It appears to be the year of vaporware, of promises long ago-written off suddenly made real. Tomorrow comes the release of Final Fantasy XV, in development for about a decade but finally arriving in the form of an actual, working video game that people have played and confirm exists. Early reviews of Square Enix’s latest opus are, generally, favorable. The game currently sits at an 86 on Metacritic: the sort of score which would have signaled distress a few years ago, but is in line with a solid AAA offering in a slightly more critical review environment. By all reports the core of the game is lovely, with a beautiful world, memorable characters a general sense of excitement and possibility. Criticisms mostly involve a sense of unevenness that is more or less unavoidable with a game that’s been simmering for this long (opposite rules apply to games and soup). Combat is masterful when it works but frustrating when it doesn’t, some sections of the game don’t work, quest design isn’t always up to snuff: etc. The overriding idea seem to be that Final Fantasy XV is a big, bold and heartfelt game that hits and misses, but hits more often. Here’s What critics are saying:
IGN, 8.2:When I’m riding chocobos across the beach at dusk with my three friends and hunting iconic Final Fantasy monsters in a huge, picturesque open world, Final Fantasy XV feels like nearly everything I could want from a modern Final Fantasy. But when it funnels me into linear scenarios and drab, constricted spaces that plunge the simplistic combat into chaos, my blood boils a bit. There is so much good here, so much heart – especially in the relationships between Noctis and his sworn brothers. It just comes with some changes and compromises that were, at times, difficult for this long-time Final Fantasy fan to come to grips with.
Polygon, 9/10: Final Fantasy 15‘s own opening text describes it as “a Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers alike.” The game contains pieces sure to disappoint players in both camps, but it also provides a refreshingly human take on the classic RPG journey that I hope will inspire future games in the franchise. Final Fantasy 15 can be baffling in some of its questionable choices, but across the board, it hits more than it misses. It hums with an energy and compassion that I loved, a sense of camaraderie, friendship and adventure that fills an old and struggling formula with new relevance.
Gamespot, 8/10: One of the first things you see when you boot up the game is this claim “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers.” It’s a strange statement; fans can’t agree on what makes a good Final Fantasy game, and who knows why newcomers shied away from the series in the past. It’s been a long ten years since Final Fantasy XV was first revealed, and tastes have changed in the meantime. While it’s safe to assume fans and outsiders will find some aspect of Final Fantasy XV disappointing–be it the shallow story or finnicky Astrals–it would be hard for anyone to deny that Final Fantasy XV is a fascinating game after giving it a chance. Where its characters fail to impress, Final Fantasy XV’s beautiful world and exciting challenges save the day.
Game Informer: Final Fantasy XV is unlike any RPG or open-world experience I’ve played before. It succeeds and struggles in finding its unique stance, but a few problematic designs don’t hold it back from being a hell of a journey. Just days after playing it, I find myself reflecting on it fondly. The thoughts of that damn car are recessed and blanketed by Noctis’ journey and some of the stunning moments that unfolded within it. I wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels, but I hope Square returns with another XV or a similarly designed sequel to iron out the rough spots. There’s a solid foundation here that begs to be explored further.
Kotaku: I don’t know how Final Fantasy XV will be remembered when held up to the rest of the Final Fantasy pantheon. But I do know that it’s got everything I want from a Final Fantasy game. I know that it’ll be yet another snapshot in a life filled with Final Fantasy. Another grand adventure, another gang of worthy heroes; another tale of crystals and magic and betrayal and love, all beautiful melodies and lush scenery and the finely honed complexity of carefully choreographed combat. Onward to secrets beyond the horizon, and don’t forget the Phoenix Down. If that’s not Final Fantasy, I don’t know what is.