2017-04-20

wtf_muse: (Thoughtful Saerin)
2017-04-20 07:21 pm
Entry tags:

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy 15

I’ve been playing RPG’s since I was eight years old, my first being the more action-oriented Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. I’ve always been attracted to the fantasy elements that set RPG’s apart from your typical video game; magic and swords have always fueled my fire more than guns and ammo, add a rich story and you’ve got a game that I’m willing to try. The Final Fantasy series has always held a special place in my heart ever since 7th grade computer club when I first played IV (2 in our wacky country). I mention this mini-glimpse into my geeky past because I want to make it clear how much time and emotion I have vested in the Final Fantasy series as a whole and I’m proud to present my first real video game review of the latest installment, Final Fantasy XV. I’ll be reviewing the PS4 version.

The game begins with a scruffy, battle-worn Noctis Lucis Caelum running towards a city ablaze.The introduction to the rest of his comrades comes fast as Noctis is thrown back in a violent explosion, the three using their own bodies to shield Noctis from the flames. Moments later the camera pans quickly outward, away from the intensity of the opening images before fading to solid white, the words “Before the Fall...” written simply in the center of the screen. The game is almost entirely a flashback, a long journey leading up to the fiery moments we had just seen. In the next scene we learn that Noctis is a prince, and a surly one, apparently. He and his travelling companions Ignis, Gladiolous and Prompto have been ordered to a place called Altissia where Noctis is to be married, and after and awkward and somewhat painful exchange between King and Prince on the elaborate front steps of the grand palace, they set off.

From there, the characters quickly become biggest selling point of the game. In true RPG fashion, all of your archetypes are represented: the disenchanted Prince, the brain, the brawn and the comic-relief. I know that sounds bad and frankly, cliche, but the writers and developers did such a beautiful job fleshing out each protagonist that you look beyond their respective stereotypes almost immediately. They feel like real people, real friends on a journey. Noctis isn’t sullen, he just has a hard time accepting his fate and expressing his true feelings. What 20 year old boy doesn’t? He also hates vegetables. Ignis is the brains of the operation and his favorite food is cake. He’s a mother, father and advisor to Noct, fixing his ripped shirts at camp and cooking for the crew. Gladio is the bodyguard, he acts tough but you know he really loves his friends deep down. He and Noctis don’t see eye to eye at times, and he isn’t afraid to let Noct know it either. Finally, Prompto is insecure, hates bugs and, more than anything, he wants to be there for his friends and know that they’ll be there for him. I learned all of this over the course of the game. No supplemental books, movies or anime (Though these do exist). That’s how good the character development is in XV and it’s solid from beginning to end.

The game itself isn’t perfect, far from it in fact. I found the controls to be sluggish almost 100% of the time. The ‘X’ button is used for confirming an action as well as jumping Every time I would try to push a switch or open a door, I would push ‘X’ to match the on-screen prompt, but Noctis would jump instead. Every time. I found myself pausing to make sure that Noctis was literally walking into the door/switch/whatever, then coming to a complete stop before I could FINALLY push ‘X’ to make him do whatever I needed to do to move on INSTEAD of jumping. The control issue was definitely annoying but not NEARLY as annoying as the glitchy camera. Often times in battle, the camera would turn itself directly into a tree or bush, completely obscuring my view of the battle. I found myself just holding down ‘R1’ to target and ‘O’ to attack and hoped I was hitting something. The worst came later in the game during Chapter 15 after a particularly painful dungeon. At one point the camera stayed on Prompto after I threw him a potion. I tried resetting every camera setting in the menu to no avail. I ended up having to restart my game and when I was finally able to reach the final boss, the camera glitched again, this time it wasn’t allowing me to rotate my view (‘R3’). Fortunately for me, I was able to defeat the boss even with the camera handicap using the bush/tree technique I mentioned before, thus saving my PS4 controller from going airborne through my living room window.

Even with these weird mechanical hiccups, XV is a great mix of old and new, an homage to the games that came before while setting a new standard for the games to come. Truth be told, what really compelled me to write this review was my love for the four main characters. I truly didn’t want the game to end.

PROS:

Crazy-rich Character Development: Between what we learn about our heroes during the game and all the additional external content (the Kingsglaive movie, Brotherhood anime series and the Parting Ways novella), Square-Enix really gives the characters the royal treatment. Incidentally, I haven’t ugly-cried over a video game since Final Fantasy VII.

Fun Battle System: I would call it a mix between Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy 12, a smooth mix of automation and on the spot decision making. Noctis’ ability to warp is easily the most fun aspect of the battle system. There’s something so, so satisfying about whipping through the air and impaling a baddie from a mile away. I’m more of a melee fighter by nature and XV definitely supports and encourages that.

Ludicrous Amounts of Side Quests: I’m of the opinion, and please correct me if I’m in the majority, that I approached XV from a unique perspective. I played the main story line until the final chapter before watching the Kingsglaive and Brotherhood movies/series, then I dove full-on into hunts and side quests within the game. I simply wasn’t ready for it to end, and fortunately there’s TONS to do all over Lucis. Granted, the majority of the side quests are simple kill-this-enemy-bring-back-this-whatever-item type of deals, but I was still glad that I could delay the end for literally hours.

Vast World, Cool Car: I loved the world of Lucis. From the gravity-defying mountains to the dusty plains, It’s truly a beautiful country to behold. You fight at night, you fight during the day. The top of the Regalia comes down when the sun shines and, much like real life, it’s a straight up drag when it rains.

CONS:

Relatively Short Main Story: While I was engaged by the Lucian Royal Family destiny, I was sad when it ended so “quickly.” Quickly is in quotes there because I had already logged 60+ hours of gameplay when I beat the game the first time, but I also had completed a ton of sidequests in the hopes of stretching it out as long as I could. You could likely beat the main story line by itself in half that time (or even less).

Too Much Product Placement: Let me first say that I totally get it. Video games are expensive as hell to make so why not offset that cost with an ad here and there? American Express in Grand Theft Auto? This makes sense since “Los Santos” is clearly stylized after Los Angeles where you can actually use an American Express card. American Express in a game that has an entire universe based on complete fantasy? This does not compute. Don’t even get me started on the two side quests that are basically commercials….You’ll see.

If you’re a fan (or in my case, an obsessive fan) of the Final Fantasy series, you’ll love XV. If you’re new to the series or new the RPG’s in general, this is a good place to start. The battles are balanced, the dialog is well-scripted and the scenery is breathtaking. If you can grit your teeth through the glitches and pace yourself, you’ll definitely be rewarded in the end. After 10 long years of character, story and name changes, Square-Enix finally delivered an exciting and memorable installment to the series. It was definitely worth the wait.