Gaijin Gunpla


XV just released over two months ago. Is it too early to review? I feel that sufficient time has passed. Maybe. Hasn’t it? Am I early or am I late? With the previous games in our review series there was no real risk of spoiling anything due to the games being many years old but this time we could actually spoil something so allow us to come out and say,

‘Possible spoilers ahead!’

As this is our first crack at reviewing a current game the format will be slightly different than what we’ve done before as we need to provide a lot more explanation and detail, yet the same major categories will be given a grade and we’ll see just where the newest Final Fantasy ranks for us.

Not counting XIV this is the first Final Fantasy to be released on the Playstation 4 and, by god, it shows. This game is stunning! I’m sure that may come up again so I’ll just leave that as it is for now and talk about the various box art the game released with.

Everywhere except the U.S.

NTSC (North American) art.

Interestingly, if you pull out the cover paper and flip it over you’ll get this as the box art.

This is how I’ve got mine.

And if you’ve ordered any of the special editions you’ll get different artwork as well as a whole lot of other cool stuff depending on how much dough you were prepared to throw down.

Nerdgasm!

The Story

Enroute to wed his fiancée Luna on a road trip with his best friends, Prince Noctis is advised by news reports that his homeland has been invaded and taken over under the false pretense of a peace treaty – and that he, his loved one, and his father King Regis have been slain at the hands of the enemy.

To gather the strength needed to uncover the truth and reclaim his homeland, Noctis and his loyal companions must overcome a series of challenges in a spectacular open world – that is filled with larger-than-life creatures, amazing wonders, and treacherous foes.

XV’s lore is also told through additional media such as the Kingsglaive movie and the Brotherhood anime. They aren’t essential when it comes to understanding the story (I think?) but they do supplement well.

GG: I’m torn here. I think the lore the development team created is sound and interesting and I played the game always wanting to learn more. However, the game didn’t deliver it enough and when it did it was often done awkwardly with a fragmentary narrative. The game was filled with some interesting characters who have a place in this large story but many of them never had their own stories get off the ground. It’s almost like the game/story spits characters out as it speeds along at a pace often too fast to follow. It’s an interesting story told poorly. Grade: B plus

ASM: I guess I will come out and say, as disjointed as the story is, I can say I really enjoyed it, which is why I am frustrated with the disjointed parts. While Kingsglaive and the beginning of the game serve as somewhat background story to what you need to do at the end of the day, the premise of how everything goes down, and the lore behind the world is solid. Which is again why I wish there was more about the story in the game. But at times the main story takes a backseat to the story of four friends on a road trip, and that roadtrip in itself is solid storywise. Grade: B plus

The World

XV takes place in the world of Eos, comprised of three continents: Lucis, Accordo, and Niflheim. The northeastern land of Lucis possesses a powerful Crystal, which was gifted by the gods in antiquity to the reigning Caelum dynasty of which Noctis belongs. Accordo, located in the south, is made up of islands and has been annexed by the Niflheim empire, which lies to the west and benefits from its advanced magitek technology. The province of Tenebrae is under Niflheim’s control.

For hundreds of years Lucis and Niflheim have been at war. While many lands have been lost to the empire, the Lucian capital of Insomnia remains untouched due to the Wall, a barrier maintained by the king and the Crystal’s magic.

ASM: First off, the entire scope of the world, being created at scale is simply amazing. It really starts hitting you when it’s taking you ten minutes just to go halfway across the map in the car. Yeah, people might say the world is small overall, but how it is presented to you makes it feel incredibly huge. And it is one of those things that just have to be seen, as you leave the arid climate of the Leide region and move into the foresty plains of Duscae, there are times where you will just say wow. There is a lot of variety that is done in a way that makes it feel natural. There is a lot of wonder in the world and it is a beauty to see.

At the same time, in fairness there are cons. For as big as the world is, it is for the most part empty. The small outposts will have shops and places to stay, but there is really not much to do. While you can see the aftermath of the meteor that dropped so long ago, there isn’t much lore. There are factores and mines and towers and abandoned houses but nothing to really say as why or how. I guess the idea is yeah, the war with the empire but overall, it is a beautiful but empty world. For the idea of just wandering around and enjoying the world, it’s great, I just wish there were even more things to find, and I don’t mean the random junk that’s thrown around.

GG: Before the game released I made a comment that XV looked like XII crossed with GTA. I wasn’t too far off and the best part is that this world is an amazing place to get lost in. The landscape, the creatures, and the mysterious locales that call out to the adventurous all combine to form a place where you’ll easily, and without regret, spend hours upon hours. The day and night cycle combined with the cities and campgrounds breathes life into it. Yes, much of the landscape is barren and devoid of anything of interest but that makes the reward that much sweeter when you do stumble across something special. During my road trips I would spy something interesting in the distance and haul my bros out of the car to go check it out. If we were lucky we would come across a dungeon or perhaps encounter a person who really needed our help. It’s amazing what Square has done here and even more mind-boggling is that it could have been twice as big.

Travel

Getting around Eos can be done by various methods but you’ll spend most of your time driving in your luxury car, the Regalia. The Regalia can only travel on roads so you’ll have to get out to do most of your exploring. That’s where the Chocobos come in.

ASM Traveling by car was definitely a new twist to the FF formula that worked out much better than I thought. The idea of allowing you to purchase best hit soundtracks of all the previous soundtracks as well as just how pretty the game was led me to spend a lot of time just leisurely driving around. You can even upgrade the car to a flying model which, while you are somewhat limited in where you can take off and land, is a great bonus as well.

Inclusion of Chocobos is a given, and it ends up being faster (obviously) then walking. With that said, I spent more time on Chocobos and driving then walking, so building up Gladio’s survival skill (which is based on walking) ended up being the last thing for me to finish.

GG: While vehicle travel isn’t new to the series in XV your ride, that beautiful Regalia, is almost like a member of your party whom you grow attached to as the game moves forward. Traveling by car was never boring as I loved devouring the breathtaking scenery while Ignis handled the driving. During long drives the friends would move and act realistically and have often interesting conversations or just joke around. The driving AI is well done and the cars in front use their signal lights and Ignis will slow or stop giving them the right of way. It’s the little details like this that add to the experience. You even need to fill up on gas.

This is important. If you run dry you have to push your car to the nearest station or call someone to tow it.

You can also customise your ride by changing the paint colour (though you’ll need to collect the items you’ll need for that) as well as stickers and automotive components to improve performance. You could make it look gawd-awful if you chose but I just couldn’t do that to her. I had grown too attached. Chocobo travel was fine though not preferable to cruising. Prompto enjoyed them much more than I.

The Characters

Unlike other Final Fantasy titles in XV your limited to four main party characters. Other sub-characters may drop in to help but these four are the protagonists of the story and the ones you’ll be spending almost all your time with. Gone is the party member swapping that was a staple of the series.

Protagonists

Noctic Lucis Caelum

A bit different from the heroes we have had up to this point in that he is no where near as angsty as Squall or stand-offish like Cloud, but neither is he happy-go-lucky like Zidane or Tidus. Noct, is for the better part of the game, somewhat childish, but also somewhat rude, which comes from being the Prince I guess. He is also everyone’s errand boy, and seems to be absolutely fine with finding frogs, dog tags, or just picking up crap lost around the world. He gets some much needed development and maturing at the end, but I kind of wish he would have bucked up slightly earlier rather than just taking in everything with a “meh, ok, sure, whatever” attitude. – ASM

Gladiolus Amicitia

The tanky older brother character of the group, Gladio was never afraid to put Noct in his place. Has the best hit points and does massive damage. Only downside was his skill took forever to raise if you were economical and used the Regalia and Chocobos for getting around. – ASM

Ignis Scientia

The strategist of the group, Ignis not only offers timely advice but cooks the group’s food when they camp out and also drives the car while the others relax. He’s a bit uptight but just what the group needs. Other than Noctis he’s the only magic user in your party. – GG

Prompto Agrentum

Care-free, Chocobo-loving Prompto livens up the sometimes lengthy drives with humour as well as documenting their travels with his camera. He also sports machinery as secondary weapons which is not something Noct is likely to carry around. – GG

Sub-characters

Lunafreya Nox Fleuret

Luna is important and also interesting, but the backstory and character development needed to develop that interest further is lacking. Even with watching Kingsglaive, a lot needs to be inferred, and while the limited flashbacks help, it ended up feeling more like an arranged marriage (which technically it was) then an actual romance which is what the game wanted you to think. – ASM

Regis Lucis Caleum CXIII

King of Insomnia, Regis sees the writing on the wall for his doomed kingdom and arranges for Noctis to be gone when stuff starts hitting the fan. It turns out he’s very calculated in his actions. He was great in Kingsglaive. Then you hit the end of the story…– GG

Cid Sophiar

XV’s Cid turns out to be an old codger who is handy with his tools and can upgrade your weapons. An old friend of Noctis’ father, he offers some sagely advice at certain heavy points. – GG

Cidney Aurum

The first “Cid” of XV to be announced, she is unfortunately made up as a pin up model for XV. While what she does for your car is great, her design is jarring and out of place compared to every other single person in the game. Seriously guys, really? – ASM

Aranea Highwind

This is another case of an interesting character being given nothing to do. When you first meet her it’s part of a pretty epic battle and she flees when you wear her down. When next you see her she accompanies you in a dungeon and complains about her work. When you meet her the third time, despite some nice one-liners, she does nothing except agree to help you out with things while you’re away. Without more background she is left, like many other characters in the game, under-developed. – GG

Many other characters appear in the game but have so little story that we can’t accurately describe them here. Sorry Cor, Gentiana, Iris, and that general who appears in one cut-scene.

Antagonist

Ravus Nox Fleuret

Winner of the I have a backstory, you’ll just never hear about it award. A friend? turned enemy turned friend again? Yet enemy again. Unfortunately you need to watch Kingsglaive for more context. – ASM

Main Antagonist

From the build up in Kingsglaive, it is somewhat obvious that Ardyn is pulling all the strings, in somewhat of a Kefka-esque type plot. If anything he is a pale version of Kefka, whose big moment comes a little too late in the game, giving you very little to do after the change. While the homage to VI is there, the execution of plan is lacking. Regardless, excellent dresser, and the voice actor (JP) was great. – ASM

Favorite CharacterASMGladiolus. Despite the funky name, he came across as the real leader of the group at times, and I enjoyed seeing him put Noct in his place, and felt he connected the most with Noct at the end of the day.

Favorite CharacterGG – Prompto, and that confuses me! I first thought he would be the weakest character and I was partial to Ignis when I heard his voice and thought it may be the same actor who played Balthier in XII. Listening to Prompto liven up the car trips made me like him more and more. He has some good lines such as, “Ignis. All bizness.”, and, “Let’s take a ride-o-la in the gondola.” To be honest I really liked them all and was disappointed in some of their plot turns later in the game.

Least Favorite CharacterASMCidney, I say this because of the design and just how it’s unrealistic (in regards to the world/settings).

Least Favorite CharacterGG – Probably Ravus. He really needs more character building because despite Square’s implying he is important, he isn’t.

Character Grade by ASM – B plus

Character Grade by GG – B plus

The Battle System

XV has an entirely new combat system called the Active Cross system which makes sense when you consider how you’re using your D-pad during combat. You have four slots in which to equip weapons or other and can switch between them easily. When your tech bar reaches certain points you can use your team member’s individual techniques. The hacking and slashing is done by locking onto a target and holding the O button. You can warp around the battlefield or into enemies with the triangle button while square allows you to avoid. If you are in close proximity to a friend when you attack an enemy from a blindside or if you parry and counter you’ll perform a link-strike together with that friend and greatly increase your damage output.

GG: I very much enjoy combat in XV and it reminds me of XII with all your teammates acting on their own. In XII you set the gambits which decided how your teammates would fight but XV leaves that to the AI with you activating Techniques when you choose. Link strikes are beautifully animated and fun to initiate. It’s really enjoyable to see your friends jumping around on the battlefield and they often talk to each other while fighting. The camera can be awkward at times, especially in smaller areas which can get really frustrating. The battle system is quite deep but often you won’t need to plumb its depths as holding the O button gets you through most things. The big open world makes for huge battle areas which you’ll make use of because some of these creatures are huge.

In other games combat is one of the things that quickly becomes dull but I love it in XV and only avoid it when the creature I’ve stumbled into is too high-level for my current group of bros.
Grade: A

ASM: Pros: Fast, fluid, frenetic, pretty, decent AI (when it works), magic is powerful, actual depth in things to do and styles
Cons: too fast, too frenetic, crap AI, targeting system is wonky, amazingly crappy camera at times, magic can be hard to use,and there is little incentive to actually go in depth past tapping or holding down circle.

So let me explain the comments there. The system is fun, I will give it that, it is fast like XIII, and is actually hard, as in enemies will hit hard and you can actually be overrun multiple times with things. But at the same time you can become powerful enough, and/or with food, that for the most part you can one man show most fights. Magic is good but can be hard to use, and to be honest, I never really used it. Link strikes, tech strikes, armigar, there is a lot there, which goes to show there is a ton of depth, but unfortunately as you can simply great sword your way through most fights, there is little incentive to dig further. My biggest frustrations would be when the AI wouldn’t kick in and the chocobros wouldn’t realize a fight is going on, so I’d end up fighting by myself, or, what happens more often, is that the shite camera would futz up the targeting, or the trees in the environment would be in the way, and I couldn’t see. And don’t get me started on the L1+R1 activation for the Armiger which half the time wouldn’t work due to wonky controls.

Combat is good when it works, and more often than not it works absolutely fine, especially in wide open fields, but when it doesn’t, there are things that do add up to the stress.
Grade: B plus

Magic

Magic is used in a much different way than in previous titles in the series. You have to draw magic from different points on the map, often near camp sights, and craft spells which you carry in flasks. Spells are then equipped in one of the slots in your arsenal. Crafting involves mixing between 1 and 99 portions of spells and can include items for different effects/boosts. It’s important to note that XV does not have the curing magic like past games but instead you’ll rely on your teammates to pick you up, as well as restorative items.

ASM: While magic honestly ends up being an optional combat tool, as there are no healing spells per se, there is depth in how you can craft your spells to have additional effects, such as healing, poison, death, stop, or even multi-cast or experience modifiers. At the same time you can easily go through the whole game without using magic at all. Magic is also considered friendly fire in the game barring equpping a certain item to prevent that, so more often then not I would cast a spell that would end up hurting the monster and my guys because they aren’t smart enough to stay away. Finally, to make the most powerful spells requires items that aren’t worth the effort of farming unfortunately.

GG: Despite being completely different to almost all Final Fantasy games I really like how magic is handled in XV. If you craft correctly you can make some pretty powerful spells and it is cool to see the 9999s come up when you throw one big one out there. Word of warning, magic is AOE in XV so you can harm yourself and your friends if you’re not careful. That doesn’t deter me. Another word of warning though. Don’t throw out your Blizzaga spell if you’re fighting in a body of water of any kind. It freezes a large area and anyone who is standing in it. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

The Character Leveling System

The Ascension grid is similar to the license board from XII but instead of progressing on one board you have several with each focusing on different areas such as Combat, Techniques, Recovery, etc. You activate the nodes on these grids using AP which you can gain in various ways such as camping, quest completion, and more.

ASM: Categorized by area, the grid gives you the freedom to pick and choose which path you want to go, from giving your boys new techniques, to getting experience just for driving around. Unfortunately the biggest complaint in this area is that gaining AP itself is slow and the idea of trying to enough save up enough AP to unlock one of the many 999 nodes is tedious. You will hit level 99 long before you get close to unlocking one of those nodes depending on how you spend. High hopes for an AP boosting item to be released in the future here Grade: B

GG: I have yet to really study in depth the Ascension upgrades. For the most part they are almost unnecessary for the story portion of the game. I’ve activated some important nodes in Recovery and some interesting techniques but some of the higher ones take huge amount of AP. You need 999 to activate the Break 9999 Damage Limit node. I’ve stopped activating nodes for the time being until I have more time to study the grids and in the process have banked 624 AP. Grade: B minus

Skills

Each character also has a specific skill that will level up during the course of the game, though some more quickly than others. Noctis loves to fish, Ignis cooks, and Prompto loves taking pictures with his cameras. Gladiolus’ skill is dubbed Survival and rises as you explore the huge world, on foot.

-Fishing-

ASM: Fishing is something that I got into at the end, and once you get it down, it’s actually not so bad. It’s pretty rough though at early skill levels and with poor equipment. While fishing mini-games have never been my thing, this one was fairly well done.

GG: Super Black Bass? I spent way too much time on that game as a child but I never forgot it. It’s interesting that Square would incorporate this into a Final Fantasy (well they did it in XIV). Fishing is a nice change of pace that actually can be beneficial for Ignis’ cooking. Stumbling across a new spot and seeing what’s biting is a good way to blow off steam and forget the weight weighing on Noctis. Square even went to lengths to have different fish biting at different times and in different weather conditions.

-Cooking-

ASM: Cooking is somewhat integral as the benefits given by one meal can easily power your party, turning a 5 minute fight into a 2 minute fight, and so on. Although in the end there are a lot of recipes you’ll end up not using unless you are good on keeping ingredients stocked. Lastly, given all the recipes to learn, I really wish they would have come up with more variations for “I’ve come up with a new recipe.”

GG: I’ve come up with a new recipe! During the course of the game Ignis’ cooking skill level will rise but seeing as he learns recipes from a large number of sources in the game you don’t benefit much from this skill increasing. Probably the best way to increase his repertoire is to eat at all the diners and restaurants or throw down some big Gil for a giant book of recipes.

-Photography-

ASM: While not useful for battles or items, the photos Prompto takes are for the most part really well done, and before you know it you’ve got a photo album to look back on. The only disappointment is that you’ll hit that 150 photo limit well before the end of the game if you aren’t picky with your choices to save.

GG: The easiest skill to get to 10, Prompto’s level will increase simply by playing the game. Each level grants you a different filter which you can use when editing your gallery of photos. I had it at 10 well before the end of the story and that was without using his Snapshot technique in battles. Just be careful, one of the filters you can get offers shots of Prompto unhandheld and all of a sudden you’ll see a lot of him.

-Survival-

ASM: If you spend a lot of time driving or on Chocobos, then this skill won’t rise so fast, but when it does, before you know it you’ll be rolling in healing potions.

GG: This is the hardest skill to raise but becomes quite handy once Gladio starts picking up mega-potions and stuff after battles.

Camping vs Lodging

XV’s world features day and night cycles and during the early part of the game you won’t want to venture out at night because there are some big creatures that will easily wipe out your party. Instead, it’s journey during the day and rest somewhere at night. You have the choice of using lodgings found in cities and rest stops or camp sights located throughout the open world. It’s only when you turn in for the night that the XP you’ve accumulated during the day is awarded. If you use lodgings you’ll get a multiplier on you XP. If you choose to camp you will get to choose a meal to prepare and eat. Meals provide stat boosts and/or buffs for the next day which are really helpful against some of the tougher challenges.

ASM: This was a big trade off of food effects versus XP boosts. I ended up spending more time at the inns in order to level up faster so didn’t do much camping until after I beat the game. Following that, I started camping more to raise cooking skills while fishing, and that’s when I discovered the buddy quests, which adds more depth to it. Additionally, the little interactions you can see both camping and in certain inns was also well done and added to the atmosphere.

GG: This is a really nice feature and well thought out, in my opinion. You’ll constantly have to be aware of where you are and what time it is and then evaluate the situation and decide when and where to crash. I guess to maximize things you’d camp, get a boost, kill high level stuff for big XP and then rest in a hotel to get the best XP return. I found myself lodging much more often than camping at first but as XP becomes less important I’ve been checking out the camp sights. Some of these have cut-scene subquests with one of your bros which can give you big AP. Regardless of where you choose to crash you’ll relax and check out the photos Prompto took during your day’s escapades. I thought this was a nice touch. Bonus cool thing, if you are on chocobo and you camp they’ll cuddle up with you under the stars.

The Limit Breaks

Limit Breaks don’t exist in XV but there is a suitable replacement. At one point in the story you’ll have another bar added to your HUD which, when full, allows you to activate Armiger which calls upon the powers of the past kings of Lucis. If you’re close enough to your party when you initiate it they too get in on the fun.

ASM: The Armiger felt a bit like an afterthought, carry over from Versus 13 and the trailers with the flashy phantom swords. And yeah it is flashy but due to wonky camera and poor activation success due to the need to perfect time your L1+R1 press, it would more frustrating to try and use as it usually took a few tries to get off. Grade: C

GG: Combat in XV is already fast and furious but activating Armiger is like combat on meth. It’s all a blur. I don’t normally use it except when Magitek soldiers drop from the sky. I hate those things. Imperials above us! Grade: C

Summons

It wouldn’t be an FF without summons though they are done much differently in XV. You don’t get to choose when to summon them. Certain conditions have to happen before Ramuh, Titan, Leviathan, et al will make an appearance. If you see a prompt during battle that means one is available to come to your aid and holding down the L2 button will summon them. They show up bringing a massive AOE attack that wipes out everything and leaves the battlefield scorched or frozen.



ASM: I liked how summons were done here, while in general there to help you in a pinch, when they come out, they come out big. They really make you feel the overwhelming power of the Hexatheon. Grade: A

GG: I like this concept but seeing a summon of some kind on the battlefield is a real rarity. I’m 65 hours in and (outside of staged scenes) have seen Shiva once and Ramuh twice. But holy crap they are epic. And rendered in real time! Grade: A plus

Mini-Games, Sidequests, and Extras

XV is filled with so much stuff but they didn’t forget the ongoing games and little extra things. The true side game would be an actual game called Justice Monsters Five which seems to be a futuristic cross between pinball and every current hot smartphone game.

-Hunts-

ASM: Hunts are defintely something that are fast becoming a staple since XII, which in itself took it from the Notorious Monster idea that existed in MMORPGs like FFXI. Hunts are fairly straightforward here, and while you get some pretty big or unique mobs, a lot of it still ends up being about defeating a group of mobs, so you may want to do these in batches as it felt pretty easy to burn out on hunts fast.

GG: I’ve yet to do the bigger hunts but I can’t wait. I loved the hunts in XII so thus feels like a continuation of that. As money can be hard to come buy early on hunts are your best bet.

-Everything Else-

GG: To be honest I haven’t spent much time on the mini-games. I’m just too absorbed in the world to want to pull myself out to play sci-fi pinball. Being a completionist I’ll get to it soon enough but I’ve got way too many things to do first. Quite a few of the quests could be considered extras and I wouldn’t have known about a lot of them if I hadn’t picked up the Ultimania books. I look forward to doing almost everything in this game, though. Grade: A

ASM: There are a few mini-games other than just fishing, like the monster arena, chocobo racing, and even a pinball/monster strike type arcade game. Aside from fishing I haven’t felt too compelled to do the other games aside from the initial tries. The monster arena will net you some decent items if you stick with the betting, but the novelty of Jusice Monsters Five dies off pretty fast. I was ambivalent towards chocobo racing, and don’t find it bad, just I don’t feel compelled to dig deep into it. Grade: B plus

Most Memorable Moment

GG: Driving by a giant Ox-like creature and seeing everyone in the car’s heads swing around to look at it as Gladio says, “Look at the size of that thing!”

ASM: There are actually a variety of them, the scripted pieces work really well. But while I can think of a variety of pieces the thing that sticks with me the most is the drive itself. The first time entering the Duscae region, or the drive to Lestallum itself, as you drive and look over the vast horizon and world.

Moment we’d most like to forget

ASM: Chapter 13. FF meets Resident Evil meets MGS. They could cut out 2/3rd of the fluff there and it would smooth out better. Plus, very anti-climatic for the empire after all the build up in Kingsglaive and so on.

GG: Chapter 13. I’m okay with the setting and what the developers were trying to do (mostly) however you can’t drop huge chunks of the story on us in the form of pieces of paper laying around the map that you have to stumble upon and take the time to read. Gawd that was lazy and it didn’t really work. Oh, and much of Kingsglaive was rendered almost irrelevant by the end of that chapter.

P.S. It’s even worse the second playthrough.

The Soundtrack

ASM: Yoko Shimomura has a strong showing for her first hand at composing a main number Final Fantasy. Known more for her scores in Kingdom Heart and the Mana series, Shimomura brings a strong new style to the series, with more piano based pieces than we have seen in the past. To be honest, I felt strong vibes of Kingdom Hearts from a few of more quiet pieces, including Somnus, one of the titular tracks promininent in the game.

That’s not a bad thing at all however, but it does lend to the feeling that some ideas from combat to musical themes were heavliy borrowed from Kingdom Hearts. Overall an enjoyable soundtrack, with strong battle tracks like Veiled in Black, and I really enjoyed the Valse di Fantastica track quite a bit and find myself humming it from time to time.



Grade: A

GG: Move over. There’s a new sheriff in town. I can use that pun since some of the early tracks have a Western feel to them particularly Hammerhead and the other music that greets you when you first venture out into that big open world.

I can’t overstate just how great this game’s music is. There are so many great tracks and themes. The music that plays when you close in on an enemy really sets the mood and the battle theme and its variations are grand. I’m digging all the tracks from the set pieces with Invidia so far being my favourite.

The music, like the game, is epic in scope but unlike the game the music is complete and runs together perfectly. It’s my favourite soundtrack of them all and that makes me feel a little bit guilty because it wasn’t done by Mr Final Fantasy, Uematsu. On top of that you can purchase soundtracks to previous Final Fantasy games in the various shops around Eos and listen to them while exploring the world. There is a tonne of good music in this game.
Grade: A plus

DLC / 2017 Roadmap

XV has turned into a live game with a planned out roadmap of paid DLC content, and additional item/booster packs and events. Additionally, major additions/revisions are being planned to help story fluidity (chapter 13)

ASM: While FFXIII had some DLC content, it was still somewhat limited in scope, compared to the overall plan for XV. Jumping on the “season pass” bandwagon, there are 3 major episodes planned along with a multiplayer option, for the next year. On top of that various content such as time limited events and booster/item packs have changed FFXV from a single “set game” to a live game with consistant updates. And in somewhat of a first, edits or additional content will be added to the story (Chapter 13) to provide more context for the janky disjoined latter half of the game. On one hand, I appareciate new material, and if anything, I would love to see more story fleshed out in updates… At the same time I worry that the paid DLC will simply be content that should have been in the game to begin with. If so then I can foresee a huge backlash coming from fans.

GG: I am one of those fans who wants to lash out at the concept if DLC for a single player fantasy game. You had ten years to get this game right and you couldn’t get it done so fans will now pay more for a full FF story. Yes, the story is disjointed and needs revision to reach its potential but that should have been done before release. I grumble about it but I did get the season pass because I don’t want to miss out on anything having to do with Final Fantasy XV. Just fix the story first instead of giving us chocobo festivals.

The Verdict

ASM: FFXV is a great game on the cusp of being an excellent game and the only reason it isn’t is because of some glaring flaws that make you wonder why. XV is the sum of old school “versus” new school, and while the flaws are there, when the game gets going, it works well. I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into XV as hyped as everyone else. Ten years in the making, or as I like to say, product of the “lets announce a concept as a game, and then figure out how to make that a reality later” mindset that SQEX has been afflicted with for most of the last 15 years made it hard to get hyped up for, but when it landed and I started playing, I got hooked, and having already put in 80 hours in the game, and still not done with all the extra content, and still don’t want to be done, I think that says it all.

So I will come out and say it, XV feels like an FF. From the excellent dungeon design, from environment to monsters, accessories, and equipment, everything is oozing FF. The scope of the world, small yet large, draws you in and the road trip itself, the journey, is the destination. Combat is fast, energetic, and at times, difficult, yet rewarding. There is depth in the combat system, from where you can try and one man it, or customize your chocobros to their strengths, whether you go swords or magic, is all up to you. And the story is something that actually pulls you in, you want to know more about the lore of Eos, and the Lucis kings, and why the world is so dystopian and anachrostic. And in the end, despite the boys looking like angsty members of My Chemical Romance from 2007, they come together as a team that makes the road trip a great experience, and you end up caring for them and what happens to them

Yet at the same time this is where the flaws for XV rear their ugly head, and keep a great game from being an excellent one, and that’s again why it’s just a shame. To bullet point it:

-Story telling jumps, especially in the latter half of the game, to the point that SQEX has said they will patch in more story to explain some of the weird character arcs, lack of information, and overall understanding of the story.

-Too much relying on external media to understand the story. To be honest, Brotherhood is required watching. Kingsglaive is required watching. Yet most of the people and arcs set up in Kingsglaive finish up early in the game or are just never used again.

-Combat is great, and the depth is there, but there is zero incentive to actually try and do more than hack and slash. Same with the magic, aside from creating expericast spells for easy leveling up.

-Camera is crap in combat, and truly wish there was a way to move the camera further back.

-Controls are wonky, with one button handling interact/attack (in the JP version, in the US I hear it’s interact and jump) leading to some sloppy situations when trying to pick up items or interact with things.

-There is a lack of emotional impact, especially with some of the things that happen that take you out of the story at times. My father died, ok, now let’s get weapons, and oh now let’s get the Hexathaen’s blessings. There is a lot of stuff that happens that the crew are just super blasé about and it just strange.

-Too many subquests: This is a strange one maybe, but there are just too many of the fetch quest subquest lines. While each subquest line will end up taking you to an area with an option dungeon or what not, there are just too many quests in each line that get kind of boring.

-A majority of placement of end game items and dungeons are gated behind beating the game, including the flying Regalia. Personally, I would have loved to be able to do some of the deep dungeons or get ultimate weapons prior to beating the last boss.

-Cidney. Why they stuck to this design, and why grandpa Cid would let her work as a mechanic with her breasts and T-back hanging out is just WTF. Honestly guys, put some clothes on her, and it’d be just fine.

-The super hidden dungeon is an amazingly well designed piece. That belongs more in Tomb Raider than FF. With the wonky controls this dungeon ends up being 3-5 hours of frustration. (yet it is an amazing design).

-And, finally, that ending though. I get it, but I don’t like it. (which means it worked?)

It’s been shown that, while not of MGSV level of incompleteness, there is a large amount of story that was cut from the second half of the game, due to time restraints. Despite 10 years of development hell, the real word on the street was that all the development happened in these past 3 years, and the team was under contractual pressure to put out a product by the end of 2016. Due to this, and the fact that they spent maybe too much time polishing the first half of the game, the second half suffers. Unfortunately this has been the same for both XII and XIII, and the trend continues in XV. Despite that however, there is much more to do after you beat the game, and while I beat the game in 45 hours, I’ve spent another 35 on fishing, sub quests, dungeons, doing hunts and leveling. And I still haven’t done the massive deep dungeons yet.

And that’s what I want to say in the end, while there are some deep flaws that frustrate me, it’s a great game, and a great FF, better than XIII by far. This is one where I actually hope they will keep building on the foundation that they built in Eos and the XV universe.

ASM Final Grade: B plus

GG: As ASM stated this game feels like a Final Fantasy game and really belongs in the conversation. It is huge and feels it. I truly enjoy being part of the world Square created here and want to get to know it more and more. When it came to world-building, exploration, party member relationships, and those parts of the package Square did some of their best work. The dialogue is exceptional in places. However, this makes the somewhat rushed and short story feel all the more lacking. With everything they created the potential for the story was high and the somewhat disjointed narrative really makes me feel that much of the amazing world is untapped or even wasted.

Like ASM, I’ll list some points:

– Dialogue is voiced and proceeds in real-time as well as in cut-scenes but for the real-time convos, in dungeons for example, the conversation topic has to do with where you are in the dungeon so if you sprint you’ll outpace the character dialogue and sentences will get cut off when the next topic begins. I found myself having to give up on the idea of sprinting in key areas.

– People may complain that the game railroads you at about the half-way mark but to me it seemed like that was happening much earlier. I recall maybe only Chapter 3 being the one where you felt the most free to do quests and explore.

– There are 15 story chapters in XV, similar to there being 15 Final Fantasy games in total now and in both these Chapter 13 is the worst be far. I found that ironic.

– As great as traveling Eos is by car riding on the Gondola in Altissia was so mind-numbingly boring.

– Cut-scenes indicate that Luna and Noctis share a close relationship as children but somehow they become soulmates without seeing each other as adults. huh?

– In the games we’ve reviewed up until now the big cut-scenes were done in CG. In XV, the graphics are so good on the PS4 that CG is used minimally. The use of real-time cutscenes allow for your characters to be rendered in the attire of your choosing.

– Your rewarded well for exploring. I was in an early chapter of my second playthrough, running around in the bush, and I stumbled upon one of the most powerful weapons I’d seen so far. It was more powerful than what I had purchased in the later chapters of my first play through.

– At the start of each new chapter some text is on screen explaining what is happening at that point in the story. Sometimes that text would give away things that you would be learning in that chapter. Stop that!

– I’m not sure how I’m supposed to play through this game. Unlike past games in the series, once you’re done the story you can continue to play the game doing quests. Do I stick to the story and do everything after or do I do as much as possible before completing the story? I ended up doing a bit of both during my first play through and when I started the second I did as many quests as possible until that moment I learned my father had been betrayed and the story started in earnest. From there it was all story. Once done with that the world of Eos, and all its quests, is my oyster.

– The ending upsets me.

This game has the potential to be amazing but we have to settle, for now, with just fantastic. I may often complain I lack the time to play games now but I’ve still managed 68 hours of play time and am on my second story play through. I’ll be playing this for a long time yet which may be the best compliment I can give it. It may be too early to determine where it fits in my list of FFF (Favourite Final Fantasies) but if it lived up to its potential (which it may still do as the creators aren’t finished) it would be right near the top.

GG Final Grade: B plus

Combined Final Grade:

ASM finished the story much sooner than I did but waited patiently for me so we could discuss the newest FF tale. We’ll put that discussion at the end of this post because it is basically all spoilers from here on out. Don’t read if you don’t want a lot of big story stuff let out of the bag before you’ve played the game.

WARNING: SPOILERS!

You’ve been warned.

Discussion

ASM: In the end I find it super depressing. You were groomed to die. So was Luna. I really Like the game but the ending is darker than expected and the plot really feels rushed during the last chapters. Feels like the mobs up to the final two fights were annoying and hard to kill compared to the last boss, who was a pushover. The story gets darker but Noct and crew don’t carry the weight of the situation like they understand. There are flashes of it but the boys, Noct especially, make it sound blasé. And seriously 10 years pass and it’s ‘What’s up? Let’s roll’? That’s it? Aside from the plot jumps and blasé attitudes though, the game is gorgeous, music good, and combat enjoyable for the most part. And what the game doesn’t explain is the Starscourge and Ardyn.

Basically Ifrit hates humans and when the meteor hit it brought the Starscourge and he helped it propagate. The Oracle and ring of Lucii were created to purify and banish the scourge and crap like that. So apparently Ifrit was supposed to be last boss but they switched it to Ardyn as they couldn’t figure stuff out until the end. The first half of the game is great but after you get the car back you can tell they didn’t know what they were doing and the latter half ends up being set pieces that they created but didn’t know where to put in the story.

At the end of the day they didn’t do any real development until Tabata came on board. Props to be given for all he did to piecemeal it together. If it wasn’t for him the game probably would have never come out.

But the last half needs more work in making the story more coherent and impactful. I mean really. Disappear for ten(!) Years. The bros are like welcome back, spend one night in camp then go off and die, I mean you save the land and the sun rises but the jumps there and the lack of emotional connection is terrible. X did it better.

Dungeon design is amazing though, I love the designs here. I feel like I’m playing 4 or 6 in 3D with the dungeons. And the car was a brilliant idea. But in the end I was unhappy to see Noct sacrifice himself. Just as he stopped being an arrogant dick too.

So in the end to me XV is a great game that could have been excellent but it seems they ran out of time. (Wasted what time they had).

GG: Sounds like you were holding that in for some time. I understand all of your points. I’ll try to sum up my feelings on the story and gameplay I’ve experienced so far.

First off, I love the world and how you experience it in the Regalia. It’s huge but people may not realize it because they have a driver. A lot of attention was paid to the cruising part of the game. Ignis drinking his coffee. Gladio reading his book. Prompto on his smartphone. All rendered real time. It was impressive. Love the road trip feel and the use of photos. Did feel, however, that it was a bit out of place once you read a newspaper story detailing how your father was killed. Road trip is still on.

Hunts are for the most part great and where the real challenge in the game is. With the inclusion of fetch quests and your team members mostly acting independently I felt I was playing a single player XIV. I liked that. It also reminded me of XII which is a good thing.

I’m still not sure I know the combat system or Ascension tree well. I really didn’t spend much time considering what to unlock in Ascension and most of it is still locked. And for me combat consisted of slashing and feeding my members high potions to keep them alive. Until the last chapter that was enough. I didn’t rescue them when they where in danger because a high potion would do that for me. It was only during the Gravus fight that things got tough and I switched to High elixirs. Curatives aren’t hard to acquire.

I loved the party members though Noct doesn’t mature until it’s too late to matter. Then Ignis is robbed of his sight and Prompto turns out to be an MT but it doesn’t mean or affect anything.

The art direction, character modeling, and music are all fantastic. Combat is gorgeous when you can see it and if you’re pulling off blocks and parries what you see when your teammates jump in is a thing of beauty.

Now for the ending. I don’t mind it being depressing if I’m still heavily invested in what’s happening but the last chapters just dulled my interest. It does seem to go downhill once Luna dies. After that you think all you have left is to avenge their deaths but you’re robbed of that when the emperor is dead long before you return. What’s the point of Kingsglaive again? In that film you don’t really get to know who Ardyn is but in the game you’re never really told why he is important.

I thought the idea of talking to the dog in order to go into the past was ridiculous but when I saw that the opening scene in the game is the start of the final boss fights that I realized that the entire game takes place in the past. Everything is gorgeous to look at and the first half the game is a joy. But the last half go by so fast I don’t remember chapters 8-12. It’s amazing to think they had ten years to make this game and it was finished hurriedly. It’s done really well so maybe we hope for a XV-2.

Do you think Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto die as well? They were in that final place with Ardyn, Noct, and Luna.

ASM: Apparently it’s supposed to be ambiguous but there is no indication that their dead. Just that last final every one together for my last attack kind of peace of mind is how I interpreted it. As in its all in Noctis’ mind as he finishes up and dies.

GG: Ya. I guess the end with Luna kind of drives that point home. Which would be kind of a touching moment had they spent more time developing their romantic relationship. It was an arranged wedding until all of a sudden Luna was crying wanting to see him once more.

If upcoming DLC gives us Noct’s ten year story of realization, acceptance, and preparation for his sacrifice of himself and his friends then that gap in the current story can be closed over somewhat.

I hate that we have to dissect it in this way due to the plot gape but we must have feelings for it given that we are talking about it in depth.

Damn you, Square!

One Response so far.

  1. Urielventris says:

    I really like the “everywhere but the US” cover. I think it more accurately evokes the game than the one we got over here.

Leave a Reply