Firstly let me start off by saying that I am going to try and be as spoiler free as possible this morning. Last night I began Final Fantasy XV properly… or at least what I mean by that is I actually created a new game. It had been quite a long time since I last played one of the demos that were available through PlayStation Plus so I spent the first thirty minutes or so working through the tutorial room. Firstly I have to say how much I appreciate that the Tutorial Room is completely out of the game and something you can venture into by option. In truth all I really wanted to do was familiarize myself with the combat a bit before setting off on the adventure, and I managed to do that through a series of guided encounters. I feel like this tutorial could have been tightened up a bit, and a lot of the text removed because really… I got what warp strike did without the need for ten panels of text explaining it. However like I said this is entirely an optional experience and it allows you to escape out at any time and start the actual game. What I was pleasantly surprised by is that I am pretty sure… the intro to Final Fantasy V is twice as long as the intro to this game, in that it gets you out and into the action pretty quickly, far more quickly than I was expecting. The game does an excellent job of setting up quickly why you are going on the roadtrip and essentially who these people are that are assisting you along the way. The game also gives you this interesting flashforward… to set up that some bad shit is going to happen eventually. While I originally called this a boy band roadtrip simulator… it actually does an amazing job of making you care about the characters… because from the first dialog the game is fleshing them out for you.
- Ignis – Tactician and Master Chef
- Prompto – The runt of the litter, but also the romantic… constantly snapping photos
- Gladiolus – The strong loyal type, but also ends up feeling almost big brotherly
- Noctis – our prince… that ends up not being nearly as angsty as I expected.
We are given some insight to the relationships between Noctis and his father Regis in the intro, and some explanation as to why this road trip is happening… and that it might not be nearly as political in nature as it might seem. The real gem however is the constant banter between your companions that much in the same way as the Dragon Age gives you little vignettes into each of them, and feels like more than just a simple looping soundtrack of quips. It all seems purposeful and helps to flesh out the feeling of this group and explain the character motivations a little bit at a time. I am honestly shocked that only two hours into the game I already care about this team, and for the most part like each of them for their own thing. Hell I thought Prompto would be the new Snow… the character that I wanted to punt off a cliff but even he has grown on me. There are a lot of charming mini-games… the one that endears me to Prompto is the fact that he takes random photos as you go through your daily activities between camping for the night. While you are sitting around the camp fire or your inn room… you can sift through the photos and determine which ones are “keepers”. In fact most of the images for this mornings post come from these. The only complaint is that I wish when I clicked “save” in game that it actually saved it to the PS4 screenshot folder… and not some in game system that never actually goes full screen. I had to drop these in photoshop to crop out the black border before actually using them in a blog post which was annoying.
Another big surprise for me was just how fluid and good combat feels. I might be imagining things but it feels like they have tightened up the system considerably from the time I played Episode Duscae to now. It could also simply be that I sat through thirty minutes of combat tutorial, and I didn’t exactly do that in the demo. Whatever the case I feel like I can navigate combat without really thinking about it… which is honestly the way I like to play combat in most games. I want to push my abilities to the realm of muscle memory, and just simply react instinctively to what is happening on the ground… and this game seems to let me do just that. The only thing that seemed like it might be a little cludgy is the magic system, but thankfully I am not exactly the finger wiggler type. So at least for the case of Noctis I will likely never equip a magical ability… other than maybe Cure. As far as my team goes, they seem to have their own special abilities that more or less take the place of magic that unlock special team up style attacks. There is an interesting mini-game where Ignis being the tactician… suggests an attack combo that will work especially well on your opponent. This is less the Libra command from previous games… and more like a challenge mode to see if you can beat the mob while doing this one special attack. If you succeed you gain additional ability points to spend on top of the normal ones you would receive for simply defeating the encounter.
As far as the game world goes… it feels amazing. This is a Final Fantasy game that has learned what works in Skyrim, the Far Cry series, and Dragon Age… and then re-branded all of that to work and fit perfectly in the Final Fantasy world. The end result is this huge seamless world that lets you roam freely… with honestly very few constraints that I have found. Unlike Final Fantasy XIV for example… you absolutely can walk off the edge of cliffs… or at least you can in some places that I found out while tracking down some mining resources. The world is full of little details… like the ability to sit down beside this strange weather worn mascot for a diner. As you would expect the act of you doing this causes Prompto to want to take a photo, so it feels very much like a bunch of friends out doing goofy shit and exploring the world… free for possibly the first time from the shackles of having to live in Crown City under the watch of responsible adults. Hell there are times the commentary running between the four of them reminds me of some of the random shit my friends and I talked about when we were off on our own road trips in High School. This is easily the most “real” feeling Final Fantasy world I have experienced, and in a strange way it feels almost “American” in the way the various pieces fit together. So the biggest surprise of the game came when I happened to touch what looked like a pinball machine in this same diner, and was thrown into a minigame. Now generally speaking I don’t like Final Fantasy minigames that much, but this was actually really fun. It was a weird amalgam of bullet hell shooter, pachinko and pinball machine… with a strange multi character combat system.
I reached the first point in the story when the game warns you… that if you continue on you won’t be able to return for a long time. I could have simply said yes and moved the story along, but instead I decided to spend a bit more time and try and mine as much interesting bits from the area as I could before I moved the story forward. In the past this always paid off in Final Fantasy games… and I am hoping it will here as well. I decided to use that as a stopping point for the night however, and decided I wanted to go hang out on the sofa with my wife instead of play the PS4 which is hooked up in my office. I really need to give this game a shot over remote play and see how reasonable it is to play that way. The combat is active, but not so active that it would not be fairly forgiving of a little input lag. Menu driven combat is definitely a sweet spot for remote play, but this might just work as well. In any case… the game is good. I am extremely happy that I preordered through the PSN store… so that it preloaded in its entirety. I am hearing otherwise popping the disc into the system causes a 45 minute install process to start, which has to be frustrating. I was half expecting this to be the case with a digital download as well, but instead I was pleasantly surprised that I could just hit play and pop right into game without any fuss or mess. This only serves to cement my decision that digital is always the correct way to go on these things. I would be curious to hear your own thoughts of the game, but please for the time being keep your comments in the spoiler free variety.