F inal Fant asy XV
The long-running JRPG franchise finds new drive
For a long time, Final Fantasy XV looked set to deliver on the title’s promise and put the final nail in the series’ coffin. If changing name and console generation didn’t petrify production, then its switch in director certainly didn’t hasten things along. It’s not surprising then that there are a few ruffled chocobo feathers to be found in the final game, whether it’s the rushed second act or the lack of cohesion in its overall world building.
It’s also the weirdest Final Fantasy game to date. Reams of incidental boy banter and photo-realistic food models point toward a team that had the luxury of time to spread their wings and indulge in heady extravagance. But for every small detail lovingly pored over you’ll find what should be quite basic elements clumsily executed. The storytelling jumps all over the place, fails to introduce its ideas and occasionally hacks out entire chunks, blatantly in the name of serving later DLC.
There’s also the small problem of having its entire opening narrative locked away in the accompanying CG film Kingsglaive, and whole tomes of back story resigned to its animated Brotherhood offshoot. In a series that lives and dies by its storytelling, these are the cracks that reveal FFXV’s troubled past for the poison-spewing Malboro it is, its many tentacles grasping to meld all its disparate strands into a single, coherent whole.
Stand by me
And yet, for all those moments of paralysis and hazy confusion, FFXV has emerged triumphant from its ten-year silence, resulting in a game that’s far more charming and affecting than it has any right to be.
Key to its success is its central gang of four. Prince Noctis might be a rather more petulant protagonist than franchise fans are used to, but in the company of the lively, selfie-obsessed Prompto, human beefcake Gladiolus and sensible gourmand Ignis, he and his brotherly bodyguards form a captivating portrait of male friendship.
They’re a constant presence in FFXV, and their regular bouts of chat both on and off the battlefield reveal a far more nuanced set of personalities than any other FF party to date. Even the most minor side quests have bespoke lines of dialogue, and those who take a more leisurely approach to its ever-growing to-do list will reap the rewards of watching their bond grow over time. Saving the world is important, but finding that Noctis shares our hatred of bugs and beans? That’s a character we can get behind.
Occasionally you’ll even find them sharing late-night secrets round the campfire as they chow down on Ignis’ home cooking, and the result is a cast of characters that feels refreshingly modern yet highly relatable. They have
their fair share of fall-outs, of course, but the way they bristle and snipe at each other feels far more mature than the teenage tantrums of heroes past.
They’re so well-drawn that you’ll want to spend as much time camping out with them as possible, especially as EXP gained from quests is only banked when you hit the pillow, so you’ll need to take frequent pit-stops to level up. That might sound like a chore, but if we could take 18-hour naps we wouldn’t be complaining.
More grating is FFXV’s decision to tie all side quests to specific NPCs who must then be returned to in order to collect your reward. Special shoutout to the toolbag who resides at the end of a pier 700ft out at sea. Fast travel is available, of course, as is the option to set the car on autopilot while you grab a cuppa and listen to classic Final Fantasy tunes blaring out of the radio. But your set of wheels will only take you so far, as many quest sites lie off-road. When so many other modern RPGs have streamlined these bad habits, it seems positively archaic that FFXV still forces you to spend a significant chunk of your time whittling down your shoe leather.
Fortunately, those famous yellow chocobos are on hand to help ease the burden of travel. Once unlocked, a small rental fee will let you summon these overgrown chickens whenever you please, a move sure to please diehard fans as much as newcomers. They can be a bit fiddly to rein in when you’re scrabbling through hedges and rocks, but most of the time the huge, sprawling playgrounds serve as excellent thoroughfares to let your birds run wild. With their delightful walks and galloping power slides, they’re the perfect partner for off-road investigations, and quickly become our main way of racing around Eos, if only because we never have to remember where we parked them.
Admittedly, some quests are more rewarding than others. Collecting exotic frogs and picking mushrooms is hardly as thrilling as excavating royal tombs to find one of thirteen mystical Armiger weapons, but most offer valuable rewards – whether it’s power bracelets that buff your strength stat or super-strong car lights that allow you to drive at night unhindered by turbo-powered daemons.
If there’s one major criticism to lay at FFXV’s door, though, it’s that every last quest is essentially one more stop on Square Enix’s grand guided tour of Eos, leaving few stones unturned for you to discover on your own. That’s a step backwards compared to games like The Witcher 3, where every corner seems to reveal something new and unexpected, and
Above Prompto is often found taking photos of the party to document your journey.
top The majestic Chocobo is a cheap and reliable way to make your way around Eos. left Gladiolus lives up to his name by packing quite a punch during combat.