F inal Fant asy XV

The long-run­ning JRPG fran­chise finds new drive

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Katharine Byrne

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.

Side-tracked

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.

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