My GOTY 2016: Final Fantasy XV

I’ve been a PlayStation fan my whole life. The only console I didn’t have was a PS2 because I was too busy living in the past with the PS1/ being a goth when it was released. I played a lot of the bigger titles back in the day: Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Rayman but somehow missed some of the biggest games series of our time, such as Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider and, of course, Final Fantasy. Fast forward almost twenty years and here I am, 30 hours into Final Fantasy XV and wondering why the hell my dad/I never bought into this series sooner.

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There is nothing I love more than an open-world, narrative-driven RPG. The closest thing to a JRPG I’ve ever played is probably Pokémon, so not only do I get to enjoy an RPG that looks great with a plethora of side missions to get stuck into, I can finally say I’ve played and enjoyed a JRPG to boot. This game avoids the so-called problems many of today’s gamers have with JRPG’s. It doesn’t have the slow, clunky, turn-based battle system. It’s sleek, interactive, fast-paced and flatters you to the point you think you’ve done some wonderful sword fighting. The game doesn’t take 10 hours to open up, either; Noctis and the gang suffer the ignominy of their car breaking down, so they have to go do some fetch quests to fix it and make some money. Some might say this is a terrible excuse for the gang to go clear out some baddies (it is). But it gives you place to start from the middle of the map and you can just wander outwards. Not all of the map is available – this isn’t Skyrim – but for a “starting area” it’s phenomenal. Your first experience of the game begins in a dusty barren desert with rolling hills and rocks in the distance that you can run to and scale up. The game has a multitude of beautiful vistas to share on Twitter with all 900+ followers that love your patter. For a single player game, FFXV is a very social experience. You can share the little moments that only you have in game, and it’s been a joy to see pictures taken by Prompto/screenshots appear randomly on real life Twitter timelines. (Alongside pictures of the various cat quests available.) There have also been many debates about who is the best boy (It’s Ignis.) which brings me onto the best part of the game. Have you seen the four good boys and their car?

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Here in my car I feel safest of all…

The game is visually stunning, not just “next gen” pretty. The polish, shine and dedication to producing quality visuals is astounding. Sometimes I just drive around admiring the scenery when I’m not doing random side quests like looking for five infuriating red frogs or killing another pack of bizarre beasties for money. I’ve played very little of the main story; they should rename it Final Fantasy Fishing Frenzy: Bitchin’ Car Edition or something.

I haven’t watched the tie-in movie Kingsglaive either so some of the plot is lost on me. I keep being told that FFXV is quite different not just mechanically but in tone to the rest of the franchise, but that means nothing to me as no one can explain what is different. My original PS1 still works so I’m contemplating buying the original games for it just to see what the hype was about and to have a better understanding of the series. There’s no real reason for having not played them; I think I was somehow convinced I wouldn’t like them for whatever mad reason. Or maybe I thought I was being a non-conformist by not buying into popular games and listening to Megadeth and The Birthday Massacre instead of gaming. Either way, I have found a new game that I honestly can’t stop playing. It’s opened my mind to playing other big titles like Metal Gear Solid or Tomb Raider; they also fall into the category of “I probably wouldn’t like them” because I am clearly an idiot.

The story so far has been enjoyable and there a wide variety of side quests to keep you entertained. The menus and controls take a little while to master; I’m admittedly still getting to grips with elemancy, ascension and the inventory. There are a lot of skills/techniques/general things to upgrade and improve in the ascension menu but it is helpfully sectioned into various skill branches such as “combat”, “exploration” and “teamwork”. I don’t quite understand the spell making and the differences between the levels and types of spells but I don’t use it as much in this game, which comes as a shock to me as I love setting things on fire (in-game, obviously). The inventory is similar in style to that seen in The Witcher 3 in that it’s sectioned into weapons, random objects, food etc. It can seem a bit fiddly to new players. I know I ended up selling useful items because I thought they were trash. There is a difference between Dark Souls, no hand-holding approach to gaming and not telling me I need to keep that specific item as it’ll be beneficial for weapon upgrades or something (Ultimate Blade here I come!). You can choose to have the hints left on however so if you get stuck and are flicking aimlessly through menus the game will eventually explain to you the section you’re in.

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The levelling system is a bit old school and reminded me of TES IV: Oblivion as you have to effectively go to sleep to level up, whether that’s a camp with Ignis’ fabulous cooking, at a caravan or one of the many fancy hotels scattered around the map. Your experience will just continue to accumulate until you have a rest and you can double or even triple your gained experience at some rest points too! Eating meals is an important part of strategical gameplay; not only does Ignis literally gain experience from cooking and you get a “EUREKA!” moment whenever he learns a new recipe/ makes up a cool one of his own, you also get various bonuses that can make or break your progression, such as boosted strength or HP. If you go too long without eating, the boys also start moaning. They moan a whole bunch during this game, particularly Noctis and Prompto; Gladio and Ignis basically run around shouting “WISE UP!” at them while they moan about the rain/ heat/ I’m tired/ Are we there yet? It’s a realistic portrayal of going anywhere with your best friends/ bodyguards if you’re lucky enough to have them.

If you feel intimated by the fourteen previous games, then do yourself a favour and give in to the hype; buy FFXV right now. It’s hands down my Game of the Year and it’s the best £40 I’ve spent all year. It’s full of good humour, chocobos, amazing looking food and four very good boys. Do it.

Consequently, I think this will be my last post for a while. I hope you have all enjoyed my work over the last year and wish all of you the best for 2017. Keep on gaming and connecting with each other.

Lots of loves, hugs and kitties,

Lauren (GameNora) xx

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