REVIEW: Final Fantasy XV

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by Ants

“A game for fans and newcomers alike,” is boasted on the title screen of Square Enix’s latest instalment into the franchise. On that simple premise, we are delivered one of the finest FF games in over a decade.

The mistakes of the past are obviously something that has been taken note of during development. The prime example is how open the world is from the very beginning. No 20 hour playtime in a linear environment to get to the fun stuff like FFXIII, or indeed many of the other instalments. The entire world map is opened as early as chapter three, but the first area is fairly huge and contains a great many secrets and pitfalls for players to lose themselves in for many hours before progressing.

a genuine group of friends and more real than the po-faced, earnest characters of the past

FFXV follows Noctis, a prince on his way to marry Lunafreya, an oracle whom he has known since childhood. Accompanying him on his journey is his bodyguard Gladious, his advisor Ignis and best friend Prompto. By their interactions, it is clear that these characters have a history and a bond. They joke, complain and tease each other throughout the journey and feel like a genuine group of friends and more real than the po-faced, earnest characters of the past. Each character has an individual trait to level up throughout the game being fishing, survival, cooking and photography respectively. These things can be ignored or pandered to at the players wishes and seems to be included for fun rather than RPG staple levelling purposes.

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On the subject of levelling up, which no self-respecting RPG can do without, this has had a radical overhaul too. Experience is gained through battle as ever, but a player can only level up by resting, which adds an element of risk and reward to the usual approach. Players can camp at a variety of spots throughout the map and eat a meal cooked by Ignis, which can boosts stats to a massive degree. However, these camps only provide the base amount of experience gained. Exp bonuses can be earned of times 1.2 up to times 3 by resting at caravans or hotels for a fee, which goes up depending on the bonus. Also no meal is provided at these places, hence the trade-off. This makes it easier for a time-starved player to reach the max level through careful exploitation of the mechanics.

A large debt appears to be owing to the Witcher for an attempt to look (almost) as pretty

Combat is now almost fully an action based affair and with good use of dodging and parrying can make taking on over-levelled enemies much easier on the un-prepared. Warp-strikes were something that was shown in the demos of the past, with Noctis being able to blink across areas to attack or to escape for a moment’s respite. Wait mode can be activated from the options menu for those that want to take a more cerebral and slower paced approach to battle, allowing the player to plan and co-ordinate the party accordingly. The delight of seeing former enemies from previous entries fully fleshed out, animated and traversable is some of the best fan service ever.

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The world looks incredible. A large debt appears to be owing to the Witcher for an attempt to look (almost) as pretty. Towns across the world have a distinct ‘feel’ to them as well, sometimes be it a musical number that a player can associate with for example Cuba, or the obvious architectural influences of Venice on another. The world feels a very different place depending on where you are within it, each town having its own unique dishes based on the local flora and faunae. Small touches like this show how much love has been poured into the open world section of the game.

Unfortunately, the story quest line doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the game. As you gain more and more toys, the game decides to take them away for quite a period of time in a segment that isn’t so much bad, but an ill-advised change of pace. Reports suggest that Square plan to patch in changes to often complained about parts of this, as well as adding a lot more free DLC to follow to keep people interested in the game, no doubt to sell more paid DLC in the future partially. But with the amount of fun there is to be had here, one can be forgiven to say that they are striving for perfection.

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