminiscent of Monster Hunter.
That may sound like a negative, and in the case of the fetch quests, it is, but the hunt quests are where the game truly shines. It feels fantastic to walk into a building, talk up the local tipster, accept a contract to kill a massive horde of monsters, and load up in your car to go deal with them. The rewards for doing so are also amazing as high level equipment and money are rewarded in the largest amounts here. And the money is more important in this game than in any other sandbox I’ve ever encountered, as being well stocked is even more essential than The Witcher made it.
Backing up the proceedings of the game is a fantastic score, easily the equal of any other title in the series. It even includes several of the soundtracks from previous games in the series, bound to induce some nostalgia to anyone who’s a long term fan. Even if I’m not one, it felt good to cruise down the highway listening to the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack.
It may sound as if Final Fantasy XV is a great game, and it is, but everything described so far is what can be seen in the opening ten or so hours, and the faults don’t begin to show until just after.
The writing is the first place where you can see that Square Enix fixed a lot of problems of the genre, but in doing so neglected some other areas. The banter between the four protagonists is great, making all four of them endearing, with fleshed out character traits and lots of screen time for each of them. It’s just that, outside of them, everyone else feels like a stock NPC, even the story critical characters. NPCs won’t move from one spot, they may only speak once, and never to you directly. The NPC’s also, while being very well animated, obviously don’t fit into the world when your group stands next to one of them.
“… combat, while being incredibly fun and visceral, has its own plethora of problems”
The story is decent, following a standard hero’s journey plot. It’s pleasantly simple, you’re the prince, they’ve conquered your homeland, and you’ve got to take it back. The villains are established early in the plot, if established a little clichéd, and you become quickly acquainted with the goings on of this world and what’s occurring on a global level. The game has at least a 40 hour story, so you’ll be spending a good chunk of time in this world.
The aforementioned combat, while being incredibly fun and visceral, has its own plethora of problems. The first and most noticeable is the fact that the camera can’t keep up with the speed of the battles, shifting, flying and changing which enemy you’re targeting before you can even figure out how you want to approach an enemy.
Beyond the camera, the beautiful animations that were so enjoyable at first become a hassle soon after, as the maximum health of your party decreases over time the longer you battle, you must use items to bring your stats back up, but using an item on any character will make them stop the battle for six seconds, get off the floor, rummage around in their pocket for the item, and then heal themselves, killing the pace of the fight while you have no control and your other teammates’ health is still dropping.
The absolute worst aspect of the game however, comes in the form of the Regalia, the car in which you travel throughout the entire game. There is no fast travel outside of story purposes. You must drive the car absolutely everywhere on trips that can last anywhere from one minute to ten.
There’s a video game design adage that says the more often the player does something, the shorter that activity needs to be to not kill pacing, but you must reach every quest, every city, and every hunt by this car, possibly wasting twenty minutes just getting there and back. You do have the ability to transport back to it at any point you want, but unless you use it as a homing beacon, you won’t use this function often. Most likely, you’ll just do what I did and take a bathroom break during these long trips.
Final Fantasy 15 is a wonderful title, and a hell of a lot of fun to have played. It’s easily one of the best JRPG’s I’ve ever seen, and I wanted so badly to give it a four out of five, but when I realized that I finished reading an entire novel waiting to get from place to place in the Regalia, I knew I couldn’t. It’s a fine game, and it deserves a chance, but I hope everyone has a bit more patience than I do.
We tested the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy XV after purchasing a retail copy and it’s available now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.