By Dean Moses
Game: Final Fantasy XV
Platform: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
Video games—like any artistic medium—are a form of human expression. Being susceptible to the feelings and thoughts of their creators, some developers place worth on intellectual value while others concentrate on visual or emotional beauty. The Final Fantasy series exists as the beating heart inside the gaming industry’s Role Playing Game (RPG), a valve that pumped blood into a new genre encompassing the abovementioned traits. This iconic franchise was among the first to employ adventure, narrative, and camaraderie—giving us a vast world we had never seen before. However, somewhere over the last 29 years something went wrong. The pioneer that is Final Fantasy began to lose its way, releasing titles that did not quite match up to their groundbreaking predecessors. In an effort to inject that special flare that once coursed through the veins of this genre defining frontrunner, its developers have vastly changed the way Final Fantasy XV is played, a change unlike any other in its storied history.
One For All
On the surface, Final Fantasy XV’s story can seem somewhat unremarkable, a fictional cliché we have seen many times before. Noctis is our protagonist, a prince who leaves his kingdom for a road trip with his three friends in order to marry his fiancée, a former princess from another kingdom. While on their journey the kingdom is attacked, setting a chain of events into motion that leaves the four buddies forced to partake in a grand quest—a typical fantasy trope. Interesting, yet not too original, right? Well, despite the subpar narrative, I became more emotionally invested in this world than I have in any other for quite some time thanks to one simple and perfectly executed reason: companionship. This close-knit group’s relationship outshines all else—even the breathtakingly beautiful environments—and fosters a genuine feeling of concern for your party’s wellbeing. Over the course of this long RPG experience you will grow to love your fellow adventures and depend on them as much as they do on you. You will camp out together under the stars, a friend will cook, another will snap photos, you will fish—these are four extremely well written friends that place you in a state of mind and put you at the heart of the enterprise—they become the driving force behind all that you do.
A World of Changes
Final Fantasy XV is an RPG, being such the player is confronted with a gigantic world to explore, many, many quests to complete— both necessary and unnecessary for game completion—items to find and manage, battles to be had, and the task of leveling up your band of heroes to maximize their efficiency in and out of combat. There is a lot to see and do here, gamers unversed in this type of play could find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed. With that being said, this experience is kinder to those inexperienced when compared to others on the market, such as Dark Souls. Before you can do anything in this game you will first need to get around the realm, there are a few ways you can do this. If you would like to travel in luxury, you can take the Regalia, the group’s extravagant car from which you can listen to the beautifully composed scores from all previous Final Fantasy games. Another and equally splendid method of traversal is that of the Chocobo, a large chicken like creature that can be ridden through the wild like a horse. There is also a third way, but that should be left for you to uncover. A car is not the only new addition longtime fans will notice. The game’s combat system has been completely overhauled. Previously the series fights took place through a turn based battle sequences (a form of gameplay in which the player must command his or her team to attack in lieu of actually brawling themselves) now the skirmishes are had in real-time dodging, parrying, attacking, and using items until your foes yield. Final Fantasy enthusiasts should be aware that this does not demote the strategy element. The use of a well-timed item, knowledge of elemental weaknesses, and quick warping to safe zones are imperative for success.
The visuals here are stunning: the culmination of over ten years of development. Intricate details have been lovely placed into every aspect of the game world—Water simmers in the sunlight, raindrops drizzle down the Regalia’s wax finish, branches and leaves bend in the wind, wildlife graze, lights burn on as day turns to night. Above all, the character models are the most impressive. Their eyes glow with life and their hair sways gently—this is some of the finest graphics to have graced the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One thus far.
The word masterpiece is thrown around a lot these days, so when a true artistic achievement emerges it is not often given its just due. Sometimes said work falls between the cracks of the mainstream, less valued titles, becoming overshadowed by inferior works. Thankfully this is not the case for Final Fantasy XV. This is the closest I have come to the perfect RPG, not because the gameplay is unspoiled or because the world is flawless, instead because this made me feel the emotion of the piece, and that is what great art does.