The much anticipated Final Fantasy XV opens with the line “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers” and it delivers on that promise. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game before, although I’ve watched a few been played and have always been interested. So, with the latest installment of the franchise committing to a drastic change in setting and shifting to real-time combat, this seems as good a place to start as any.
Final Fantasy XV is set in the world of Eos where the magic wielders of Kingdom of Lucis are fending off the ever expanding military prowess of Niflheim. The story starts with protagonist Prince Noctis setting out to formalize a marriage alliance with his three friends in tow. By the end of the first chapter, the story takes a shocking turn of events that foretells of a plot full of interesting twists.
Before jumping in there’s a combat and lore tutorial available. The combat tutorial is helpful, if tedious but not really necessary. The game does a good job of pointing out the mechanics and controls as they come up, so you can skip the combat tutorial if you want to get right into the action. The lore tutorial, however, is perhaps more useful, as it quickly explains the backstory of the fully fleshed out world you’ll soon find yourself in.
Veterans of the series may be apprehensive about the new direction Square Enix has decided to take the latest title but the trademark spiky hair, oversized blades and epic emotional story lines are all still present. This more modern setting blends in cars, guns and cell phones with sci-fi robots and aircraft along with magic and lore to create an interesting world. The variety of themes also allows players to try out a plethora of activities from fishing and camping to crafting spells and fighting beasts and high-tech soldiers alike.
Gone is the menu based, turn by turn combat JRPG fans have come to know and love, being replaced by a fast paced real-time combat system. Things like commanding your party members, using items and assessing enemies for strengths and weaknesses are still part of combat, but they are streamlined into efficient combinations of button presses instead of menu navigations.
Key features of combat in FFXV are warping and phasing, magically enhanced offensive and defensive maneuvers that allow Noctis to move quickly with some flashy graphics to make things more exciting. Warping can launch you across a battle field to attack an enemy in a matter of seconds or jump you to higher ground where you’ll have the advantage in combat. Phasing will dodge attacks as you flicker in and out of existence in a chosen direction. Both types of moves are fun to use and highlight some of the real-time combat system’s strengths.
The user interface is minimalistic so it doesn’t take away from the lovely graphics while still conveying all pertinent information to the player. Controls also work well with an intelligent lock-on system and a wide range of actions available without any awkward button combinations. The touchpad of the PlayStation 4’s DualShock controller is predictably used for opening the menu where players can invest in skill trees, equip gear and craft spells.
Beautiful cutscenes convey the story just as much as the dialogue between characters does while traveling and the cinematics don’t overstay their welcome. The game is available in a variety of languages and the English voice acting is well done. The music is a bit generic and uninteresting whether it’s a fast-paced battle track or the swelling violins and tinkling piano that is just as at home in an elevator as it is while exploring the landscape of Eos.
The first few hours of Final Fantasy XV include interesting characters, fun combat and an intriguing story that are sure to have players coming back for more. The more traditional turn-based style combat has been translated well into a real-time system that’s fast paced and challenging. I for one have found my first foray into the world of Final Fantasy to be very enjoyable and can’t wait to see what else the game has in store.
Final Fantasy XV is being reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by Square Enix. These impressions are based on around seven hours of game time, and a full review will hit the site in the coming weeks. The game is also available on Xbox One.More About This Game