'Final Fantasy XV': Thank God, A Plot That Makes Sense

  • Playstation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Action
  • RPG
Key art for Final Fantasy XV.
Key art for Final Fantasy XV. (c) Square-Enix

Having played through Chapter 1 of Final Fantasy XV, a feat that took me almost two hours, I’m relieved to say Final Fantasy XVs plot feels grounded and straightforward. Relatable human characters with comprehensible human relationships are moving through this world, and the events that take them from point A to point B make sense.

Chapter 1 of Final Fantasy XV begins with four bros on a simple quest: bring Noctis to his bride. Along the way, their car, the Regalia, breaks down, so they have to bring it in for repairs. Once the Regalia is repaired, the boys are back on the road. They head to a pier to book a ship, and just when they think they’re ready to go, unbelievable news breaks. The Fabulous Four must confirm the truth with their own eyes, so they turn back. Truth confirmed, they head back onto the road to get more information about what’s going on. End Chapter 1.

There’s none of Final Fantasy XIII’s circuitous insanity about l’Cie or fal’Cie, no dialogue that made me feel like I needed a Final Fantasy -to-English in-game glossary, none of that. There’s a tense political situation that might get complicated, but we’re invested in Noctis and his companions, who will serve as grounding rods for the storms of plot. There’s magic and a crystal and your typical Final Fantasy mumbo jumbo to come, but Final Fantasy XV is going to ease us into all of that, not smack us with it until we trade the game in at GameStop (RIP Final Fantasy XIII).

Furthermore, Final Fantasy XV goes through an incredible amount of effort to ground the story on a human level. Forget about Kingsglaive and Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood. Those works represent Square-Enix’s media efforts. They drum up hype, excite us about the characters by teasing us with their backstories and tantalizing us with personality insights, and give us an expanded look at a universe that has been detailed with exacting precision. But they are outside of the game itself.

In Final Fantasy XV proper, the interaction between our four main characters is rooted in the gameplay. Combat features a rescue mechanic where you can come to the salvation of your teammates -- and they can do the same for you as well. Every time you rest at a new camp or enjoy new lodgings, you’re treated to cinematics of the characters shooting the shit as they get themselves ready for the evening.

And you must rest, because not only is the night dangerous, you won’t level up until you do. When you rest: banter. When you drive: banter. You’re treated to dialogue that enhances your understanding of the world and these characters all the time.

The characters’ skills strengthen our bonds with them further, as well as adding content in the form of mini-games. Noctis fishes, Gladiolus explores the wild, Ignis cooks and Prompto takes photographs. Ignis’ cooking gives powerful status-boosting effects and each meal must be crafted from elements you collect. Noctis’ fishing is a classic mini-game, Ocarina of Time-style, where you throw the lure out and hope to hook a big one (this portion of the game kept giving me error messages, though, so it’s not fully polished yet). Prompto, who’s obsessed with memorializing this journey, takes photographs whose composition quality increases as his skill goes up; you get to choose which photos to keep. Gladiolus climbs rocks, I guess (I didn’t get to explore his skill in Chapter 1). Gameplay content and character insight in one? Yes please.

You can even earn AP in conversation rather than combat. Earning AP gives you access to a whole slew of special ability trees in the Nexus, from magic and teamwork to combat and recovery. Earning AP by impressing your friends in conversation rather than sticking beasties in combat really makes Final Fantasy XV feel true to its RPG roots.

Sensible plots and relatable characters are not always strengths of the Final Fantasy series, but Final Fantasy XV’s storyline has me feeling positive so far. We’ll see whether or not the plot stays grounded when Final Fantasy XV comes out on Nov. 29.

Final Fantasy XV
Combat, Plot, Characters Create Something Flawed, Beautiful, Fantastic
Despite it's flaws, Final Fantasy XV is a milestone achievement: not just for being completed, but for being completed with polish, aplomb and love.
  • Engaging main cast of characters
  • Fun, fast-paced combat
  • A massive, beautiful world to explore
  • The Regalia!
  • Continuous updates have addressed some shortcomings of the initial release
  • Major aspects of the story feel rushed or absent, particularly toward the end of the game
  • Stealth sequences feel out of place
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