Final Fantasy XV began its long development process all the way back in 2006. Since then, it burned through multiple directors, changed status from a spinoff to mainline and switched its tech to keep up with new hardware. It's an understatement to say that the expectations were high but so was a healthy dose of skepticism and fear that a game that underwent so many iterations and changes would turn out to be a complete mess. When it finally released on November 29th, 2016 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – it was praised by players and critics alike and we all sighed with relief at the game that was finally in our hands.
Now, almost a year and a half later, the game reaches a broader audience with the PC release that was developed in collaboration with NVIDIA, bringing both engine and gameplay improvements making it more than a simple port as attention to the specifics of the PC platform is visible in almost every aspect. Along with that, the game comes equipped with all the DLC released thus far making this a sizeable package that is worth it for the amount of content alone. How is the rest of the game you ask? Let's break it down.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is available for purchase on Steam.
Final Fantasy games have always featured epic stories with larger than life, iconic characters that sometimes really grew on you during the long journey you'd spend with them. With that being said, these stories were also oftentimes notoriously convoluted, stretched out, not understandable and just all around quirky. Granted, I just described most JRPG's but Final Fantasy games have always been in the spotlight the most cause they attracted a huge western following despite their Japanese roots.
Well, I'm happy to say that the story of Final Fantasy XV is a straightforward affair for the most part and the western influence in both it and the gameplay is very evident. It's a more streamlined experience that didn't lose anything of what makes it a Final Fantasy game. It does falter in this regard toward the end with some head-scratching moments but those are far in between.
This time around, it's a standalone story, not connected to any of the previous games – taking place on a world called Eos which is divided between four nations – Lucis, Accordo, Tenebrae, and Niflheim. Accordo and Tenebrae are basically conquered by the technologically advanced Niflheim and Lucis is the only one left standing due to the use of a magical crystal controlled by the King through the use of his ring. You are Noctis, a crown prince of the kingdom called Lucis, and you start the game by going to a neighboring country for your wedding as a part of the peace treaty between the two nations.
During your trip, however, things will take a turn for the worse and you'll find out that the peace talks were only a ruse in order for Nifleheim to conquer your land, kill your father, and presumably your bride to be. Predictably, you set off to acquire the power necessary to control the ring of your father, take back your kingdom and save the day.
Through it all, you are accompanied by three of your best pals – Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus who both serve as your friendly, moral support and your protectors. Their interactions are by far the best thing about the game even as the game progresses from a lighthearted journey to a more dark conclusion – they remain lovable throughout. The introductory bit with the four of you pushing the car while "Stand by me" plays in the background will put the smile on your face and set you up for the awesome that is their relationship.
At its core, the story of Noctis and his friends is excellent and pretty straightforward. With that being said, the way it's sometimes presented will make you feel at a loss and you'll notice that many aspects of the game were cut or added during the long development process. This is especially evident in some characters which are introduced without much context or explanations as to why they do what they do. Luckily, seeing as this is a relatively complete package in terms of DLC's (which focus on Noctis's companions), Square Enix had time to iron it all out post-release so I recommend leaving no stone left unturned in regards to the story content on offer and many missing pieces are sure to fall into place.
If you played the console version of the game, not much is changed here. Starting out the game features an enormous open world for all your story missions and activities which include, but are not limited to – bounty hunting, fishing, cooking, racing, exploring, dungeon crawling and much much more. As you go through the chapters, the game gets progressively more linear and focused in order to tell its story with only the later chapters sometimes dragging a bit longer than necessary. Upon completing the story, you can jump right back into the open world to finish up your activities in an actual end-game content or start a new game+ to enjoy the experience once again with everything unlocked.
You get from A to B by using your car, the Regalia. Don't be dishearted by the lack of direct driving control at the beginning of the game as Regalia has a multitude of upgrades, from cosmetic ones to ones that transform the vehicle into a literal Batmobile or monster truck with new options for traversal. You'll be driving around a lot and even that will never get boring as you can enjoy the scenery, listen to music or your companions casual banter.
Much has been said about the fact that FFXV goes to a more action-oriented real-time combat system and I can say that it's one of the game's strongest suits. It starts off deceptively simple with a combination of attacking, teleporting, dodging and parrying but as you progress and unlock more skills, magic, and weapons the depth is increased tenfold. Add to the mix combining attacks with your comrades, enemy elemental weaknesses and using some aspects of the environment and you have plenty of variety to keep it all fun during the long run. It's one of those easy to use but tough to master systems that when works – looks like a dance but it also takes some study for you to feel at home with it.
While the story will keep you pushing ever forward, the aforementioned activities will slow things down a bit and let you smell the roses as you spend hours fishing, exploring, clearing out excellently designed dungeons or finding the best recipe to boost your stats for the tough enemies that lay ahead. This is another aspect of FFXV that I really liked – the difficulty. This is especially evident in the mentioned end-game content and even the multiplayer as you'll be facing powerful enemies and a mountain-sized boss that will make you fully utilize all the mentioned combat systems and put your skills to the test.
The multiplayer mode is instance based and when you get a quest from a hub area you'll be transported to an area where you need to defeat a certain enemy to win. It will come off as a disappointment to players who hoped they'll get to explore the open world with friends. It can still be a lot of fun as you get to create your own character and grind the bosses for lots of interesting gear.
Many cons present in the early console version were fixed in later patches and the Windows edition brings some more improvements and features on top. One such thing is the first person mode which is a welcome addition but I found only using it when I wanted to admire the environment as I found it clunky to use while in combat since the system is just too fast-paced to be enjoyed from that perspective.
There's also a new dungeon featuring Insomnia city, a controllable boat with new fishing spots, a more action-oriented Armiger for when you collect all royal weapons as well as a bunch of mandatory skins, items, and clothing which just put the cherry on top of it all. The last thing to mention are the controls and it's another area that doesn't feel tacked on but handled with great care. It's not a lazy port by any means and controlling Noctis with mouse and keyboard feels natural and very well done.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Final Fantasy XV was a looker when it came out on the consoles and it's even more so now that it's backed by the power of the PC. Seriously, this is one of the best looking games out there and the amount of graphical options is staggering. From native 4K support to HDR and NVIDIA game works, the visuals are mind-blowing. The environments are dense, lush, clear with sharp textures and this also translates to the characters. Lighting engine remains one of the best things about the game and when combined with HDR makes this a highly atmospheric game, whether you are in bright or low light areas.
Even if the visuals remained unchanged from the console version, it would all still look and feel better due to the unlocked framerate which kept the game buttery smooth and above 60FPS at 1440p with max settings for the most part. I say for the most part cause I did experience some unexplained one-second dips to 20FPS without much happening on the screen. This is something that is sure to vary depending on your specs and graphical settings. Overall, the game is well optimized and you are sure to find the perfect combination of settings to be able to run it at an acceptable performance level even without the most high-end PC.
When it comes to sound, you'll be accompanied by beautiful melodies during your journeys and pivotal story moments which are only surpassed by the excellent soundtrack featuring both original and tracks from previous FF games and movies. The music and the overall atmosphere make this the best road trip simulator out there and I'd pop that Calling for Rain track any day. Although the overall sound design is great, some areas felt unnaturally quiet and certain sounds were omitted altogether – an NPC car driving on the road for example.
When it comes to voice acting, even though I found the Japanese voices more authentic and fitting to the experience, I must give props to English voice actors who also did a great job as I found myself not cringing as much when switching to them and actually liked Noctis's English voice actor a bit more than the Japanese one.
I can't do anything but wholeheartedly recommend Final Fantasy XV, even if you played it on the consoles a year back. It's a massive game filled to the brim with content and the additional time that the PC version had ironed out most of the flaws and added a couple of things to go keep the experience fresh. I didn't even mention a full mod support and the fact that the success of the game resulted in even more expansions being developed for 2018 release. With that, you have a prime example of how to handle post-release period with utmost care and one of the best RPG games you will ever play.
|+ Great combat system||– Minor technical issues|
|+ Massive amount of content||– Inconsistent pacing in later chapters|
|+ Amazing visuals and sound||– Some major characters not fleshed out|
|+ Fun side activities|
|+ Likeable main characters|