Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 22.03.2018 5

Review for Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC

Final Fantasy XV debuted on console systems back in November 2016 and the immediate expectation by many was of an imminent port to the PC. After all, in recent years Steam has taken a whole new level of relevance with many developers who previously would have shied away from the platform - Final Fantasy itself being many of the key exports. Square Enix resisted an immediate granting of the wishes of many but, thankfully, March this year has proven the time to unleash an experience that feels very natural on a more powerful rig, capable of delivering the promise of a grand open world that was imagined. Of course, the wait has also come with the perk of bringing a definitive collection of the associated DLC, with three episodic packs included, as well as a high resolution texture pack developed specifically with PC in mind. More than that, it also comes at a modest price reduction, keeping in mind the age, and is available on Steam for £34.99. Cubed3 has taken the opportunity to assess if Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC does indeed give the game a new lease of life.

Very few franchises in entertainment have the potential to divide fans as much as when it comes to Final Fantasy. In a way, this is the sign of what a remarkable series this has been for the past 30 years and demonstrates the renowned storytelling credentials built up over decades. Ultimately, though, the last few iterations have tended to receive mixed reactions, culminating in the controversial Final Fantasy XIII. Therefore, it does not feel too far of a step to suggest that this is not a series at the top of its game or on a par with the glory days of the late '90s and early '00s.

However, what is apparent very early here in FFXV is that it tries to wash away the pains of the last few years. This is apparent right from the first second - indeed, before even jumping into the actual gameplay, the introductory splash screen displays a pertinent message, proclaiming this to be "A Final Fantasy for fans and first time players." This would normally be put aside as a pleasant piece of marketing speak, however, here it seems to sum up very starkly the balance that is attempted to be created and one that it largely succeeds in finding.

The first and most important thing to say is that Final Fantasy XV is an extremely ambitious title. The amount of systems, mechanics and detail injected into every facet of the experience is significant, to say the least. Nobody can accuse Square Enix of not being painstakingly focused - in a way this has both many positives and notable negatives.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC

Beginning with the positives, combat has been completely overhauled from any previous title and is the largest departure from traditional turn-based that there has been. This will probably be disappointing to some; however, it doesn't feel like this is a world that would have accommodated the slower nature of gameplay. The real-time action-based focus has the effect of bringing a cinematic quality to every single fight, even the most basic. The influence of many of the directors and producers of the Kingdom Hearts titles has surely played into this change and with it, adapted for the new audience. Combat is fast and fluid and takes on an easy-to-learn but tough-to-master approach when it comes to taking down the very strongest enemies.

Going back to the main message - despite this change with tradition, within the combat, all the elements many veterans will remember are still there. Weapons obviously play a big part and upgrading them is still important. More importantly, however, magic is also here - albeit used in a slightly more realistic and strategic fashion. Magic tends to run out more quickly and isn't readily available at all times. Therefore, rather than just being a throwaway gimmick, it takes on real importance in deciding the best time and place to use it. It is also enhanced with a significant skill tree that is a quiet nod to the sphere grid of Final Fantasy X.

If there was one general criticism of combat it could be that it veers slightly too far towards the lower end of difficulty, at least in the everyday fights. There are plenty of optional boss fights, again in the tradition of Final Fantasy; these will challenge even the most developed characters. However, with the introduction of the warp strike, combat can sometimes become far too formulaic, especially when the encounter rate can sometimes be incredibly high and it then becomes a battle of rushing the fight as quickly as possible.

The additional major break in tradition is the open-world structure to gameplay. It would probably be fairer to describe this as a 'guided world,' however. With less focus on exploring, it mainly acts as a more natural way to introduce side-quests and monster hunting, which make up the bulk of activities within it. Aside from that, it does get a little tiring driving around the open road for most of the time spent in it and fast travel soon becomes the preferred option, which isn't a great advert for it.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC

This is certainly not GTA in a fantasy setting and there is not a huge incentive to explore without directive. It is, however, very beautiful and is a stark contrast to the incredibly linear adventure that received so much vitriol in its mainline predecessor. Not to mention it is endless fun to run through forests and plains while riding a chocobo.

Of course, it would be remiss not to talk about the story, which is arguably one of the most critical aspects of a great Final Fantasy. It's a little unfortunate that it is rather mixed. That isn't by any means to emphasise bad, and by the standards of a normal RPG it is actually good. However, the pacing is all over the place at some points and it suffers from a slow start.

Additionally, there are major issues with the approach Square Enix has taken in demanding that so much of the background lore and character motivations are hidden behind other sources. That is to say that in order to get a firm grasp of what is going on within this world from the first moment, it is almost necessary to watch the feature-length movie Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, which lays out much of the background of these warring states.

There is also an online web series, which directly deals with the four main protagonists. The appeal of this franchise-building is understandable but it assumes right off the bat that this is a narrative that people want to be acutely invested in and, even over a year after the initial release, this is not entirely clear. Square Enix clearly invests a lot of ideas and capital into these adventures, but the lack of confidence in just stacking up a single great story rather than trying to flesh it out over a whole variety of mediums can sometimes rankle.

The secondary issue with the story is that it lacks a strong enough antagonist. There have been many issues with numerous iterations within the franchise, including some of the most loved ones. However the best have always included great and memorable villains: the ones with the most compelling goals, destructive power or simply great and menacing dialogue. The antagonists here feel a little too by the numbers and the subtle tale of politics doesn't tend to get the best out of them.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC

With that said, there are a number of fantastic moments; set pieces that really bring to life the ideas that Square Enix is able to create RPGs like no other developer can. The storytelling and dialogue shine in the interaction and growth of the four main protagonists. They engage constantly, both within the open world gameplay and within cut-scenes, in lots of natural banter and conversations. This really teases out their personalities in a realistic way and forges their relationships in the eyes of the player. They are clichéd, of course: Noctis the quiet and brooding prince, Gladiolus the headstrong protector, Ignis the strategic nerd, and finally, Prompto, the comic relief who is full of energy and just generally a big kid. However, despite the clichés, by the end of the 60-hour story it is really easy to care and love these guys. The meaningless conversations while driving or the mini-games at camp lend a quiet and realistic approach to characterisation that rewards engagement.

The benefits of finally having the WIndows Edition allows primarily a whole new audience to experience what was previously console exclusive. With that comes the raft of improvements regarding graphics mainly. The more important one, however, is with frame rate. It always felt on the consoles that FFXV was pushing them to their breaking point and the on the ground experience was one that just about coped with everything thrown at it by this huge development of mechanics and world structures.

With a decent rig the experience is night and day with highly increased resolutions, textures (including a gorgeous high resolution texture pack that brings a whole new layer of beauty) and frame-rate emphasising what an eye catching world this is. Night times are transformed from a previous muddy mess to suddenly using the enhanced lighting to really bring an extra level of sparkle and atmosphere. One of the other most notable improvements comes in anti-aliasing, which always detracted from the prior version.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is firstly and primarily a fantastic addition to the Final Fantasy catalogue. It addresses the critical faults of its predecessor and sets the franchise back up on the path to greatness. Memorable characters, exciting combat, and a risk taken with the change to the open world, show Square Enix as developers who have proven their credentials for delivering top-class RPG experiences. It just slightly feels that it was behind the curve here, which may be as a result of the long development time. There is the overriding feeling that the open world lags behind some of the competitors in the field alongside a story that has a number of issues that detract from it. With that said, the PC release has redressed many of the technical issues with that world and has given it a whole new lease of life that brings out the immense beauty of the world.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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

>definitive

nope.
its going to be missing the season 2 dlc

Has the Season 2 DLC dropped yet?

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

it will eventually. 

all i can see is tons of people buying this, thinking they will betting a complete edition, and then feeling totally burned when SE shows off the NEXT batch of shitty dlc season this E3.

So I guess my question is, after they release the next "season" , will they then further bundle it all together into "The Tome of Final Fantasy XV", or whatever name they decide to give it?

Btw Chris, great review!

You mean a bit like Activision did with the numerous bundled versions of the first Destiny? Smilie Constant repackages! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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