A Game for Final Fantasy Fans and First-timers.
This has been the first Final Fantasy game I’ve played in a long while where I couldn’t put the controller down.
You are in the world of Eos, and you play as Prince Noctis of Lucis–the next in line to be king as well as the crystal’s chosen. His country has been at war for some time against Niflheim, which is a land brimming with technology. They want what you have: the crystal. You learn that Noctis’ ancestors come from a long line of crystal protectors, and the crystal granted them special abilities such as summoning many types of weapons on the fly and warping.
The story starts with King Regis sending you off with your four friends to the City of Altissia to be married to your childhood friend Lunafreya as per the conditions of a peace treaty with Nilfheim. But the game doesn’t start with the pomp and circumstance that would normally surround a royal wedding. Instead, you and your four buddies are pushing their broken down car (called the Regalia) down a long stretch of highway. Side note: I highly suggest that if you’re going to be playing Final Fantasy XV, you watch the movie Kingsglaive beforehand. It gives you amazing background about all the things that happen in your home country once you leave. Not only that but the battles and CGI are absolutely amazing.
Playing the game I loved watching the characters develop, and spending countless hours with them have me looking at them all in a new light. I won’t lie, Prompto was a little annoying at first, but now he’s grown on me; he feels like the little brother you never had. Noctis is the brooding prince who has this “I’m bored and I don’t care,” attitude. Gladio or Gladiolus is the big big brother you wished you had, always looking out for you and he seems to be able to make friends with everyone. Last but not least, you have Ignis who is the quiet older friend who always is punctual and wants to make sure you’re eating right. The four guys make up your party, and each one of them brings different strengths to the table. Unlike previous games that’s it, just the four guys. There’s no switching out with other party members and honestly it doesn’t bother me. The developers have stated that further down the road there may be additional DLC that makes some other characters playable, like perhaps Lunafreya, but for right now it’s a guys night out.
Gameplay is similar to the Witcher III: a huge open world where the only means of transportation is the Regalia (your trusty car), your chocobo, or your own two feet. I loved riding around in the Regalia. You can set the car to auto drive and pick what destination you want to go to. Main quest? Side Quest? Maybe a mark on the map or a previous resting spot? Just select it and cruise. It’ll tell you how long it will take you, just put on some tunes and drive. If you select Auto, Ignis will chauffeur you; if you select Manual, it’ll be Noctis (AKA you) in the driver seat. Driving is easy but don’t be reckless or else your beautiful Regalia can take damage, and you’ll have to take it to Cindy at Hammerhead to get it fixed up, and don’t forget about refueling! Yep! That’s a thing! Just like in the real world you have to refuel the Regalia. Riding on chocobos is fun, but at the same time it’s not as fast as driving and you can’t select AUTO either.
The world of Caelm is huge and there’s tons of things to do and explore. You can check out gas stations and diners to do side quests and hunts, or you can simply explore the world and find treasures, items, or fishing spots. The game is also run by an in game timer which lasts about proximity 20 minutes real world time and goes from dawn, afternoon, dusk and night. Night time is where all the high level daemons come out to play and Ignis will tell you it’s time to turn in for the night. Which starting out is a good idea, because everything at night takes a lot of time to take down.
Turning in for the night means either camping, staying at a caravan, or inn at one of the gas stations. Camping is free, and Ignis will cook for you, staying at an inn or caravan will cost Gil but it will give you a perk such as an experience multiplier.
The battle system is interesting, and you only have control of Noctis. The controls are very similar to the controls of the Witcher III. You have your four basic buttons: Attack, Block, Warp-strike and you use the D-pad to cycle through Noctis’ equipped weapons. The various shoulder buttons are used to use healing items, use your tech bar, and summon. A lot of the fighting is button mashing and using a combination of warp-strikes to take down your foes, and if you unlock Ignis’ analyze skill from the Ascension skill grid, he can tell you what your foes weaknesses are. Warping with Noctis is one of the most fun things to do in this game, and I do it constantly, which is a blessing and a curse. Warp-striking does a lot of damage but it also uses MP. Use it all up and it can put Noctis into Stasis–he won’t be able to use any special skills until his MP has recovered. The nice thing about MP and HP is that they regenerate for Noctis, so make sure you’re keeping track of them.
Also make use of Noctis’ blocking and defending: completing a successful block will allow Noctis to parry and stagger his opponent. These are also crucial if you want to do well in battle. Moving around and attacking from behind will give you bonuses such as Blind-Side damage and help you to take down a particularly dangerous foe faster. Not only that, but there’s also Link-Strike which will trigger one of your pals to do a super sweet move with you. Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto’s AI are very good, and I’ve only had to help them only a couple of times. I do suggest making sure you level up their skill grids–you’ll be happy you did. There’s also a Tech Bar that fills up when the party attacks enemies. Filling up the gauge will allow you to call upon one of your friends to do a special attack. These attacks come in handy and can turn the tide of battle so use them!
You can not only use physical weapons during battle, but you can use magic as well. It’s not the type of magic you’re used to from previous games. You have Blizzard, Fire, and Lightning. You can absorb these elements from rocks near numerous campsites or on the world map. They’ll have little icons to tell you where they are located. You can combine the fire element that you’ve obtained to make it more potent. Try adding a potion or two! If you do it will also heal you! More potions means more healing potency. I love adding potions because it can help out in a real pinch. Magic is a double edged sword though, it will not only devastate enemies but if you cast it near a party member it will also hit them and cause them damage. I’ve done this numerous times… Sorry Prompto. You can also add in items you obtain from enemies or shops, some of which add poison status, or maybe even a possibility for a dual- or triple-cast! Also, if you can manage to get the potency above 100, you unlock the next level spell. For example, Fire turns into Fira, Thunder into Thundaga, etc.
Now, fighting and completing missions give you EXP, however it will not level you up. You can’t level up until you make camp for the night. There all your earned exp will be tallied and you’ll level up, which will give you standard HP and stat increases. Leveling up is one thing, but in order to earn AP for the Ascension Skill Tree, you need to do things in the world. You get AP from doing many things: giving good responses in a conversation, making camp for the night, going on a long chocobo ride, etc. In the Ascension menu, the skills are broken down into different categories such as Teamwork, Magic, Combat. Etc. Unlocking certain skills are essential if you want to do well.
The party also has special skills: Prompto takes photos, Ignis cooks, Gladio is a survivalist, and Noctis fishes. Prompto is sort of like the scrapbook of the game: He’ll take photos of everyone, and even take photos during battle. When you stop for the night, you can pick through his shots and save some! I actually find myself saving a lot of his photos so that I can look back at them. You can also share them to social media. Ignis’ cooking skill is essential and can give you much need bonuses to health, defense, and even strength; however Ignis will only cook when you’re camping. Gladio’s survivalist skill will help find items in the world like Potions and Elixirs, which you will need. Noctis’ skill is fishing which at first seems useless (and maybe it is) but it’s so much fun!
The graphics and visuals in this game are just insane. I love watching sunsets as I’m riding in the Regalia, or watching the individual strands of hair move while the wind blows. The world of Eos is what it should be: unkempt and worn down because of war–the streets are uneven and not well-maintained, and even the gas stations look like they came out of Fallout.
I love the little details Square-Enix included in the game. For example, after battling for a long time, Noctis will look dirty and you can see sweat stains on his shirt. If you cast fire magic you’ll have char marks on your face and hands, or if you use blizzard magic you’ll have frost on your clothes. Even the Regalia gets dirty, but no worries–Cindy can clean her up for you! It’s little things like that that make this game stand out. I’m always pointing out different things I notice and it makes me feel like the developers really took their time and put so much effort into making it special. The cutscenes are also top-notch. I just finished my battle with Titan and I actually had to stand up. It was so intense and massive I didn’t think I could really win.
The music in the game is also phenomenal. What caught my attention awhile back was finding out that Yoko Shimomura was the original composer for all the music. She is the composer for the music in Kingdom Hearts, and you can definitely hear it in some of her pieces like the battle theme that plays during a fight. One of my favorite pieces is one of the field themes that plays while you’re exploring, the piece is very reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki movie or the music the plays while you’re about to load your game, but nothing got me more excited than finding out that you can actually listen to older Final Fantasy music while driving in the Regalia. You can buy the music at different shops all around the world. They have music from the original Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy XIV and Dissidia. BUT WAIT! There’s more! You can actually purchase an MP3 player and listen to your music while you’re out traveling on foot! Nothing beats listening to One-Winged Angel at night while being chased down by daemons. Yet again it’s small things like this that reinforces that this is a game for Final Fantasy fans. My only wish is that they added more music, I was saddened that they didn’t have more tracks from Final Fantasy X, but I’m sure they’ll add more, you’ll just have to pay for it.
There are so many things I love about this game. From the little quirks like Noctis complaining about being too warm or too cold, the guys’ reactions when someone farts in the car (seriously, it happens! And let’s be honest, in a car full of guys, it was going to happen eventually anyway), to the Coleman chairs at the campsite, or the small American Express sticker on the outside of a gas station. It’s small things like that about this game that makes me truly love it.
There’s only small things that I didn’t like about the game: Some aspects of the story feel like they’re missing or rushed and I’m unsure if they’re going to add them in with the season pass or they are going to leave us speculating. I was also unhappy about how linear the game feels after leaving the land of Lucis. I really wanted to explore more and some of the choices you have to make about taking a party member along doesn’t matter because they’ll end up coming with anyways. The game isn’t really challenging as far as enemies go, I think the most challenging enemies I faced was when I was taking over an enemy base rather than taking out the end boss but it didn’t ruin the experience for me I still enjoyed myself.
I won’t lie. I was scared about how this game was going to be. I’ve been waiting almost 10 years and I was worried it wasn’t going to be good, I’m so glad I was wrong. If you’re having any second thoughts about this game, don’t, it’s amazing. But don’t let me be the only one to tell you to get it. Ask your friends, because they’re probably telling you the same thing. It’s worth it.
+Amazing Open World Concept
+Fast-Paced Battle System
+Classic Final Fantasy Music
-Long loading screens
-Linear at the end
Sam Budzinski is a Geekiverse writer and Co-Hosts Geek Bits with her Editor in Chief Josiah LeRoy, as well as doing Geekiverse podcasts with the gang.
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