At its heart, Final Fantasy games have always been about what makes us human.
While wrapped up in bombastic and grandiose storylines, the themes of love, family and companionship run deep throughout the beloved JRPG series.
Final Fantasy 15, arguably the most anticipated entry since FF7, is a game about friendship and the importance of the ties that bind.
You play Prince Noctis, a King-in-waiting, on a road trip with his four bodyguards to his wedding with a childhood friend – an arranged marriage meant to bring peace between two warring nations.
Things, of course, don’t go to plan and soon you’re left fighting for survival and all that’s important to you. And throughout the course of FF15’s 30-hour long main campaign, you’ll be doing plenty of fighting.
In an effort to appeal to a wider fanbase, developer Square Enix have ditched the series typical turned-based combat, which has been bit-by-bit phased out, for a more action-orientated approach.
Battles play out like something out of a Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden game – with a furious flurry of attacks delivered by pressing down and holding one button.
However, that only deals so much damage – so you have to make use of buffers to increase the power of your blows like hitting an enemy from their blindspot and linking blows. During fights you only control Noctis but you can shout orders to your friends Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis – then launch a powerful follow-up strike with a well-timed button press. It’s simple to pick up and play, but harder to master, with the nuances to combat making fights fast, furious and frantic – especially when swarmed by huge numbers of enemies. The bold changes means FF15’s combat system is one of its best features – unlike other entries in the series random battles are no longer a chore you have to labour through to level up but a joy to play.
The world of Eos, where Final Fantasy 15’s adventure is set, is also one of the main highlights – a vivid, gorgeous place that is teeming with life and has locations that will leave you breathless.
One such area Noctis’s journey takes you to is the city of Altissia – a Venice style location full of canals, waterfalls and gondolas which is jaw-dropping to behold
Each area, whether it is a sprawling capital or quaint town by the beach, is full of life around every corner – with random conversations you can overhear that help draw you into the setting further.
One such moment was when I ran past an upset child with his father, who was asking why his mum wasn’t able to come to dinner that night – a heart wrenching little touch that made me feel like I was in a real world. To get between these impressive locations Noctis and his friends travel the vast map of Eos in his dad’s luxury sports car, the Regalia, but these journeys aren’t just a matter of getting from A to B. Long journeys can take almost ten minutes, and during this time you’re able to take in the sights of FF15’s impressive locals, stumble across side quests and learn more about your friends/bodyguards.
Large parts of the character building occurs during these scenes, with your three musketeers talking to you and revealing more about themselves and the camaraderie between the quartet. During these road trips I learnt about Prompto’s love of photography, Gladiolus’s passion of reading and how Ignis always likes to be the one driving. These little moments, along with the banter between the ragtag bunch of heroes, helps to flesh them and their relationships out – making them some of Final Fantasy’s most vivid characters yet. Their friendship, which turns into a brotherhood, is the driving force in a story which at times feels a bit muddled and vague. A number of big story beats fail to resonate as powerfully as they could have done because what’s happening is not explained clearly enough.
While that is an issue, Final Fantasy games often have stories that can seem impenetrable or hard to grasp – it’s the experience as a whole that makes it worthwhile.
And with FF15 the awesome combat system, beautiful world and memorable characters all combine to make it one of the series best entries in years.
Like with the revered Final Fantasy 7, Noctis’s adventure in Eos breathes new life into the JRPG genre and is set to draw in a whole new audience of players. Square Enix have shown that you can teach an old dog new tricks – and with it created one of the best games of this generation.
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