On Its 5th Anniversary, Let's Talk About the Final Fantasy Installment


Photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix. As the fifteenth main installment of the Final Fantasy series, it was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016 (November 29th, 2016, to be exact, which was 5 years ago), Microsoft Windows in 2018, and Stadia as a launch title in 2019.

Let's just dive into it: As much as I love the Final Fantasy series pretty much, I hate this installment. I loathe it. I despise it.

I have a friend who is a huge fan. He talks about it all the time, he loves playing, he’s bought all the DLC. He and I can’t talk about it anymore, because it leads to arguments.

FFXV is the biggest disappointment to hit the Final Fantasy anthology since XIII and its ridiculous sequels dropped so many years ago. It learned all of the wrong lessons from XIII, creating an “open” world for players to explore, and opting for “action” combat (since the auto-play of XIII was boring.) These choices have completely stolen from the game the very essence of what a Final Fantasy game was.

Turn-based combat? Gone. Meaningful character development choices? Gone. Colorful, diverse dialogue and story that varies (at least slightly) with your party composition? Gone.

Combat in FFXV is basically a game of “hold this button until the fight ends,” mixed with some degree of “this flash means it’s time to press the block button now!” Combat responsiveness is sluggish, by comparison to the speed the character moves across the screen, targeting is a chore, and the characters repeat the same one-liners throughout the entire game.

Most of the dialogue is recycled, and the “bonds” between the characters are phoned in. We’re told they’re good friends, but we rarely get to be a part of it. I watch characters drive about in their car conversing, but I rarely hear what they’re saying unless it’s one of six or seven scripted events that repeat endlessly. I had a stronger emotional bond with Vivi at the end of the prologue in FFIX than I did with Noctis by the end of the game.

The storytelling is an absolute mess. They rely on you watching both their animated movie, and the anime series, to fully understand what’s going on, and they parceled out events that occurred during the story, and which are referenced during the story as DLC content. That means I have to pay them extra just to learn what happened during the story. Those aren’t optional extras. They’re not new characters or extra story arcs. They’re not new weapon skins or outfits or an extra epilogue chapter or anything of the sort. Their story bits that happen during the story that we’re expected to pretend aren’t important unless we’re willing to shell out extra cash to find out.

The characters routinely make terrible decisions, have no sense of urgency, and there’s little or no explanation for half of what’s happening in the world. Hallmarks of the series, like summoning aeons/espers/GFs/whatever are virtually nonexistent; summons occur pretty much randomly, forcing you to rely on magic and melee. And about that magic; you’ll have to craft it, by going out of your way to collect magic from the draw points around the world map (a feature nobody was clamoring to have returned from FFVIII) and then sculpting it into limited-use spells. No matter how hard you work at being a black mage, that sword in your hand will always be your primary weapon.

But at least the world is pretty, right? I meant, if you stand back and look at it from a distance, it’s beautiful. But the collision detection is messed up something wicked; Noctis will frequently impact invisible walls while trying to teleport around, be unable to move through or around small bushes or tiny trees; openings between two trees will be walls, as you discover they’re actually a single, solid asset; running and jumping and triggering abilities when not in combat can be challenging, as the action button is contextual and incredibly finicky.

I could continue, but I’m late for a raid in FFXIV. 15 Is an abomination. I regret spending my money… and I hope they don’t do anything like it again anytime soon.

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