“A Final Fantasy for Fans and First Timers”
It is this message which greets you every time you boot up Final Fantasy XV. Arguments can most certainly be made to its accuracy, as I’ve spoken to long time Final Fantasy fans that fall on either side. Some are generally happy with the game and enjoy playing it whilst others just don’t feel the love for it that they felt for other games in the series, such as VII and IX, feeling that the game has tried to cater too much to non-fans.
Speaking as someone who has never really been that into Final Fantasy in any of its previous incarnations, I’ve been having fun for the brief time I’ve been playing. As of the writing of this article, I have spent roughly 8 hours playing Final Fantasy XV, and I have barely advanced the story past its initial early chapters. Instead, I have spent the majority of my time completing side quests, hunting monsters for monetary rewards and exploring the pseudo open world the game inhabits.
I’d stop just short of calling the game world a full on “sandbox” because there are limitations placed on how you can interact with it. For example, whereas in a game like Grand Theft Auto V, you can dive into the sea and swim to a normally inaccessible location, or if you’re so inclined, just swim out to the ocean depths until you leave the map far behind you. In Final Fantasy XV there is an invisible wall blocking you from walking into the sea up to your waist and having a swim. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s small things like this which differentiate truly open worlds from more contained ones.
There’s sparsity to the environments in Final Fantasy XV which can sometimes make them feel somewhat barren and not especially lived in. San Andreas felt like a real city, with everyone having their own story to tell. It felt alive, no matter where you went, even if that meant you were trekking in the mountains or diving in your submarine. This doesn’t mean the environments I’ve seen in FFXV thus far have been completely without character or that they haven’t looked easy on the eyes, it’s just that they feel like they lack a certain…vivaciousness.
Graphically, I’ve been hugely impressed with the game, especially when it comes to cutscenes. It’s rare these days for a game to really make me sit up and take notice of the graphics, but FFXV certainly succeeded in getting my attention. In general, I think the game looks really good. Yes, some of the NPCs lack a little bit of detail, but the four main characters look great, and the animals you’ll spend most of your time fighting in the early stages are designed well, as are the horrific “Daemons” who stalk the land once night falls.
Whilst on a late night hunt to take out a big blob monster for a bounty, I was terrified to see the ground begin to swell and a huge arm start clawing at the ground, followed by another. It was two gigantic Daemons armed with ruddy massive swords, and they were ready for a fight! Being that I’d barely started playing and had rubbish stats, I chose to flee for my life, leaving the two huge Daemons to just trudge off looking almost disappointed.
One thing that always made it hard for me to get into the other Final Fantasy games was the combat. Try as I might, I just couldn’t and can’t get into turn-based combat. I’m not going to say that turn-based combat is bad, but it’s just not for me. I’ve tried VII and IX (the main ones people always tell you to play when it comes to Final Fantasy games), and I just can’t get into them because I really don’t like the combat.
I do enjoy the combat system in FFXV a lot though, especially as Noctis can warp both into and away from battles at any given moment provided there is a designated area in range. I still find that battles involve tactics and strategy, even though they are no longer turn-based. I must admit that in the earlier fights I’ve been spamming Ignis’ “regroup” move, which is probably not a good idea as it leaves Prompto and Gladiolus’ abilities neglected, and I’ll probably need them to be better as the game progresses.
I mentioned that I haven’t gotten far in the story yet, and that is down to two factors. First off, I’ve been enjoying all the hunts and side quests so much that I haven’t really felt the need to advance the story. Another factor though is that the story really hasn’t grabbed me yet. Everything moves at a breakneck speed, and I’m struggling to really connect with Noctis as a character as he tries to keep up with a brutal barrage of life events that change his world almost literally overnight.
I do love his entourage though, and I’m hoping that as the story keeps ticking along, I’ll warm to him a bit more as well. Right now, he seems to go from being non-committal to exceedingly angry at the flip of a coin. I suppose you could attribute this to him being a grumpy youth, and he seems to be adjusting to the rapidly changing stakes as best he can, but I’m just not into this narrative yet. That being said, it’s still in its formative stages, and I’m expecting things to get going as the story progresses.
I might do a follow-up Fitzgerald Scale on FFXV later in the year after I’ve had a chance to play more of it, but currently I’m enjoying it, and I’m glad I decided to give it a go. It’s been sitting by my PS4 since Christmas, but I’ve just been bogged down with other things which has meant it had to wait its turn. I’m not exactly a “first timer” to the series, but this is certainly the first time I’ve really enjoyed playing a Final Fantasy game this much, and I’m eager to play it some more!
Thanks for reading
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave