Four Guys, a Car, and a New Recipe for Adventure

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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An ominous premonition of the future paints a rather dire picture of Noctis Lucis Caelum, the crown prince of Lucis. Older, haggard, and barely holding himself together, he and his loyal friends are facing off against a horned devil and the inferno it has summoned. Braving a firestorm and protected by his allies, he regains his health to fight back against this demon. Flashing back to the present day, Noctis is being sent forth by his father, King Regis, in order to fulfill the terms of the ceasefire between their kingdom and the invading Niflheim Empire. While not the best of situations, he does still get to marry his beloved Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, the Oracle and his childhood friend. Setting out with his Crownsguard entourage, albeit with a rocky start involving their car, the Regalia, breaking down, everything seems to be going well. Then the news reaches them that Lucis was attacked by Niflheim during the treaty signing, resulting in the deaths of thousands, including Regis. Left without a home to go back to and stranded in the middle of the country filled with dangerous monsters, the ever-encroaching daemons, and the might of Niflheim’s forces, Noctis must ascend the throne as the next King of Lucis and save both his kingdom and the world from the darkness threatening to destroy it all. Well, it would not be a road trip without some form of excitement.

The long awaited 15th main title in the franchise, Final Fantasy XV was released in late November of 2016 for all current-gen consoles. Originally known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII when first announced in 2006, the game was stuck in development hell for much of its lifespan, entering full production in 2011 before being rebranded as its current title in 2013. Featuring a large and gorgeous open world, fantastic music from the wonderful Yoko Shimomura, fun and addicting combat, and all of the nuances that make Final Fantasy what it is, this game was made for both fans of the series and newcomers. It even says so whenever you boot up the game.

Noctis is pretty much what you would expect of a young man that has been raised in royalty and sheltered all of his life. He is laid-back, hates mornings, looks up to his father, and loves fishing, but he is still a powerful warrior of the line of Lucis. Joining him are three of his closest friends and members of the Crownsguard: Gladiolus is the eldest in a long line of protectors of the royal bloodline, serving the prince as his Shield, though he isn’t afraid to to gruffly poke fun at the young man from time to time: Prompto is Noct’s best friend and is the most cheerful person you could ever meet, who also possesses a sharp eye for both photography and firearms; and Ignis is the level-headed advisor to the prince and usually the voice of reason for them all, wielding daggers and cooking supplies in masterful precision. Along their journey to take back their home, the Chocobros meet many new people in the outer regions of Lucis, like the mechanical genius of Cid and Cindy, to familiar friends such as Gladio’s little sister Iris and the Lord Commander of the Crownsguard, Cor “The Immortal” Leonis. While they have been separated for years, Luna and her attendant, Gentiana, provide tremendous support to Noctis by awakening the Astrals and imploring them to help the Chosen King.

The main antagonists belong to the Empire of Niflheim, led by the power hungry Iedolas Aldercapt. Wanting to use the power of Lucis’ Crystal in order to bring back the glory of the ancient Solheim Empire, he has waged war against the rest of the world in order to reunify all of the lands once held by Solheim. Serving under him include the likes of Verstael Besithia, the mastermind behind the development of Magitek weaponry and its soldiers; Aranea Highwind, a Dragoon and Commodore of 86th Airborne Unit, as well as occasional frienemy to Noct and the boys; and Ravus Nox Fleuret, the High Commander of Niflheim’s armies and elder brother to Luna. Above them all sits the de facto leader of Niflheim and mastermind of the invasion of Lucis, Imperial Chancellor Ardyn Izunia. A jovial man that acts as a friend to Noctis, though it is clear that absolutely NO ONE likes him, Ardyn is the one responsible for most of the events taking place in the game, though it is hard to see just what he is playing at when he both helps and hinders the party whenever he feels like it. Nevertheless, behind that affable and trollish front lies one of Final Fantasy‘s most evil and depraved villains, who casually, almost joyfully experiments with daemons, skips away from countless atrocities, and casually murders people without batting an eye, smiling and acting politely all the while.

The gameplay matches up with the modern Final Fantasy entries in that monsters will be roaming out in the open for players to see, letting them decide if they wish to fight or not to gain the EXP. This time around, players have to rest at the various campgrounds in order to level up, as experience is accumulated after a day of fighting monsters and doing quests. Combat itself can be done in either real time, which is very reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts series, or Wait Mode, which is a hybrid mode of sorts that freezes time whenever Noctis is not moving and allows the player to plan out their next move, much like the older FF games. While the rest of the party are only able to hold certain types of weapons (Greatswords and Shields for Gladio, Daggers and Lances for Ignis, and Firearms and Heavy Machines for Prompto), Noctis is able to wield all types, but can only have four equipped at any time, making him a very versatile fighter that can be prepared for any situation.

Final Fantasy has always been a beautiful series, but XV takes it up a notch on the current-gen systems, creating an absolutely stunning world for the player to explore. From the awe-inspiring Disc of Cauthess and Rock of Ravatogh to the bustling industrial town of Lestallum and gorgeous water city of Altissia, there is a reason both Prompto and Noctis can take pictures of anything they want. The music is also one of the best scores in the series, created by veteran composer Yoko Shimomura, with the melancholic theme of the game, “Somnus” being a recurring riff throughout. Square Enix went all in with this title and they easily succeeded.

Aside from just tiny DLC packs that contain additional weapons, decals for the Regalia, and fishing gear for Noctis, there is a number of major story packs planned for the game, each focusing on the other party members. The first, Episode Gladiolus, follows the King’s Shield shortly after he leaves the party for a time in order to get stronger, teaming up with Cor in order to tackle the Trial of Gilgamesh so that he can truly act as the Shield of the Chosen King. Episode Prompto catches up with the young man some time after falling off of the train later in the game, having become a prisoner to the Empire and needing to escape, but not before coming to turns the true nature of his origins. The final DLC, Episode Ignis, has yet to come out and will take place shortly after the turning point in the game in Altissa, where Ignis must help fight off Niflheim’s forces and save the city, but at a great and personal cost.

Having never played a Final Fantasy game before and wanting to get into the series, hearing how XV was also being made for newcomers in mind as well helped solidify my decision to buy the game, and I have not regretted it at all, though the number of hours sunk into the title do speak for themselves. This is certainly a game for both fans and those that are interested in jumping in without prior experience. Of course, keep in mind that FFXV, at its core, is a JRPG, so there can be a bit of grinding involved and can become a complete time sink if you wish to try and complete everything. If you are unsure, it would be a good idea to watch the gameplay to see if it appeals to you. If so, a wondrous, beautiful world filled with companionship and fishing awaits.

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