Final Fantasy 15 review | Final Fantasy XV review

The world of Final Fantasy 15 has taken a long time to develop, with fans of the series waiting for the game for almost 10 years. Set in the open world of Lucis, gamers follow the story of Prince Noctis and his three friends Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus on a journey not only to reunite with bride-to-be Lunafreya, but to seek out the Royal Arms and defeat the technologically-advanced Empire of Niflheim. The journey takes the protagonist a long way from home, with the story putting an emphasis on friendship, destiny and legacy. Read next: Best upcoming games of 2017

Final Fantasy 15 review: UK pricing and availability

Those interested in playing Final Fantasy 15 can do so right now, as the game was released on 29 November 2016. In terms of availability, interested users can pick up a copy from online retailers like Amazon or GAME, along with high street retailers. Those opting to head to GAME can pick up a copy from £44.99 for the Day One edition, while those that opt for Amazon can get it slightly cheaper at £39.42 at the time of writing. The game is available for PS4 and Xbox One, with PC gamers sadly being left out this time around. 

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Final Fantasy 15 review: Storyline

The main storyline in Final Fantasy is one fraught with plot twists, vital for any game that offers a story that’ll take over 40 hours to complete, according to the developers. There are 15 chapters in Final Fantasy 15, and once you’ve completed it, there’s an additional 140 hours of in-game content in the form of side quests, hunts and more to keep you occupied. In terms of depth of content available, Final Fantasy 15 is one of, if not the biggest game release of 2016. Of course, being an open world game, you can stop following the main story at any time and partake in any nearby activities, which should also help to keep gamers interested over long periods of gameplay.

However, while the game is open world, there are times where the game takes a more linear approach. You’ll be warned before-hand that you’re about to leave the open world for a while, and is essentially a last warning to stock up on the various weapons, medicines and equipment available to you. While this only happens for brief periods in the beginning, the game becomes more linear as you go on with much of the second half of the game feeling much more like a traditional Final Fantasy game. We love the open world element of the game and although more linear chapters of the game offer more intense drama and gameplay, we’re not a fan of the restrictions put into place during those periods in the game.

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Final Fantasy 15 review: Environment and transport

The open world of Lucis is vast and varied, featuring elements similar to the real world with cars and motorways alongside more medieval and archaic elements like castles and armoured soldiers akin to knights. There’s even a huge meteor that’s said to be held up by a God, a spectacular sight to come across during Notcis’ travels. Everything that you can see in-game can be reached by the player, adding an extra level of depth to the game. See a weird, twisted mountain in the background? You can go there. Huge glaciers of ice protruding from the ground? Yes, you can go there too.

There’s also a weather system and a full day-and-night cycle, which bring out a varying number of beasts. If you’re wandering through a forest on a rainy day, your chances of running into a high-level giant toad are pretty high, although the scariest and most powerful monsters (or daemons, as they’re known) only come out at night. It’s recommended that low-level gamers avoid travelling at night as daemons can range from level 20 to 54, and it’s also worth noticing that Ignis will refuse to drive at night, forcing Noctis to take the wheel. The dark environment brings its own challenges, such as visibility and being more prone to ambushes.

The main method of traversal in-game is to use the Regalia, the customisable vehicle of choice for Notcis and his friends. The game is one of very few to integrate an automatic driving mode where fellow adventurer Ignis takes the wheel and drives you to any destination in real time, allowing you to sit back and take in the variety of vistas that the game provides. We’ve stumbled across many an impressive view while exploring the game, enhanced only by the stunning visual effects employed by the game. The environment is vibrant, gorgeous and most importantly, alive, featuring many a creature – some friendly, some not so much.

While it’s fun to sit back and have somebody drive around for you, it can become slightly boring at times – especially if you’re travelling from one side of the map to the other, which can take up to 10 (real) minutes. The good news is that if you’ve been there before, you’ll be offered the option to fast travel there for 10gil, an option we found ourselves taking more and more often as we progressed through the game.

Apart from the Regalia you also have access to Chocobos, long-time characters in the Final Fantasy Series which provide fast travel in areas that the car can’t handle, such as forests and mountains. It’s much faster and easier than travelling on-foot, and your Chocobo buddy will also give you a hand in battle once its levelled up enough. The Chocobo can be rented on a daily basis from a number of places throughout Lucis, and can be summoned at any time during the rental period.

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Final Fantasy 15 review: Battle system

The battle system can be the making of- or the downfall of any game and after playing the Final Fantasy 15 demo only months ago, we were concerned. However, we’re glad to report that it has seen quite the improvement since and although it took a little getting used to, we love the combat system employed by the game. It’s not your standard button bash setup – gamers need only hold the attack button to unleash a chain of attacks on the enemy, allowing them to use the left analogue stick to select various moves. Pointing the stick up may prompt an aerial attack, while pointing down will trigger a charging move, although the moves available depends on the type of weapon used.

 

The slightly automated attack system also allows you to keep an eye on not only your attacker, but those around you too. You must watch for small cues that suggest the enemy may attack, and defend against, parry and counter said attacks. We must admit that this did take a lot of getting used to, but once it ‘clicked’ it was an extremely effective way of battling, from taking out groups of weaker enemies to timing dodges and parries right to weaken even the biggest and strongest opponent.

Notcis also has access to abilities that allow him to ‘warp’, providing an extra in-battle advantage. Noctis can warp to wherever his sword is thrown and although the distance travelled isn’t much, it comes as a great help when cornered. It’s the warp strike that can do the real damage. The Warp Strike warps Noctis towards an opponent sword-first, causing huge damage when he hits, and can become more powerful if performed over great distances. You can also warp to a warp point to recover HP and MP, while also providing a birds-eye view of the battle below. It’s vital that users observe the environment and use any warp points to their advantage when battling.

There are a variety of weapons available too, each with unique characteristics that make it more- or less effective against certain enemies. Weaponry is available throughout the open world, with Noctis responsible for not only upgrading his own weaponry but that of his comrades too. Along with weapons come spells, incredibly powerful tools to use in the heat of battle. The three spell elements – thunder, ice and fire – can be crafted in the Elemency menu and combined with items for additional effects. While these spells are extraordinarily powerful when used in the right situations, there aren’t many areas to collect more of each element, making the user more considerate about choosing when to use a spell.   

Of course, what’s the point in travelling with three friends if they never get involved in the action? Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus each have unique qualities and while you can only control Noctis, your AI-controlled friends can be called upon to unleash huge attacks, although these require the Tech Bar to be filled. Joint links allow team mates to gang up on enemies, and are usually triggered after a successful block and counter, or if you blindside an enemy. These attacks can be devastating, and show off some of the more complex moves available in Final Fantasy 15.

However, they’re nowhere near as devastating as the Astrals that you can summon once unlocked. Astrals are essentially Gods that Noctis can call for a favour to deliver a crushing blow to the enemy. The environment will determine which Astral will appear, along with the type of attack used. We were scooped up by one gigantic Astral before he unleashed a flurry of thunderbolts on the battlefield, effectively destroying all enemies within it. While these moves are fairly uncommon, the fact that you can summon a God mid-match adds a level of excitement and satisfaction unmatched by similar open world games.

There’s a lot to think about in battles in Final Fantasy 15, that’s clear. While some may feel overwhelmed by this, the game features a Wait Mode akin to earlier turn-based Final Fantasy games, applied to real-time gameplay. With Wait Mode enabled, you’re able to pause the game and look at the battle going on around you. You’re able to scan enemies for strengths and weaknesses, as well as plan who to attack next, without the need to move quickly. Of course there is a Wait Mode timer and once it runs out, you can’t use it again during that battle, but this makes the system a lot fairer. We love the idea of Wait Mode, and use it frequently in-game to strategise and help turn the tide when losing a battle.    

Final Fantasy 15 review: Havens and camping

Funnily enough, all the EXP you earn from battling and completing quests isn’t automatically added to each character. Instead, the game requires you to camp in order to tally up all EXP (amongst other things) since the last time you slept. This makes it an essential part of the game, as the only way you’ll be able to level up is by camping out or staying in a hotel. The benefit to staying in a hotel is that (depending on the hotel) your EXP will be multiplied by up to 2, depending on the quality of the establishment, although you’ll have to pay to stay in them. The good news is that Lucis features a whole host of havens where you’ll be able to set up camp and – more importantly – eat food prepared by Ignis, something not possible when staying in hotels.

As a Chef, Ignis will take the ingredients available to him and craft food that provides the team with buffs such as increased damage or heath, along with immunity to status effects like poison. The effectiveness varies depending on the ingredients and, as with any other game, the rarer the ingredients are, the better the buff. While it’s nice to feast on exotic meals, some ingredients are pretty rare and we’ve found that in a game with so much to do, cooking doesn’t take priority.

You’ll also get to review a series of photos taken by Prompto during your travels, with the option to save your favourites. As Prompto’s photography skills improve, so will the shots he produces. While there doesn’t seem to be any in-game benefit to the photography, it allows gamers to look back on some of the best moments from the game, hand-picked by them.

OUR VERDICT

Final Fantasy 15 is phenomenal, in terms of the open world environment and the engaging storyline it provides. There's so much to do in the game that it'll take around 200 hours to fully complete, with 40-50 hours being spent on the main storyline alone. The Battle Mechanics are different to similar games and although it takes some getting used to, it's extremely effective and intuitive. The world of Eos feels alive, and is a place we can't see ourselves leaving for quite some time yet.

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