Square Enix (studio)
29 November 2016 (released)
15 December 2016
After a decade of waiting, the game formerly known as Final Fantasy XIII Versus has finally been released to the eager fanbase. Final Fantasy has a long history with both ups and downs, but does this game meet the hype?
Firstly, the gameplay. This entry sticks to a live-action style of RPG that the series has somewhat struggled with in the past, but here it seems to flow very well. Those of you who played the Episode Duscae early previews, or the Platinum Demo needn’t worry, as it has been improved from those iterations. The game has a very fast pace when the action gets going, and you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings if you are to survive. Defence is paramount, as you won’t last long if you just endlessly swing for the fences without trying to block your opponent. Thankfully however, your teammates are on hand, and the AI seems to work well, although it’s not perfect. You pick up plenty of options for combat as you proceed through the game, whether it is from teammate skills, the ‘Ascension’ skill trees, or the various weapons that are found throughout the game.
It’s never a dull moment, and the game feels like it’s trying to take you on a very big adventure with four close friends. Almost every level of what you do in the game is contributing to your progress: whether it’s camping out in the wilderness, hunting beasts for coin, indulging in the hobbies of each party member, or even just exploring without a destination in mind, there’s rarely a dull moment. The content doesn’t feel like it’s there to pad an otherwise thin experience, either; this game will take the average player around 30-40 hours to finish, and that’s without the post-game content waiting for you.
As for the story, the player will be taking control of Noctis, the crown prince and heir to the throne of Lucis. He and his three friends (bodyguard Gladiolus, strategist Ignis and close friend Prompto) are heading out for Noctis’ marriage ceremony with Lady Lunafreya, when they hear news that the crown city of Insomnia has been attacked. From there, they must navigate their way through the aftermath as they try to discover what really happened, and to reclaim the city if possible. I won’t spoil anything beyond that, but the story does take you on quite the journey across the land of Eos, in a four-man mission to fight back against the Kingdom of Niflheim.
The game also integrates itself well into the story, as you are rarely stuck in a static world. Areas open and close, characters come and go, and various calamities beset your group as you make your way, making for a much more alive and interesting story. However, the story does get a little shaky in the later chapters, as the open world begins to give way to more linear sections of the game. Thankfully, it’s not debilitating to enjoyment of the game.
One area of writing that deserves special praise is the character development for the main four. They interact with each other so often like they’re long-time friends, all laughing and enjoying one another’s company, while being ready to put it all on the line for one another. You rarely get this level of detail in the small talk between characters from other games, if you get any small talk at all, and it’s yet another level of detail that adds depth to the world and these characters. You want them to stick together and work together, but most importantly you want them to survive together. It’s not just in the calm, either; They are constantly communicating with one another in battle, throwing out advice and keeping track of each other as things progress. This isn’t some ragtag group out to play hero; they’re a well-oiled unit that are made to be the heroes.
And you’ll certainly not be lacking in things to see; this game is absolutely gorgeous. It’s easily one of the best-looking games on offer right now for consoles, and if you happen to have a PS4 Pro then you can reap the reward of the high quality settings. Everything looks lush and gorgeous, from the deserts to the wetlands, from the cities to the dungeons, and all of the named characters. There’s no slacking on quality here.
So, it’s been ten long years for many fans of this series. I may not be someone well-versed in the older, classic titles of the series, but I get the feeling that this game was worth the wait. Its flaws are few and small, while its qualities stand out for attention. The issues in the later stages are what keep it from being absolute perfection, but that’s the idea; Final Fantasy XV never needed to be perfect, but rather it needed to live up to the hype. And it does, in more than enough ways.
So that’s one ten year wait over with a happy ending. Here’s hoping that when Kingdom Hearts III FINALLY hits the stores, it’s two for two.
+++ Excellent character writing
+++ Amazing graphics
++ Great gameplay
++ Large amounts of content
- Second half of story suffers
A PS4 copy of Final Fantasy XV was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review