Final Fantasy is a series known by gamers all around, even if you aren’t an RPG fan. When one brings up Final Fantasy, usually one thinks of the JRPGs of old, with turn-based battle systems, a diverse cast of party members and a relatively linear narrative that keeps you from straying too far from the beaten path.
The last few installments in the single player Final Fantasy series, (namely FFXII and FFXIII) have sought to slowly change the series with their gameplay and design choices. With FFXII, we were given a game where the world exploration was put at a higher focus, and the battle system moved from a traditional turn-based battle system to one that was more active and where fought took place directly on the over world. And with FFXIII, the series moved from the open-world aspect of Final Fantasy and replaced it with a more linear, character focused journey with a unique paradigm based battle system.
Final Fantasy XV has had a long development period behind it, and a somewhat strange beginning; originally it was planned to be released alongside FFXIII, and named something completely different. It’s no surprise that the hype for it is at an all-time high as fans of the series can finally see the game’s release looming on the horizon. But there’s been also some concern amongst the voices of fans. From what has been revealed, FFXV eschews many traditional aspects of Final Fantasy games and attempts to modernize it for current generation gaming. The game takes place in Eos, a world similar to modern-day Earth, but has elements full of science fiction, wondrous magic and fantasy. The setting which is essentially a synergy of modern technology and fantasy can almost be seen as an allusion to the design of FFXV.
Perhaps the biggest and most prominent change is the truly open-world aspect of Final Fantasy XV. As stated before, Final Fantasy XII explored this element in a limited manner, but the environments weren’t quite truly open-world, at least not in the same sense as standard Western games are. In Final Fantasy XV, they are embracing this element and as a result, you can see some similarity between this and other series like Fallout, Grand Theft Auto and the Elder Scrolls. It will be interesting to see Square Enix’s take on making an immersive, open world game. We’ve already seen this trend take a hold with other larger JRPG series like the more recent Xenoblade Chronicles X, but having an established Japanese series like Final Fantasy take that approach which essentially mixes Eastern and Western gameplay design together can definitely make for an exciting game.
Another important aspect of game that they’ve changed is the focus on party members. Traditionally, Final Fantasy games boasted a large cast of diverse playable characters that you can add or switch into your party as required. However, in FFXV you play as Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus, and you will focus on these characters for the entirety of the game. This might be a strange choice for Square Enix to limit the normal amount of playable characters in a Final Fantasy game, but it hasn’t been the first time that they’ve taken this approach, with games like Final Fantasy X-2 and the later spin-offs of Final Fantasy XIII which chose to solely focus on a small party of characters. Personally, I think it will be great to see them take a more focused approach to party members, where they can afford to really explore the intricacies of character and rapport between Noctis and his band of friends. That’s not to say that there isn’t a diverse cast in the game; there are certainly a lot of interesting and notable characters to interact with in FFXV. But mainly, the change in focusing on a four character party might add some innovation in regards to Final Fantasy’s traditional method of story-telling and narrative.
The combat system in FFXV is completely overhauled from previous entries. The closest way to describe might be a more polished and action focused version of FFXII’s open world combat system. At a glance, it appears to be a hybrid of a standard action game with ways to parry, counter-attack, perform follow-up moves and cast magic. With Noctis’ ability warp ability allowing him to jump around the battlefield quickly, fights are frantic and full of nuanced maneuvers to gain the advantage. In addition to this, the nature of Noctis’ weapon also allows him to customize his abilities, so there will be a lot of different play styles for players to utilize and enjoy. Though the combat has become quicker paced in general, there will be an option to switch to a turn-based system where time pauses as you select moves for your characters to use. Overall however, Final Fantasy XV looks very exciting to play.
In addition to the points outlined above, there are many other small tweaks in design that Square Enix is performing on their newest entry in order to bring it up to speed for a modern generation of gaming. Final Fantasy XV is shaping up to be an excellent fantasy game in its own right, but what seems to be most interesting is the fact that the traditional JRPG experience that the Final Fantasy series is so well known for seems to be taking a drastic change in their latest game, and it will be intriguing to see their contemporary rendition of the Final Fantasy series. Find out if the series lives up to its reputation for quality and excellent storytelling, when Final Fantasy XV releases worldwide for PS4 and Xbox One on November 29th.