Final Fantasy XV Review In Progress: A Big, Wonderful Vacation

As of right now, I am 16 hours into the fantastic adventure that is Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XVand the game shows no intentions of slowing down. With all the buzz going on about the game, I feel compelled to write down some of my feelings about the game while I am still in the midst of the experience. 

Final Fantasy XV opens by proclaiming itself as “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers.” I can see where they were going, but it’s a little misleading. This game will not make a convert out of anyone who doesn’t like RPGs. It is a complex RPG for people who are willing to invest time in learning its systems, as opposed to the simple and friendly structure of Skyrimfor example. Instead, this game is a love letter to fans of the past, present and future of the RPG genre, and for that, it is a landmark game.

Compared to many Square Enix games, Final Fantasy XV drops you into the action pretty quickly. Within 30 minutes of firing up the game, you are already riding your car, doing quests around the massive Leide region. It’s amazing then, that it didn’t feel like the game  had hit its stride during its opening hours. In fact, for some of that time, I wasn’t having fun-I was feeling pretty frustrated with the game’s extended, minimalist exposition and repetitive combat. Even the game’s massive, open world felt so restricted due to only being able to drive on rails to each quest destination with relatively little actual control of your car.

But… Then, at around 5 hours in, there’s a shift that makes the game click:

The slow drip of quests that the game begins with becomes a deluge, and 16 hours in I still have a ton of quests flooding my log.

An event happens in the story that, though predictable and slightly cliché, gives our characters renewed purpose in traveling their world. As a result, the mystery in the world of Eos becomes more apparent and compelling. What is up with that huge meteor in the middle of the Duscae region? Why are the imperials being such assholes? What is the secret behind Noctis’s magical family?

As the game gets tougher, you begin to understand the battle system and gain more abilities-after this, the battles become much more strategic and suspenseful. I turned on the “Wait” mode, which feels almost necessary now, since the game is throwing huge hordes of enemies at me and I need time to properly plan out an attack in order to win. Even then, I rarely escape from one of these tough battles without having to use potions or elixirs.

It takes some time, but once this game really gets its swagger, it becomes apparent that it’s everything I’ve wanted from a Final Fantasy game. Is it the best? It’s way too early to say. I’m only on chapter 4 out of 15, and the game shows no signs of winding down. I know from reading other reviews and impressions that there is a significant event halfway through the game where it switches styles from open world to linear, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

What I do know is that, at this point, Final Fantasy XV makes me feel like I’m out adventuring with friends, exploring this big, beautiful and mysterious world. It feels almost like I’m in the middle of a big and wonderful vacation, and like most good vacations, I don’t want it to end.

Please stay tuned for a full review once I complete the game, whenever that may be.

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