I have only just begun to scratch the surface of reviewing the sprawling game that appears to be Final Fantasy XV. Ten years in development does good things to a game, and it does bad things to a game: the anticipation of something so long awaited is a tense experience, and the specter of any sort of disappointment hovers around something like this like a fog. That’s how I felt when I first clicked open this game, and that’s how I felt as I played through a short tutorial and began to watch the opening cinematics. About half of an hour in, that feeling was gone. There will be more to say in the coming days, but for right now this is a game that manages to perfectly capture that feeling of adventure inherent to a game like this while simultaneously feeling right at home in 2016. I can’t wait to play more.
Final Fantasy XV, so far, is a road trip at heart. It’s the sort of roadtrip where you fight magical beasts with magic and oversized swords, but that’s window dressing for what this game is really about: four friends in a car. You play Prince Noctis, who together with his three monochromatic mates Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto must hop into a slick convertible and travel all over creation fighting monsters and mechanical soldiers to save Noctis’ kingdom. The party is at the heart of any JRPG, after all, but something about that concept is perfectly executed here. Sure, none of the main characters have what you might call natural dialogue and they repeat themselves near-constantly, but that never seems to matter. They talk, they quip, they fight together, they cook meals and they look at Prompto’s photos of their adventures at the end of a long day.
It matches the new open world setting to a T. The closest analogue is probably Dragon Age: Inquisition, but that game never quite grabbed me the way it grabbed others. That game had you recruiting allies for a political movement, but Final Fantasy XV is content to truly focus on the adventure, and that’s what I want out my road trip simulator. It helps that the visuals are stunning (no 360 or Ps3 to weigh things down helps there), and that even a few hours in the world is full of massive and wondrous monsters just begging me to level up enough to take them on. There is, of course, a larger story that lends the whole thing epic scale, but the smallness of adventuring out in the wilderness with your friends is what really grabs me here.
I haven’t played a Final Fantasy game for a long time, but that idea of the party is always what I remember when I think back fondly to games like Final Fantasy X. And that’s why I’m glad to see that idea so thoroughly explored in this new iteration. Even when you get in the car, you still have to wait for the thing to drive to where you’re going, rotating the right stick to check out the scenery and listening to music, quips and news reports as you go. It’s a real journey: an idea that many, if not most, games attempt, but few get right. So far, this one has it right.