You may have noticed a low frequency of posts this week, which I honestly blame on a combination of fall semester brain detox and a little open world RPG by the name of Final Fantasy XV. Sorry about that.
Last week was pretty stressful, having crammed two major term papers whose due dates just happened to be one day apart. Yuck. I ended up getting A’s on both, but by the end of the week my brain felt like it was taking a dump out of my ears.
With the fall semester behind me, it’s time for some much needed gaming R&R.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XV. I just hit the 30-hour mark last night, having spent most of my time exploring the open world, fishing, partaking in monster hunts, and turning in side-quests.
I haven’t been this engaged in a Final Fantasy since FFX released in July of 2001, but it’s not without its problems.
EDIT: Finished the game tonight and it had a strong finish. Definitely a contender for my GOTY.
For starters, the story has serious pacing issues. Although you could chalk it up to spending most of the opening hours getting acclimated with Final Fantasy XV’s nuances, it took me nearly 15 hours to reach chapter 3, but the same amount of time to finish up the following 6.
I’ll save the in-depth analysis for the review I’m hoping to write, but in a nutshell I just haven’t felt invested in the story at all. Four friends travel from one kingdom to another in hopes of bringing an end to their war by marrying Prince Noctis (the hero) to Lady Lunafreya (his childhood friend and Oracle). That bit is fine, it’s just what occurs between the bookends that fails to gain traction.
EARLY GAME SPOILER: For those of you that watched Kingsglaive, you already know how the opening hours of Final Fantasy XV play out–Noctis’s father, King Regis, is slain during the peace negotiations, which plays side-by-side with the game’s first chapter. Noctis and Lunafreya are then falsly presumed dead by the media (in true propaganda fashion), so you spend a large majority of the game travelling across Eos in your sweet car in order to meet up with Lunafreya in Altissa.
The narrative just feels infinitely plagued by the 10-year development cycle, which I assume went through many, many changes. By introducing a few characters without much emphasis on their back story, and then expecting the player to become invested immediately when shit goes south, it feels more half-baked than it does important.
Again, I’ll save the in-depth analysis for the review.
While the story doesn’t seem to matter much right now, I am thoroughly enjoying the open world, its stunning visuals, and the sense of brotherhood and friendship that grows within each of the four main characters. It really does feel like I’m driving across the country with my best friends, stopping to take pictures, play virtual tourist, and taking part in whatever tickles my fancy–monster hunts, chocobo rentals, fishing, etc.
Actually, now is a good time to apologize to anyone that follows me on Twitter, since I’ve been sharing a TON of screenshots. Prompto, one of the four main characters, loves to take pictures and you can dig through them whenever you rest. You can save up to 150 of them, but the game makes it incredibly easy to upload your favorites directly to Twitter or Facebook. And boy do I love sharing screenshots.
I also really dig the more action-focused combat, even as a fan of the more traditional turn-based/menu-focused Final Fantasy games of yesteryear. You only have full control over Noctis, but you can unlock and assign tech commands to his friends that can then be issued mid-combat. Noctis has a few tricks up his sleeve as well, being able to warp across the battlefield, phase through attacks, and swap between four different weapons or spells on the fly. If Square Enix wants to take the Final Fantasy VII Remake in a more action-focused direction, I think something similar would work incredibly well.
Final Fantasy XV hits a lot of nostalgic notes as well, which has been fun. Prompto will occasionally hum the Final Fantasy victory theme at the conclusion of battle, or the chocobo theme when you’re just running around. While cruising in your car, the Regalia, you can listen to music from earlier Final Fantasy games. There was this surreal moment I had where I was driving to my next quest objective while listening to Final Fantasy VII’s Cosmo Canyon theme. I thought back to how much I loved that world and those characters, and just how much the series has grown since 1997. We’ve certainly come a long way since piloting the Tiny Bronco, haven’t we?
I haven’t been playing anything other than Final Fantasy XV, but I did pick up The Last Guardian. I’ll probably jump in to that next and, since it’s a shorter 8-hour game, segue in to World of Final Fantasy in hopes of finishing it up before the spring semester begins on January 9th. With any luck I’ll finish both before the end of the year so I can consider them for my Top 10 Games of 2016 post.
What about you folks? What are you getting in to this weekend?