I’m someone who has always had an appreciation for the Final Fantasy series without playing them, so Final Fantasy XV was my first foray into the beloved franchise. While recognizing the key differences between this and previous games in the series, I found Final Fantasy XV to be a delightful game that keeps core elements of the franchise intact, while introducing new elements more commonly seen in modern open world RPGs.
The most notable thing about Final Fantasy XV is its beautiful open world. Huge in scale, the world is full of side quests that will keep you interested for hours. Unfortunately, despite the large number of side quests for you partake in, most of them have very little impact to the overall game. Yes, they can provide you with some needed experience for progressing in the main story, but the lack of substance in the quests themselves leave much to be desired in such a beautiful world.
Speaking of story, Final Fantasy XV does a great job not only telling an engaging and complex tale throughout the main campaign but manages to create some of the most engaging characters I’ve seen in a video game in quite some time. When you are traveling across the vast world to get from point A to point B, the four protagonists participate in hilarious and heartfelt banter throughout the journey. These conversations continue in every mission as well, which only adds to the ever growing, brotherly relationship these characters have. Repeated lines happen very infrequently, making the bond between the heroes as genuine as it possibly can. Despite this, I found myself upset at the latter half of the main story, which frequently separates you from your party members to focus on the main character Noctis himself.
The story itself was interesting enough to keep me engaged all the way through, but the overall structure and pacing of the story left me quite confused on the focus of the game. The first two-thirds of the main quest is structured around the exploration and environmental storytelling of traveling around a large environment, with exploring things on your own and running into trouble. The third act, however, takes a hard right compared to the beginning of the game and becomes very linear in both storytelling and gameplay structure. While I enjoy linear storytelling, the identity crisis’ the game displays are quite strange, as it almost feels like the game shifts in genres.
The story and characters are strong, but I was surprised by how great the minute to minute combat was. Ditching the turn-based combat that the majority of the series is known for, Final Fantasy XV is an action RPG that implements some very unique game mechanics. While most action games focus on moving cameras around and hitting buttons in rapid succession, your focus here is to micromanage who you hit, what you hit, what you hit them with, and the survival of you and your party members. Combat is fluid, and surprisingly fun, as critical hits cause satisfying blows to enemies. Combat is less hack-and-slash and more tactical, more akin to Dragon Age Inquisition than to Kingdom Hearts. It’s surprisingly deep and can be much more appreciated by playing it than the words I can use to describe it.
Overall, I adore Final Fantasy XV. With a 25-hour story and many more hours of side quests to play, I have never found myself to be bored in this world I have been dropped in. Sure, the pacing is strange, but the good vastly outweighs the bad in this wonderful open world game.