It’s been a long time coming, but Final Fantasy XV is finally here, I have finally finished it, and now I can finally write about it. Finally.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: November 29, 2016
I’m not gonna lie, I had a lot of high hopes for this game. As I’ve mentioned before, I was sorely disappointed by Final Fantasy XIII, so I was more than ready to let XV present a sort of redemption for the series.
And for a good while, I was not disappointed. Before I was even halfway through the story, I easily clocked in over 100 hours just by screwing around and doing side quests. But after those 100 hours, I finally pressed on to finish the story, and that’s where things took a dark turn.
See, the game started off wonderfully. It gives you the four main characters right off the bat, and they complement each other in a way only the Ninja Turtles could compete with. Not only are those four awesome, but Final Fantasy XV systematically presents one more fun and interesting character after another. The story starts off with a nice kick, opening with the main four pushing their broken down car to the tune of Florence and the Machine singing “Stand by Me” as if you and they are about to see the greatest adventure of your lives. It was great.
Even the gameplay was a great surprise. The combat is kind of Dark Souls-y in that every attack is deliberate and that you have to make a conscious effort to stop mashing the attack button if you don’t want to get demolished. It’s very action-oriented, but tactical enough that I found myself switching to the wait mode mid-way through. Combat isn’t perfect, though. If you fight anywhere other than the road or an open field, expect to get your camera obscured by bushes and trees. The way Noctis targets seemingly random enemies instead of the ones right in front of him is a major annoyance as well.
The dungeons were also well-designed. Almost every dead end came with an enemy encounter, rewarding/punishing all of those players that just have to check every hallway to see if it ends in a great new weapon or useful item.
Then the second half happened, and things just fell apart.
Final Fantasy XV’s story is broken up into 15 chapters, and after chapter 8 or so, the open world that I had spent 100 hours on – 100 hours of getting to know some neat characters, listening to the banter between the main four, and watching them grow – all of that disappeared, and what I got was what felt like a rushed play-by-play of a great series of plot points that the developers wanted me to see, but with little to no context between them.
It felt like I was playing the outline – the conceptual skeleton – of what was sure to be a great game, but like the skeleton, nothing was fleshed out. Don’t get me wrong, the plot points that happened were all very cool, but before the game had a chance to put any real emotional weight on each one, it was already time for the next one. Compare that rushed storytelling to the seemingly endless time I had dicking around fishing, picking up rocks and racing Chocobos, and it feels like Square Enix just gave up halfway through.
It is more frustrating than it should be, because everything that could make the game great is right there. It’s like seeing all of the pieces of a beautiful puzzle scattered on a table and seeing how they could all fit together, but not being able or allowed to put it all together.
Even the gameplay took a dive. Chapter 13 is quickly becoming infamous, because it takes away all of your friends and weapons and becomes a sort of Resident Evil-style survival/stealth game. Plus, that one chapter alone lasts about as long as chapters 9-12 combined, so you’ve been rushed through all this great story only to slog through the most un-Final-Fantasy-like sequence for what feels like an eternity.
It’s hard not to get angry, because it is very easy to see what it could have been if more time and effort were put into that second half. Final Fantasy XV has had a very rough development, with some major leadership changes within the studio, and big chunks supposedly getting taken out at later stages development, and a rigid deadline. With that in mind, I can’t feel right vilifying Square Enix and its developers for “not doing their job” or “releasing an inferior product.” So while it’s upsetting to see them drop the ball, it shouldn’t be something worth raising our pitchforks over. Of course, that doesn’t make the game any better, mind you.
I’m not mad, Square Enix. I’m just disappointed.
Score: 2 / 5