Final Fantasy XV First Impressions

Posted: December 1, 2016 by ryanlecocq in Features, Reviews

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I don’t think I’ll do a full review, as I wasn’t able to get the game early.  I’m just going to try to hit the important points all in one place.

I won’t make you wait to find out if I like it or not.  I love this game so far.  I would say it lives up to my personal expectations and is more fun to play than any RPG since Xenoblade Chronicles.  The key points of a good FF game are all there, from fun battle system to stellar graphics and music.  I really like the more understated plot, but there’s a major issue with it I’ll go into a bit later.  I’m about 16 hours in and in Altissia, so I’m a good chunk in, but not nearly far enough to give any final impression.

 

Some Experience Required

This is the first Final Fantasy game where the additional media products are required, rather than not really necessary and enjoyable.  By comparison, several other FF games  (especially VII) have had movies or animated shorts associated with them.  These were sometimes decent, but in no way were required to enjoy the game.  If you do not watch Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, the first hours of FFXV will be marred by a feeling of confusion.  Most fans will have already watched Brotherhood online and forked out the extra cash for Kingsglaive either with a bundle or separately, but any “first timers” may find themselves a little in the dark.

It’s really debatable how much of a strategy vs blunder this is, as it may be the perfect level of story for mainstream gamers that just don’t care.  Many people may find that the unobtrusiveness of the plot was perfect.  For me personally, I found that by watching both before playing, I had a pretty good idea of who everyone was and what was happening.  So kind of a YMMV thing, but if you want to know some of the most important plot details, you are required to seek out additional products.

 

Pro in Perspective

Now that I finally have a game developed to take advantage of this new PS4 Pro, I can finally explore its benefits.  Final Fantasy XV has pretty good PS4 Pro support, though at the moment it’s marred by frame pacing issues on the high setting.  There are two modes, high and low.  The low appears to be the way the game runs on the regular PS4, while the high is rendered at 1800p with higher effects and up or downsampled to your monitor resolution.

I didn’t have an original PS4 on hand anymore to compare to or a means of benchmarking my consoles, but the low mode appears to run between 40-60 frames per second.  The high setting, regardless of your screen resolution, seems to sit at about 30 with really annoying stuttering.  It looks absolutely fantastic on high, with better lighting, textures and anti-aliasing, but the ugly stuttering makes it unplayable in my opinion at the moment.  Hopefully a patch will address this shortly.

The next issue I had was HDR.  My TV doesn’t support it and in my experience at least, the game seems to almost require it.  Even with the HDR setting off, the game has a very harsh internal contrast that seems designed to show off HDR.  At times it gives a convincing illusion of HDR on a screen that doesn’t support it, but in low light areas it was annoying and required tweaking of TV settings.  I imagine it looks absolutely stellar though on an OLED screen that supports HDR.

 

The Boys and the Road

You can expect to hear this from any review of this game, but the road trip aspect is the best part of this game.  My favorite thing in gaming these days is emergent gameplay.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this is when moments occur in a game engine that are just created by the player interacting with a complex system and the result being fun.  It isn’t scripted, it wasn’t planned by the creators, it just happened because you pushed the right buttons.  The road trip parts of this game nail emergent gameplay in a way that I hope will become more common.

It’s the little things that make it such a personal experience.  I once coasted into a gas station after running out of fuel.  The guys got out to push (complaining of course) right as the car rolled within range of the pump.  It was such a surreal moment, that it filled me with the same joy that such a feat with my real buddies would.  For both Mike’s and my bachelor parties, we went on very similar road trips, so it hit close to home.  Experiences like this will be the norm, and will be created from a combination of factors like what route you choose and what detours you choose to make.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Laguna years ago about Final Fantasy VIII.  Much like XV, VIII had a very serious plot that was only interrupted by interludes about these dudes on a trip.  Laguna isn’t a huge fan of dark, brooding RPGs, so for him the first Laguna and co. sequence was like this light from the heavens showing him he could like this game.  He identified so much with Laguna Loire, as well as resembling him, that we call him Laguna to this day.  This is finally another FF game where you can develop a connection like that.  Fortunately they also improved on the dark and brooding to bro trip ratio.

 

The Prince and the Pauper

Another thing everyone who plays this game can agree on is how effing expensive everything is.  Maybe the point is that life is hard outside your palace, but the economy in this game is ridiculous.  For example, the pay you receive for killing a rare monster is barely enough to buy salmon burgers at a roadside diner.  You would think the clothes off my royal back would be worth a fortune, but there appears to be no way for Noctis to access any of his royal funds or come up with a better financial plan than squandering his godlike power on killing varmints.  If this was Grand Theft Auto, I would just rob the gas station, because ya know, I could just flatten the whole town.

Money is pretty much the greatest issue you will face in this game.  I have so far been overpowered in  every other way, but way behind in gear, because just buying a few healing items breaks the bank.  It makes it kind of frustrating to do the plot, because none of the quests will give you money and they will often force you into a long string of events that deplete your very expensive resources.  The only solution I’ve found is to grind like crazy between plot missions to keep my stock of phoenix downs and elixers as full as possible.

This would be my other highest priority for future patches.  Such an otherwise polished game should not be dragged down by being too poor to buy basic items.

 

That’s all for now.  Gotta get back to playing.

 

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