Final Fantasy XV (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 18.12.2016 5

Review for Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

It's been a hard road for the old-school Final Fantasy fans out there, with the series filled with delays, disappointments, broken promises and… a lot of Lightning. Despite all of these problems, there has been the promise of a better tomorrow constantly ahead, as Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XV have all finally broken out of development hell. Well, the first of these auspicious releases is finally here, but could it be a return to form at long last? After the Xbox One review, Cubed3 presents another take based on the PlayStation 4 version.

The story of Final Fantasy XV is basically just a road trip between four friends. A young prince named Noctis heads out with his three pals and guardians to meet with and marry his betrothed in a move that will unite long warring kingdoms, bringing peace and prosperity to the land. Of course, things can never be quite that simple. The peace treaty is a sham, Noctis' father is killed, his home occupied and his journey instead becomes quite a different one: a quest to become king, save his people and overthrow an evil empire.

Right from the opening, it's clear this is something very different to anything that has come before in the legendary franchise. Florence + The Machine's cover of the classic "Stand by Me" beats out of the sleek and stylish Regalia. "It's a big old world," grumbles Gladiolus—and the audience has no idea just how true that is. Final Fantasy XV is set in a huge and sprawling open world that is an absolute joy to experience. The landscape is vast, varied and beautiful, there are beachfront paradises to lounge at, ancient ruins to explore, and miles upon miles of forests filled with monsters.

It's not just monsters littering the landscape, either, as there is a veritable smorgasbord of side-quests and curiosities to keep the player off the main storyline for untold hours. There are tons of bounty hunts for various familiar Final Fantasy fauna to slaughter, fishing mini-games, collectibles all around, and plenty more—certainly one of the best is tracking down the royal tombs, which hold the ancestral weaponry of Noctis' lineage, each with a small dungeon or unique mini-boss guardian to keep out the riff-raff.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Strangely, as the game progresses, this huge open world is cast aside and replaced with a handful of chapters that are littered with dull linear dungeons. It's a terrible move and thankfully one that Square Enix has already addressed, promising a patch in the future to improve one particularly negative chapter. It's quite disappointing considering FFXV had been in development for a decade. This is the sort of thing that should have been ironed out early on in the recreation.

Another aspect that suffers from disappointing elements is the combat. At its core, the combat system is horrendously simple and can lead to some quite boring encounters (well, boring to play, certainly not boring to watch), taking on huge groups of enemies while only using two buttons. Holding Circle unleashes a torrent of attacks, striking and spinning through stylishly choreographed dynamic combos. Holding Square blocks just about any attack the enemy can dish out, and following up with a tap of Circle after a block can deliver a stunning counter.

The combat improves somewhat as the game progresses and extra abilities for both Noct and his team are unlocked. Party members can unlock abilities to use on command, along with others they'll use as they see fit, while Noct can switch up his game by adding more equipped weapons and numerous abilities of his own. The prince can equip up to four weapons or spells and freely switch between them in combat. The weapons types and styles can add a little depth to battles, as can learning different types of parries and warp attacks.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Magic and summons add another layer to the combat, but one that is horribly flawed. Magic is made using the Elemency system, and allows Noctis to draw fire, ice and lightning energy from the gather points near camps and use that energy with items to craft consumable spells. It's like a poor man's version of Final Fantasy VIII's draw system. It goes further downhill, too, as the spells are fairly limited to the fire/blizzard/thunder trees, along with adding some modifiers to the spells, like granting experience, adding poison effects, and so on, and the spells are on a linked cooldown, making for very limited use. It does succeed in making magic feel destructive, at least, as it deals massive damage in an area to friend and foe alike (exploding allies and listening to their cries is quite a guilty pleasure).

Summoning is even worse. The spectacularly huge Astrals have a list of specific conditions that must be met before the ability to actually summon them even appears; for example, being near death while having allies incapacitated and being near water… Even then, it's rare for the option to be revealed, but when it does, the reward is very impressive.

To make the best of the combat you need to change up the actions of the team, understand and utilise party attacks, switch between weapons, and command special attacks from the team at opportune moments. Not to mention taking the landscape into account, and landing hits from the flank or from blindsiding enemies that can deal huge damage bonuses, as well as opening up team-up attacks between party members.

Square Enix invested in building a number of supporting materials narrative-wise. The Kingsglaive movie and the Brotherhood anime are certainly worth watching to help explain some of the background of what's going on. There is also a surprising amount of detail hidden within the world for those willing to look for them; they aren't delivered through overt exposition, but instead in listening to the conversations of NPCs and reading the documents found scattered here and there in the world.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

The party is another example where Square Enix is trying something new. It really is just those four members for the majority of the game, and while some extra characters pop in to join up briefly here and there, they don't hang around. Before the game was released, this felt like quite a negative; playing with party builds and seeing how the characters work together was a core part of previous games. That being said, it ends up feeling like the right choice, as the group feels like it really grows into a family. The friendship and brotherhood between them feels genuine, all helped by the little natural moments in the story to grow and foster those relationships.

At night when they rest at a camp or an inn, instead of a black screen and some music, the group shares a meal and is seen laughing and playing cards, then thumbing through Prompto's photos from the day. When travelling, the team's level of banter is so realistic and well written that anyone with close groups of friends will immediately be able to relate to it. Noctis and Luna may be the romance the adventure was advertised with, but this bromance is the heart of the story.

One of the reasons this brotherhood feels so genuine is the characters themselves. Each of the party members are unique and memorable characters that work so well together and play off each other fantastically. The voice actors do a great job, too, delivering some truly enjoyable performances. The main party isn't the only star in this ensemble, either; everyone loves a villain, and Ardyn continues in that long line of slimy Final Fantasy antagonists that players love to hate. Then there's Iris, the quintessential "little sister" character that everybody will hope Noct ends up with.

When it comes to series mainstays and nostalgic moments, long-term fans have been catered for in spades, with many an Easter egg to keep them smiling. Prompto sings acapella versions of the classic chocobo and victory themes, soundtracks of past games can be purchased for the CD player in the Regalia, the plains are littered with signature enemies from Final Fantasy history, and, of course, characters like Biggs and Wedge pay a visit, too.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Final Fantasy XV marries elements that made the series so well loved, with fresh new ideas and inspiration from Western RPGs, and manages to be both a love letter to the series and something brand new. It's so easy to get attached and invested in the story of Noct and crew, despite the game's several flaws, but there are indeed too many aspects that hold the adventure back from reaching its full potential. There are key moments that will be pleasing to long-time fans, but just be aware that there are some drawbacks to this otherwise engrossing role-playing escapade.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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

Very balanced review! What sounds frustrating to me is the fact that you almost need to have watched all of the extras to get the most of this.

Take Kingslaive, for instance. Drew - would you say the story would make less sense, or draw players in to a lesser extent, if that movie hasn't been seen?

Also, the battling really concerns me...

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

Kingsglaive certainly enhances it but in a way makes other things more confusing, especially in the final chapters of the game. Hoping the season pass helps to round it out.

The battle system was a major put off to me at first but honestly it wasn't so bad as the game went on. I'm fascinated to see how they manage to incorporate 4 player co-op.

I've forced myself to jump in now, and I'm currently not impressed. It starts off with my slowly pushing a car for longer than seems necessary, and then I've just been treated to what seems like a Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto style missions section, with a target point leading me to each step required...and the battle system Smilie WTF is this? It's just melee style button mashing?

Please tell me it gets better. This is NOT Final Fantasy. What's the line it feeds you at the start about it being for long-term fans and first-timers? Certainly isn't for long-term fans, from what I'm tasting so far. Is there NO turn-based battles in this at all?

Seems like a slap in the face that there's little NES sprites used in the menu screen. 1990s Adam is crying hard right now Smilie

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

Az - have you given it a go yet? I'm intrigued to hear your take on it so far.

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

Not yet, but have got a week or so off mid-Jan, so hoping to give it a go then, if not before. Hearing so many mixed things about the story, which is like the top priority for me, so really hope I end up leaning on the "like it" side of things...

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