The latest member of the long-running JRPG series contains many memorable moments, yet is also glaringly missing some of them.
Final Fantasy XV is a video game that I’ve waited for almost ten years, ever since the initial trailer announcement under the title of Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006. After going to development hell and back the game changed from a sideline spin-off into a mainline title. This change of development team and name also switched the theme of the game. The original concept of a darker tale set in a death-worshiping nation with a mafia-like ruling family was transformed into an open world road trip story of a prince and his close friends who seek to reclaim their conquered country. I went into the game world with cautiously optimistic expectations and after finishing it I’m left with a mix of satisfaction and slight disappointment for the finished product.
FFXV has the potential to be a great, even a fantastic game, but it is set back by its development hellish past and change of management and direction. The open world is gorgeous and lush, but is plagued by pointless side quests and thus lacks meaningful content (by this I mean you, “Go get my gems” Dino and “Please find my dog tags ‘cos I’m too lazy” Dave. Screw you guys). Most of the time the combat is really engaging, fun and visually impressive, but the occasional camera problems and effect barrages can devolve it into a chaotic mess where your character is drooling on the floor spamming Phoenix Downs on party members. One unique chapter in the main story even changes the gameplay into a refreshing stealth-horror sequence, but it’s made far too repetitive and stretched out so that it overstays its welcome. I have great respect towards the development team for managing to perform the miracle of combining the various unfinished ideas into a functional product, but the hurried production and cut content really shows at times.
The aspect where the missing pieces are the most glaringly prominent is the story.
The overall story of the game is actually quite good. It has a great main villain with intriguing motivations, lots of interesting plot points and side characters, and a conclusive and touching ending. All of this is horribly crippled by the way the story is executed and told. There are some huge, gaping holes in the plot which are never explained in the game. Some interesting side characters are introduced and then completely abandoned, while some have major events happening behind the screen and you only hear about it afterwards. This is common within the main story as well. There are some huge, epic events happening which you can never actually see. You’re just told via dialogue about all these cool things that you never got to actually witness yourself. Even the most important plot points towards the end of the game are told poorly and you’re left with confusement, even if the story itself would be great. What is happening? Why did that happen? Why did that person do that? Those are the questions that you’ll probably be thinking quite often.
So, is the game good? Yes. But it had the missed potential to be something much more.
Final Fantasy XV is a flawed gem, a puzzle with missing pieces.
Developer: Square Enix Business Division 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (played), Xbox One
Release date: 29.11.2016