Feel free to check out my video review or you can read it below, the old fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.

I’ll fully confess that after the disaster that was Final Fantasy 13, I had pretty much sworn off Final Fantasy games for good. It came to the day before release and I still wasn’t sure if I should take the plunge and purchase a copy. As I’m sure you can work out, I did and I couldn’t be gladder that I did. I’ll confess that when I first clicked new game to be given a short intro sequence, that doesn’t really say much, then was dropped on a road to push a car and sent out on a couple of seemingly pointless errands, I was serious wondering just what I’d spent my £40 on. It not exactly the most explosive start to a Final Fantasy game to date, however I quickly discovered the games charm.

Final Fantasy 15 quickly establishes that it’s not quite the same as its predecessors. From the start you’re let loose in a large open world environment. You’re given a car and three companions to explore its terrain and battle its monsters. Completely opposite to Final Fantasy 13. It’s your choice from the start whether to pursue the main quest line or embark on one or many of the numerous side quests available. While these side quests do feel like the lack meaning a lot of time, mainly being fetch quests or hunt quests, it’s getting to the quests locations that I find is where the fun is had. Square Enix have created a beautiful world to explore and many different ways to explore it, by car, on foot, by Chocobo (obviously because there’s no Final Fantasy without Chocobos) and after game completion even by flying car.

I’ll confess to being a little disappointed by the distribution of the quest objectives within the game world. The environment is massive yet many hunt quests have you going back to the same locations, leaving a lot of unutilised space. It certainly doesn’t use the space as effectively as say The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, which had a really good spread of treasure, quests and points of interest. Now, Final Fantasy 15 does also have treasure and harvest points scattered across the map, but I find there is less incentive to go there as the rewards are often not worth the effort, here’s a carrot for your trouble or, if you’re lucky, a potion. The Witcher 3 would often reward you with weapons or armour and nothing beats the Witcher armour set quests, which sent you to even more than the four corners of the globe in pursuit of the perfect outfit. Final Fantasy 15 does also have the option of collecting outfits but there really aren’t that many to choose from. There’s the starting outfit, a casual outfit and a royal outfit, plus one DLC outfit for pre-ordering. They try to trick you into thinking there’s more by giving all the above options to remove the jacket but I ain’t buying it. I really think character customisation leaves something to be desired but, let’s face it, it still has more options than present in previous games, which generally didn’t allow you to change outfit at all.

Your party consists of four main team members Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto, who are occasionally joined by guest characters. I’ll confess that one of the main things I hated about Final Fantasy 13 were the characters. There wasn’t a single one that didn’t annoy the hell out me in that game. One of the main things I dreaded was a similar situation in this outing. Thankfully, I enjoy the company of all the party characters in this game, and that’s lucky because you only get the four and so can’t switch them out.

Noctis is the main character, a prince, if a rather down to earth one. Sometimes, I even feel he’s a little too down to earth when he’s being sent on menial errands, like checking power pylons or a shopping trip for cooking ingredients, but, let’s face it, there’s nothing more annoying than a spoilt rich kid, so it’s good that he’s so approachable and willing to get his hands dirty. The rest of his team don’t really treat him like royalty either and just behave like they’re off on a lad’s only adventure weekend. They’ll get group photo’s at places and landmarks they visit and action shots during combat. It’s actually quite endearing. It very much feels like you’re having a fun adventure with a group of friends, and I found myself getting quite attached to the characters. Certainly, enough to pine a bit when bad things inevitably happen to them. Noctis also enjoys fishing, not during a fight, obviously unless you’re fighting a giant fish, haven’t come across any to this point, unless you count leviathan but I don’t think there’s a rod big enough to catch that fish… There are fishing spots dotted around the area and any fish you catch, Ignis can then cook for dinner. So it comes with its rewards.

Ignis is my favourite among Noctis’s entourage. He’s the sensible and intelligent one. He’ll come up with tactics in battle and will be able to analyse an enemy for its weaknesses. He’s also a great cook which is top of my list when it comes to choosing friends… He’ll learn new recipes as the game progresses which gives the team varying stat bonuses when eaten. They sort of work the same way as Geralt’s potions in The Witcher. You have to stop and camp for Ignis to prepare a meal and then the team will start with the buff the next day, which is invaluable against stronger opponents as some of the higher meals will boost your stats significantly, giving a big advantage in a fight. If you have a quest highlighted then an ! will show next to meals which have boosts relevant to the threats you’re likely to meet on the job. There are no healers in this game but Ignis does have an ability regroup, which calls the group together on the battle field and restores their HP which is good in a pinch.

Gladiolus is the brawn. He has the highest HP of the team and can also equip a shield to tank some damage but don’t expect him to act a tank in the conventional sense. He has abilities which can be learnt to intercept damage to Noctis but the other members will have to fend for themselves. Gladiolus enjoys hiking and camping and doing those sorts of activities will boost his survival skill which will apparently lead to better item discovery and drops.

Prompto has the lowest HP of the group and will feel the weakest member. He’s also very vocal and chirpy. He loves photography and goes mad over Chocobos and also develops a crush on just about every woman the group meet. He’ll take photos of your adventures which he shares with the group every night when you stop at a rest point, hotel/camping spot. You can save a total of 150 of his photos throughout the game and he’ll take about ten a day. His skill won’t help you out much in the game but I rather enjoy it. After a decent amount of play time on the game you’ll notice your photo archive will take the form of a holiday photo album and it is great to be able to look back them later to remind you of some of your earlier conquests. There is a quest chain which sends you off taking photos for a magazine editor and it is very lucrative in terms of financial rewards, as far as I know you can start this quest chain at any skill level once you discover the starting location.

Noctis is the only playable character but you can give directions to your team members to coordinate attacks. Combat is played in real time with an option to switch to wait mode which pauses the action when Noctis is standing still, if you want to take a more tactical approach. By attacking near his teammates and from behind enemies, Noctis can initiate link attacks with their aid, dealing extra damage and resulting some quite entertaining animations. Each of his three companions can also equip a special move which is powered by the tactical gauge which fill up during combat. These range from dealing damage to healing the party. New and more powerful moves can be purchased for Ability Points (AP) but will generally use more units the more powerful they are.

Noctis can equip any weapon, whereas his companions are limited to one or two types plus magic. Noctis can also equip special weapons, collected from his ancestors’ tombs throughout the game, which will take points from his health in exchange for increased firepower. I’ve found these largely irrelevant as there are few with which the penalty feels justified. However, Noctis does have a very useful and fun warping technique, by which he can throw his weapon and warp to the place it lands. This is a great move covering distance quickly on the battlefield allowing you to warp from enemy to enemy. This move does use up his mana which exhausted puts him in a stasis condition, effectively a power down, in which he can’t use any of his warp techniques even in defence, so it’s wise to leave some in the meter for an emergency. Noctis can easily replenish his mana in most fights by using warp points to catch his breath which will instantly replenish his gauge.

Magic has a completely different function in this game to its predecessors. Only Noctis can gather the raw energy and then needs to craft it into objects resembling magic grenades which can then be equipped for use by any member of the party. Each craft will create just three casts but they are powerful and will deliver quite the punch, unfortunately, if any of your team members are in the radius of the blast zone they’ll take the hit too, although I’ve never noted a great deal of damage taken, it more knocks them flat and incapacitates them for a very short while. If you equip them on your team mates they will shout a warning before throwing one giving you time to get out of harm’s way.

Summoning also works differently this game. Instead of being able to summon on call the summons this time have a mind of their own and will offer their services of their own accord. Each summon has different requirements which must be met in order for a summon to trigger. Ramah is the one you’ll see most often as the chance of receiving his aid is increased depending on the length of time spent in combat. The longer the fight, the higher the chance. The other summons are a bit more picky. Titan will only be summoned if one member of the party is KO’d. Leviathan  can only be summoned when near water and if Noctis is in the danger state. Shiva is very picky. I’ve never seen her summoned outside of set storyline interventions. She needs a long battle and one where team mates are KO’d and Noctis is in danger state. Good luck managing all that and not dying before you summon her.

In terms of story line, which is traditionally the strongest element of a Final Fantasy game, Final fantasy 15 is a bit of a let-down. The plot in the first half is diluted by tonnes of side quest. You can choose to skip those but you may find yourself under levelled part way through, if you do. The second half is just a mess. Under developed characters, plot points without lead ins, and a distinct rushed feeling to a couple of the later chapters. The main villain is also nothing to write home about. He’s just about the weakest antagonist in any Final Fantasy game and even when he ups his game in the final chapter, I was just left feeling that he was pathetic. He completely lacks any form of decent backstory or motivation and just wants to end the world owing to a nursed grudge on being slighted, once upon a time. He does some pretty bad things, granted , but actions alone a good villain does not make. His character needs a lot more depth to even become a wannabe Sephiroth.

In defence of the story line issues, SquareEnix would say that a film ‘Kingsglaive’ was created set within the Final Fantasy 15 world with some of the plot in it, but I refuse to pay extra money for a film made necessary to understand the plot of the game, which should be self-contained, so I haven’t watched it. However, there is also a short anime series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy 15 which is available to watch for free and works as a prologue and an introduction to the four main characters. This I have watched and doing so will help you bond with the four main party members and help you understand some of their quirks. It’s actually decent viewing in its own right too, and you can watch the whole thing in little more than an hour.

To be honest, despite the plot issues, Final Fantasy 15 remains a fun and absorbing game to play and I happily ran around running side quests for over 30 hours without getting bored. With the hobbies , collectables, trophies and mini games I’ve had a good 55 plus hours of play already and still have plenty to do in end game with the unlocking of several end game dungeons and bosses. The flying car is fantastic and easy to unlock post game. It also comes with unlimited petrol which is a relief as running out of fuel mid-flight might have proven a fatal oversight, as oppose to on the ground, where you can just call Cindy to tow you back to her garage. In all but the plot, this is a fantastic game and, while not great, the plot does at least succeed in holding the game together, if rather tenuously in places. If the only thing you liked about previous Final Fantasy games was the plot then this game may not be for you, but if you’re happy to go along for the ride and enjoy the journey more than the destination then you’ll find this a welcome installment, especially after the disaster that was Final Fantasy 13.