Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 13.12.2016 116

Review for Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One

Final Fantasy is one of the biggest franchises in gaming that began as a humble RPG and grew into a multimedia juggernaut. It has crossed over with Disney, and seen several fighting games, card games, a ride, soft drinks, anime series, several CGI films, board games... There is practically nothing that Final Fantasy won't do at this point and, naturally, going into open-world sandbox territory was the next step. It has been a long and horrible wait for everyone, but Cubed3 is here to give closure on the good, the bad and the weird of Final Fantasy XV.

What makes a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game? At this point in the franchise, it's becoming increasingly hard to determine. The series has been around so long and has experimented in countless ways, and has been associated with convoluted fantasy jargon, especially since the seventh console gen had the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, which was an incoherent, unending nightmare that ruined everyone's lives.

Square Enix, realising that its most valuable intellectual property's branding had been damaged, knew it had to find a way to salvage its pet project, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the elusive spin-off that had been in development hell for over a decade. All ties and connections to XIII had to be severed, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII simply became Final Fantasy XV in hopes of distancing itself from the repugnant Lightning trilogy. The landscape of RPGs had changed considerably since this project was first announced and expectations were high that Final Fantasy XV could hopefully prove that Square Enix could also pull off an action-RPG in a large sandbox, while retaining the epic scope of their past successes.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One

Without getting into spoiler territory, it suffices to say that Final Fantasy XV's story is one of the good ideas that is miscalculated and completely botched in telling it. It is also not terribly original even by Final Fantasy standards. There are some basic plot points that are classic to the series; the idea of a small rag tag group of friends going up against an evil empire, a magical crystal, large god-like summon monsters, trains, man-made monstrosities, and fantasy technology are here and accounted for, which are all very Final Fantasy concepts. One of the reasons why the story fails in how it is told is from what seems like Final Fantasy XV is either not finished or has had a lot of content that got cut.

Really important emotional plot details that should be established, like the romance between Noctis and his betrothed Lunafreya, are never shown outside of a couple of scenes of them as children, where they show no chemistry together at all. The story's emotional core and Noctis' motivation really hinges on his love for this woman, but it is never shown or expressed where it counts - instead, it goes by what characters say, breaking the narrative rule of "show, don't tell." There are so many points of confusion in the story because of the plot threads not being established or being rushed and thrown in at the last minute. From the main villain's motivation, to a party member leaving the team for a mission to go do whatever, or just when the lore is just not explained... the plot should not be this hard to follow considering how few characters are involved in the story.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One

Moments where FFXV really feels unfinished is how it teases with many locations that are only shown in cut-scenes or are built up. One location in particular was substantially built up in a previous demo that can never be visited. When Final Fantasy XIII came out, many lamented the lack of towns, and Final Fantasy XV continues that tradition by having exactly two actual towns/cities. No, the many pit-stops and gas station/outposts are not towns. The main map of Eos that the adventure takes place in has only the one town, and it has a completely separate map that is isolated from the rest of the game, which is also a town or city of its own.

Upon visiting this town in the story, this is also where Final Fantasy XV's genre totally changes and the story gains focus. Some may find this part of the game a complete turn-off, since it becomes a literal on-rails experience from chapter 10 and on, and it abandons the open-ended sandbox and side missions and basically becomes like Final Fantasy XIII. Maybe the nonlinear exploration and propensity for getting side-tracked was preventing FFXV from having a focused story, because it really does seem like two games smashed into each other. Even when the story does offer an opportunity to have freedom again in a brave new world before the final chapter, the characters insist on moving forward with the plot and not allowing anymore agency to the player.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV is a very strange game. The setting is both fantasy, yet it is nostalgic about the mundanities of our real world. Fifties-style diners, gas station pit-stops, beach side resorts, the highways and byways of rolling hills, electric power stations and countryside farms are not typically locations thought of in a Final Fantasy game. FFXV commits to a very weird and bold artistic choice, which mostly works, purely on the grounds of just how novel it is. From the Cuba-like city of Lestallum, to the Arizona-like desert of Leide, the world of Eos is strangely familiar. It is a surreal sensation to walk into the many hyper-realistic copy-pasted pit-stops and see advertisements for both Cup Noodles (real world product) and products made from Final Fantasy creatures. Even regular NPCs going about their day look like every day JC Penny catalogue models, which really makes the main cast stick out in their own game.

Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto look like they are ready to perform their hit single at the Pantages Theatre to a sold-out audience. The main cast really does clash with the extremely grounded setting, making them look like they are a boyband on tour, rather than a prince and his most loyal confidants, especially since there are other important characters that look more like traditional Final Fantasy designs. There are several times these visuals clash and the results are truly surreal, where it becomes distracting to the point it's hard to know how to feel. In some scenes, there are standard designs that feel like the kind of characters expected from a Final Fantasy, then it shifts to locales that feel so grounded in our own world. It is hard to know if any of this incongruence is intentional, but after a while it is just sort of accepted. Outside of the surreal setting, much of Final Fantasy XV is cribbed from past games. In some cases, whole concepts and terms are ripped-off without ever really making an original idea of its own, especially towards Final Fantasy VI.

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A lot has been made about Square Enix's attempt to make Final Fantasy XV an open world game and the team's execution could not be more pedestrian or poorly executed. The results make for less of a rollicking nonlinear Final Fantasy game, but more like a half-hearted sandbox made by Ubisoft that is complete with hundreds of nodes on a map. This game is full of crap littering the map that is there to encourage exploration, but is always filler or padding. This is extended to the main story, which is not long by JRPG standards, and rarely relies on character levels or equipment set, since the major plot point battles are QTEs. All of the most interesting things to do, such as the various dungeons, are relegated to either optional side stories or as post-game content. Even the way all the side quests are handled could not be more frustrating, since they usually amount to Noctis and the gang having to trek a staggering long car drive, long load screen, chocobo ride or - at worst - walk, only for the quest to be completed in about two minutes, and then the game expects them to go back to the quest giver for the reward.

Final Fantasy XV has no respect for anybody's time. In recent popular JRPGs, like Xenoblade Chronicles, time is never wasted, with having to return to a quest giver and the fast travel being instantaneous. Even the simple act of picking up items was simpler because Shulk did not need any button prompts to pick anything up - he just did it automatically. In FFXV, some savant at Square Enix had the brilliant idea to have the jump button be the same as the interact button. Something that should be so simple has become a nightmare; when getting Noctis to talk to somebody results in him jumping up and down for 15 seconds in front of them while they stare at him awkwardly, it begs the question: why couldn't the attack button be the interact button? Noctis can't attack in safe zones, so it basically becomes a button with no purpose when not fighting, anyway.

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Control in Final Fantasy XV is a fickle mistress. Controlling the flow of battle can lead to complete bedlam depending on if the camera feels like obeying or if all the shrubbery gets in the way. The director has been given the task of making this instalment an action game, while also being open-world, and in such genres, playability and maintaining some variety is key to prevent the core game from becoming boring over a long period of play. Sadly, Final Fantasy XV's director, Hajime Tabata, has utter disdain for quality action game mechanics and has developed a combat system that only tired old men could enjoy. Every battle is whittled down to holding down the attack button or holding down the auto-dodge. That is all it will take to win.

There is not much more technique outside of a few more advanced moves that give the illusion of depth, since so much of the combat feels so sluggish and unresponsive it never feels fun. If it can be believed, the mindless button mashing found in Musou games have more complexity. There is a major disconnect with the action on screen when battles are happening - they are very flashy and a lot of things are happening at once, but it never has the appropriate feedback required to make it feel like any of it is earned. Enemies don't have the proper wind-up, there is no audible feedback (since audio is feedback that humans naturally respond fastest to), and it just feels so sloppy and haphazard.

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Visually, this is a mixed bag that ranges from pure genius to PlayStation 2 gen. The cloth and hair physics are bar none some of the best ever made in a video game. Even on Xbox One, where the entire game's picture quality has a noticeable softness to it, Final Fantasy XV still can look quite stunning in parts. The dynamic animation how Noctis can move while simply walking is extremely realistic and lifelike with how his weight shifts and how the inverse kinematics make his footsteps connect with every uneven surface. It is only when conversing with non-story related NPCs or during cut-scenes the director deemed low priority is when Final Fantasy XV looks extremely laughable. Stiff and robotic characters with low quality assets move horrifyingly like androids with poor lip sync. It doesn't help that the voice cast is also very hit or miss. The best actors of the game are the ones who play Prompto and Ignis, with the worst being Noctis, who turns in a very bland performance, and Gladiolus, who is just a bad actor and only delivers his lines while grunting and is not capable of any emotional range. There are a couple more standouts, like the actresses for Iris and Cindy, who performed their characters quite well, but are sadly not in the game enough.

Final Fantasy XV is difficult to recommend. On one hand, it is a weird and unique failure that is worth a look because of how weird it is. On the other hand, it is an incoherent narrative disaster with game design flaws and lacking basic features that would make playability more enjoyable. Why isn't there an option to wait at camp to make time of day go to night? Why does the Regalia suck so much to drive, and why does it only require 10 gil to fill it up regardless of how much gas there is left? Why is the best and most tense hunt in the game the same hunt used in the Duscae demo? The story missions are a stark contrast with all the side content - specifically all the wonderful dungeons that are tucked away that are mostly reserved for after the story is completed. Anyone who is excited for doing tedious side missions like ones found in the Assassin's Creed titles, Final Fantasy XV is perfect. This game promises about a hundred hours of side content to do, which is likely the reason anyone will continue to play this, since the story gets concluded so quickly and sloppily.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Final Fantasy XV is the result of the designers being out of touch and being unable to make any sort of connection with the players. It has a really rough start and is a game with high highs and extremely low lows. It is both a technical achievement and a game design disaster. It is capable of really clever storytelling and character development, while also failing at the basics of telling a simple story. Final Fantasy XV offers a huge amount of land to explore that feels ultimately small due to how few points of interest it actually has. More often than not, this hardly feels like an RPG at times, and yet because of how strange this game is, it might be worth a look. In the end, maybe Final Fantasy XV needed another 10 years of development considering how unfinished it feels.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

really wana discuss the ending about this game, but i really dont wish to spoil anything.
 

Insanoflex said:
really wana discuss the ending about this game, but i really dont wish to spoil anything.
 

Just make sure to use the [ spoiler ] [ /spoiler ] tags Smilie

You could take it to the FF general thread too (still with spoiler tags tho!).

I don't want to spoil myself, as I will get around to picking this up eventually, just for the right price.

Sad to hear this didn't turn out too hot. I've been hearing a number of complaints about poor characters and story, and lack of explanation for things. Apparently they're going to patch in additional scenes to make things clearer? Crazy.

I was never big on the combat from my experience in the demos, but very surprising to hear it sounds so simple. I was hoping there would be a lot more depth involved - and perhaps there is - but if you can really get through the story just holding attack/dodge buttons, that screams mundane to me. It's one reason I don't like the Kingdom Hearts style much, and I just hope FF7 Remake maintains more substance.

Did you test the Wait mode out much at all? I have to wonder how much that affects battles. Is it balanced, or does the game become much easier if using Wait mode exclusively, etc?

I used the wait mode for all of 30 minutes.
it pauses the action so you can manually libra the enemies. 
Found little use for it since Ignis will do it for you over time.

 

Like so many aspects of this game it just felt like a last minute addition 

Insanoflex said:
Like so many aspects of this game it just felt like a last minute addition 

That defo seemed the case for Wait mode. It was added to sort of somewhat satisfy those who miss the ATB/-turn-based combat. I couldn't imagine it would have been worked in perfectly as a late addition, but I guess it's nice to have the option for something different.

I can't say too much obviously, since I haven't played it, but it just sounds like FF15 is a mish-mash of ideas.

Were there any really cool/great standout moments for you? Without spoiling much.

Interesting! I actually really enjoyed this up until the last section of the game. Character moments were definitely weaker than I'm used to from FF, but I really enjoyed the ambient dialogue throughout most of the game. I'm hoping the revamps to the end areas help the game out a bit, but I didn't think it was terrible.

Game of the year for me. Though I've yet to play TLG.

I haven't got far in it but I love it!

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

The things I like I can't talk about without spoiling 

I hope this isn't a taste of things to come for the upcoming FF7 remake

( Edited 14.12.2016 07:14 by Ofisil )

A lot of quotes in the Internet are attributed to the wrong person
                                -Georgios Karaiskakis

Ofisil said:
I hope this isn't a taste of things to come for the upcoming FF7 remake

I think we need to keep ourselves pretty grounded with regards to FF7R. With Nomura at the helm, anything can happen. Fingers crossed it turns out okay, though.

Personally I feel like this and FFXIV highlight the big disconnect FF has had with the gaming populace. FFXV tried to go a 'realistic' route utilizing real-world stuff, action-focused combat, and so-forth and it's become a very divisive game at best. FFXIV went to a more fantasy/story-driven route with combat that managed to capture the turnbased/ATB feel and it's the #2 MMO on the market that was starting to nip at WoW's heels before Legion got released. You'd think that Square would learn when titles like Bravely Default get tons of praise while the more action-y stuff that isn't KH gets booed.

Snowtwo said:
Personally I feel like this and FFXIV highlight the big disconnect FF has had with the gaming populace. 


that is exactly the problem. remember that SE had to take feedback after they made the duscae demo because they are not capable of making a quality experience by themselves anymore.

( Edited 14.12.2016 12:23 by Insanoflex )

Azuardo said:

Ofisil said:
I hope this isn't a taste of things to come for the upcoming FF7 remake

I think we need to keep ourselves pretty grounded with regards to FF7R. With Nomura at the helm, anything can happen. Fingers crossed it turns out okay, though.


i really don't trust nomura at all. he has utter disdain for turn based gameplay and he has a complete misunderstanding for the story of FF7 as illustrated from all the expanded FF7 media that came after that he had control over.

Hironobu Sakaguchi was so key to the original FF7 and he has not been a part of FF7 since the original ps1 game. Aeris dying? that was all him and he was inspired by the death of his own mother. He made shit personal so you could relate. Nomura doesnt have a mind like that. he is only concerned with "cool" and image. its why he could never finish versus13 was because of his own indulgence.

i just know that FF7remake is only going to be a superficial remake lacking the qualities that made the original so wonderful.

Thom (guest) 14.12.2016#15

I think it's a pipe dream to hope that the FF7 remake will live up to the original. It seems that (and I haven't played FFXV yet, but I've played all the others) they've taken a lot of the mysticism and wonder out of the experience.  There's no more wondering if you can open every locker in the Shinra HW locker room. Now, the lockers you can open have prompts when you get too close.The adrenaline rush of toppling a giant beast is nerfed with difficulty settings.  I'm not sure if SE is to blame or I'm just getting old and crotchidy, and I'm going to play FFXV as soon as I can, but it seems like maybe Nomura needs to go before he makes FF7R into a lifeless "edgy" beat um up with magic.

I'm really sad they don't seem to consider turn-based relevant enough to use in mainline FFs nowadays, but it seems SE is always trying to copy what is successful elsewhere, particularly in the West, in order to make FF as a whole mainstream again. I don't think it's the best practice to try to take themes/elements from Call of Duty (FF13), Mass Effect (FF13-2), and Witcher 3 and other open world games (FF15) and apply them to your JRPG series just because those are what's "in" at the moment. Not to say they can't work -- open world can work fine for FF, as seen in FF12 and obviously 14 -- but the obsession with the West has to change, imo.

SE has some dumb writers there atm. Just look at what Nojima did to the FFX canon with the audio drama and 2.5 novella. FFX is his own work, and yet he utterly trashed it with these horrible fanfic-like media. Whatever you thought about X-2, what's in X-2.5 and the audio drama is ten times worse. Then there is Toriyama and his Lightning Saga.

Yoshi-P is the shining light at SE right now. There is a slide from one of his FF14 presentations that's gone viral since 15's release, which should tell you all you need to know about the man:



They really need to get Yoshi-P on board for a mainline FF after 14, but I really hope Hiroyuki Ito (FF6, 9, 12, creator of ATB) is next up. He's been quiet for so long. It's time. They have two top guys there, so they need to use them.

As for FF7R, of course it won't live up to the original, but I'll be all over it, and I just hope it does some justice, expanding on things where necessary and cutting nothing out. Maybe even retconning the crap they introduced with other media (erase Genesis, please). It's at least got the atmosphere down to a T so far.

Is S-E removing turn-based battles for FFVII as well? If so, I'm out. That's the core of FF. Remember when they tried to turn DQ into an Action RPG and the backlash was so strong they reverted back to turn-based fighting? Clearly the Enix side of the company listens to fans more than the Square side... No wonder FFXV has completely tanked in Japan. It'll struggle to even make it to the million mark the way it's started and dropped in its second week.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Adam Riley said:
Is S-E removing turn-based battles for FFVII as well?

it appears that is the direction that they are going. Tetsuya Nomura HATES turn based RPGs. have you ever seen him make one? All of the games where he had creative control had shoddy and superficial action mechanics in them. I guarantee that FF7 Remake will continue the trend of being some kind of button mashing schlock.

Adam Riley said:
Remember when they tried to turn DQ into an Action RPG and the backlash was so strong they reverted back to turn-based fighting?

SE knows that DQ fans are a very dedicated bunch and do not want the series to change in any way whatseoever. every aspect of DQ is firmly rooted in old school sensibilities and that is how the fans like it.

With FF, SE knows they can get away with more because the fanbase is so fucked and fractured and will eat anything with the final fantasy label on it. there was a time a when the name final fantasy meant something. and it was an event when a new one came. now SE will slap it on a ryhthm game, RTS or mobile game and call it a day because they know they can fuck the FF fanatics over and over and not even bother with quality assurance because they know they will buy it anyway.

DQ fans, not so much. DQ's audience is much more discerning and have much higher standards. they also do not come in as high numbers as FF fans- so DQ audience is also niche.

its like capcom and Monster Hunter. they cant afford to rock that boat and deviate from that dedicated group other wise they will lose them. 

Rocking the boat with FF has seen a massive decline over the years, so more fool S-E, I say. DQ compared to FF now is not niche in the slightest.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Adam Riley said:
Rocking the boat with FF has seen a massive decline over the years, so more fool S-E, I say. DQ compared to FF now is not niche in the slightest.


the proof is in the free market.
FF15 is the fastest selling FF game in history.

No - it's the fastest shipped. Not sell-through. In Japan alone there's still ~300,000 unsold units and its dropping like a rock.

It also sold far less than FFXIII here in the UK.

( Edited 15.12.2016 00:07 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

then i guess there is hope then lol

i would like to see the numbers for DQ7 on 3ds compared to FF15

You can't really compare a remake to a new game, though. You'd have to go back to when DQVII was originally released on PSone and compare it to worldwide sales of FF...whatever was out at the time.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

No point comparing 3DS games to console ones. The markets are too different tbh.

FF15 has done pretty well in the UK. Second fastest/highest selling FF, only behind 13. The week 2 drop-off is also better than 13, but it did sell 30% less compared to 13 in week 1.

It is Japan that 15 has done way below expectations, and you're right - it will struggle to sell 1m without heavy discounting. In the West, 15 has done pretty good overall, but Japan is a different story. Week 2 drop-off there is in line with other games in the series, but that first week was poor.

SE's obsession with trying to turn out the pipe dream of Witcher 3 sales numbers of 10m+ needs to change. The whole mentality with FF needs to change.

There's a reason why DraQue, Persona, Fire Emblem, MonHun and Pokemon shift units, and that's because they are consistent in what they set out to achieve. FF games have become the opposite, and has lost its identity as a series. On the receiving end of that, the fanbase is split too, as you can already see with Adam's comments - some people hate action, whereas others hate turn-based. The old-school, it seems, is crying out for a return to the classics. They want their Final Fantasy back.

There have been - and still are - some incredibly sad heated arguments, with some portions of the fanbase wishing hard for 15's failure, and others obsessing over it like it's the second coming. That's not to mention the pro-Nomura versus pro-Tabata face-offs from other groups. I don't think there is quite such a polarised fanbase like it in games right now, and it's not good for the series.

But all SE is thinking is how it can appeal to the broadest amount of people at the same time, sacrificing good story and gameplay for the highest production values and visually appealing combat. You would assume something like including the last-minute Wait mode in 15 was a last ditch attempt to draw those turn-based fans in that hate action.

The sooner SE gives up on trying to make FF a visual spectacle WRPG and selling 10m+ units, the better for this franchise.

This is why I say to get Yoshi-P in for a mainline as soon as physically poss after he's done with 14 content. As you can see from that GDC presentation slide, the man knows what it takes to make a good game, and if you've played 14, you will know how good it is. It's incredibly ironic that 15's development seems to embody the total opposite of what he achieved and put in to make 14 the success it is.
 

( Edited 15.12.2016 03:18 by Azuardo )

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