Final Fantasy XV ReviewGreg Knoll
Final Fantasy XV is not an easy game to rate.
Because, in essence, Final Fantasy is a game not easily defined. Or-better put-FFXV never truly defines itself. The opening screen proudly reads "a Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers" but that honestly should be viewed more as a disclaimer. While that statement is true, it also is what signifies the biggest problem with the game. Its bizarre shifting design, structured by a company which seems desperate to please everyone, that only ends up creating a mix of good and bad qualities. Some are the recreation of brilliant ideas evolved over the series' stellar history. Others are brand new concepts that feel more like an attempt to cater to a current, impatient generation. So it becomes a culmination that plays out like a bipolar effigy-at times earth shattering; other times dismal and bland.
Which makes it very difficult to rate.
It isn't a horrible game. By any means. It has style. The one positive aspect to this entire "millennial pleasing" shift Square-Enix has made is the meshing of two worlds. One ancient and old where battles are forged with destructive steel and searing magic. One new and technological where cars, cameras and smartphones are necessary tools to proceed. Does it make sense? Not really. Is it a combination that is just bizarre enough to be entertaining? For me, yes. You have hipster Emos, tatted up, brooding every chance they get rampaging through the land, killing gigantic wasps and summoning Gods who rain down thunderstorms. It gives you some insight into what Square was attempting, but never entirely pulls off.
The potential is there. I like Noctis. I like Gladiolus. I honestly, like them all-clichÃ© as they are. Yes, Noctis is your prototypical hero of the story, born into privilege and carrying a huge weight upon his shoulder, venting/whining about it more than he should. Gladiolus the bouncer, oversized and militant, swearing protection to Noctis even if it means from himself. There's the nerd, Ignis, who keeps the entire group calm with his unwavering, logical outlook. The timid, self-deprecating Prompto who is desperate to determine where he fits in. All them thrown into this massive world of politics, strewn with betrayal and intrigue. A story of love and loss, self-discovery and-ultimately-redemption.
As I said: the potential is there. What starts out as a simple quest to begin the process of a peace treaty-between the dominant empire Niflheim and the only free sovereign Lucis-is shattered when the empire betrays the sacred rite, murdering Noctis' father in the process. So the once journey of duty becomes that of vengeance, of Noctis invoking the powers of the kings before him, to gather enough strength to stand against the overpowering Niflheim.
It is the beginning of a great story.
Except, for the fact, it is not the beginning. That is the story. Call me crazy, but I expected more. Like the death of Aerith or the betrayal of Seymour I waited for the twists and shocks that FFXV delivered to break open, that the series of events was simply a catalyst for something far more grand to be introduced. But it was not. It was the end. And it was quick. It was all...too quick. What I-and probably many others-believed to be an introduction was instead the entirety. One could-excluding brief stints to grind-blaze through the story in a matter of hours.
FFXV is a massive game, but it unfortunately relies too heavily on sandboxing. On sidequests. Not enough immersion into the world because they are only menial tasks. Ones that lack the depth and storytelling other games like Skyrim found success in. Where they taught you of the world you were wandering in, FFXV uses them as fillers for you to spend your time. For the most part, you are catching frogs and finding car parts. They are grating, irritating and essentially serve no other purpose than to provide more hours for those brave enough-and patient enough-to do them.
And considering the fact you can drive almost everywhere to accomplish most, it makes them even more trite.
I do like the idea of having a car, but it ruptures all that I know and love about Final Fantasy. The wandering, the random encounters, the trek as you become immersed in the world because you're setting foot on every inch of it. Fighting for your life in it. Encounters are minimal and often times easy, over as quickly as they began. The combat system is fast. It plays more like a hack-and-slash than it does an RPG, but it's entertaining. Your teammates fend for themselves in most cases, unless called upon to initiate one of their individual techniques-such as Gladiolus' Tempest where he swings his two-handed sword as if it were nothing, chopblocking most enemies onto their back into a vulnerable state, or Ignis' Regroup which heals all allies and brings them out of danger. Even that, though, you don't control. It's simply waiting until your tech bar is full and the press of a button. All of it is the single press of a button. No planning, no real strategy to be had. Simply mashing, striking, the occasional warp strike and-even more rare-the summons.
Yes, they exist. Yes, when you actually see one they are worth it. Visually striking and powerfully daunting, giant Gods obliterate not only enemies but the land as well-leaving it nothing but smoldering ash. When you see them, they are memorable. Chances are, though, that you won't always see them. Unlike other FF games, you cannot call upon them at will. Some of them appear only once as part of the story, others surface only when you're in a dire situation and a select few can only be claimed when specific requirements have been met. Though I hate to say it, I wonder if they were added simply for the fact that everyone would be wanting them.
And that personifies what Final Fantasy XV is. A mix. Mix of many epic, entertaining qualities that made the series what it is today and strange, prototype ideas that feel more like an experiment. A gamble. Yes, part of the game is for longtime fans. Part of it, may in fact, be for the new comers. And that is the part that still needs work.
It is good. I won't lie. At times it is very good. Which is sad. Had Square stayed the path, had they been more concerned with defining the game instead of figuring out who the game was for and trying to cater to virtually everyone-had they remembered and relied on the fact this was once considered to be the greatest RPG series of all time and trusted the loyal fans, given back to them...it could have been great.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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