We’ve sampled the first few hours of what Final Fantasy XV has to offer, and have provided some insight on the strengths and weaknesses of the game.
After the storied development hell that Final Fantasy XV has been through, there’s a certain strangeness to merely picking up the controller and pressing an icon to launch a game that’s been a decade in the making.
But strange as this is, Final Fantasy XV does its utmost to welcome the player with open arms, placing the recurring message of “A Final Fantasy for first-time and former fans” even before the developer/publisher credit of Square Enix first appears on the screen.
And once the game itself actually gets going, you’ll quickly realize just how much of a joy Final Fantasy XV is to experience. Although the game has grand aspirations, it starts out low key, with a heartfelt conversation with King Regis and his son, the protagonist Prince Noctis. Regis is old and wise, whereas Noctis is headstrong and reluctant in succeeding his father as the King of Lucis.
And it’s this opening cutscene that firmly states where Final Fantasy XV has it’s heart: the characters. This is massively a character driven game, not only in the sense that the characters are all incredibly varied but also in the sense that this is a personal journey for the young troupe, with it being well documented as to how the game will take place as the mature into proper adulthood.
I was previously impressed by the emphasis that Square Enix placed on developing the characters through the Brotherhood anime, and I’m similarly impressed by how many intricate details there are to be found within the characters. So far, Ignis and Prompto have demonstrated a passion for puns, with Ignis stating “he certainly nose how to find us” with reference to a dog, and Prompto shouting “Noct ’em out!” at the climax of a fight.
While Gladiolus also has some nice details like this in the first few hours of the game, it’s hard to deny the fact that all eyes are on our protagonist, mainly to see if Square can improve over the lifeless Lightning from the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. As of right now, Noctis hasn’t shown any real character development, outside of delivering a heartfelt note to Lunafreya, his betrothed, but we’re still in the early stages of the entire experience.
If you were worried that combat might feel easy to break by simply holding down a button, then I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case at all, as Square have incorporated an active ‘parry’ system for the player, while effectively combining this with a fairly limited health bar. You’ll need to use a multitude of Noctis and co.’s abilities in order to survive, and there’s never a fight where one character, in particular, feels at all sidelined.
The ‘Ascendant’ upgrade tree also makes strides to dynamically change up the combat according to your personal play style. ‘AP’ is earned through making camp at the end of each day, and is rewarded for the actions of the player within combat scenarios. This can then be used to unlock new abilities for each party member, as well as stat and item slot upgrades, all of which can affect the way a certain party member functions. If you want Ignis to protect you instead of gunning for the enemy, equip him with the corresponding special ability for use in the middle of a fight.
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Ultimately, Final Fantasy XV had the challenge of making each character mean something to the player, and Square have gone above and beyond to breathe life into every member accompanying Prince Noctis on his monumental journey. I suspect each different player will find a different thing to like (or dislike) about each character, but it’s highly likely that there will always be one member of the group that any given player will find a way to truly empathize with.
Final Fantasy XV is a grand journey of huge scale and ambition, and as of the hours that I’ve spent with the game so far, you can feel the years that Hajime Tabata and co. have truly dedicated to making this game mean something special to any player that picks it up. The characters, combat and upgrade paths all seem to have been deeply thought out and thoroughly planned, and I can only hope that the game continues to build upon this fantastic attention to detail.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this ongoing review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.