I finally finished Final Fantasy XV a couple weeks ago. Like I’ve said in past posts, Final Fantasy holds a special place in my childhood. Final Fantasy IX was the first game that had a story I really connected with. In the intervening years, the series quality has slowly declined. Final Fantasy XV was famously in development for over a decade. There was a lot of expectation for it to be at the very least not disappointing. While it’s not the best game of the year, I can safely say it’s a good game that I really enjoyed.
The gameplay of Final Fantasy XV is easily the best part of the game. Once you get through all the intro cutscenes and tutorials, the meat of the game is this: rest at a quest hub, go out and complete quests or monster hunts, drive around in a cool car, rinse and repeat. The combat is simplistic, but it kept me engaged the whole way through the game. Over time you unlock skills and combos that gives more flavor to the combat. A lot of these techniques rely on teamwork between the four main characters, and they include some really interesting combat animations. The side quests themselves aren’t very interesting, but they usually involve combat so I usually wasn’t bored doing them. The monster hunts were fun, they were always combat oriented and usually paid well.
Surprisingly, the driving was super enjoyable for me, but not for the reasons you might think. The driving sucks, hard. The controls are so limited I don’t know why they’re even included in the game. I never manually drove the car around, I always opted to have one of the NPC characters drive me around. What I ended up doing is setting my car to drive across the map towards a quest and reading a book while the car was driving. I read most of The White Luck Warrior while driving a video game car around. I realize that’s a very specific situation and applies to almost no one, but for me I had a blast fighting monsters and reading about Drusas Achamian.
The story was terrible. There’s no getting around it. It’s full of japanese and JRPG tropes. I don’t like anime, and a lot of the things I can’t stand about anime are present in this game. Final Fantasy dialogue I’m convinced was better when it was all text based. Once they went to voice actors, it became very difficult for me to take the dialogue or characters seriously, going all the way back to Final Fantasy X.
The story really isn’t all that important to enjoying the game. The gameplay is where it’s at for me. I have enjoyed Final Fantasy stories in the past, tropes and all, but there are almost no memorable characters to latch onto. I didn’t care about anyone outside of the four guys you follow around, and I was bored every time a cutscene played.
The last third of the main story takes you out of the open world environment, and it also separates you from your three NPC buddies for a long stretch. The developers take all the best parts of the game out at the end. Nintendo has similar problems right now, a lot of the decisions Square and Nintendo make show that they don’t understand Western culture. If they want to target Japan specifically, great for them and more power to you. But a significant portion of their market is in the West, and the ending to this game clearly demonstrates that Square doesn’t know how to speak to a western audience.
This game is best enjoyed if you take the beginning and endings out of the picture. The middle part of the game is a fun open world experience with interesting combat and a beautiful world to explore. The story and characters fall almost entirely short for me, but if you’ve exhausted The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, the open world of Final Fantasy XV might scratch that itch for you. 3 Gibsons.