Saturday, 21 April 2018

Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition ★★★★★

Final Fantasy XV (FFXV) has been in Development for nearly as long as Duke Nukem Forever (was). Thankfully FFXV turned out a lot more gratifying. Originally revealed as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, at E3 2006, the game has come a long way since and wisely distanced itself from anything Final Fantasy XIII related. After a billion years in the making, it finally got released in November 2016... still unfinished. Square have been updating and adding parts to the game, on a semi regular bases, ever since; with no intention of stopping any time soon.

Protagonist Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum (who bears a striking resemblance to CEX's very own Luke...) is on a road trip, with his three buddies, Ignis, Gladio and Pronto, when his home, The Citadel, is overrun by the Niflheim's Magitek army and Daemons. His dad, King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, is unceremoniously killed after a visually spectacular fight (which doesn’t take place within the game. I’ll get to that). Unable to return home, to Insomnia, due to "complicated diplomatic reasons", the bro squad venture out on the most epic car journey since Back to the Future: Part 2.

The first half of the game has the squad exploring, the continent/Kingdom of Lucis, a massive open world where the game is at its best. You're free to wander and get involved in any number of menial side tasks, you may wish to distract yourself with. Final Fantasy: National Lampoons Eos is largely about the adventurous road trip and bond with friends, along the way. The Regalia, their trusty car companion, takes on an almost equally important role within the group becoming the fifth member. Noctis and his group of Jpop Backstreet Boys never feel like an annoying escort mission and are fully capable of handling themselves. A recent update also allows you to swap and take control of any of them, during combat. To the Dismay of many fans, the traditional turn based system was dropped, this time around, in favour of more flashy real time fighting. Somewhat closer to the one used for FF7: Crisis Core, feeling a bit more Freeflow. Mostly you just spam the same button, though. Once past Mission 8, you set sail for Altissia, a large impressive City. A combination of Venice and Disneyland. From here on, the second half of the game takes place on the second continent. Where the game loses much of its free roaming aspects and becomes a much more linear affair, feeling like it fell prey to time restraints. This is where most of the games updates have been implemented; over the years. You're ushered on, mission to mission, with very little else to see or explore. That is until you finish the game and it opens up in a whole new way, with extra dungeons, new Bosses and all sorts of upgrades. As formerly mentioned, large chunks of story are told through other media. The visually phenomenal CGI feature movie, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV tells the events leading up to the main game. A four part Anime FFXV: Brotherhood, available on Youtube, fills in gaps as to how each of the gang first met, each episode focusing on a different member of the team.

Having previously played though FFXV on my PS4 (what feels like a decade ago), I went the PC route for the Royale Edition, which comes with its own share of pros and cons. As an anti piracy measure, you're obligated to use the notorious Denuvo DRM. Which has gained a bad reputation for bottlenecking the CPU and making games run sluggishly. Luckily this isn't so much the case, with FFXV. In fact, the engine runs pretty well, even on slightly older machines (with adjustments to settings, obviously). This is, by far, one of the prettiest looking games, to date. It comes with all sorts of options to tweak graphics and performance but is limited to a max of 120 Frames Per Second. Which, to be fair, no one can likely run at 4K, without a NASA PC, anyway. The Install size is also ridiculously massive, at 100-155 GB, depending if you want higher resolution textures. I reluctantly removed The Witcher 3 so I could run it off of my SSD (Solid State Drive), to minimise any load times.

Along with the Base game, FFXV: Royal Edition also come with all the currently released DLC. Which explains away part of the large install size. This includes Comrades, An almost MMO like online mode, which is best played with friends. The character creator is pretty decent and has a whole new story, taking place after one of the later chapters from the main game. As well as, the three separate self contained story DLC Episodes for Ignis, Gladio and Pronto. Each playing differently and with there own unique tone and gameplay elements. The Base game itself has had a ton of content added, from new Side Quests, additional enemy types and some extra (optional) Bosses to be found and the ability to drive the Regalia all the way to Insomnia.

Characters, such as Lunafreya and Cor get some much needed attention to their involvement, within the overall story, making them feel less like throwaway characters. They also added some new story cutscenes. One of which I felt unnecessary and only dilutes the scenes that follow. What before (the Royale Edition) was an epic special moment of all that had lead to that point, is now reduced to a repeat of events that just occurred; removing that impact. Directors Cuts aren't always better (George Lucas's Star Wars says “Hi”).

This is quite a robust package with a lot of content. It might not be an essential release for casual players, that already played through the game, but die hard fans will find a bunch of new additions to fankid over. If you didn't pick this up first time around, this is definitely worth the investment (of money and time). I've spent silly amounts of time playing through after story content and will happily jump back to it from time to time. Final Fantasy XV is an amazingly enormous spectacle, of a game, one of my favourites I've spent time with this generation. I'm just not sure it's a Final Fantasy game, but I’m not gonna hold that against it.

Bry Wyatt

Final Fantasy XV at CeX

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