For Old Fans And New:
Final Fantasy XV bills itself as a game for long-time fans and first-timers alike. I haven’t played any of the single-player games since XII so that put me in an interesting position of being able to experience the series with (somewhat) fresh eyes.
Honestly, my initial impressions were of disappointment solely because I don’t care of the trope of opening the game during what appears to be the game’s final act. It’s a valid artistic choice, but one I, personally, don’t care for. I always end up feeling like those openings take away from the sense of surprise and adventure by giving away too much too soon. On the other hand, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who find that such openings provide motivation and anticipation for what lies ahead so it’s hardly a dealbreaker.
We’ve All Been There:
So what was my favorite part about my first two hours of gameplay? Pushing my car down the roadPushing a car down the road might sound boring compared to fight monsters, but that is precisely why appreciated it. There is just something so human and relatable about the frustration of having your car break down in the middle of nowhere that really helped me connect with these characters. None of us is ever going to be a prince or a monster-slayer, but we’ve all had to deal with car trouble.
The group’s banter during this scene, from the complaining to the light mocking, really helped establish how close these four are. I’ve played through entire games that failed to establish relationships as convincingly as this simple scene did.
In addition to selling me on the main characters, this scene sold me on the main premise of the game. When it was first show, I was a bit skeptical of the game’s road trip theme. However, this scene gave me confidence that it could work.
A Disappointing Lack Of Sharks:
It was when I reached the first game’s first hub, Hammerhead, that I really begin to enjoy this one. For starters, I’ve always been a big fan of dialogue trees and while, from what little I’ve seen, the system used in XV doesn’t seem as in-depth as the ones from Mass Effect or The Witcher III, but it’s still a welcome addition to the series. Speaking of dialogue, the banter between Noctis and his friends is one of the best parts about this game. It really helps sell the fact that these are life-long friends. Without that connection, these characters would feel like little more than generic anime pretty boys.
After talking to the cashier at a local diner, I embarked on a hunt and got my first taste of XV’s combat and, so far, I’m loving it. The action-oriented style might be a disappointment to fans of the old-school turn-based style, but I found it made even routine encounters exciting. It’s worth mentioning that my most recent experience with any Final Fantasy title was the MMO XIV so the action-based combat of XV was a welcome change from the somewhat slow methodical pace of its online cousin.
I especially enjoyed the warp mechanic. Whether I was dodging enemy attacks or delivering a warp strike, the combat felt smooth and responsive. I haven’t got much of a chance to try out the game’s combo system, but, from what I’ve seen, it’s flashy and fun.
I mentioned the car-pushing as being my favorite moment so far, but my second came shortly after my battle with a group of Sabertusks. The game didn’t reward me with any special loot or even enough EXP to level up. But it did treat me to one of my companions singing the traditional victory music.
Dinner Is Served
Of course, once I left town it wasn’t long before I got distracted by all the little side tasks. I probably spent half an hour just exploring the area around Hammerhead and looking for food and minerals. I don’t know what the minerals do just yet, but I know that want them.
On the topic of food, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the cooking system. It appears to be simpler than the alchemy system used in the Witcher, but it adds another layer of depth to the gameplay. In fact, I’m looking forward to delving into each of the characters’ side skills. Though, I’ll admit to being skeptical regarding the usefulness of Prompto’s love of photography. Utility aside, the fact that they gave these characters skills and hobbies is just another small way the game helps flesh them out a bit.
Onward To Adventure
Eventually, I decided to proceed with the main quest and ended up tracking a missing hunter to an abandoned shack where he tasked me with slaying a mutated monstrosity. Hopefully, this doesn’t lead to my first experience with XV’s game over screen.