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Final Fantasy XV Review: Beautiful yet imperfect fantasy

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Final Fantasy XV is a magical experience, but it is not without flaws; and while there unforgettable moments in the game, plot holes, and tedious side missions left me in a state of exasperation.However, even though flawed, Final Fantasy XV is still a must play.

If you don't want to read the review, then watch my video summary of Final Fantasy XV below.

Final Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos. You take the role of Prince Noctis, who becomes king after his father is killed after the invasion of the Niflheim in his kingdom of Lucis. Political differences, and a power-hungry emperor, leads to a hoax peace treaty that turns bad. Niflheim knew that if they did not take Lucis by force, they would never gain control of the kingdom. The game picks up right before the events of Kingsglaive, the full-feature film that plays an important role in the game’s plot.

Although the movie is not part of the game’s package, unless you buy the Limited Edition of the high-priced Collectors Edition, you would want to watch the film in some way to familiarize yourself with the plot, as it does a poor job of introducing many of the main characters and supporting cast. 

Final Fantasy XIII was criticized for being extremely linear, so Square Enix made sure to fix that in FFXV, and they did. I was welcomed to a massive open world upon starting the game. Noctis and his band of heroes have found themselves stranded as their mode of transportation, the Regalia, has broken down. Immediately, the game was a sight to behold.

The land is vast, with so many unique ecosystems and creatures within. I would walk for hours through the woods, making sure to pick every ingredient up, and slay every monster that appeared in front of me. Often, I would beat off track as I saw a building in the distance and just had to know what was down there. As big as the world is, there is so much to do within, that it kept me busy for a long time.

Noctis cannot return his kingdom of Lucis, as roadblocks and military checkpoints, keep him from going to certain locations. Instead, he decides that he will use this time to prepare to fight the Niflheim kingdom by searching the land for Royal Arms, weapons handed down by the royal family, and gaining the power of The Six. The Six are in theory gods that have power over the lands, Leviathan, Rumah, Ifrit, Shiva, Bahamut, and Titan. They act as the summons in the game, but they also have key plot points to them, that are vital to the game’s story. While Noctis and his childhood friends prepare for the battle, new characters are introduced, and foundations are laid for the second half of the game.

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Noctis and his friends, each have their own unique set of skills that level up when used in the world. Noctis can fish at spots around lakes and oceans. Prompto is the photographer who snaps away throughout the day, and at night when I camped, I got to look at all the awesome photos he took. Gladiolus has a survival skill, which is probably the most unnoticeable of the four, as it just levels up and I had no idea what I did to get it to level up. Lastly, Ignis can cook, which is a cool feature in the game.

Every time I found a new mushroom, or caught a new fish, Ignis would shout that he knows how to cook it, and when I reached camp, I could choose from the long list of tasty, and good looking food he could cook. Each dish gave me a boost to stats in some way or another. My HP would be +500, and I was immune to petrification for a while the next day. It is a neat feature, of which I wish was more impactful. Although the stat boost was great, I never felt that they made a massive impact on the party the next day. Half way through the game, I just cooked whatever looked good, and disregarded the stat boost completely. 

The most annoying part of the game, is its thoughtless and uninspired fetch quests, of which make up at least twenty hours of the game at the start. Across the cities, NPCs will give out quests to take on. These range from slaying a certain enemy, to mindlessly running around an area to search for traps and disarm them. Not one of these quests were slightly enjoyable, and unfortunately, they left a bad taste in my mouth. The world is magnificent, but to send me to and from the same location a dozen times, become monotonous.

Running through the fields for twenty minutes to try and find a rock with gems on it, was like being submerged in a barrel of acid. The quest location on the map, pinpoints a set area to search, of around 200 meters, so that rock could have been anywhere. It was not the way I saw myself experience the game at the start at all. Sure, getting a Chocobo and heading out to slay a deamon, was fun for the first five times, but after that I so longed to pick up on the game’s great story, and find out what is happening with Luna, Noctis' bride-to-be.

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Other activities in the first part of the game include the fishing, cooking, and a half-decent hunt system, that let me take on bounties set on targets. I had to hunt them down and slay them for rewards. Some of these were high-levelled, and some were pretty easy, but fun nonetheless. These were fun as the game’s combat system is well-polished, and addictive.

Forget the classic turn-based combat, FFXV is a mixture of Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy XII. Enemies walk freely around the world, and engaging them would start a battle. Noctis and his friends would attack at will, tossing magic at them, slicing them up with an axe, and using the environment to warp to and from the battle, and for a combat advantage.

When things got tough and I needed a breather, I would look around for a street light or a scaffolding, and quickly warp to it, dangling in the air with my sword pierced into it to act like a support beam. After I planned my attack, I would warp directly back into the enemy, striking it, dealing a damage boost for the warp strike. Magic is also a necessity and relies on your crafting it from essence which is found throughout the world. Putting some thunder essence with a touch of fire, and then tossing in a Behemoth Steak, resulted in a high-damage thunder attack, which I could use three times. If I ran out, I would have to head back into the menu to craft more. I loved testing new recipes and mastering the different outcomes from using potions, and even phoenix downs in the mix. The possibilities were endless.

For the most part, the game is divided in two. The first nine chapters, are all about building up your band of heroes. Levelling up by doing those terrible side quests, and taking on all the hunts to buy new gear and weapons. When I was not fighting goblins in the forest at night, I was running through the small outposts, looking for soundtracks to listen to while driving around in the Regalia. I really focused my time on buying all my favourite classic Final Fantasy soundtracks to add to the car’s library, and made those tedious drives around the world, much more enjoyable.

The Regalia is a character on its own, as I spent much of my time running around looking for upgrade part for Cindy to put into the car. The effects on the car was unnoticeable, but the skins and paints that I used to customize the car, gave it my own flair. 

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Thirty hours in and I finally hit the second half of the game that let me break away from the open world and focus on the game’s true potential. The last few hours of the game, is the climax to the story and it is driven by darkness, heartbreak, tragedy, and hope. Everything we love about a Final Fantasy game, comes to life. It is a pity that it takes so long to happen, but regardless, the last fifteen hours of the game made up for all those mindless hours of grinding in the open world.

I was extremely over levelled when I hit these chapters so battling was a breeze, but the story is the focus during this time, and it is filled with beyond-spectacular boss fights, great cutscenes, and phenomenal character growth and identity. Saying that, there were moments when I questioned certain plot points, as events took place that never fully explained what happened to a main character. Many interesting characters I met along the way, just vanished, and the infamous chapter 13, which has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, did not make sense. Although it plays out well, there is much that needs to be expanded on to explain the outcome and direction of the story. 

Right before I had my final showdown, I had the ability to turn back time and head back to the first locations in the game. Here I could tidy up quests, and battle some of those menacing enemies that wiped me out the first time I tried to kill them. When I was ready I went back to the present, and did my business. 

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One cannot argue with the sheer magnitude of FFXV. Its beautiful world, and the tech that it runs on, is a testament to the series. The game is magnificent, from the magical particle effects after summoning Rumah to smite all that stood in my way, to the living and breathing world that came to life at every moment of the day. The attention to detail is beyond anything ever attempted in the series, and hit it out of the park.

Anytime of the day, in any weather, the game was a beautiful sight to behold. The sights and sounds, and creatures that roamed the ever-expansive lands, all felt authentic. From the tall fiery volcanic mountain, which I climbed to search for a Royal Weapon, to the dense swamp I crept through to fight Malboro. It was spectacular at every turn. It kind of made me forgive those terrible side quests, as if it was not for them, I would not have found myself exploring every edge of the map. 

Final Fantasy XV is a Final Fantasy for the fans and first-timers. The game has so much that pays homage to the series, but at the same time, the reinvented spins on the classic features, makes for a thrilling experience. It is a game you load up, put your feet up, and escape to for hours on end.     

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Marco CocomelloTwitter / MWEB GameZoneTwitter | Facebook | YouTube

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