Friday, 25 August 2017

REVIEW: Final Fantasy XV (PS4)



Originally written on December 20th 2016, never published

It’s been a long time coming but after an agonising ten year wait, Final Fantasy XV is finally here and it’s fantastic.

You take on the role of Noctis, the shaggy-haired heir to the throne of Lucis, as he fights to regain control of his kingdom from the imperial force of Niflheim, accompanied by three members of his Royal Guard: Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis.

When it comes to Final Fantasy XV’s story, it is mostly interesting but can definitely lack at times, especially towards the end of the game. It is also worth noting that it will most likely be confusing if you haven’t seen the prequel movie Kingsglaive as the story is a continuation of the film’s. It is playable without watching Kingsglaive but if you care about the game’s story, it’s definitely worth a watch.

The relationship between Noctis and his all-male team is by far the best thing in the game and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a unique experience, watching them grow closer as they fight battle after battle and endure hardship after hardship. It becomes almost impossible not to get attached to the boys because they’re all so charming and interesting as characters – somewhat of a rare treat compared to other Final Fantasy titles.

Each member of the team has his own unique skill which can be levelled up in order to unlock certain upgrades: Noctis has an interest in fishing, Prompto in photography, Ignis in cooking and Gladio in survival. Photography is the most interesting though as Prompto will take photographs constantly throughout your adventure, some of which can be hilarious or just downright ridiculous, especially photographs taken in combat. There’s truly a never a dull moment where Prompto and his camera are concerned.

Combat is completely different to any other Final Fantasy game as it’s no longer your standard turn-based or active time system. Instead, it’s real-time combat in which Noctis can use an array of different weapons and spells to deal devastating damage. The cool thing about magic is that you can craft your own spells using fire, ice and lightning obtained from elemental deposits scattered throughout the world – the higher the combination of elements, the higher the potency and damage of the spell.

Noctis is also able to phase shift which involves teleporting to a high, hard-to-reach point and homing in on the enemy from afar. Phasing costs MP but it can be refilled by warping to a specific point or using an item.

Although you don’t control your teammates in battle directly, you can order them to perform certain battle moves, which can do devastating damage depending on the move.

The only downside to the combat is the camera, which pans in and out at awkward angles frequently which makes it hard to see what you’re doing and is incredibly frustrating.

At the end of each battle, your team is awarded with EXP depending on how well you did in battle. This is reflected by a score in Time, Finesse and Offense – the higher the score, the higher the EXP reward. EXP is tallied until you sleep at a motel or a campsite and the better the lodgings, the better EXP bonus you’ll gain.

You can also be awarded with AP which is used in the game’s levelling up system called Ascension. This is a skill tree of sorts that reaps all sorts of useful bonuses in areas such as combat, skills and teamwork, provided you have enough AP to unlock them. AP can be earned in a multitude of different ways such as exploration and not just through combat.

It is advised to stop at a food vendor or make camp and have Ignis cook for you before you enter difficult combat since certain foods reap certain rewards such as more EXP, added attack and defence percentages and resistances to status ailments.

In terms of the world, it is absolutely colossal and undoubtedly beautiful. It is full of dungeons, side quests and points of interest so it never gets boring. You travel around in the Regalia, a royal car given to Noctis by his father, King Regis. You can choose to drive it or pick Ignis to take the wheel, it’s completely up to you. Personally, driving felt like a bit of a slog since you can’t go off-road with the car so it’s not really much different to letting Ignis drive you. Once you’ve visited a destination once, you can fast travel there for 10gil, making driving around pretty redundant.

You do unlock the ability to ride a Chocobo quite early on though, the series’ famous flightless bird mascot. This is useful for navigating areas you can’t drive the Regalia to and is faster than going on foot. You are able to name your Chocobo and pick his feather colour and you can customise the Regalia to your liking at Cindy’s garage.

About halfway through the game, the game turns linear and the open-world becomes inaccessible through the story. Not to worry though – you can return via your memories at any point so if you miss all the exploring, it’s fine.

When it comes to the game’s performance, it’s a bit hit-and-miss. Glitches happen semi-frequently and the loading times can be horrendous, although it is understandable given the game’s size and doesn’t really affect the overall experience. The framerate can drop when it gets too busy, especially during combat, but is mostly fine.

Overall, Final Fantasy XV is a fantastic game. The combat is fun, the story is mostly really interesting and gets incredibly emotional at times (we challenge you not to cry) and the emotional bonds that form between Noctis and his team will resonate in your brain for a long, long time. It truly is a great return to the series for existing fans and new players alike.

Is it worth its £50 price tag though? If you’re a fan of a big open world with lots to do, definitely.

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