Category Archives: Final Fantasy
Catching up on the stories that have dropped since the Shadowbringers expansion was released, Vry takes on patch 5.1: Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty:
I am happy to announce that the Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood story summary is now complete and available here on the Land of Odd. Just like with the other story summaries, it’s broken up into each patch starting with 4.0 and going through 4.5 with links at the top of the page so you can skip right to the section you want to read.
I just want to thank you all for being patient with me while I completed this. I know some people wanted it ready before Shadowbringers launched and I knew I didn’t have the time to write all this up and grind to have a high enough iLevel to do the Grimlyt Dark dungeon before the expansion released, so again I appreciate all of your patience with me. I once again am going to try to not fall behind as much in Shadowbringers. Cross your fingers!
You can find the story summary HERE or in the menu at the top of the site.
Do you know how insanely flattering it is that not a week has gone by in the past few MONTHS that someone doesn’t chime in via some form of interaction to ask if I plan to do a Stormblood story summary?
I just want all of you who have asked that I have read all of your comments and messages and whatnot and though I haven’t replied to all of them – they always put a smile on my face.
That said, I wanted to update everyone on whats going on with the Stormblood Story Summary here at the Land of Odd. Namely, that YES there will be one. I’ve already got a good chunk of it outlined and a few sections already have a detailed write up.
But – just like with the Realm Reborn and Heavensward stories – I only play through all the patch content stories after the next expansion is released. I do this for two major reasons: 1) It keeps it all fresh in my mind going into the new expansion. and 2) They always update the Main Scenario quests to give out really solid gear that will get you through all the dungeon and trial bits that you need to do for the story and starts the expansion with a solid set of gear. Not to mention I collect the appearances for glamours and what not.
(In case the question crosses your mind as to WHY my gear is so out of date… well, I’m quite casual. I spend a lot of time in game leveling my other jobs and crafting. Decorating my cottage. And I play other games as well. FFXIV isn’t my sole MMO let alone my only game. *shrug*)
So rest assured that the story summary IS coming, but you might have to wait a bit into Shadowbringers to see it. Don’t worry, I’m not diving into Shadowbringers new stuff until all the Stormblood business is behind us.
To quote Yoshi-P, please look forward to it. 😀
Also, I’ve been trying to get back into streaming and youtube now that I’ve got new editing software to work with. I might try and stream going through the Main Scenario once I get going through it. Would anybody interested in any of that? We could chat and I could share my thoughts as we were going through and I was making notes and whatnot. Just a thought.
So with the recent announcement of 75% of the “Season 2” DLC being canceled, and Tabata’s departure from Square Enix, I feel that it’s time to finally put a cap on the somewhat infamous entry in the Final Fantasy series. From its somewhat rocky and overly long development, to its reception and the follow up patches and DLC, it’s been a heck of a ride for Noctis and the boys. One that I personally have enjoyed but has also generating an overwhelming amount of spite and anger in the fan base as well. Maybe not as much as Final Fantasy XIII did, but it would not be wrong to call XV a base breaker.
This probably has a lot more to do with how the game was developed than what it actually ended up being. Announced in 2006 as a side game to Final Fantasy XIII titled “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” (Along with Final Fantasy Agito XIII which eventually became Type-0), the project was set up to be developed by the Kingdom Hearts team and headed by Tetsuya Nomura – a figure of near legendary status in the Square Enix pantheon to some, and a bit of a hack to others… my personal opinion of the man’s work lies somewhere in the middle to be honest. The game would be an action rpg in the style of Kingdom Hearts, and would feature a myriad of weapons, the ability to comandeer and control vehicles, and a plot line revolving around Noctis and then Stella’s ability to see the dead leaving this world. This would all be wrapped up in parts of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology – mostly the aspect of Etro who was repeatedly a major figure in the teasers and the logo art.
News of Versus XIII’s development for the next seven years would be scattering bits here and there. Even as XIII-2 and Lightning Returns were delivered, word on Versus was sparse. Heck, while the game was announced in 2006, not a single video or screenshot of actually gameplay would be shown until 2009’s Tokyo Game Show. This was immediately followed by the next year, four years post announcement, that the team was starting from scratch because the game Nomura wished to develop could no longer work within the constraints of the Crystal Engine developed for the Fabula Nova Crystallis – they would develop their own game engine for Versus XIII dubbed “Luminous Studio”.
In 2012, Square Enix appointed Hajime Tabata and his team that developed Type-0 to start working on a prototype of the next mainline game in the Final Fantasy series (XV) for next generation hardware. During this time and troubled by the lack of smooth development on Versus XIII after six years, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada contacted Tabata and asked him what his thoughts on Versus XIII and whether the project could be salvaged or just canceled. Tabata stated it could be salvaged, but the development could not be continued in the same way it had been up to that point. Square Enix then appointed Tabata and his team from Type-0 to help finish Versus XIII, a decision that most of Tabata’s team was resistant to at first (reports stated that 90% of the team was against the idea at first). This brought the Versus XIII to over 200 people, made Tabata the co-director on the game, and began the work of folding the already done work on Versus XIII into the next mainline Final Fantasy.
Tabata stated in interviews that at the time he and his team had joined the project, after six years of work and many promised concepts from Nomura, the game was only 25% complete. As part of the reworking to finish the project, many of the concepts that Nomura had planned from the initial concept pitch and announcement back in 2006 such as the character Stella and character switching in combat were axed to help streamline the development, the story was altered to follow closer to the original scenario written back in 2006 by Kazushige Nojima – the original creator of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology and former Square Enix scenario writer (including VII, VIII, X, and X-2) – which would focus on the themes of “Journey” and “Comradery”. Even with all these changes, Square Enix did state that their intent was to try and preserve what work had been done thus far, and Tabata and Nomura would work together to maintain the games direction and principal characters like Noctis would remain true to what Nomura wanted to achieve.
In 2013, it was formally announced that Versus XIII was set to become the new Final Fantasy XV. In December of that year, Nomura would depart the project to go work on Kingdom Hearts III and leave Tabata as the sole director of the game. Reports of a lot of internal struggle in the studio followed, with Tabata drastically rearranging the teams and the leadership on the project. However, reports from inside Square Enix that despite initial struggles, most of the changes and streamlining reinvigorated the team, and by the next year Tabata was reporting that the game was nearing 50%-60% completion.
From 2014 to 2016, the game released more and more in-game footage, put out two separate demos that showed off the scope and capabilities of the Luminous Studio engine, and announced the expanded “Final Fantasy XV Universe” project that would include a film, an animated series, mobile games and a spin-off VR game (eventually revealed to be a fishing simulator).
Finally, in November of 2016 – Final Fantasy XV was released. The reaction was a resounding “Eeeeh. It’s okay?”
It’s hard to say exactly what generated that reaction. It was probably a myriad of reasons across the fan base. From the long development cycle generating expectations, to the staff shake ups leading to conspiracy theories about good the game would have been if Tabata hadn’t “stolen” it from Nomura (Ignoring the fact that in all likeliness, Wada would have just canceled the game had Tabata not stepped in to get things back on track). If you look up complaint threads across the internet, you’ll find endless different reasons why people didn’t enjoy the game.
To me, it just feels like there wasn’t going to be a “good” solution here. There was no way this game was going to be able to deliver on everything that had been built up over 10 years of teases, and ideas, and concepts. It didn’t help that after the massive backlash to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and the small splash Type-0 had on Sony’s dwindling handheld market, that many fans were hailing Versus XIII to be the saving throw of the entire Fabula Nova Crystallis project and when your savior turns out just to be another game… well, I think ‘letdown’ is putting it kindly.
Overall, I personally loved Final Fantasy XV. I enjoyed how the story was deceptively simple by calling back to the original Final Fantasy’s Warriors of Light idea and traveling the world on a quest to gain celestial blessings and power to stop a great evil with a Machiavellian plan. The game honestly felt like it was trying to tie back the modern Final Fantasy games with the old ones in a joining of hands across generations. I loved how you got to know these four characters in and out, and felt emotionally part of the squad as they went through these ordeals. I enjoyed the subtle implied storytelling and world building over the blunt brute force exposition dumps that you had in some of the previous games. The fact that Noctis and his friends really had no clue what their actual destiny was and only Lunafreya and King Regis were playing a big gambit with the whole thing to stop the Darkness.
That being said, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means. There was a lot of bits that felt like they had the right idea but they didn’t do enough with, or certain story elements were confusing (not helped in part of the fact that Noctis & Co. were kept in the dark about what was ACTUALLY going on in the story until the end). I won’t argue that those who complained didn’t have plenty of valid reasons to do so. The game was just simply average at best. Honestly, given the utter development hell that the game went through to get to release, part of me is shocked that it came out to even be average. There are parts to like and dislike and mostly what works and doesn’t is going to come down to personal taste.
Part of me just really wanted to look back at the facts of what happened to create this game because there has been so much speculation and so many armchair developers waxing on the topic that I think that the facts can often get lost. What could have happened instead? Well, Versus XIII would likely have been canceled as Wada seemed to be leaning that way when he spoke to Tabata, Tabata was slated to work on the next mainline game regardless of whether they absorbed Versus XIII or not, and Nomura would have gone back to finish Kingdom Hearts III. Would that have been better? I don’t know! There’s no telling if Tabata starting from scratch instead of trying to salvage Versus XIII would have resulted in a better game.
Following the initial wave of mixed press, Tabata and his team set out to work on fixing a number of issues people had with the game, including technical problems, frustrations with certain areas (This included the either maligned or beloved Chapter XIII which seemed to fall heavily on how much you read into it. Funny now given the applause for realism on how slow and tedious RDR2 can be nowadays.) and further exploring some characters motivations and backstories. This was in addition to the already planned season of DLC that the game was going to have featuring Episodes Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis that each explored a point in the game where the characters were separated from Noctis in one way or another – clearly planned places for DLC. Any additional content created for the purpose of fixing the story (the revised Chapter 13, new Lunafreya bits, Chapter 13.5 with Gladio and Ignis), and additional Quality of Life fixes (Chapter select) were all released for free so that everyone could enjoy the fixes.
Looking back at how everything went down, I still feel that XV was a solid game at launch. The fixes and DLC certainly clarified and expanded on the core game, but were they vital to experience? I didn’t think so. I mean, I enjoyed it from start to finish and I beat the game within the first few weeks of release before all of the talk of “fixing” it really took off. The infamous Chapter 13 was a pretty cool experience when I played it, and as I mentioned before the plot was deceptively simple. By that I mean, it looked like there was a lot more to it than there actually was. Which is impressive, and does take some skill in my opinion to give that impression.
So with now the whole thing done with the exception of Episode Ardyn due out in March, what is there left to say? Final Fantasy XV was a risky venture no matter how you sliced it. I dunno. In the end it’s just up to each of us whether or not it was worth it. But I wanted to create a look back at what happened not based on speculation or rumor, but everything I could dig up that was reported from interviews, articles, etc. There’s a lot of “Tabata ruined it” or “Nomura couldn’t hack it” talk on the internet and I just wanted to just look at the facts and evaluate what all this was from that.
This was an enjoyable experience. Final Fantasy XV for good and for ill was something I enjoyed playing. I don’t regret the money I spent. I don’t think we were robbed of a different game when the other game was barely even started when all this went down. I don’t think badly of Nomura or Tabata.
It’s just a solemn end to a big extravagant project that left me kinda numb. I wonder if I will feel the same in January when the Kingdom Hearts series finally comes to a close. I guess we will wait and see, won’t we?
For those who have been wondering about the “Coming Soon” story summaries for Heavensward’s patches (3.1 – 3.5), your wait is now over! All of the story summaries for the Main Scenario Questline in Heavensward are now finished and posted on the Heavensward Story Summary page.
Unlike Heavensward where the decision to write the summaries came after finishing the 3.0 MSQ, I will be doing my best to keep notes on the plotlines of Stormblood as I play through it. Hopefully to decrease the downtime before I am able to get the next batch of story summary for the newest expansion out since as it has come to my attention, some people have been using my summaries as a way of not just catching up on the narrative but also skipping the non-voiced cutscenes and reading what happens here. Hey, if that’s how you want to play – go for it. Not my fifteen bucks. But I figured I should TRY to not wait until the end of the expansion before posting the Stormblood summary.
I’m happy to announce that just in time for the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, I have managed to put together a solid story summary for the story of Heavensward. While the “patch storylines” aren’t finished yet – namely because I haven’t played through those extensions to the Main Scenario yet – the main storyline of the expansion is now available to read here.
I don’t have a set date for when those remaining stories will be up mostly because I’m debating waiting until Stormblood is released to play through those patches since when Heavensward was released the 2.X patch story rewards were altered to give equipment to prevent having to grind item levels to progress to the next major step and since my current ilevel is sitting around 203 at the moment, and you need 230 to get through all the dungeons involved in the quests… Yeah, I might just wait and see if I can make this a bit easier on myself. If someone who is more active in the news for Final Fantasy XIV knows one way or the other if they plan on doing this again, do please let me know.
Otherwise, I’ll just keep on my current mission of “Get all Classes/Jobs to Level 30 then to Level 50” until Stormblood arrives.
EDIT: Upon further research, it seems that the Main Scenario Quests for Heavensward will have to be completed in order to access the Stormblood story, but you won’t need to do it to access the Samurai and Red Mage jobs. So I’m thinking it’s pretty likely for them to include “Catch Up Gear” with the quests like they did with ARR leading into Heavensward.
In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV. It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land. From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels. Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles. It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.
However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.
To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.) These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)
At first glance, it’s a great idea. It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal. Damn. What a great theory. Boy is it clever.
I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)
A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology. No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes. However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV. So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV. There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this. This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.
Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things. For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain. Okay. One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology. Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV. This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.
Finally, the Goddess Eos? The Goddess that is central to this entire theory? Not in the game. She’s not. Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on. Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers. That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right? Sure, why not. Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game. We know who all six Astrals are. We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named. So how do we know this is a goddess? Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.) But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)
So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps. What’s actually canon to the game? That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.
But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask. It’s just a harmless fan theory, right? Well, yea and no. There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).
So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture. It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material. You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with. See! It all fits! It must be true! Other than I pulled it out of my rump.
Fan Theories are great. But they are theories. They are not canon. They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory? Great theory. So not canon.
But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV? I don’t know. Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation. My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal. Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand. Do I know for certain? Heck no. But hey… it fits, doesn’t it?
So I finished Final Fantasy XV, and by finished I mean I got to level 99, I ran through every dungeon, and I got every trophy. I FINISHED it. And like every Final Fantasy game I’ve played before, I had fun. But the question is how much fun did I have? Well, let’s break it down shall we?
The story of Final Fantasy XV is deceptively simple. By that I mean, the only reason it seems to be complex is the method by which its told rather the actual complexity of the events. For instance, the actual purpose behind the majority of the actions in the majority of the game isn’t revealed until the end of Chapter 13 out of a total 14 chapters. It’s not uncommon for a Final Fantasy game. Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy X both tried to do something similar to varying levels of success. However, here it feels the deception is almost malicious in its intent. When we meet the heroes, Noctis is on his way to get married and enjoying a bachelor party-ish road trip along the way with his closest friends and confidantes. Once we break through the games pseudo-prologue and the first twist happens (not much of a twist if you saw Kingsglaive first) where the city of Insomnia falls to Imperial betrayal, the road trip turns dark as the group swears on vengeance and begins to build power via Noctis’ birthright to command the weapons of former kings followed by forging pacts with literal gods.
We are given context to all of these events solely through the vantage point of Noctis himself. Hence we discover the true reveal along with him. We see the confusing messages that he struggles to interpret with him. And we are forced to face the consequences of his actions with him as well. It is a powerful way to tell the story, if your tale is simple enough to manage such a narrow point of view. Final Fantasy XIII tried something similar as I have mentioned before and it bogged down into tons of extra reading or be very confused. XV does succeed in the endeavor a bit more though there still are some confusing moments that feel like slapdash plot hole filling. Where this approach suffers the most is in the development of characters that are not directly encountered by our protagonist: Ravus, the Empire, King Regis, and sadly especially Lunafreya. You only get glimpses of these characters who are such major players in this story because our field of vision is limited to what Noctis sees and interacts with. You don’t meet up with Lunafreya until three-fourths of the way through the game. Before that you only get Noctis’ flashbacks with her, their two sentences dog-texts (They both own reality warping dogs that deliver messages for them. Yes, there is an explanation. No, it’s not a great one.), and the brief visions given by the Gods. This is all you get to figure out why these two who haven’t seen each other in years are supposedly “in love” (although Kingsglaive does explain the marriage idea was part of treaty.) And yet, because we’ve seen Noctis interact with so many people that when he acts so out of character when he finally sees Luna, you get this feeling of knowing how much she means to him.
And that’s what the game does so very well with the story. You may not know what’s going on, but you feel like you identify with the tale. The story isn’t laid out in the most narratively pleasant order but it does a DAMN fine job of getting you emotionally invested in these characters.
Our protagonist is Crown Prince Noctis Lucis Caellum, the sole surviving member of the Lucis Caellum line and a wanted fugitive of the Niflheim Empire.
I said before how a lot of the surrounding characters don’t get a ton of development and that is sadly true. Lunafreya is shown to be a powerfully determined woman on a mission that won’t even make sense until the end of the game, but she is also one of the more kind hearted characters shown as well. Her brother Ravus, despite building him up to be a big antagonist, gets next to nothing. He is a character of many seeming contradiction tried together out of an extreme loyalty to family that comes from who knows where. His story is mostly only told through journal pages you find late in game. I can kind of see why they want to revisit Ravus’ story in a patch or something.
The main ‘Warriors of Light’ (Yes, that IS what the four are meant to represent if you missed the blatantly call back to the original Final Fantasy at the start of the game) are on the opposite spectrum. You spend nearly ALL your time with your companions occasionally departing for a mission or two of the story before returning. Ignis, the attendant of our prince protagonist and the caretaker of the group in charge of repairing damaged clothing, cooking meals, and driving the car most of the time. Gladiolus is Noctis’ bodyguard and trainer who comes from a long line of Kingsguards. Finally there’s Prompto the seemingly fun loving commoner that became friends with Noctis in high school. The game does an amazing job making these three feel like they are your best friends. You feel for them on an emotional level. Which is important as the game progresses and starts using that affection and attachment against you. Oh there will be drama. Oh yes, there will be drama.
Finally, there’s the supporting cast. It’s a mixed bag of who you like and don’t like. I found myself being rather fond of Gladio’s teenage sister Iris and her love of Moogles, the mercenary Aranea Highwind and her dry wit was great for a laugh on the mission she joined you, and I kept imagining Cor the Immortal having epic adventures off somewhere without me accompanied by either heavy metal or the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian. I was a bit irked that they changed “Cidney” to “Cindy” for the English release though. I mean, way to kill the joke. She’s still listed as Cidney in the credits along with her Japanese voice actress. There weren’t any characters I downright loathed though. Which is impressive for a big open world game like this.
Finally, we have our villain. What? No. Not the Emperor. No one cares about Emperors. Haven’t you been paying attention since Final Fantasy VI? No. We have High Chancellor Ardyn Izunia. Both pseudo friend and foe through much of the game, the main group immediately doesn’t trust him but also is forced to work with him repeatedly. His goals seem to be at odds at times with his masters in the Empire, but it’s not clear what they are until much later on. I’d go more into Ardyn but you really can’t without spoiling it. I can say that he is easily on my short list for best Final Fantasy villain. He’s so amazingly slimy.
I wanted to touch on this because as I had made mention of in my first reactions post a while back, this was one aspect that constantly surprised and frustrated me. That the world of Eos is built up so amazingly well just using what you see, hear and interact with that very little exposition needs to be given about it. You can tell how much of Lucis the Empire had controlled before the fall of Insomnia by the check points and military bases. You get a feel for the vast gap between the frontier people and the people living inside Insomnia just by comparing the names “Noctis Lucis Caellum” and “Dave.” You discover that pretty much ALL women of working age work in the reactor by seeing them walk around the city in their protective work clothes.
How about the effects of a world where monsters and Gods walk among you? You see the Hunters working to keep people safe, ultra bright UV lights at all points of civilization to help ward off monsters. Duscae’s power infrastructure is based on the giant meteor that Titan holds in the Disc. Altissia has statues and temples built to honoring Leviathan. All of these things and so much more end up coming together to form the world, and none of it is ever explained in depth. It just gives you that feeling again that this world is actually coherent and thought out.
However, that lack of detail also just drove me crazy! I would read tomes upon tomes of the history of the world. All we get is an art gallery at the start and a timeline in the strategy guide. And the timeline only begins maybe 2000 years prior to the start of the game. Everything beyond that is “Ancient Time” with no info. Bah.
I kinda wish I could say more about the music. It kinda of strikes me as similar to other open-world RPGs where the music kind of starts to blend into the background which in this kind of game I always considered a good thing. I’ve had to turn off music or radios that tend to become annoyingly intrusive after a while as I explore (I’m looking at you, Fallout 4.) The music alternates between pleasant and calm and bombastic and epic during the battles and especially the boss battles. The song ‘Apocalypsis Aquarius’ that plays during the battle with Leviathan is one of my favorites. However, other than the titular song ‘Final Fantasy’ (known to some as ‘Main Theme’, ‘Prologue’ or for the very old school fans ‘The Bridge Song’) and some updated renditions of the ‘Prelude’ Crystal theme, there are very few songs in the game I could identify without looking at the track name and even then I probably wouldn’t be able to place them. The music is good – of that there’s no doubt – but I can’t really say there are too many memorable themes or stand out tracks that immediately make you think ‘Ah, this is when X happened’. Even the Leviathan battle song since every major boss battle is just a different arrangement of the same Apocalypsis song. Great soundtrack for just playing in the background though. I bought a couple of tracks I like to listen to while driving.
Of course, if something more iconic is your taste, you can get music collections from older Final Fantasy titles throughout the game that can be played through the car stereo or eventually a portable music player you can purchase. The selection is usually about 5 or 6 songs per collection but some games have more than one “disc” that you can get. For instance, Final Fantasy XI’s music has a separate collection for each expansion the MMO had. There are some omissions though. While multiple Dissidia and Type-0 collections appear, you won’t find many other spin off games or sequels (X-2, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, Revenant Wings, Tactics, or After Years.) Final Fantasy XIV’s music doesn’t appear either sadly, keeping this from even containing tracks from all the main numbered games. Still it offers a huge selection of songs from classic Final Fantasy games, so there is always that to take advantage of.
Though I will mention one thing about the ‘portable music player.’ It does NOT work in combat. The normal combat music will always play and turn off the music player. Big minus there. Would love to beat up monsters while listening to ‘Sunleth Waterscape’.
While the game has transitioned heavily into a ‘live combat’ style that feels almost closer to Secret of Mana then what one may associate with the Final Fantasy franchise, the combat system is quite fun. There is a Wait Timer that while takes some getting used to at first, grants access to things like Libra that can be further buffed via the upgrade-able Ascension trees. Speaking of the Ascension trees, they are used like Sphere Grids or the Crystarium in the previous game with the exception that the entire party shares a single set of Ascension trees. Some branches of the trees will unlock or upgrade follower abilities and some will grant new ways to gain Ability Points to spend in the Ascension trees. It offers a good level of choice with nothing feeling ‘Absolutely Mandatory.’ The costs increase exponentially as the branches go further and ultimately culminate in nodes that cost 333 or 999 AP to unlock. Which is a lot when you realize you’ll be averaging about 2-4 AP a battle unless your actively farming it. Luckily, you don’t need to get all of the abilities. Not even in the end game. So it’s kind of just another to work toward to if you want to and there are all manner of AP farming guides out there to help ya.
The one thing to keep in mind is that certain things and areas will take time to unlock. You won’t have the car right away, and then you won’t have chocobos right away (And if your wondering why take a chocobo when you have a car, chocobos can off-road and the car can’t), huge sections of the map are opened a piece at a time and there are a ton of things to do in each of them: Sidequests, Helping fix broken cars, Hunts picked up from food stops, treasure hunting, and dungeons. Dungeons can be incredibly painful early on because while each has a ‘recommended’ level, there will often be monsters deep within (or right inside the door) that are much higher level than that. I did a dungeon that was supposedly a “level 15 dungeon” that also had randomly spawning level 40 monsters that could petrify insta-death you. Don’t be afraid to GTFO and come back more prepared with accessories or weapons to counter the enemies inside. There’s an option on the map screen to warp back to the entrance for a reason. There’s also a few dungeons you won’t be able to complete until the ‘post-game’ just simply because the means of accessing them aren’t available until then such as a specific quest or the flying car. Yes. There’s a flying car in the post-game. And landing that thing is the bane of my existence (you game over on a bad landing or crash.)
Once you reach a certain point – the end of Chapter 8 – the game shifts and the open world more or less leaves the game for a much more linear experience. Altissia in Chapter 9 is a bit open but there’s not a ton of space to explore. Once you reach the train however, the plot is literally and figuratively on rails until the end. Luckily, you don’t get locked into this. At any Inn/Lodging you can call one the previously mentioned reality-warping dogs to take you back to a previous section of the game. So if you want to go level up on hunts, or find a Fire-imbued or Light-imbued weapon you can (The Light-Embued Weapons are at the Megiddo Hunter HQ in the North. Buy them. They deal an extra 50% damage against daemons.)
As for the infamous Chapter 13? I still stand by what I said before. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I found it to be quite an experience that made for an intense little bit of gameplay. The only problem would probably be how poorly the story surrounding the ‘boss battles’ was handled. But the mystery, the desperation, the frustration, the fear? All just seem to help propel the story and create empathy with the characters. I LIKED Chapter 13. It was probably the most memorable moment in the game for me.
At its core, Final Fantasy XV is a great game. At no point did I ever stop having fun with it. Heck, I still have fun with it. I logged back in to explore that weird Chocobo Moogle fair that’s going on and just running around was a blast and the humor still gets me. But I won’t lie. There’s some problems with the game. The story truly feels like it suffered from one too many complete tonal changes in direction to the point that parts of it seemed to have become rubbed plain. Assets re-purposed for the new narrative seem out of place and no one was sure what to do or how to handle certain characters. The narrative suffers from being told from a single point of view much like Final Fantasy XIII, but unlike XIII it tries to compensate for that. Honestly, I’d rather them just be willing to cut away to other places and people to progress the story or be willing to drop more exposition early on.
However, what shines in the game beyond the sometimes directionless feeling and the lack of development in the plot is the emotional core of the game. You will find yourself completely enamored with these characters. When bad things happen to them, you will feel sorry for them. You’ll want to give them a hug. And most importantly, probably driving the story more than the actual apocalyptic scenario, you want them to have a happy ending. I can say that I have played many games that have better crafted stories and more finely tuned gameplay than Final Fantasy XV. But I can’t say that they drew me in emotionally the same way.
Walk Tall, My Chocobros.
So my journey through Final Fantasy XV has been continuing on, mixing up the story chapters with running back and doing batches of side quests and hunts. Or just driving around and listening to the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack – because I mean, DAMN. Terra, Celes, Locke, Sabin, & Edgar’s themes? AND Dancing Mad? That is one fine collection of music. More than I can say for Final Fantasy X’s selection of songs in XV which includes the battle music… and uh… that one song that plays when Tidus whines about listening to his story? Seriously? You left out the Hymn of the Fayth? You could have dropped one of the FOUR compilations of Final Fantasy XI music to give us a few more iconic songs from X. Or maybe included X-2, XIII-2 or Lightning Returns’ music AT ALL. I mean, Dissidia and Type-0 is in there. All I’m saying is I want my boy band quartet jamming out to Real Emotion as they drive around Duscae.
Anyway, I haven’t exactly been pursuing the ending with a fervor. I take my time with RPGs and I enjoy exploring and all the little doodads. Which is useful because like 50% of XV’s plot is told via radio blips, overheard conversations and newspaper clippings. Seriously, if you aren’t checking that stuff out you will be missing a TON of whats going on in Eos. However, if half the plot is revealed in little side things that you can check out, I’d say that about another 40% of the story isn’t told until you reach the most divisive and controversial moment of the game: Chapter 13.
Without spoiling too much of the narrative that goes on, Chapter 13 is the penultimate chapter of the game and could rightfully be viewed as the final dungeon. Much of the explanation for what has been happening and why it is happening all occurs here. However, the chapter itself is a 90+ minute jog through endless tight corridors without weapons, companions or the ability to save outside of the occasional safe room. The halls are filled with enemies, jump scares, blind corridors, and the voice of the main villain enthusiastically mocking you. Your only real defense is the Ring of the Lucii, which gives you three spells:
- Death: Must be channeled and expends MP all the while. Tougher enemies take longer to channel than weaker ones. Heals you when the enemy ultimately dies.
- Holy: It’s more of a dodge that also does damage than an attack. You hold down the button, MP starts draining. If you are melee attacked while holding the button down, you dodge and blast the enemy with power. Also recovers a bit of MP when successful.
- Alterna: Uses your entire MP bar to suck everything in the area into a bubble and then destroy them. It’s your only AOE attack, and it will automatically drop you into ‘Stasis’ when you use it.
I’m sure from those brief descriptions you can see why some may be annoyed with the Ring over things like your weapons, Royal Arms, or normal spells. I ended up mostly using Death for the daemons and Holy for the Magitek Troops. Alterna I used like twice when I got overwhelmed. Then again, the enemies are pretty much all in their low 30’s, and I was level 88. Nothing in this place could really kill me unless I intentionally let them. About halfway through you do get one of the Royal Arms to help you with the fighting, but the Royal Arms weapons also drain your health with each swing. Ultimately, unless you are loaded with items like potions or ethers, the whole chapter becomes about resource management between your health, your magic, and your patience.
Since the games release a few weeks ago, Chapter 13 has become infamous among fans as the worst part of the game. Some have risen to defend it as almost an ‘artistic expression’ of the loneliness and isolation that Noctis is experiencing and forcing you – the player – to experience Noctis frustration as well. Some have described the chapter as “physically and emotionally draining” including the radical plot developments that occur over the course and especially at the end of the chapter. A few even took the chapter number into account and thought the long hallways were a satirical stab at Final Fantasy XIII. Others call it “lazy design” and would rather just see the whole thing removed from the game. So where do I stand?
Meh. I liked it.
I honestly did not see what the hub bub was about. I kept waiting for a Mass Effect 3 Ending level bomb to be dropped on me and quite honestly it just never came. In fact, I found the design and work on the area to be very interesting. Not in the “Noctis is frustrated, so you’ll be too” way but in the “This is a LOT like Resident Evil” way. You’re in the enemy capital, daemons everywhere, and your walking down these tight tunnels with barely enough room for two people to pass. There are blind corners everywhere and you have no clue what around them until you turn. All the while, the sound design gives spots of noises: scratches, weapons being dragged on concrete, grumbles of monsters from somewhere. It puts you on edge. It makes the whole thing feel dangerous. And this is coming from someone whose character was 50 levels above everything in that place and I STILL was jumping about when bad guys leaped out at me. It wasn’t lazy in my opinion, it was actually really cleverly designed to keep you in suspense. The maps opened up a bit more as things went on, especially when more plot details starting being delivered.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say it’s a flawless piece of perfection or anything. Plot gets thrown at you fast and at full force and there’s a pile up of plot twists toward the end. But is that really so different than say… Final Fantasy X? Not saying that makes it better, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that Final Fantasy is renown for its well paced stories. Interesting and cool stories? Sure. But the pacing is all over the place.
Still, over all I don’t understand the immense hatred this part of the game gets. It’s a long maze of a dungeon. There’s a couple of puzzles in there. You get some story. It’s atmospheric. Does it take a while? Eh. I did it all in 90 minutes and that was with looking in every nook and cranny for shiny dots and reading all the lore material. Considering some of the areas you get to run through in Final Fantasy XIII, you’d think this would get more slack, yet I’ve seen – no joke – people comparing XIII favorably to this section of XV. I mean, I loved XIII. I’d pick it up and replay it in a heartbeat. But come on. Coooome ooooon.
In the end, I can see why some types of people would find Chapter 13 to be an annoyance or a slog. But I really wanted to throw my own hat in the ring and say that I really didn’t find it to be that way at all. I really didn’t find to be nearly as bad or unappealing that so many voices out there are shouting it is. I will say this though: It can be emotionally draining with all those big reveals and twists. You will want to punch the bad guy by the end. There is also some serious nightmare fuel hidden in the readable paper stacks scattered throughout. But hey, that’s half the fun of a good story, right?
I’m almost done with the game, so expect to hear my full thoughts and probably another one of those Type-0 style “What actually just happened here?” style posts coming up in the next few weeks.