Genre: JRPG, realtime action-y combat
Platform: Playstation 4
When I break it down Final Fantasy XV is a mixed bag that somehow ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. Taken individually, the components that make up the game are far from perfect. The story is forgettable and the combat system is so-so, with a number of convoluted sub-systems that aren’t easily managed. Difficulty is frustratingly uneven; the main quest is easy to the point that it offers virtually no challenge, but side quests are unpredictable and run the gamut of difficulty from easy to impossible. The monster hunting system is fun and rewarding, although as with the rest of the game, the difficulty needed to be fine-tuned and balanced a little better.
The big change for FFXV is it’s open-world structure, but I don’t think Square Enix succeeded in pulling it off. The bulk of the game takes place in a single open environment, and whereas other Final Fantasy games created off-screen space through locked doors, roads that stretch into the distance, and importantly, transitions between spaces, Final Fantasy XV fails to hint at a bigger world beyond its navigable space - the average town appears to be nothing more than a petrol station, diner, and a generic apartment block. There’s rarely any interaction with the locals, and the towns all feel like a pit stop and nothing more. The result is a game world that feels small, and lacking the sense of “epic” adventure that other games in the series delivered on. Despite its flaws, the open world portion of the game is the best part, and when the late game switches to a linear sequence of vignettes at various locations and times, the game becomes a grind.
Final Fantasy XV features a variety of product placements, and they all feel forced and out-of-place. Products include camping gear, instant noodles, a credit card, and a designer dress. It’s a weird experiment, and feels like the wrong genre or setting for advertising.
The game’s graphics are a strong point, is is usually the case with the Final Fantasy series. The game is gorgeous, although at times, the combat camera is frustratingly in the wrong place, increasing the reliance on button mashing over strategy in combat. A lot of time travelling between locations is spent on-rails as the car drives itself (at least, until the flying car upgrade is unlocked in the end-game), and it’s clear that time and effort has been put into making the view from the road a good one. Unfortunately, just pulling over to explore something interesting is cumbersome, with the car needing to pull over often hundreds of metres from where you want to be.
Despite its many flaws, Final Fantasy XV is an engaging game; one that I managed to spend upwards of 100 hours playing before the difficult and repetitive grind of the post-completion end-game put me off.