I was extremely excited for this game, I had followed the news for it for about 5 years and I even had a poster of Noctis holding the engine blade in my bed room for about 2 years leading up to its release. I paid around a $100 to get the day one digital premium edition which came with the season pass………..and frankly after I finished the main game, I thought that I wasted about $70.
Now let me start off by being positive. The game was pretty decent, especially the early parts were stellar, where you are being introduced to the characters and the combat system. If you saw the prequel movie King’s glaive then you even had a somewhat clearer picture of what was going on, though it is not a necessity to do so. The first half of the game has you enraptured by the massive scale of the world and the quirky semi-realistic interactions of the main cast and a somewhat mysterious story-line. Some of the most iconic monsters from past final fantasy games also returned and overall the game did a good job of sticking to its title card of ‘A Final Fantasy For Fans and First Timers‘.
While its first half is some game of the year material, sadly the second half just falls apart. Rumor has it that Tetsuya Nomura (the artist,designer and director who has worked on almost all FF games, Kingdom Hearts games and more recently Xenoblade chronicles 2) was taken off the development team of FF XV. I feel like this is what contributed mostly the the latter half of the game falling flat. By the time you get there the combat is starting to feel stale. You can press square at the right time and completely negate attacks but if timing is too big an issue for you then just holding square makes you invulnerable to most attacks too. Healing is instantaneous and you can easily disengage if you are still somehow struggling. Don’t get me wrong though, it was always a dream of mine to be able to throw an axe above an enemy’s head, teleport to it and then bring it crashing down on them but after doing that for about 5 hours it felt like I was playing whack-a-mole instead. I did feel like a badass but the combat was button mashy and not challenging, harder enemies just had more health and you only died if you forgot to heal or if the billions particles somehow fried your PS4/Xbox.
The story in the second half just becomes a convoluted mess and while it can be argued that i was just too stupid to understand it in one playthrough, it is undeniable that it suffered from pacing issues at least. The cuts in the story were abrupt and jarring as well as the fact the it felt short for a AAA, main series Final Fantasy game(Though I guess the devs wanted players to focus on the open world). I thought that it came up severely short in developing some of its characters, The main cast were brilliant(all except for Noctis, he isn’t bad but the others just had more substance), they have personality and set opinions along with believable conflicts.
I think I’ll be delving into my main gripes with the story and there are major spoilers only in the next paragraph so enter at your own risk-
While this is true some others just received the shortest end of the stick possible, For example- There is a point in the story where Noctis’ fiancee, Lady Lunafreya dies while at the same time Ignis, your friend/butler/driver/cook loses his eyes. Now in this reveal I am sure everyone was supposed to sympathize with a brooding Noctis who had just lost the love of his life but because the game had done little or nothing to make me attached to Lunafreya but had given Ignis a lot of development, I was unconcerned about the death of one of the most important cast members but was pretty mad that the story had just made one of the characters who I love blind without telling me how or why(Hoping dlc changes this). Even some of the main casts for some cold treatment in certain segemnts, In the part where it is revealed that your friend (Prompto) is from the opposing faction ‘the Empire’, the rest of the cast simply pushes it aside in under 10 seconds and everything seems to be fine(Hoping dlc will fix this again).
But speaking of DLC, you remember those cuts that I called abrupt and jarring. I have little doubt that they were done to create content for DLC, but compromising a smooth narrative for additional content isn’t worth applauding in my opinion. Although I criticize the method the execution is a different story, the dlc for Final Fantasy XV(At least Episode Gladios), has been one of its strongest points in the game. The narrative is self-contained and well explained. The battle system is revamped, there is more of a challenge in fighting enemies and of course it gives a more in dept look into the characters. So with the season pass included maybe I only wasted $45.
Let us hope that with Nomura on the job for FF VII remake, we will all get our money’s worth.