The newest chapter to the Final Fantasy saga is Final Fantasy XV, and for me it feels like a game to re-energize the franchise and is a Final Fantasy game for new comers and veterans of the franchise to enjoy and fall in love with.
You'll find yourself playing as Prince Noctis and you'll have his close friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto accompanying you on his journey to reclaim the throne and to meet up with lady Lunafreya. If you've watched the prequel Final Fantasy movie, Kingsglaive you will have a back story to most of the story line. You'll be playing mainly these 4 characters during the duration of the game, though occasionally you will have a random character join for certain missions. There is a lot of interaction with your friends (Party Members) during your journey as they will often start random conversations when you are out on the open road. I found that each one of your friends has good chemistry together as they each have their own strengths and weaknesses and it shows when they go into combat. When you play though the game you will meet new and interesting characters that will give the story more depth, some you'll wonder about and think what their motive is or whether they can be trusted or not, Final Fantasy character favourites will make a couple of cameos in this game.
The open world of this game play gives you a lot of places to explore and lots to do as you progress, though often I found myself distracted by all the random shiny objects that you can pick up and sell for Gill or big question marks that show up on the map which is a new quest you can undertake. There are a few ways you can go around the map to the destination that you want, you can drive, walk/run or use the famous Chocobo’s, but you can only use them once you unlock them when you do a quest. Most of the time you can fast travel to a destination once you have unlocked the location on your map which saves time but costs you a small amount of Gill. The game also gives you a taste of realism by having you fill up the car with gas. Eating most foods will give you a temporary buff to your stats and you can learn new recipes when you buy food from diners and gathering ingredients out on the open road. The fishing mini game is a fun distraction to the story as you can buy different lures and lines to fish in different spots. The only thing is, you no longer get Gill from battles in the game, so Gill can only be earned from doing hunt missions and selling of treasures that are collected.
There are many references to old Final Fantasy games that come up and Final Fantasy fans will smile when they hear an old tune or pick up an item, I know I did. I found the character development great as each one of them has a unique skill set and skill tree. The skill tree is reminiscent of the sphere system they had in Final Fantasy X and it will take you ages to level up once you hit the higher level skills. You have to camp or rest in this game to actually gain levels as you don’t get them when you finish a fight or complete a mission. I guess it’s the games way of saying you have to sleep. The game has a day and night cycle which adds to some realism, but I did find it annoying sometimes as you want to finish a quest and it starts getting dark and someone in the group starts complaining.
The story is pretty easy to follow every mission comes up clearly on the map. I found this takes the fun out of exploring in some way and the fast travel and the auto drive is the easy way to get around. When you are driving, at times your friends will make suggestions on what to do and you can answer them with certain answers that the game gives you. What I really liked was that you can purchase the songs from the previous Final Fantasy games from stores in game and you can play them in the car when you're driving along. 16-bit portraits of your party members raise their hands in approval as you browse the wares in a weapon shop, and Prompto sometimes belts out an acapella version of the old Final Fantasy victory music like a 10-year-old singing along to his favourite musical.
The Combat system is actually really enjoyable and is a lot different from past Final Fantasy games where it's all time based. This one is a mixture of real time combat, timed dodges and quick time events. The teleporting attacks gives you more ways to attack and to escape. As you are only controlling Noctis, you can tell your friends to perform special moves once the gage is full. Being able to heal and use items on the fly is also a good thing. The Character menu screen is easy to navigate around and for Final Fantasy veterans it will be a piece of cake to battle. For new players I do recommend that you play the tutorial when the game starts so you can get used to the menu’s.
The Combat can be fast paced when there are heaps of monsters or enemies around and if you're losing you can generally just run out of the red circle and they won’t chase you. If you go down your friends can heal you for a bit but you will have wound damage which onlys Elixirs can fix, otherwise you can rest. There are three spell types in the Fire, Ice and Lighting and you draw these from deposits you can find on your map. I found that they are simple to use but they are really annoying to make. You can't have a Final Fantasy game without awesome summons and Final Fantasy XV doesn’t disappoint, they are big and graphically they are awesome. The boss battle set pieces have some quick time elements involved and they don’t feel too overwhelming.
Graphics wise it’s awesome, the texture of the bushes to the rain and the wind blowing in the trees, everything has a lush vibrant look and feel to it. When you stand on a cliff and you look at the sunset it actually looks like you're there and looking at the endless horizons. The cut scene set pieces are cinematic and CG animations taken right out of the prequel movie. The sound effects are top notch, from the birds chirping in the day time to the crickets at night. The music is upbeat and it’s awesome to hear snippets of music from previous Final Fantasy games. When you're in combat you'll hear each attack of your swords, the flame and the lighting to the ice effects of the spells.
For me Final Fantasy XV feels like a breath of fresh air, it felt like I was playing Final Fantasy 7 many years ago. It felt new and refreshing, a brand new story for a new generation.