Final Fantasy XV
After all this time, it’s finally here and I feel like it was worth the wait. It launched November 29, 2016 and I beat it about 3 weeks ago. Please note that everything you’re about to read IS A SPOILER.
At it’s beginning, we’re treated to a cut scene with Prince Noctis bidding his father, King Regis, farewell as he is off to marry Lady Lunafreya his childhood sweetheart and Oracle to the world. The Oracle, in the world of Eos, is the chosen one that has the power to talk to the gods and ask them for help in continuing to rid the world of evil and darkness. It is a cycle that has lasted for generations and Noctis is out to make sure the world stays safe from evil.
Right off the bat we’re treated to a beautiful, scenic world. The level of detail in the scenery is amazing! Upon reaching the Duscae region, I was enthralled by the massive stone arches that dominate the skyline. The amount of care that was put into crafting the world is breathtaking. Even when the weather changes from sunshine to rain, the amount of detail and polish is outstanding. We’re also treated, at the beginning, to a scene of the four friends pushing Noctis’ car, the Regalia, along the highway since it’s out of gas while ‘Stand By Me’ from Florence and the Machine plays over the title screen. I think the song fits with the game in that its about a group of friends that stand by each other no matter how hard things get. I think the song is so beautiful, in fact, that I want it played at my wedding or at the reception.
The character models are also amazing. Skin blemishes, individual stands of hair, even realistic clothing. Noctis’ stance is…odd?…in that he seems to stand with his back arched and his arms and legs at odd angles, kinda like how a body builder stands. I love the amazing details that were put into each character. I remember each one of them vividly and it will be a long time before I forget any of them. Especially that hunk Cor, the Marshall of Insomnia…hubba hubba.
The setting for this outing is more modern than other titles in the series have been. We have 2 lane highways, mobile campers, machine guns, diners…all existing side by side in a world filled with fantastic creatures and magic. Upon reflection, its a lot like the world in Final Fantasy 8. Long after the story is over, the world of Eos stays with me.
There seems to be (at least to me) a lot of name symbolism in this game. Noctis, derived from nocturnal or night dweller, coming from the city of Insomnia. Gladious, a delicate flower, given to the strongest, beefiest character in the party. Ignis, derived from (I’m guessing) ignite, or to set fire to, which is one of Ignis’ abilities early in the game. The list goes on and on if you really dig deep enough into every character.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty of Final Fantasy XV…
First off, combat. The combat system in this game starts out fairly simple but can become complex if you want it to be that way. You don’t have to hammer on the circle button to attack, you can just hold it down. It was kind of a gripe to keep Noctis targeting the same enemy throughout combat, unless there was a button command that I was missing (like holding down one of the L or R buttons maybe?) I managed to get through the whole game mostly half-assing my way through every fight. Your 3 friends, for the most part, do a good job of keeping themselves alive though you do need to take time during fights to heal them with potions, since none of them are a healer and there are sadly no healing spells in the game what so ever. I learned quickly that you will burn through healing items fast if you’re not careful, which can be annoying since the game is rather stingy with Gil. After a while, you’ll unlock the ability for Noctis to use an array of weapons called the Armiger. These are weapons that are found throughout the world in hidden tombs. All of them lead to health damage to Noctis so I learned to use them sparingly even though they do hit hard. You’ll unlock an ability for Noctis to unleash the power of the Armiger all at once during combat after filling up a circular meter around his weapon menu in the bottom left corner of the screen (similar to the power bar for your super in Destiny). My only complaint about this power is that sometimes it was a struggle (and would occasionally cost me some healing items or the whole fight) for me to get the game to recognize that I was hitting the L1 and R1 buttons together at the same time to use the ability. After a while, I learned to roll with the punches and managed to make it work. Other than issuing commands to your friends once you unlock their abilities in the *insert name here* (the Final Fantasy XV equivalent to the Final Fantasy X sphere grid) and hoping that you can use a summon when you need to (more on that later), that’s pretty much it for combat. There is the whole Warp Strike power that Noctis has that I totally abused all the way through the game, but I rarely ever used it to leave combat to regenerate health or stamina and still managed to win battles the majority of the time. In this aspect, combat felt a little watered down to me by the end of the game. Even killing the final 2 bosses didn’t really require that much effort on my part, but like I said, combat can be as simple or as complex as you make it.
Getting back to the stingy with Gil thing…
After having finished my first play through of the game, I thought the game was fairly stingy with as opposed to past Final Fantasy games. I did have a slew of items that I gained from exploring and combat that were neatly arranged in the ‘treasures’ tab of my inventory, but I was always afraid to sell any of them thinking I might need it later or I was hesitant because it could lead to crafting a kick ass spell (since you can splice items from this list into spell flasks to give your spells a bit more oomph). Now that I have completed my play through, next time around I won’t discriminate against these things if I need the money to upgrade my weapons. Though there was one way of making a nice bit of change in the game…
Hunts. These were introduced back in Final Fantasy XII and work pretty much the same as they did then. Get the info on a specific creature, find it, kill it, get the reward. Early on in the game, the hunts were fairly easy to do since you were pretty much confined to the area around Hammerhead, but as the game progressed, the hunts became more and more difficult. I stopped doing them after chapter 8, but more on that later. I did run across a few conspicuous (read: fucking HUGE) creatures out in the wild that I assume are to be hunted at some point, but I didn’t bother as I still have nightmares of the giant dinosaur like things that you have to kill on Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII and how that didn’t go so well. The one and only hunt that ever gave me trouble was the one where I had to kill a group of 5 Coeurl. Either I wasn’t doing it right or it was glitched because I know I killed one of them, but while I was taking a breather on top of a rock, it reappeared. After seeing this I’m just like ‘fuck this shit I’m out‘ and never went back to that hunt. Hunts are repeatable, though you only get the biggest reward for completing them the first time you do one. Oh, and some hunts are only available at night which is a little terrifying when you’re low level (and not much less terrifying when you’re high level too). The game even lets you hang around the spot where you picked up the hunt and advance the time of day to night so you can get your groove on. The few night time hunts that I did accomplish I didn’t really have any trouble with.
Speaking of night time, it’s one of the core aspects of this game. Bad things come out at night. Big things. And when you’re low level, it’s a good idea to heed the game’s advice and not venture out after dark unless you’re ready to become the target of Daemon rape. It also seemed to be forced upon you, in a way, to let the party sleep at night otherwise you’re treated to a whiny team (especially Prompto) and that is also how you level up. The better your accommodations, the better your XP multiplier when you sleep. So if you’re camping out a lot, you’re going to be grinding your way to the level cap. But if you can afford that 10,000 Gil suite, you’ll be top dog in no time.
Travel. Your main method of travel in this game will be, for the first 8 chapters, your trusty steed, The Regalia. You can also hoof it or, once you unlock them, ride Chocobos. You can also run by holding down the circle button, but you have a limited amount of stamina with which to run. Once I thought to turn the stamina bar on in the settings (which I feel should be on by default) I found that I could let go of circle just as I was about to run out of stamina and it would instantly refill the bar letting me run almost indefinitely so long as I kept the rhythm going. Travel by chocobo was a nice change of pace as I was able to get to places off the road that the Regalia was stuck to, plus after a while I was able to make the chocobo do a short jump/glide maneuver which made travel a lot of fun. Most of my travel time was spent in the comfort of the Regalia. You have 2 options when it comes to riding in the Regalia: either you can drive the car as Noctis, or you can let Ignis drive on autopilot after choosing your destination. I only ever chose to drive the car myself maybe a couple of times with the exception of the quest where I was tasked with chasing the Imperial Chancellor. One of the times I drove the car myself was at night, trying to get to an outpost so I could sleep. That was the road trip from hell because, even though you are in a freaking car, if the Daemons appear in front of you on the highway, the gang will stop the car and get out, forcing you to deal with the enemies instead of just driving away. I found this highly annoying which led to me yielding to everyone’s complaints about ‘it’s getting dark, maybe we should find shelter for the night’. Until you get the Holy powered headlights from the dungeon from hell outside Insomnia, Ignis will not drive at night. Even after I had them, I was still skeptical that they would keep the Daemons away, but upon reflection I don’t think I was ever attacked while driving at night again.
Summoning. Not once did I ever get to summon any of the gods during the course of the game. I find this highly disappointing and a total gyp since I did have to fight (and kill) them all. There were very few occasions where I got the prompt to appear on the screen, but of course, hammering the button did absolutely nothing. Hopefully on my next playthrough I’ll get to experience at least one of them.
From this point forward, the rest of the entry will be about nothing but the story and is a huge SPOILER WARNING.
I took my friend Scott’s advice once I hit chapter 8 and was about to start chapter 9 and did every available (level appropriate) sidequest and hunt that I could before getting on the boat to Altissia. This took me about a week and a half to 2 weeks to accomplish, coming home from work and tirelessly grinding until time for bed.
I still remember the day like it just happened. I finished work early and came home and it was time for me to get on the boat to Altissia. With The Regalia safely in the ship’s cargo hold, it was time to be reunited with Lady Lunafreya and finally get married and put an end to this madness. After a very long boat ride with Cid at the helm (as it should be) we approached the city of Altissia. The reveal was both exciting and breathtaking as this was the skyline that I’d become so familiar with from all the promotional videos leading up to the game’s release. The place reminded me a lot of Venice, Italy as travel here is done through canals and gondolas. We got off the ship and found King Regis’ old friend that set up shop in Altissia after their journey so many years prior to Noctis and crew undergoing the same mission. During the conversation with him, the governess of Altissia approached me and asked for a private audience once I was free. After meeting Regis’ friend (his name escapes me) we went to a nearby inn to rest for the night where we ran across Umbra.
At this point in the game, and going forward, you now have the ability to use Umbra to go back in time to just before getting on the boat to Altissia. I was absolutely confused as to why it was worded that way, but later on it became clear. I decided to use Umbra, this time, to go back to the other continent to see what had changed (if anything had at all.) All I really got for doing it was unlocking the sidequest where you can fight and kill the Giant Adamantoise. After the mock fight where you are introduced to it, I decided it would have to be a conquest for another day as it was level 99 and I was in the mid 40s, so back to the main quest I went.
I decided to press on and continue with the chapter, so I rested for the night and saved and went on to parley with the governess of Altissia. It was a rather exciting set of dialogue choices that would determine whether you had any “friends” in Altissia or not. Once that was over with came one of the most frustrating battles in the entire game: Noctis vs. Leviathan. I wasn’t quite sure that I did anything right in the battle or not, but it eventually ended with Luna boosting Armiger ability and using that to kill Leviathan. I was ultimately successful, but not before the Imperial Chancellor stabbed Luna and left her for dead while I fought Leviathan. The cutscene that played out after your victory was rather gut wrenching, watching them say goodbye for the last time. Watching Noctis struggle just to reach out and touch Luna again brought tears to my eyes and a wave of emotions. This moment was the spark that got me to grind all the way to the end of the game that night. I wanted revenge and I was going to get it.
The next several chapters (10, 11 and 12) were a nightmare to get through. During the course of the battle at Altissia, Ignis was blinded and so was pretty much useless through the rest of the game. I got yelled at by Gladio for running off and leaving Ignis behind a couple times (Could we keep the royal procession together? that too much to ask?) Even though Ignis was useless in combat now, I refused to leave a friend behind. It was also during the beginning of chapter 10 that it was revealed that days were growing shorter and that the light was slowly fading away from the world. This was terrible news. We were the flickering candle light in the encroaching darkness. During our travels into Imperial territory on board the train, we also discovered the corpse of the goddess, Shiva. The Empire had killed her a long time ago it seems, because there was a moment on the train where the Chancellor made a surprise visit only to be frozen in place by Gentiana just before he mentioned that she looked the same as she did on the day she died. So I’ve apparently been followed this whole time by one of the gods and didn’t even know it. At least getting this god’s favor was less painful than others.
At the end of the train ride, we were forced to escape into the train tunnels in the Regalia…only to have it get destroyed as soon as we got to the Imperial capital. This place was very reminiscent of the Imperial Capital from Final Fantasy 6. The rest of Chapter 13 was a very creepy, frustrating, miserable and depressing experience. I can see now why, after playing it, people were up in arms about this chapter. You’re all alone in the Imperial city for the majority of the chapter, occasionally getting mocked by the Chancellor over the loudspeakers. After a very long time you are reunited with the other 3 guys and that’s when Prompto reveals a very dark secret about himself: he’s a clone and had been his whole life. That’s how he was able to unlock the doors inside the fortress where the Crystal was being held. After a very long journey and a lot of fighting, we finally reached the room where the Crystal was being held…only to watch helplessly as Noctis was sucked into it leaving Ignis, Prompto and Gladio behind to face the Chancellor alone. It was very frustrating watching all this unfold and being helpless to do anything about it.
After getting sucked in the crystal, Noctis is met with Bahamut. I prayed that I wouldn’t have to fight him and was spared that battle, at least. After they had their conversation, I knew what was going to happen and I didn’t like it. Bahamut mentioned that the king would have to die in order that the cycle could be broken, for the Forsaken One to be defeated. In the blink of an eye as Noctis is left to think about this, TEN YEARS pass in the world outside the crystal. TEN YEARS.
After your time in the crystal, you are dropped on an island not far from Cordon Quay and are tasked with reaching Hammerhead. There was no sun in the sky what so ever as the world had become The World of Ruin (similar to the World of Ruin in Final Fantasy 6) so that meant there were going to be daemons everywhere between here and Hammerhead. I decided that was going to be a long, long walk in the dark so I better suck it up and get started. No sooner do I reach the highway than a small truck approaches and picks me up. The driver was none other than Talcott! He had become quite the handsome young man in Noctis’ absence and as he drove me to Hammerhead filled me in on everything that had happened while I was gone. Once I reached Hammerhead and was reunited with the guys, we donned our Royal attire and set out for Insomnia to defeat the Chancellor once and for all.
Once I got to the city, I was so tired from playing at this point that I (mostly) ran past everything just to get to the palace. I did take a detour through a subway because I had to, I think, just to get where I was going. Once I reached the palace, I was greeted with the one god that I hadn’t forgotten but wasn’t sure I was ready to face: Ifrit. I remember a brief cutscene at the beginning of the game where the guys in their royal armor were fighting him before the actual story started. I managed to take out Ifrit on my first try, thanks to lots of ice spells and an eventual (and I think scripted) intervention by Shiva. Once that was over, I headed into the palace to get my revenge I’d spent the last several hours waiting to get while the other 3 stayed outside to fend off the daemons that were approaching. I think that they all died so I had time to defeat him.
Attacking the Chancellor and beating him was a cinch. I kept wailing on him with the Armiger and I didn’t let up until he was defeated. Tears flowed as I finally got what I had spent so many hours seeking. Noctis and Luna were reunited in the afterlife where they freed the Chancellor from the eternal cycle and brought light back to the world, the first time the sun had shown its face in 10 years. Before the credits there was a very painful, but touching moment of the 4 of them around a campfire one last time at sunrise and after the credits, the campsite was empty and the 4 chairs stood in the rays of the morning sun. I sat in silence and cried as the rest of the credits rolled and was eventually treated to a new title screen in which Luna and Noctis were together on the logo instead of just Luna by herself.
Once it was all over, I had thoughts that maybe one of the reasons it took so long for the game to come out was a lot of internal debate/discussion about the events of chapters 9-14. I think they realized that a lot of players (like me) would be very upset about what happened in chapter 9 and just keep grinding until they had completed the game in order to get closure and satisfaction. I was pleased with how they re-used certain classic Final Fantasy themes and assets – an old man named Cid, the whole saving the world right at the end of it bit, the various monsters and summons. I feel like this game was definitely worth the wait and I’m looking forward to playing the DLC as it comes out.
To anyone that played the game and didn’t like it, I’d like to hear why.
- Is the platinum attainable: oh yes, but I think that fighting the Adamantoise is going to take a while :-\
- % of trophies at the time of writing according to PSN: 80%