The long awaited next instalment in the long running Final Fantasy franchise was finally release on 29th November after being in development for a colossal ten years, albeit not always under the name of Final Fantasy XV. So was it worth the wait? Well that’s a complex question that boils down to what you, personally, are expecting or wanting from the game. If you’re expecting a traditional Final Fantasy game with airships, a complex story and powerful, malevolent antagonist then you’ll likely be disappointed, as these are all the things missing from this instalment. However, for all those traditional Final Fantasy elements that are missing, new have been added such as open world exploration and adventuring and a new streamlined combat system, that combines action RPG and the old fashioned turn based strategy.

I should mention that this is not a full review of the game. My current playtime is just under forty hours and I’m currently just entering the second half of the game. A full review will be posted next week, as many accounts indicate that the game suffers in its second half. However, I felt it necessary to touch base and give my experiences to date, for those of you who are still on the fence as to whether to purchase the game or not. I’ll begin by saying that when I first clicked new game and after a short introduction (very short in Final Fantasy terms) was left to push a car down a road to retro a looking garage to then be sent off running some fairly mundane feeling chores for a clearly eye candy styled, female mechanic, my thoughts were: What the hell have I just purchased. This isn’t Final Fantasy. However, just a few hours later it had grown on me immensely, as I bonded with the band of four characters and found myself caught up in their sense of exploration, fun and adventure.

Essentially, the game starts out as an open world RPG. There is a core quest chain and a whole mass of secondary side quests. There has been some complaints of the side quests feeling grindy, generally either go to this point and collect this or go to this point and kill this and, admittedly, the side quests aren’t as fulfilling or varied as those in say Witcher 3, but I found there was enough variety to keep me entertained and they are, after all, optional. If you don’t like side questing then there is still thirty or so hours of the main quest chain to experience. While that may be seen as short when compared to previous Final Fantasy games, I still wouldn’t say it lacks value for money.

As with many other RPGs, these days, your team will chat as you battle and run errands. The party chat isn’t as in depth or story driven as it is in, say, the Dragon Age games. It tends more towards grounded brothers in arms chat, but it does reveal each of the four main character’s individual personalities; whether it’s Gladiolus’s gruff combat and survival advice, Prompto’s puppy dog enthusiasm as he chases after chocobos and Cindy – the game’s female mechanic, or Ignis’s grounded, sensible intervention and driving skills, without which I’m sure the group would find themselves in trouble even more frequently than they inevitably do. They also each have a hobby. Gladiolus likes camping and hiking. Noctis enjoys a bit of fishing. Ignis enjoys cooking, which is lucky as the rest of the group are pretty hopeless in that regard and would have to live off cup noodles without him. Prompto loves taking photos, which you can review at the end of each day and save the ones you like, which builds into a great photo album later in the game.

The storyline is best described as thin and it’s not really anything special in terms of Final Fantasy plots. Prince heads off on a trip to marry his betrothed and before he can get there his country is invaded, his father killed and his country occupied. He then sets off on a journey to collect mystic weapons from his long lost ancestors’ graves and to collect a ring from his betrothed that is handed down the line from king to king. There isn’t much in the way of a main antagonist either. The one they have, up to the point in the story I’m at, I’m struggling to even count as even a token bad guy. His personality and motivations just seem thread bare and his actions are all over the place. There seems no consistency and that actually counts for the plot as well. It seems to lack any form of central focus. You’d think that ousting the enemy nation and reclaiming their country would be the main aim but it quite often feels that’s not the case as they jump from one aim to another to another.

Luckily, a good storyline isn’t necessary to enjoy this game, as the open world is a joy to explore. It has forests, craters, a volcano, some very artistic rock formations and plenty more, and there’re plenty of side quests to keep you zipping back and forth. Exploring by chocobo is especially fun as they can run, jump glide and swim their way across the wilds.

While I haven’t finished the game, just yet, I can say that this is the most fun I’ve had playing a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X. True, after the disaster that was Final Fantasy XIII that might not be saying much but I, actually, fairly enjoyed XII and thought that was a decent if not exceptional game. Final Fantasy XV certainly breaks new ground in the franchise and presents an enjoyable experience. I’ll get to back to you with a more in depth review shortly.