Final Fantasy 15 review

Final Fantasy 15 review

Please note this article is full of spoilers.

Welcome “back” to the world of Final Fantasy. “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers” is shown when the game starts up.
It should read “A roadtrip with a bunch of Johnnies doing a lot of camping, fishing and sleeping.”

So here I am.. a 36 year old geek.. playing ffxv. It has been over 15 years since my last run, Final Fantasy X back in 2001. How things have changed. I knew beforehand that the battle system would be different which I really wasn’t looking forward to. In my opinion the battle system for FF7 (materia and weapons) and FF8 (magic junction system) were the best. But yeah, times change and I want to keep up with times and not be THAT OLD guy that doesn’t know shit about computers/games.

The game starts with you (Noctis the main character) and your friends, (Gladius, Ignus and Prompto) pushing your car because you ran out of gasoline. You arrive at Hammerhead Outpost. Hammerhead has a diner, a gas-station, a trailer where you can sleep and a garage. The garage is run by an old man Cid (remember FF7 pilot character or ff8 balamb garden headmaster (BTW Love this image I found when googling ff8 cid just now, hilarious. Whoever made it, you deserve a gold star.)) and his daughter Cindy.

Cindy is obviously there to appeal to the male players. Something that is not uncommon in the world of Final Fantasy. If you are familiar with other final fantasy games, you might remember older versions also had couple of these voluptuous ladies. Tifa in FF7, Lulu in FF10 but both still dressed somewhat “normal”. Cindy however is wearing a tiny bikini-top and superduper tight hotpants. While I’m sure the male audience appreciate the visual aesthetic, it looks overdone, ridiculous and out of place in the final fantasy world. On top of that they gave her this godawful Texas? accent that ruins the mood that they tried to create in the first place.

But, her voice-over isn’t the only one that I felt was off. Takka the black guy who runs the Hammerhead diner clearly has a white voice and then there is the jewel guy at Golden Quay with his Italian Brooklyn accent that sounds ridiculous as well. Nothing against the accents but they just don’t fit in a final fantasy world. I heard the Japanese voice-overs were a lot better.

You quickly learn that to level up, you need to sleep. And that is what you will be doing A LOT throughout the game (next to camping, eating and driving). Sleeping kind of ruins the pace of the game. The day night system runs quite quick, haven’t calculated it myself and correct me if I’m wrong but about 20 real minutes for 1 in-game day? So, before you know it it’s 5 PM and that means you better head to your trailer, hotel or camp to sleep because when it gets dark more and stronger evil daemons come out to play.

Controls
I have to admit, I mostly slept at night and played during the day to not only evade stronger enemies but also because I couldn’t see shit running around in the dark and that even with increased brightness.

Especially when you are on your chocobo and your run through a dark forest, it’s just run, run, bump, run, bump, stuck, bump, stuck, bumb, stuck, aaargh! The characters DO have a chest-flashlight but that only comes in handy when you are at walking-speed, which is ….NEVER.

I never understood why they made trees collision objects in the first place. The game would be so much better, the gameplay so much smoother if your characters could walk right through them. That and why can’t Noctis jump over walls, fences or tables that are only knee-high?

The chocobo controls were a bit wacky too. When I tried to steer left the chocobo sometimes turned right. Really annoying. I’m not sure if the camera position had any influence on the controls. Along the way I learned that by just tapping left or right, the chocobo would turn 45 degrees in that direction and it would allow for a smoother ride. Well, until you try to jump over a fence. DON’T forget to press forward otherwise the chocobo will, during MID-run, jump vertically in the air and you’ll lose that lovely pace you had.

Let’s talk a bit about the car controls in FFXV. When you let Ignus drive, and you really want to let him drive instead of driving yourself. If you don’t use the fast-travel option, you will be able to travel through the countryside and sometimes your eye catches an interesting structure or a blinking item next to the road. You of course want to pullover and pick it up or check it out right? Forget about it!! Just keep on driving. If you ask Ignus to pull-over, by the time he pulls-over you have already traveled 500 ahead from the point you actually wanted to stop. I can’t remember how many times I grumbled: “For fucks sake, don’t drive that far”.

You press pull over, Ignus drives 500m, pulls over and you all get out of the car. All that together will take about 30 seconds. It doesn’t seem like much but it get’s really bothersome after a while. I wish they would’ve implemented some faster way to pull-over and exit the car. Press “Pullover”, screen turns black 1 second and everyone is outside the car.

Besides the “pullover” and “turn around” commands, the other driving commands while Ignus is driving have no real use as far as I know so not sure why SquareEnix decided to keep them in the menu.

The purpose of the turn-around command is also a bit vague. When you have selected a destination and while driving press the “turn-around” command, Ignus will make a 180degree turn, then drive about 200 meters and make another 180. The logical thing I imagined was he would drive back to your starting position. Now that I think of it, perhaps it could be used when you pass an item next to the road you want to check out.

Music
While I didn’t love every Final Fantasy installment, I did love most of their soundtracks. FF7, FF8, FF9 and FF10 all had some great soundtracks. FFXV however, doesn’t have a soundtrack to write home about. Yes, they did a lot of effort and I mean no disrespect to Yoko Shimomura, who apparently worked hard on it for over a DECADE but I. just. can’t. seem. to. get. into. it. There are some OK tracks but just not enough that the songs will get stuck in your head.

One addition to the game that I really like is that you can buy soundtracks of previous Final Fantasy series and play them while driving and after Chapter 3 also while running. (You have to buy the mp3 player in your car’s shop though).

Sadly, they didn’t include EVERY track of each soundtrack though, they missed out on a lot of good gems, but alas it is what it is and at least we have something to enjoy from the past.

Camping
Another main aspect that you are quickly introduced to is camping. Camping lets you train, sleep and a eat. Now the eating part doesn’t sound very interesting but depending on the food, you can enhance your party’s defense, offense and food can help against various status ailments.

They have put a lot of effort in making the various dishes look really really good.

Just mouthwatering.

I recommend reading this interesting article on eater.com about the food production and what went into it.

So make sure you teach Ignus to cook as many kinds of foods as possible. It saved my life a few times. Especially an enemy called “coeurls” that you need to beat in one of the hunt sidequests. Even though I was level 50 and the coeurls only level 34, they were impossible to beat as they constantly attacked me with their instant death lightning attack. Fortunately Ignis could learn making a dish that nullified lightning attacks. After eating that it was easypeasyjapanesey. (The dish is called “Steamed Crab with Rock Salt and is available at mother Pearl in Golden Quay).

I was surprised there weren’t any decent accessories in ffxv to counter these elemental attacks. I remember that in FF7 you had a bolt ring to nullify lightning attacks and in FF8 you could junction Thunder to your Elem-Def stat. There are about 103 recipes that Ignus can learn and there is a lot of ways he can learn new receipes:

    – Eat dishes found at restaurants throughout the game
    – Buy cooking-books at stores
    – Find cooking magazines
    – Read signs, some contain hints to recipes
    – Fish for ingredients
    – Pick up ingredients in the wild (yellow leaf on the worldmap)
    – Beat enemies
    – And EVEN just walking near people eating

So while Ignus takes care of the cooking, Noctis’s takes care of the fishing. Fishing allows the player to catch fish that give the player special items or ingredients that Ignus in turn can use for cooking or crafting magic. Personally not a big fan of fishing, in-game or in real-life. I tried it in-game a few times but even with the on-screen instructions it only takes 2 seconds for my line to snap with the bigger fish. I guess my real-life fishing game is more succesfull but still boring.

Then we have Prompto. Prompto is the weakest character of the group with the most useless skill of all, photography. Prompto will take pictures randomly while you play the game. Totally automatic. Once you go to sleep, you will see the pictures he took during your adventure and you can choose if you want to keep or lose those photos. He even takes photos during the battles which is ridiculous if you think about it but you won’t actually notice him taking the pictures so it’s no biggy.

When you browse through Prompto’s photos, a member will randomly comment on a photo. Initially when a member said it was a great shot, I saved it hoping there was some kind of reward or hidden trophy when you would save those best shots, but it turns out there isn’t. That and the fact that he can only save 150 pictures (Noctis only 50?) is just not worth the headache of which picture to keep.

I have to admit I’m being a bit harsh about Prompto though. I’ve used his technique “Piercer” a LOT during battles and it saved my ass more than I can remember.

And last but not least we have Gladius.

Elemancy
Here is something I really don’t like about FFXV, the magic “Elemancy” system. In previous games it was very easy for players to see what magic a player had and how many. In FFXV, a player can draw magic from deposits near campsites but only elemental magic: “fire, ice and lightning”. Yes you can eventually craft different magic from elemental magic in combination with items but why make it so difficult?

You can store a max of 100 magic per element (I believe even more after you upgrade the ascension-grid. Inside the elemancy menu you can craft your own spells. So you can mix fire with blizzard and depending how much you use of either, you can increase the power and make it a fira or even firaga. You can also mix it with an ordinary item or an ingredient to make it f.e. quintcast (cast a spell five times) or even add status effects. Options are countless and in my case the effect was only minimal. In the end I got so tired of the crafting and using magic I just focused on my sword attacks and the special attacks of the other lads.

Royal Arms & Battle system
That brings us to the weapons and battle system. FFXV has a broad variety of weapons. While Noctis can use all the weapons in the game the other characters only have a limited choice.

When you battle enemies, you mainly control Noctis. There is a techbar at the bottom of the screen however, and when you hit an enemy or are being hit your tech bar fills up. This activates special techniques from the other characters but this doesn’t mean you can actually fully control them. During battles it’s not really clear how much damage the other characters are doing because you are so focused on your own attacks. This is quite disappointing and also makes the hunt for special weapons for the other players a bit less meaningful.

You can link some attacks with others but I really never paid attention on how to properly do it. Just by sheer luck suddenly get a link strike and suddenly cut the enemies HP off by 30%. Thinking to myself “Ok, what button did I just press to do that”.

I like fact that when you walk around on the worldmap and bump into enemies, you can just run out of the red circle and escape their attack, that is much much better than those random encounters in FF7 or FF8. Yet in close encounters, this was quite buggy with me running out of the red circle and still being able to hit the enemy while not being attacked.

Fighting in close corridors or a crowded space with trees or houses was indeed buggy. Trees, houses, big monsters blocking your view, getting hit and thrown out of the circle in order to have to restart the entire battle again, ugh.

During the game it becomes clear that Noctis has to find all the royal arms to gain the royal power or something like that, personally not an interesting part of the game. However, even (and correct me if im wrong) if you haven’t found all swords, you will STILL be able to make it to the final boss and then in one scene ALL weapons will be somehow warped from the tombs to you so that you can beat one of the final bosses. I mean, what the fuck was the purpose of the royal arms search quest in the first place?

When you have a certain amount of the royal arms or at a specific point in the story line you will gain access to armiger. Yet another battle function. This looks a lot like Cloud/Squal’s limitbreak. It will charge enemies with a barrage of royal weapons attacks until the circular bar is depleted. To charge the armiger chain you will need to either hit an enemy or get hit.

Also be careful because royal weapons use HP when you hit an enemy. I found that out in the middle of the game. “What the? Was I hit? Why is my HP so low all of a sudden?”

Worldmap
Ugh, the worldmap. The zoom function was very limited making it almost impossible to distinguish certain areas or icons as they were overlapping. YES, you can turn some of them off in settings but that’s too much work. Especially the market in Lestallum with all shops clustered together, sometimes it had a sidequest icon hidden under it.

When you zoom in the map also becomes a bit blurry making it harder to see EXACT location of the player, you can still see where you are in general but not the precise location (on a rock, near the curve of a lake etc).

The map shows leafs for ingredients and treasure chests for items on the map but even though you picked up a treasure or ingredient from the map, it will later respawn, meaning that the map stays floated with these yellow icons. For food that is logical but for treasures? Of course yay for the fact that you can pick up multiple accessories but nay that the you have to remember which treasure you picked up and where. Kind of like a mega memory puzzle game.

Iris

Let’s talk a little bit about Iris. Why is she hitting on Noctis when he is about to get married to Luna? “Gladius, keep er in check eh!” Yet, I was hoping something could happen between them because I felt more of a bond with Iris than with Luna. We don’t get much background info about Noctis and Luna’s romantic life, only when they were kids. That’s why, when Luna died I felt absolutely NOTHING. Unlike Aeris in FF7. Aeris and Cloud had a fucking bond!

Story
The story leaves a lot to be desired. It has a very weak plot, weak character development and if you ONLY follow the storyline (without doing the sidequests) the story will be over quite quickly. I was doing all the sidequest to build my characters and get the weapons somewhere in the middle of the story (I think Chapter 7) and when I continued with the main story line all the following chapters flashed by very quickly.

One of the main things that is missing in this story is the romance between Noctis and Luna. For example see the romance between Cloud and Aeris, Squall and Rinoa. There is not one splash of romance in their story. Yes yes they keep in touch by Umbra who keeps delivering the diary but it’s not enough to care. That’s why I said above that I had hoped that instead of Luna, Noct would date Iris instead.

More information on the history of either character would’ve been nice. We get to hear a tiny bit when Noct talks to Prompto on the rooftop of one of the outposts. They somehow all met in school? But if that’s the case then why is Ignus the only character with a British accent, doesn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong, I digg the accent though.

Personally I felt the character Nyx from the movie Kingsglaive had more depth, was much cooler and looked stronger.

I mean come on, which of the 2 looks like a more interesting character?

Include some of Nyx’s friends

And you have a very interesting crew. In fact, if they would remake it with these characters I would play the hell out of it.

But as some users on Reddit pointed out, Squareenix requires a pretty boy, A Johhny to be the games protagonist I guess.

Summons
Again SQUAREENIX fails to deliver here. Final Fantasy in my opinion is a game that deserves more and easier to use summons. FF7 had the awesome summon materials that you had to find. FF8 had GF’s that you had to beat and would appear when called. FF9 had no summons (eidolons) until at least disc 2? FFX implemented summons again in the form of Aeons but they didn’t blew me away.

For me, summons are one of the most important factors of a Final Fantasy game. I loved watching the cutscenes of summons and how they would attack the enemy with their special skill. If I remember correctly some summons even had multiple versions like Yojimbo in FF10 who changed his attack depending on how much Gil you would give him, Odin in FF8 and remember the great Brothers summon in FF8 that played rock, scissor, paper before their attack? Ahhh the good’ol times.

FFXV is supposed to have 6 summons: “Titan, Ramuh, Leviathan, Shiva, Bahamut and Ifrit”. However you will only be able to “use” the first 4. I say use but in ffxv the astrals appear completely random. The latter 2 are part of the storyline which sucks. And for bahamut being the leader of the astrals and not even being able to kick the shit out of Ifrit in the final battle (misses all swords) is just lame. The special attacks by these astrals except for the Ramuh one are not that worthwhile either. Ramuh’s attack is great because the whole area is electrified and leaves a mark even after the fight. Shiva does it too but the effect is less impressive.

So yeah, as I said, astrals are pretty lame in ffxv.

Recap
So yeah, it was nice to play a Final Fantasy game again after such a long time but in all honesty didn’t really feel as a Final Fantasy game to me. It lacked that Final Fantasy feeling. Lots of misses but also a couple of nice touches here and there that still make it an enjoyable experience.

Bad

    – not enough full cg sequences.
    – Again, can not use the summons like you could in FF7 and FF8.
    – Too much sleeping
    – Too much driving
    – Too much camping
    – Complicated combat system (icons are not clear and weaknesses or strengths of enemies are confusing.
    – Magic system is confusing as fuck
    – Car mechanics/controls are horrible
    – Can’t drive through trees with chocobos or on foot
    – The voiceacting doesnt make sense, a britton and texas, a black guy that talks like a white guy and an Italian guy from Brooklyn?
    – The final summon vs Ifrit where he throws the swords and misses EVERYTHING?
    – Storyline too short
    – Horrible camera with fights in tight spaces.
    – Worldmap is quite difficult to read.
    – Chocobo controls are a bit wacky
    – Car doesnt pullover immediately when you press stop.
    – The mechanics for fights in tight spaces are bad (getting thrown out of battlearea, visibly blocked by monster)

    – Was expecting playable levels in Insomnia city

Good

    – The food looks absolutely fantastic!
    – Altissia looks like a gorgeous hyped up Venice.
    – Enemies are well designed
    – Ramuh summon looks really good, including after effect
    – Dont HAVE to fight, can run away from the battle area and ignore enemies
    – Funny dialogue between the members throughout the game and during battles

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