Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 13.12.2016 82

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

Azuardo said:

Don't know if CD has much RPG experience, and I think the writing would need to be upped if Tomb Raider is anything to go by, but some risks wouldn't go amiss. Let them work on something whilst SE puts something together with the 14 team.

maybe getting away from Lara Croft and trying a fantasy quest epic is what they need? sometimes people find their strength in the most unlikeliest of places.

if CD can be counted for one thing, it would be polished gameplay.

who would have thought that ubisoft would make an incredible mario strategy game?

who would have thought that ubisoft would make an incredible mario strategy game?

I guess that's the thing to point to every time now lol. It's a valid point.

But you know, a collab effort with Nintendo could be sweet. The only catch is that would limit it to Nintendo exclusive, so obviously wouldn't happen. However, an FF exclusive between N and SE could be killer. A proper FF RPG, not another Crystal Chron spinoff (altho I wouldn't say no to another CC).

Azuardo said:

who would have thought that ubisoft would make an incredible mario strategy game?

I guess that's the thing to point to every time now lol. It's a valid point.

But you know, a collab effort with Nintendo could be sweet. The only catch is that would limit it to Nintendo exclusive, so obviously wouldn't happen. However, an FF exclusive between N and SE could be killer. A proper FF RPG, not another Crystal Chron spinoff (altho I wouldn't say no to another CC).


id never suggest SE work with Nintendo.

although the prospect of Ubisoft doing FF could be interesting.

Wanna good plot?

Two hundred years ago a massive war waged across the world as mages sought to rise up and create their own nation. It was brutal, destructive, and ended with the mages slicing off the top of a mountain to call their own while preaching to their inhabitents that the world had been over-run by monsters and it was only the power of the mages that kept humanity alive. For two hundred years they have believed this while, at the same time, any who dared to intrude on their borders were swiftly and silently dealt with leaving everyone in the dark. That is until recently when one thief finally managed to break through and attempted to steal an object that was believed to have been long lost; the wind crystal. Instead of having been lost it had been silently hidden away to serve as the true source of power for the nation. However, the thief is caught but not before the battle pulls a young schoolteacher into it against her will. Upon learning the truth she escapes in the night hoping to gather support to free her homeland.

The only problem is that the world outside is still suffering immensely from the war. One race lost all its males and is facing the fact that it's extinction is inevitable. The dwarves are stuck in a drunken stupor due to the loss of their holy mountain and have sunk entirely into dispair. Humanity is struggling with wild and chaotic times as, with the wind crystal stolen, their world is unstable and even the help of the spirits can't even out the balance. Time is ticking until the conflict becomes inevitable.

Much better than what happened in XIII or XV, no?

Snowtwo said:

Much better than what happened in XIII or XV, no?

probably.

i have no idea what happened i 13 or 15.

Are people who've played through 15 already supposed to care when they remake/add a new cutscene to explain lore and clear up confusion? Are we supposed to just play through the game again with each new scene that gets added, or jump around by watching them on YouTube? For anyone new to the game, once this is all patched in...in about 8 years' time judging by the work they need to clear up everything... it will be fine for them, but for others, I'm not interested in replaying this and being expected to just work backwards and jump back and forth to start piecing the story together again.

Enjoy art stills, some exposition from some other pointless character, and some bollocks with Luna (who they still haven't done much to show how "super stwong of a female" she is).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY9BI4VJBYk&t=0s

( Edited 02.10.2017 12:32 by Azuardo )

I'm not interested in replaying this and being expected to just work backwards and jump back and forth to start piecing the story together again.

nobody should be expected to play a game this way. the story should be able to stand on its own and be a coherent plot. imagine if films tried to do this... imagine a movie where you had to read separate novel just so that you can make sense of one vital plot point, or else youll be confused.

its sloppy, shitty writing and a sign that this was thrown together frantically to meet a deadline.

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