My better half wanted to watch me play Final Fantasy XV; she’d read a lot of people having fun with it online. Since I wasn’t ready for a second run through Dishonored 2 (Stealth Princess this time, instead of Murder Dad), and I’d finished Nuka World in Fallout 4, I said sure. We often do this sort of thing, with me handling the controls and her picking dialogue options.
I was initially impressed, this being my first proper FF title since finishing VII on the PSX. In the meantime I’d played through Tactics Advance and A2 (and bounced hard off the shitty, shitty iOS port of Tactics). But as you probably guessed from this post’s title, that first feeling wouldn’t last. I’ll start with nonspoilery items, and leave some space before anything revealing.
It’s worth mentioning I played the game on Easy. While I did spend over 40 hours total in-game, I was home sick for most of it, which is why I had the time to burn. Generally, I’d rather play for story, hence the “Don’t Hurt Me” difficulty. My reflexes are still decent, but my patience isn’t what it used to be. I’m too old to wait for a loading screen because some boss is just Stupid levels of hard and kicks my ass five times. No, I haven’t played Dark Souls.
- The setup is unique and endearing. Four friends on one last road trip before one of them gets hitched. Toss in the beautiful cover of “Stand by Me” by Florence+The Machine, and the opening is a serious win. The bickering as they push the now-dead car hints at plenty of history between these guys.
- Noctis’ companions are all entertaining, even if they hit a lot of the usual trope combinations. Apparently, there’s going to be DLC going into the background of each, but I’ll probably not pick it up.
- I liked the “rest to apply XP and level up” mechanic. It tied in nicely with the road trip feel.
- The combat was a lot of fun. I stuck with the “active” version, where you pretty much hold down Attack and push the left stick in the direction you’d like to kick ass, with the occasional dodge+parry quicktime. Once I snagged some of the Airstep abilities, Noctis’ mobility makes combat pretty lively.
- There’s a baby chocobo!
- The soundtrack has some nice tracks here and there. (note the Stand by Me cover is on a separate F+tM album) There are plenty of callbacks to tunes from earlier games, and probably to many of the ones I didn’t play. It’s 4 CDs, so I’m just going to get tracks piecemeal from Amazon.
- The combat camera often has a mind of its own, and doesn’t realize the player can’t see through foliage.
- There is no reason I should have to use the d-pad to navigate menus. The left stick would work just as well.
- The confirmation options for Load Game should default to Yes on the title screen and No in-game.
- You have to come to a near-stop to pick up items or use objects in the world.
- After climbing a ladder, Noct will briefly pause with his chest out as if to say, “Look what I did!”. It’s just long enough to break your flow.
- Despite being pretty open-world, there’s a LOT of invisible walls. I get it – you don’t want your precious Prince jumping off a cliff to his death during combat. And that I can understand. But why stop him vaulting onto/over the Regalia to get somewhere? And just a whole lot of places where the reason you can’t jump onto a rock or ledge isn’t “because the area beyond is plot-locked for now” – it’s “because fuck you we didn’t feel like it”.
- You have to press a button to acknowledge that you’ve either 1) absorbed all the elemental energy from a spot or 2) you’re already full up on that type of energy. Why? Just flash an icon indicating “empty” or “full” as necessary. No need to break my flow.
- For the cost of Ascension abilities, the game is very stingy giving out AP. Turns out you can farm them one at a time by killing enemies with Warp Strike, but that’s tedious as hell when you need 96, 333, and 999 AP for some of the best abilities. I wasn’t expecting to be able to max out every Ascension tree, but I felt a bit cheated by not being able to kit out a couple without a ton of grinding.
- Driving around everywhere gets pretty boring, pretty quickly. If that was where most of the character development was supposed to happen, it was a poor choice. Additionally, the game often only lets you fast-travel if you select “Map Point” as your destination type. No reason it can’t do so for a random side quest if I’ve already driven over the stretch of road closest to the quest’s destination.
Spoiler space for the rest, which is all The Bad.
- The story is, overall, a steaming pile of shit. By the end if you read a lot of the clues in Chapter 13 you get some idea of what Lunafreya was talking about when she said the star would darken. Apparently there’s some pathogen out there that 1) darkens the upper atmosphere (which demons totally dig) and 2) transforms people into demons. This was never even hinted at anywhere else. No comment from Prompto during sunset about the days getting shorter with a reply from Ignis that Top People are working on discovering why. You can’t just spring that sort of thing – you have to drop hints, or it’s just Bullshit Ex Machina.
- When FAQing a few points in the game I noted the FAQ writers thought it mandatory for players to watch Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, two animated stories. The former details the events of the betrayal at the beginning of FFXV, while the latter dives into how Noctis met the band (my wife’s name for the four protagonists). If I have to watch (and in some cases, pay for) more stuff to understand your game’s story, you have failed as a writer. Having spoiled myself on the plots of these, I’m not sure that’s entirely the case here, but an even deeper connection between the band would not have gone amiss, and would’ve given more impact to some scenes.
- Ravus – what the FUCK was his motivation? When we first see him, he wants to kick the band’s collective asses. Then we see him and Lunafreya in a shallow flashback where he agrees to help them out. And…then he turns into a demon and we kill him.
- Speaking of Ravus, the entirety of Chapter 13 – the lead up to the fight with him – is a boring, monotonous mess. It really felt like the studio ran out of time and/or money, and farmed that level off to Bob in the mail room, who thought Rogue was the height of RPG sophistication.
- One of the title cards proudly claims, “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers”. Nope. Not at all. Your convoluted story is going to piss off both.
- The large demons found at night start off a real threat (level 32?!? WTF!), but never scale with you. While I wouldn’t want trekking around at night at level 50 to be a serious pain, it’d be nice to have some higher-level baddies start showing up now and then to keep you on your toes. Like how the Magitek troopers occasionally drop a group of five near Noct’s level. When I saw a troop carrier coming in, I had to really consider if it was worth the fight.
- The Titan fight was just annoying. Could barely tell what was going on most of the time, and I felt he reacted too quickly to what I did. Warp away from his hand sweeping the ground, but before I can turn the camera to face him, he’s punched me off my perch. Lather, rinse, repeat.
- The second phase of the Ardyn battle (flying through the air) was a joke. Keeping in mind I had the game on easy, I didn’t have to dodge his attacks. My health got boosted somehow to about double its usual value, and regen was off the charts. All I had to do was hold down Lock On and Attack, and wait for him to die.
- And speaking of Ardyn – there is NO reason for Noct and the rest not to recognize him when they first meet him in Galdin Quay. None whatsoever. He’s the vizier or whatever of the Niflheim Empire. They are the Crown Prince of Lucis and his Fuck Shit Up Squad. This is a world with cell phones. They should have easy access to dossiers on the entire Imperial chain of command. And even with Insomnia conquered, they should already know the faces and background of the Empire’s upper echelon.
- Oh and what the hell was Ardyn’s motivation? He hinted at being cast out because he could exorcise people – presumably curing them of the demon plague – and that somehow made him immortal. Ok – so what does he get out of eternal darkness and a demon population? Rule over a bunch of mindless, violent mutants? Did the disease only partially corrupt him, so he retains his sense of self and maybe allows him some control over the infected?
- Ok now I’m just ranting, but WHY does the Arcaean have to hold up the meteor? You stopped its kinetic energy ages ago, dude. Just set it down in the crater and move on. Side note – wonder if the crater is the original source of the demon pathogen?