Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the name originally given to the tie in game that ended up becoming Final Fantasy XV. With ten years of development, a change in platform, a change in director and a change in story it is hard to answer the question of; was it worth the wait?
Development started in 2006 with the intent of the game to be a tie in to XIII and part of Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy; a series of games all tied into the same world and mythos. Having never really formed as a complete game and with the rise of a new generation of consoles, the game took a similar turn as Type-0 (formally Agito XIII). The mythos was taken into a new direction and split away from the XIII universe. Characters changed, the combat system reworked and the overall story tweaked to be more worthy of a stand-alone project.
Having played all through the campaign and still awash in the multitude of post-story content it is no mistake that a lot of time and care went into the creation of this game. The world is one I enjoy to explore; and although I have problems with the scale of the world, with it feeling like my adventure is less impactful than the grand epics of Final Fantasies of old; it is still one full of detail and full of density. There is always something new to find just around the corner, and finding it was always a joy with some of the most likable characters to ever come out of a Final Fantasy. When I first saw the Versus XIII trailer I like many others was swept away with the dark realistic setting, and even more so from just how cool it was that the guy was teleporting around while killing people. Excitement swept over me, and from that moment I knew I was getting this game on release day. But the more I saw Noctis the more I hated him, the usual moody, overly dramatic main character I had seen from games of past (looking at you Cloud) had come back once again. How wrong I was. The quick quips that bounce back and forth from Noctis and his crew and some of the most delightfully toned down conversation lines I have ever heard in a video game ever. They feel like real things real friends would say to each other, well except for one particular character discovering new recipes more often than should be allowed. This just drew me in, it allowed me to relate. Yeah Noctis is a lazy and sheltered guy, but he is so in ways that I can relate to; “I have muscle… you just can’t see it.” This is something someone would say, it just is. I knew from the moment I saw those guys chatting to each other while pushing a car down the road to the background music of Stand By Me that I would love these characters. The construction of the world and its characters seems like it only benefited from the delays in development; this cannot be said for everything however.
As a fan of the Kingdom Hearts series the idea of a dark and gritty fantasy game with a combat system almost identical was the best thing I have ever heard of. Somewhere down the line someone in the design team thought it would be better to focus on the timings of when to dodge and when to attack and simplify the combat system by holding down a button in order to execute commands. This may have been one of the single worst decisions to have ever been made in video game development. Having come from playing game like Dark Souls and Devil May Cry, I can assure you Final Fantasy team that it is very easy to be able to dodge an incoming attack after having hit the attack button multiple times before hand. This hold down the button style made the combat seem distant, like I wasn’t truly taking part in something that mattered; the game could have just gotten along well without me. This is something a video game should not do; you need to engage the audience… pull them in. Now I except that Final Fantasy has not always been the pinnacle of difficult combat, but there needs to be some thought put into it. I should not be able to kill bosses double my level with so little effort as I did in this game.
I don’t think the combat was the worst thing to come out of this skewed development though. Final Fantasy has always been about the journey. Characters you love doing heroic things in a world you enjoy to stop some evil from befalling it. XV has good characters, maybe the best, it has a lovely world, a nice background in magic and kingdoms, it does not however have an enjoyable story. Here is where we get some spoilers. So many times I found myself feeling like everything that was of importance happened off screen. I feel like the existence of the Kingsglaive movie did real damage to the game, all essence of how bad the bad guys where was lost. This made my need to find the royal arms and enlist the help of the Gods just feel kind of pointless. It is hard to feel like the adventure you are on has any sort of urgency (the main villain just waits for you for ten years, just sits back and waits…). Ignis is blinded, offscreen. The world is forced to retreat to a single remaining city, offscreen. The emperor of the rival kingdom is betrayed by the real villain of the tale and turned into a demon, you guessed it…offscreen. There is an adventure to be had, but you feel like you miss half of it. I can only guess that the sudden change in plot while keeping a lot of the original themes just skewed the writing somewhat. It all just falls flat. Now some of this may crop up in DLC in the future, but definitely not all of it, and to use DLC as an excuse to take away from the story of a Final Fantasy is just not the correct way to go about it.
To go back then and ask, was it worth the wait? In my honest opinion it was not. Don’t get me wrong it is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination; but it is not ten years’ worth of game by any stretch of the imagination. We have seen what years and years of hype can do when the game does not live up to it; fifteen years of wait for Duke Nukem led to many a disappointed person. Even the more successful Last Guardian; it is just very difficult to live up to so many years of hype no matter what you do.
One more thing…
Tell me was it worth the wait for you? Were there points in the game that disappointed you? Do you feel done over by key parts like Gladio vanishing for a chapter being paid DLC?