THERE is no in-between with this game, it either does something exceptionally well or it makes a mess of it.
Announced a decade ago under the working title of ‘Final Fantasy XIII Versus’, you would expect Final Fantasy XV (FFXV) to be a polished gem.
Instead it is an assortment of hit and miss content, so varied you are bound to find at least one thing you enjoy among the thickets.
The premise is that you, Prince Noctis must road trip to the other side of the country with your royal guard and best friends to marry a Princess and ensure world peace.
As you set off, your dad/king is killed and war breaks out.
Then an integral character walks onto the screen with no introduction and tells you to go around the world collecting special old weapons to kill the bad guys and retake the throne.
The plot is atrocious, nothing is ever explained properly and the cut scenes come out of nowhere with no context and often no dialogue.
The break out of the war and death of the king is randomly shown in a 30 second clip as you book into a hotel on a beach 20miles away while waiting for a ferry.
Square Enix seem to have realised how skimpy the plot is, so they also produced a movie called Kingsglaive, an entire TV series called Brotherhood and a separate demo video game to cover everything they didn’t put on the disc.
Why not just put it in the actual game? I have no idea.
Credit where it’s due though, what is on the disc consistently looks incredible.
It is a very crisp world, full of interesting points constantly grabbing your attention and encouraging exploration
A key mechanic involves setting up camp to avoid the harder nighttime monsters, and cooking an evening meal.
This sounds like a small thing, but the food appears so realistic you cannot help but feel hungry while you play.
The food also gives useful buffs to stats and abilities making ingredients and recipes a valuable resource.
As always in Final Fantasy, the main way you interact with the world is through combat.
This is the first Final Fantasy to have completely real time combat and it doesn’t work well.
It has a simplified system where one button attacks, another dodges and another counters.
It sounds simple but locking on to an enemy is a pain so most attacks miss, dodging is temperamental at best, incoming attacks are impossible to see because of the terrible camera and magic hurts your allies for no reason.
Combat only works when you are facing one enemy at a time, but the majority of battles involve fighting at least six badies at once.
Surviving a fight without taking a single hit is purely an exercise of luck.
There is also the issue of FFXV having very odd button mapping, interacting with anything is done through the ‘X’ button, as is jumping.
Unfortunately, the interaction prompt is a second too quick so every time you try to speak to someone you have a little fight with gravity instead.
Apart from the main story there are countless side missions and bounty hunts to keep you occupied, each with a worthy reward.
One thing the game does extremely well is fishing.
I fish myself so I know what spinning is like, it is a tad simplified but it works well and is enjoyable thanks to the beautiful scenery and well written music.
The day/night cycle and variety of activities means you find yourself planning the day ahead of you; what missions to do, ingredients to gather and meal you will finish the day with.
This formula becomes addictive and lets you look past FFXV’s many flaws.
+Big and beautiful world
+Absorbing array of side quests
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Reviewed on PS4
See full story in the County Times