Final Fantasy XV sure is quite the tumultuous oddball in the franchise. Originally known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, it spent nearly 10 years in development. It became Final Fantasy XV in 2013 when it was unveiled at E3 of that year.
It finally released in 2016 and got an updated version known as Final Fantasy XV Royal in 2018. Reception for this game is all over the place since then. People either love this game or hate it. The only other game in the series that comes close to this division is Final Fantasy VIII.
However, many people agreed that Royal and the DLC episodes were a much needed improvement the game needed. Now with the whole game released (kinda), let’s discuss how the game is overall. Also, there will be spoilers for this game. Let this be your warning.
Final Fantasy XV’s Gameplay
The gameplay of Final Fantasy XV is a 3rd person action-RPG where you control four characters: Noctis, Prompto, Gladio and Ignis. All of them have different play-styles and skill trees. Noctis is the action-RPG play-style, Ignis is more character action game with elemental blades, Prompto is a third-person shooter and Gladio is a more defensive character action style. Ignis, Gladio and Prompto also have skills that you build in battle that can turn the tide of an encounter. You can obtain new ones with the Ascension option which is the skill tree of the game. Ignis is my preferred of the three buddies.
Noctis also gets a technique called the Armiger which his essentially his version of a Limit Break. He calls upon the Royal Arms to unleash utter mayhem on his opponents. It’s very stylistic in appearance and is mostly used when you’re in a pinch.
Whilst you defeat enemies, you gain experience points that level up your character. You also gain experience points by doing side-quests. The game is also relatively open world so your time on the game will also vary depending on what you do. Doing certain side-quests can also upgrade your weapons, including getting the Ultima Blade.
Ascension is the skill tree grid in Final Fantasy XV. You have different skills that Ascension gives you with enough AP. Combat, Exploration, Magic, Recovery, Stats, Teamwork, Techniques and Wait Mode. All of these give you an edge in battle as well improve AP gain throughout the course of the game. The Armiger also has it’s own tree that you can use to upgrade it’s usefulness. It’s also through here you can get the ability to play as Prompto, Ignis and Gladio.
Overall, the gameplay is solid and fluid. Due to it’s nature as an action-RPG, it also rewards experimentation with attacks similar to how Devil May Cry does it. It isn’t perfect, since the camera does tend to get in the way quite a bit and sometimes the enemies are damage sponges, but it is fun. The boss fights are a spectacle since quite a few of them enable air fights but we’ll get to those later.
XV can be addictive as well if you are good enough at the game. Hunts give you plenty to do to level up and gain zeni to buy Potions and Phoenix Downs and the dungeons can be fun. I spent 80 hours on the game and I’m still doing hunts. Overall, the game is very fun and rewarding when you learn it’s intricacies.
Technical and Sound Prowess
You can say what you want about this game, but these next points are quite clear. Final Fantasy XV looks gorgeous on every front. Altissia looks absolutely mesmerizing and the boss battles look amazing. The fight against Leviathan is just awesome to play and look at because of what happens in the background. Summoning in this game is among the most epic in the series in scale because of the visuals. The game looks great from start to finish.
The music is also fantastic. Yoko Shimomura is the composer for XV and she just knocked it out of the park here. Tracks like Apocalypse Aquarius and Somnus are just some of the highlights in this marvelous soundtrack. Give it a listen if you can and you will have a good time with it.
In terms of sound, the game is also superb even though there isn’t much to say. The voice acting is some of the best in the series. Ray Chase does a great job as Noctis as well as Robbie Daymond, Chris Cason and Adam Croasdell. Darin De Paul as Ardyn is probably my favorite performance in the game. Overall, the cast is great all around and is one of the best cast ensembles in the series.
Story and Narrative of Final Fantasy XV
Now here is where things get murky for everyone. The story is a major point of contention because of it being very different then advertised and the cancellation of it’s DLC. We got some resolution with the book Dawn of the Future but it stings the story in-game is incomplete. All we can do is look at what we have with the game and with the book.
The story has some good elements in it while it also has some weak elements. In terms of good elements, the main cast of characters and Ardyn are well done. Ardyn is one of the best villains in Final Fantasy since Sephiroth as well as one of it’s more tragic characters. Noctis, Ignis and Prompto are likable with charming personalities. Gladio is easily the weakest of the group but that doesn’t mean he’s bad (though Chapter 10 doesn’t do him favors). Other good elements include the Summons. They are quite important to the story and have roles that make them important to story progression as well as spectacles due to their natures.
Luna on the other hand, is bad, which isn’t good considering she is the main romantic interest and a driving force for Noctis. In fact, she’s the main driving force for him up until Chapter 10 and her having few scenes is a problem. The only reason why you’d care for their relationship is because Noctis makes it somewhat believable. Luna is better in the Dawn of the Future book, but not fully. Overall, she is a disappointment and quite a story flaw due to her lack of agency, interesting dynamics and her major role not being built up enough.
Another problem with the story is that while the Empire are the bad guys, almost none of the head honchos do anything of note except Ardyn. Emperor Aldercapt and Verstael Besithia do absolutely nothing in the main game and they were built as big threats. This makes the Empire have little presence in the story which is an issue considering their status.
The DLC and Dawn of the Future
Final Fantasy XV has quite a bit of DLC, including 4 DLC episodes: Ignis, Gladio, Prompto and Ardyn. It was going to get Episodes Aranea, Lunafreya and Noctis, but they were cancelled and turned into a book. Every single character mentioned got a lot more development.
Episode Prompto from a gameplay standpoint is the most different of the episodes, being very similar to Metal Gear Solid more then anything. In terms of setting, gameplay and story, it’s quite similar to MGS. That isn’t a bad thing since it is a really good episode. Stealth is actually encouraged here so being sneaky knowing how to shoot is important.
Episode’s Ignis, Ardyn and Gladio are similar to character action games, especially Ignis’. Ignis uses his elemental glaives to deal with enemies. Fire is for up close, Lightning is to zip around and Ice is for area-of-effect for multiple enemies. Gladio is a defensive style of the character action game with parries being important due to his slower nature.
Ardyn’s is essentially the bad guy version of Noctis in terms of play-style. He even has his own skill grid named Descension. Ardyn’s is also the most important one in terms of story as it leads to whole new outcome and ending in the story.
Dawn of the Future: Final Fantasy XV
The book is an alternate ending that happens if Ardyn chooses to defy his fate at the end of his episode. The book consists of Episode’s Ardyn, Aranea, Lunafreya and Noctis. All of them pain things in a different light and introduce new things, especially in Episode Aranea and Luna. There’s a new character called Sol who is quite important in those two episodes.
Noctis’ episode is the grand finale of the book fighting against the ultimate antagonist of the story. I’m trying not to give more away then already stated but despite the book format, I found it very satisfying and a fun read. The book is really long, though, reaching the 1,000 page mark. It is a shame they couldn’t be finished as DLC but at least they weren’t fully lost.
Overall thoughts on Final Fantasy XV
It’s not hard to see why the game is so love it or hate it. It all comes down to the story and that’s going to be many’s dealbreaker when it comes to the game. Despite the story being all over the place in terms of how it’s told, the game itself is a really good package. There’s a lot of content to be had here with side-quests, the overworld, Chocobo’s, hunts, the Ascension grid and the story.
I do think Final Fantasy XV is a really good game. I think it gets too much hate with people saying anything associated with this game is bad when it’s not true. There are a lot of great elements in this game that make it worth playing. If for nothing else, it’s certainly better then games like Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy XIII. It’s certainly not a perfect game, but I found this road trip enjoyable all the way through. It’s honestly kind of a miracle how well the game came out despite it’s infamous development history.