Final Fantasy XV is played offline
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV was already known as "RPG of the year" before it was released. For the PR people it has long been clear that their game will be the cherry on the cake, which consists of all the great role-playing games that were published in 2016 and will be. Anyone who builds up such expectations, however, also has to deliver results and this is exactly where Final Fantasy XV failed quite phenomenally in advance. I had attended test presentations and played demos beforehand - and the latter in particular was absolutely nonsense. So I had resignedly expected to find just such a nonsense in the finished game - but to my surprise I didn't.
What I experienced in Final Fantasy XV instead, I would never have expected. Square Enix has achieved nothing but a miracle in the last few months of development. The fine-tuning has become excellent, the finished game has little in common with its previous versions. But I'm still not completely satisfied with the game. To be honest, I don't really like action RPG that much, and I am bored or even frustrated with a number of things. But in the end I fulfilled Prince Noctis' destiny and found my peace - also with the game itself.
Final Fantasy XV is a gigantic gaming experience that consists of two loosely connected parts. The first two thirds of the adventure take place in an open world that we gradually conquer and thereby form bonds between Prince Noctis and his companions. Depending on how long that keeps you happy, it may take a long time for the real story to come to fruition. Square Enix is putting an incredible amount of energy into keeping us away from the story, which only picks up speed in the later part of the game. For me this is completely incomprehensible, because the story about the prince and his connection to Kannagi Lunafreya is definitely the best argument for Final Fantasy XV.
We start the game with the goal of dragging Noctis and his boy band to the prince's wedding as quickly as possible. That would seal the peace treaty between two rival empires and would be a great start for the future heir to the throne. Of course, this simple task turns out to be an impossible endeavor, not least because Square Enix is doing its best to drag out this journey. The fact that the illustrious troop finds each other at some point in the tens of thousands of errands from a busty mechanic has really little to do with immersion. In Final Fantasy XV this is more than a conceptual annoyance, because Eos is unfortunately a rather boring world.
The open world part is such a fundamental problem that I have a hard time finding a scapegoat. The game fails primarily to create interesting side missions. Many quests consist of walking to a location and killing monsters there or picking up an item. Sure, Final Fantasy XV is not alone in that, but I did not expect that so little effort would be put into it today. The tasks are generic and they are not staged. Completing quests rarely offers you any added value, let alone a real reward. Nor does it help the world change in any way. Of course there are exceptions, but they can be counted on one hand.
Lucis is an imposing place that is practically inviting to explore with its forests, steppes and lakes, but Square Enix manages to wither even this component. The incredibly pretty design finds a perfect counterpart in its often poor implementation. We won't find any equipment off the route, and no secrets or even hidden riddles. This shatters all motivation to look for rewards away from the direct route.
Anyone who is on the side quests will spend most of their time driving back and forth in the car anyway. The royal vehicle, the Regalia, travels from A to B as if on rails and cannot stray from the road. It is also only marginally faster than a sprint on foot and thus offers the entertainment value of a screensaver. The car is put into focus incredibly often to simulate a road trip atmosphere, but the implementation is simply lame. I can't understand how a well-respected game developer implemented a feature in 2016 that values the lifetime of gamers so little. Anyone who has experienced this "game element" will understand my frustration. The whole concept behind it is one of the worst implementations I've ever seen in a video game.
Noctis' companions are a different topic. Whether you like their appearance is ultimately a matter of taste. With their individual skills, Ignis, Prompto and even Gladius bring an element into the game that Final Fantasy XV unfortunately lacks: personality. Each companion has their own talents. Noctis obviously likes to fish - if we let him. Ignis is a gifted cook who pampers us with delicious meals while camping. Gladius collects helpful items after a fight. And Prompto is a hobby photographer who keeps the group happy with his snapshots in the evening. I didn't think I'd identify with this disparate crew myself, but we inevitably became friends.
Final Fantasy XV's combat system evolves into a rather complex affair that offers a lot more depth than meets the eye. Basically, real-time combat works by chaining attacks and evasive maneuvers. The use of different types of weapons and elemental spells is learned quickly and is easy to do by hand. The different damage systems such as flank, combination and warp attacks pose a greater challenge. In the fight against several opponents, the game loses its strategic character, largely because of the increasing hectic pace. With large monsters and in tight spaces there are also problems with camera work.
If you want to tell your friends about unbelievable battles against giant god creatures, you won't find this in this quality in any other game - this is (unfortunately) still the case. What Final Fantasy XV does really well is the breathtaking staging, the phenomenal soundtrack and the connection with a gripping story. Square Enix uses the essence of Final Fantasy in a moderate and very targeted manner, which is why it takes so long for the story and its characters to get going. The game offers a diverse mix of different game mechanics and ideas. The core experience of the open world offers plenty of content, but due to a lack of motivation it degenerates into pure occupational therapy. Despite the great combat system and a beautiful world, exploring is not fun. Those who do not use the fast travel system are consciously wasting their own life. The quest structure suffers from generic tasks and poor characters with even weaker conversations, and the urge to explore remains unrewarded.
Final Fantasy XV does not keep the promise of an open world and therefore does not manage to compete with current top role-playing games. In the second part of the game, however, this experience closes and the game becomes a linear and extremely gripping experience with a strong, disturbing story and a captivating atmosphere. You can tell right away that Square Enix has mastered this craft. That we have to wait so long is just so incredibly regrettable and incomprehensible. Nevertheless, it is a good game, but one that is strongly polarized and, above all, is remembered.
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