Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 29/11/2016
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
B'road Trip of a lifetime
After ten long years, two directors, a platform, and a name change we finally got our hands on Final Fantasy XV near the end of last year
Was it good? Was it worth the wait(pro tip this review isn't), Is Ignis secretly our very own Stroggo. All that and more revealed in this Awkward Machine review.
FFXV starts us off Insomnia the capital city of Lucis. You are Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum (Moody Sora) and your old man is sending you off with your bros: Gladiolus, Promoto and Ignis(Stroggo was very busy in between podcasts to do motion capture for Squenix) to go get hitched for political convenience to your lady friend and oracle Lady Lunafrea, and thus begins the b'road trip of a lifetime, the open road, the regalia and 4 bros. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out a whole lot really! First, you run out of fuel, then the ship to the island is cancelled, and to top off a really shit day your dad dies and insomnia falls.
Most normal people would call it quits and regroup, not our 4 heroes. The road trip continues albeit with a new mission. Travel the highways, gather the powers of the kings of old and take on the empire to regain your throne.
The first 8 chapters of the game are your standard open world RPG flair with a JRPG twist, main quests, side quests and stories dot the land and its pretty much go at your own pace, though there is some urgency inferred in the dialogue between characters.
After chapter 8 the game becomes far more story driven and linear. Not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t played the game yet but the themes become a whole lot heavier and there is a lot more dying involved than the first half of the game. I will say umbra was a good addition allowing you to travel back in time, though I did not use it until after I had completed the main story.
I’m still on the fence with this game of two halves approach, it may take another playthrough or so to truly come out for or against it. On one side it ensures I actually finished the games core story in a reasonable amount of time (42 hours with a decent amount of meandering at the start) whereas in many other open world games it can take me near on 100 hours to complete the main story as I plot around completing side quests and exploring. On the other hand, the lack of freedom to go at your own pace in that second half feels almost like a loss of agency, as things get worse and worse you can't just bugger off on the open road to unwind for a while and enjoy Ignis’s cooking. (Insert metaphor for teenage vs adulthood years here)
So onto gameplay, how does our hero interact and better yet fight with the world around him?
Controlling Noctis is smooth enough, animations are relatively fluid save the odd glitch here and there, controls are a rather standard affair, nothing too out of the ordinary to adapt to if you've played any open world RPG in the past few years, though I will say mapping jump and interaction to the same button is a glaring oversight, especially if like myself you are prone to push the interaction button a few times as you walk up to anything interactive will have you jumping up and down like a hyperactive toddler at the sight of a K-Bar. Another annoyance in a similar realm is the button to jump on foot and on Chocobo are mapped to different keys causing small amounts of frustration as you discover that the key you have now associated with jump will now cause you to demount your newly rented Chocobo.
It's a good thing combat is comparatively fluid if a bit shallow, FFXV ditches the ATB system of old in favour of a more Kingdom Hearts feeling active combat system. Gone are timers, turns, and cutscenes, in its place monsters roam and are spawned in the world around you. Lock onto our enemies and unleash deadly combos by holding down the attack key, yes sounds a tad simple but with the addition of technique commands, link strikes, blocks, counters and arminger chains it can also be extremely satisfying.
Certain enemies make for some decent challenges (that or I just suck) so was finding a good use for all the potions/gil I was making from sidequests making sure the team was well supplied as bounty hunting at night can be dangerous. Good thing the campsites are protected with some freaky elder magic
I took my time with FFXV when I finally got around to completing the main story I was 40 hours in and I had still only just scratched the surface on those side quests. Sure it's not as open-ended or open world as some of its western counterparts but its characters, crazy world building, and over the top vibe does help make up for that. Do I wish I had the freedom to drive off road and have more control of the regalia? Yes! Does jamming the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack: Highwind Takes to the Skies while just enjoying the game world around you make up for it? Possibly?