It will be hard to get a game over since the game basically gives the player multiple chances to restore their health. If we lose all our HP, we will enter a ‘Danger state’ in which we are unable to perform any action but can still use items to recover health. Our party members can also recover our health from this state by reaching out to us and we can do the same for them. It works well but at the cost of making the game far too easy, since there is no fear of getting killed at all by the enemy. Speaking of which, this might be a good thing for those who are afraid of losing their progress in case they venture into a tough boss fight after hours of exploration and forget to save the game. There are actually two auto save slots that save the game randomly but they mostly trigger during checkpoints, key sequences like completing a quest or other similar conditions, so it is definitely possible to lose progress if we die without saving properly. It is also possible to die easily in some of the tough boss fights if we are underleveled, as there is a good chance the enemy can one-shot kill the player. The first attack might put us in the danger state but the second one will result in a death state. So there are essentially two health bars here. But again, the game still allows the player to use a Phoenix Down to restore their full health when they are near death, so unless you are out of them, you won’t die easily.
We only have the ability to control Noctis but we do have a certain degree of control over the characters that adds some layer of strategy to the battle. We can instruct the party members to perform certain moves. Ignis, for example, can gather all the party members when instructed while Gladio can use his mighty sword to bring deal some major damage to an enemy. Some of these moves can really help during a tough boss fight like the gather up technique by Ignis, which also restores the HP of the party members who are in Danger state. It also recovers their health so we can consider it as an alternative to cure. Healing is mostly related to utilizing items when in Danger. There is also the option to use magic to heal, which I will go over later in detail in this review.
The combat is entirely dynamic and allows full freedom for controlling our character. We can go crazy with combos or try our hand at dodging the enemy attacks by keeping the ‘defend’ button pressed, at the expense of using MP. The attacks are executed in succession if the button remains pressed but we also have the choice to input the combo manually. This might sound like auto-combat, but it actually isn’t. It will be very hard to complete the game by just keeping the attack button pressed. We also have the ability to roll out of the way of danger, or use a perfect guard that doesn’t use MP while dodging enemy attacks. Similarly while dodging can be initiated automatically, there are also moments during the combat when we get a chance to parry some of the enemies’ moves. This is satisfying to pull when done successfully and results in a chance to counter attack. On some of the bigger boss battles, it can also result in a unique counter attack animation that looks like it is straight out an action movie.
Magic system in Final Fantasy XV might be highly debatable among the fans as it is a completely new take on the magic system. This time, we just have 3 main elements, fire, lighting and ice. We can draw the magic through the various junction points located on the world map and we can then combine these elements to craft a variety of magic. We can use items like potion to make a cure spell that also does the job of hurting the enemies, for example. We can also craft a stop magic or other forms of status effect inducing magic this way. It works well once we fully embrace the crafting mechanic and there is a lot of potential to utilize it in combat, mostly as a starter to a boss battle or to quickly wipe out a horde of enemies. The crafted magic also needs to be equipped before we use it which means we will have to allocate one (or more) weapon slot out of the available 4 to the magic system. I definitely enjoyed my time with the magic system but as I have said earlier, it might hold a polarizing position among the fans who are used to having magic as a separate skill from attack, unlike in Final Fantasy XV.
The best part of Final Fantasy XV is arguably its huge open world. The developers have spent a lot of their time in crafting the open world that feels like a joy to explore. It is full of outposts, wild life and dungeons that are crafted to the specification of a particular habitat. We can go through rocky mountains, marshes and swamps, caves, dungeons, mystical locations, forests and much more, just by going on a journey around the region of Lucis. The diversity that is available here is outstanding and deserves full praise. Not to mention the open world is not devoid of content, as there is plenty of side content to do that in world. There are mini games like Chocobo racing and Fishing, that can be attempted by the player at any point in their journey. The fishing mini game in itself is incredibly detailed and there are numerous fishing spots that are hidden throughout the world map. It is easy to lose countless hours just in the fishing alone. Aside from that, there are NPCs throughout the world map that will offer quests. Restaurant owners at each outpost also hand out hunts for specific monsters. Some of these hunts will include a secret boss fight at high level and they are extremely challenging if we try to attempt them below the recommended level. It is easy to lose track of the main story and spend a good amount of time on the side content.
The open world can be traversed through the use of the car, which also gives the ability to fast travel so we don’t have to sit through lengthy car rides. The car lacks the ability to go off-road and this is where we can ride the Chocobos. The controls of the Chocobo are fairly simple and majority of the open world exploration will be done by riding them, which also increases their level the more we ride them throughout our journey. The level increase results in an improvement for their stamina, sprinting or jumping skills. They can be called anywhere on the world map by renting them for a specific time and they even help in some of the enemy encounters. Needless to say, there is a huge wealth of content that not only urges the player to explore the world map, it also rewards them with new items, weapons and loot.
The road trip portion of the game is so well made that it often feels like we are actually doing this journey along with the main characters. The ability to camp at various places around the world map only adds more to the experience and fleshes out and defines the personality of each of the party member. There is a good chance you might start loving them more as your make your way to the end of the game. Ignis is able to cook food that can provide food buffs like raising attack, increasing EXP earned or preventing a particular status effect while Prompto takes a lot of memorable pictures throughout our road trip. Gladio, meanwhile, is able to gather valuable resources from the fights. He can pick up potions and elixirs from these battles. Noctis has his fishing skill as we explained earlier and the fish that we catch can be used to cook some tasty looking food.
That is to say, not all of the game is comprised of open world. As the game director Tabata confirmed earlier, there is a linear section in the last third of the game that puts the story front and center while the open world exploration takes a back seat. This might be a highly divisive part of the game as it doesn’t hold the same quality standard as the opening few chapters, but it still ends on a powerful note, so all is not lost. If I had to give it a percentage of the overall game, I will say that it barely makes up for 15% of the whole game. Once we are done with the main game, there is more post-game content that unlocks including potential secret dungeons and secret boss fights. The level progression carries over well to the post-game giving the player an ample amount of time to explore the world as they see fit, while discovering the new secret dungeons or boss fights.
I could say a lot more about how I feel the game, but I think I have said more than enough about it. After finishing the game, it took me a while to get over it because of the emotionally powerful ending, that does a great job of conveying the sense of our journey coming to an end. It easily stands as my most favorite ending in the series and the game as a whole belongs in my top 5 favorite Final Fantasy. Your mileage might vary considering the series usually has a history of fans that are all over the place on deciding which is the best game of the franchise.
Final Fantasy XV is available now for the PS4 and Xbox One. It was developed by Business Division 2 and published by Square Enix. This review covers the PS4 version of the game purchased at the expense of the reviewer.
Final Fantasy XV Review (PS4)
Final Fantasy XV is a breath of fresh air for the series which was starting to lose its significance after the release of Final Fantasy XIII. It is one of the best open world game on the current generation consoles and a return to the form for the franchise.