Final Fantasy XV WINDOWS EDITION Review

Until the release of Final Fantasy XV two years ago, I had not played a FF game since Final Fantasy X. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the series as a whole. I played Final Fantasy VII back in the day and largely thought it was just fine, but it didn’t blow me away. Final Fantasy VIII was a mess of a game that I never finished.  I actually wound up liking FFX a lot more after playing the remaster not too long ago. But there’s something about FFXV that just worked for me. So, this is what intrigued me about trying out how it plays on the PC. Fair warning, once you play the WINDOWS EDITION, you may not want to go back to your console.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, we were unable to review the console version of Final Fantasy XV. So, this review serves as a more of a bridge between an original review of the game, and also how it compares between console and PC.

Review: Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

Final Fantasy XV Windows

Title:  Final Fantasy XV: WINDOWS EDITION
Platform: PC [Reviewed]
Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game
Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
Players: 1-4
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Price: $49.99

How it Runs

Final Fantasy XV is great on PC provided you have a computer beefy enough to run it. The game runs supremely better than on a PlayStation 4 (or Xbox One). I ran the game at 1920×1080, with the presets set to high.  I don’t have everything cranked up, or have the stupid Nvidia-specific options on, but most other options are set to high.  For the record, I’m on a gaming laptop with an i7-7700HQ, Nvidia GTX 1070 (8GB of video ram), and 12GB of system ram.  I’ll admit that 12 is an awkward number, but this setup runs Final Fantasy XV without any real hitch.

The Story

The story of Final Fantasy XV is arguably one of its biggest problems. It centers around a prince named Noctis, and his three closest friends, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus. They drive around an open world, hunting monsters, exploring tombs, and fulfilling side quests.  However, trouble comes in once focus is placed on the machinations of everything surrounding them.

There is a whole backstory about the empire and a peace treaty with a neighboring nation. Said nation killing Noctis father, (the king), and there’s also a girl who’s Noctis future princess as well.  The stuff with the peace treaty and the king is actually explained in the Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV prequel movie. Lunafreya also features a lot in that film too. Giving you a better understanding of who she is and her motivations.

However, even if you play the game after watching the film, she still comes off as really bland. This hurts the story a lot because the game really wants you to care about her. And she makes almost no impact on the story. Lunafreya is key to a few mid-game cinematics, right when the game narrowly focuses its view on the narrative. The problem is, it takes you through a whirlwind of stuff very quickly. Hardly giving much substance to the proceedings. Honestly, I think Biggs and Wedge from Final Fantasy VII have more significance on the FF7 plot than Lunafreya does in FF 15.

Bonds of Strength

At least the bad guy, Ardyn has some interesting motivations. But, it gets lost in the JRPG-ness of the story.  He has more personality than most bad guys, but his story arc doesn’t really develop, because he also really isn’t in the game much.  He has more of an impact than Lunafreya, but he is still underdeveloped as a character. Now you see why Square-Enix is making DLC stories for both of them.

The one true strength of Final Fantasy XV’s story is when it focuses on the bond between the four main characters. Making it feel like a summer road trip you could actually have with friends of your own. Noctis can be a bit whiny but thankfully is nowhere near as annoying as Tidus in FFX.  Prompto, also, can be trying in spots, but he reasonably matures as the story moves along. Ignis is fairly haughty in spots but is also very knowledgeable. While Gladio is fairly down to Earth and is more of the older brother of the group. The four guys develop a deeper relationship together as the game goes on. Especially as more things happen to them, which is much more natural than in other Final Fantasy games. And if you more information on these four dudes, there’s also a five episode anime series called Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV, which gives you some backstory on each of the four guys and why Noctis is such great friends with them.

Combat

A big plus for FFXV is the combat system. An update to the game has made it so you can play with any of the main four you choose. Originally, you could only play as Noctis. Although, you can only battle as one character at a time. While still having some control over big attacks and item use for the other A.I. characters.

However, while the other three have their weapon use much more controlled, the game’s fluidity is built around using Noctis. Noctis can attack with swords, guns, lances, daggers, etc.  He can also warp around the battlefield, to either attack monsters or to escape the battle and restore some health/mana. Warping can also give you a better vantage point on your next attack as well.  Combat is very action-focused making you pay attention to where you are in relation to enemies. There’s the main attack button, jump, evade, and a guard/counter.  You also have a button to use techniques, which involve filling a bar on the screen and then selecting one of your party members to do a special attack or skill. Plus, there’s also the ability to cultivate magic and use it in battle too.

Combat is very fast and fluid, even if you pick the “wait” combat system.  You’ll switch between foes with the flick of an analog stick, you can do backstab attacks and linked attacks with your friends.  The reason combat works better in this version (than in the console ones) is that it is running at 60 frames per second.  For me, the game was running at around 95 FPS, with very occasional drops to around 55 FPS.  This makes combat just feel better.  Combat in the console versions was at times a tad sluggish and unnatural feeling.

Flow of the Game

For most of Final Fantasy XV you can disregard the actual story/plot, which is a good thing. Since you’ll undertake numerous hunts, complete maze-like tombs, collect ingredients for cooking meals that boost your stats and gain experience to unlock new abilities in your Ascension Grid. All of this takes up way more of your time than the story does.

It’s funny, comparing it to another recent release, Monster Hunter World, the two games are pretty similar. FFXV is obviously not as complicated as MH, but there is still the same gameplay loop of “take hunt, kill monster, collect a reward.” Final Fantasy XV is NOT a turn-based JRPG in any form.  This game is really much more of an action game with some RPG trappings surrounding it.  That’s probably why it turned off a lot of the die-hard fans of the franchise, but because of the action-oriented combat, I was able to get into this game much more than any other FF title.

Ascension Grid

The way you level-up in Final Fantasy XV is slightly weird, but it works.  Basically, you get experience points from killing monsters, completing side quests, etc. However, you don’t actually see the experience applied to the characters unless you rest. You can either rest at a campsite or in a motel room. There are even certain rooms that grant multipliers. So, if you’re at a campsite, you get no bonus, but one room might give you 1.5 times as much experience. Leveling-up also grants you a certain amount of AP.

These ability points are what you spend to actually unlock stuff on the Ascension Grid.  The Grid is kind of like the license board from Final Fantasy XII, or the Sphere Grid from FF 10, only not as involved or cumbersome.  There are nine different grids. Each corresponding to a certain stat, combat boost, exploration bonus, etc.  You can spend points to unlock nodes, which unlock more nodes, and so on.  Some of the things you can buy are very expensive, but they can be worth it, depending on your play style. Freedom of choice makes this system work very well. so, you can go after things based on your playstyle or because the ability sounds cool. You aren’t forced to take any specific route with any character, greatly encouraging you to customize as you see fit.

Mini-Games Galore

There are quite a few mini-games within Final Fantasy XV. Many of them actually spawn from each of the main character’s unique skills. For example, Ignis cooks fantastic meals, Prompto is the resident photographer, and Gladio has a neat survival skill, which means he randomly picks stuff up after a battle.  Noctis skill is fishing.  You fish at certain docks in the world and have to balance reeling in a fish against the tension (and health) of your fishing line.  It’s not the deepest fishing mini-game in the world, but it is there if you want it.

Another mini-game is something called Justice Monsters Five, which is a combination of pinball, pachinko, and an RPG wrapped into one.  There are monsters on the playfield and you have five of your own monsters, which have elemental properties.  You can imbue your ball with the elements of these monsters to attack the targets on the field.  You don’t have flippers, per se, instead of the bottom of the board moves and you have either weak or strong shots.  It’s a tad wonky but does require some skill and strategy later on.

The last big mini-game aside from Chocobo Racing (which doesn’t count) is the Totomostro thing.  You basically pick a monster (usually out of four) to fight against others in an arena battle.  You have no direct control at all.  The only thing you can do is select a horn that can buff your monster in certain conditions.  This is a pretty bad mini-game, all told.  It’s 99% based on luck, and even if the odds say you’ll win 100% of the time, there is still a chance you won’t.  You can get some nice items from doing it, but it’s a real painful slog to get them.

Any Port in a Storm

The port job of FF 15, as said above, is pretty great.  Aside from it being a technically impressive game, it’s packed to the gills with extra content as well.

It starts with the three, character-specific DLC add-ons being baked into this version.  So if you want to play Gladio, Prompto, or Ignis’ side-stories, they are available right on the main menu.  There’s also a multiplayer component, which is a tad iffy.  It’s a neat idea, but one that doesn’t quite work the way you would want.  Certain things aren’t really explained well at all. Also included is a new ending map, a first-person mode, a few new vehicles and combat modes, switchable playable characters, and more.  At present, this is the definitive version of Final Fantasy XV, if you can run it.

Pros:

  • Immensely satisfying combat that feels impactful, but incredibly varied
  • A vast world for you to explore and do hundreds of hunts or side quests
  • Good relationships with the main characters, even if they all have really dumb names

Cons:

  • At present, probably the most demanding game PC game on the market
  • The story is a chore to get through, but thankfully can be largely ignored
  • Cindy’s outfit is patently ridiculous

Final Thoughts

Overall Score: 9.0 Out of 10  Honestly, if the story was actually worthwhile, this would get a 10 from me. Unfortunately, though, it is not. Sadly, it’s the biggest hindrance to the game. The developers do a great job of making you care about the four main characters. However, you are left not caring one iota about the machinations that surround them.  Aside from this, the combat in the game is great, doing hunts is fun, and you can easily lose 100 hours in the game, if not more. Especially, if you want to tackle everything you come across.  For $50 on Steam, this game is an absolute steal and should be played on PC, if at all possible.

This game was reviewed using a retail copy purchased by W2Mnet.com for review purposes.