I have a theory about the Final Fantasy series and that is: Everyone’s favourite Final Fantasy game is the first one that they play. Whether it’s 7 (Which is most people’s favourite) or 10 (My personal favourite) I think whichever game gets you hooked on the series becomes your favourite and will remain as such forever. The downside to this theory is that whichever FF game you play after your first will feel like a let down. At least that’s how I’ve found it so far.
And so we come to the newest game of the series, Final Fantasy 15 and to begin with it’s a little different to all of its predecessors. It has been designed to be a FF game for players who are already a fan of the series and for people who’ve never played it.
As you know I don’t like to cover the story much in these reviews as I don’t want to take anything away from anyone who hasn’t played the game yet but is wanting to. With that being said, this review will be spoiler free and focus more on the gameplay elements. With regards to the story however, it occasionally has some weird pacing and there are parts of the main quest that’ll take a couple of hours to complete but the overall pay-off is good and makes for a surprisingly satisfying adventure.
In this rendition of the franchise you are locked in to playing as one character, Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum (Noct for short) and you’re accompanied on your travels by your 3 closest friends Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis. Each of your companions has their own traits and characteristics; Gladiolus is the big hitter of the group, acting as a front line tank in combat. Prompto acts like the hyperactive younger brother that everyone likes to make fun of but he can also see the joke himself and Ignis is the responsible know-it-all who the other 3 would literally be lost without. Each of them has their own specialties both inside and outside of battle but it’s the bond between the 4 of them which makes the game feel special. Even if all you do is run through the desert they will constantly be chatting away and observing their surroundings, there are a few annoying instances where I will be running in a certain direction and I’ll hear Gladiolus say “Noct, look at this” I turn around and see that he is quite far back so I’ll run towards him (which is what you’ll spend most of your time doing) thinking that ‘oh this’ll trigger a cut-scene and start a side quest but no. He says “Think I can kill it?” and that’s it… That’s it. I just ran 50 yards away from the direction I need to be just to reaffirm Gladiolus’ insecure ass of how strong he is.
One big difference between the latest game in the series is the combat system. Square Enix have said “no more” to the old turn based, strategic combat style and have opted for a real time approach. This to me is both good and bad. What I don’t like is that the old fighting system was the basis for the entire franchise and to remove it is kind of like saying “we aren’t going to have Turkey for Christmas this year, in stead let’s eat steak”. Don’t get me wrong, steak is my favourite food but if I ate it on Christmas day, I’d miss turkey. (And yes I know not everywhere has turkey on Christmas day but here in the UK we do). I also used to enjoy having to meticulously plan out my battles against high level bosses, dying multiple times, then switching out my party and planning again but I do realise that this may have been a tedious task for some gamers.
However, the new combat system does have its advantages. For example it allows you to fight, and beat, enemies who are much higher levels than your party. In old FF games if you fought someone much more powerful, you wouldn’t last more than 3 moves. But the latest game allows you to block and dodge enemy attacks at your will. It allows you to level up much faster, plus you get so much satisfaction from killing difficult enemies. Overall, even though I didn’t like it at first, I probably prefer the new system in terms of keeping the excitement and engagement levels high; but I would be lying if I said it didn’t lose any of the Final Fantasy charm that fills my memories.
The main downside to the new combat system however is the camera. The old FF games had a fixed camera whilst you plotted your next move, but as this one is all real time the camera controls are more complicated. It’s fine in open plains with not much around, but if there is foliage or you are fighting in a confined space, you often lose track of the enemies and have to manually adjust the camera yourself. This may not sound like much of an inconvenience, but when you’re trying to chain together attacks and choosing where to dodge/point-warp to, it really throws you off.
My next point is the world. It’s huge. It’s phenomenal. The level of detail taken to create it must have been unbelievable. It isn’t perfect though, there are occasions with a few invisible walls and the trees are really annoying (a lot of them can’t be walked under even though a human would be able to). However you soon forget about these gripes when you fully immerse yourself in the vast open world layout that awaits you.
Overall, it’s a massive improvement on the last couple of Final Fantasy games and I can’t wait to log more hours into it. However it’s much simpler than most games in the series, great for new players but it does lose a little bit of the sparkle. I’m literally loading the game back up as I finish this review.
Reviewed on Playstation 4 by Danny Pursglove