There are worse places to be than to be trapped in a car with three best friends as you make your way past the Great Smoky Mountains of Lucis road – a highway in Final Fantasy XV’s open-world universe. ‘Picturesque’ doesn’t quite describe the stunning qualities of these mountains, hidden ruins, and lagoons. Prompto, one of your leading followers and most loyal friends, will regularly invite you, Noctis, the heir to the King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII throne, to stop the car and take a photograph of the Kingdoms breathtaking landscape. Its small moments like these that make up for Final Fantasy XV’s complicated story.
It’s the eve of the prince’s marriage ceremony, and rather than spending a night out in the coastal city and getting drunk with his buddies, he and his crew of three, embark on a journey before prince, Noctis marries Lunafreya, a captive of the Niflheim kingdom – an enemy nation in Final Fantasy XV. As part of a peace-treaty between Lucis and Niflheim, Noctis must marry Lady Lunafreya. However, the peace agreement was just a ruse for Niflheim to launch an attack on Lucis. Soon after the attacks, Noctis learns that the Niflheim Empire has invaded his kingdom. In a desperate attempt to save his bride-to- be and regain his stolen land, Noctis and his friends decide to scour the countryside in search for mythical powers and weapons.
Starting with the four of you shoving a broken down car, the game propels you straight into the story with little information or background. In fact, most of the games most exhilarating events take place either off camera or in the game’s CGI prequel film, Kingsglaive. It’s more than recommended to watch the animated film, prior to playing the game, since the main-game fails to give players context as to what is happening in the story. A few brief filler clips from the Kingsglaive film and the game’s tutorial help to explain a few plot holes, but there hardly enough to explain the motivations behind Nieflheims attack on Lucis.
Instead of a deep narrative about love or redemption, Square Enix focus on the kinship between four friends and their ability to work as a team. Joining Noctis in his conquest to recover his Kingdom are three of his best friends; Gladiolus, a loyal defender of the Lucian family, Ignis a strategist and expert chef, and Prompto, a selfie-loving enthusiast. The kinship between these four friend’s acts as the beating heart of the game. Together they will fight large monsters that roam the land of Lucis, share meals, and stories with each other next to a campfire, squabble over a dream girl, and give each other encouragement or praise after performing a deadly-linked strike against a formidable opponent. It is refreshing to play a game with protagonists that genuinely care about each other’s health and well-being.
These moments of character development expertly tie into the mechanics of the game as well. Settling down for the day and eating food under the campfire allows you to build up your strength and gain some much-needed EXP points to upgrade your abilities. Similar to other recent open-world games like the Witcher 3 and Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy forces player to rely on cooking meals in order to replenish your health and overcome harder enemies in the game. Those stat boosts, in turn, provide players with a legitimate reason to search for cooking ingredients before jumping straight into battles.
Teamwork and companionship are the core elements of Final Fantasy’s XV combat mechanics. It’s fascinating to watch your crew working together to perform linked strikes, but an unreliable and clumsy camera can spoil an expertly choreographed manoeuvre. In wider spaces, the camera works as it should, but when you’re fighting in enclosed areas, it becomes disorientating especially as the camera struggles to keep the action in frame. Each character has their own set of skills but the most nimble character is Noctis with his ability to zip around the battlefield and warp from one point to another. Ignis has the ability to identify enemies’ weak spots, allowing Noctis, Gladiolus, and Prompto to execute an ultimate attack.
For all its flaws – the clumsy camera and confusing storyline – Final Fantasy XV feels like a successful game simply because it endears you to its protagonists. The new combat system is more action-orientated and allows players to pull off some mind-blowing attacks. Crammed with new characters, a modern aesthetic and open world mechanic, Final fantasy XV is still an exciting spin-off to the Final Fantasy series.
|Expansive Open World
Humanity of its protagonists
Combat is fast paced
|Story Lacks Clarity