Final Fantasy 15 – We haven’t had “real” Final Fantasy in a long time

It’s been a while since I got straight into a Final Fantasy. Part 6? 9 maybe? Not that things like 7 or 10 were bad, on the contrary, but they were breaks with their predecessors that you had to get used to – at least for old characters like me, many of them just started with these games. But after the excessive misconception 13, which threw you completely disoriented into a confused world, Final Fantasy 15 is downright refreshingly simple, at least in the first few hours.

Two kingdoms, one small and nice, the other big and bad, the conquest of one by the other, a hint of betrayal and maybe a little intrigue, there is nothing that will throw you off course. Even the four protagonists, with whom I didn’t know what to do with before my first play, help. To try again: Yes, they seem like a Japanese boy band, especially because they are completely out of place in terms of fashion compared to the rest of their world. These are the worst posers under this sun, no question about it. In addition, they can be sorted into the “Mystical”, the “Strong”, the “Funny” and the “Cool” in a very practical and easily marketable way.

But that’s okay because it fits. These are not the four from the village around the corner, one of whom has yet to discover that he is the prince. He is the prince of a kingdom who has a relaxed, nice life for up to an hour into the game, free from worries beyond his hairstyle, who hangs out with his friends in his luxury car and the existing traits still have to express his personality, like that so many people in the critical years are around 18. Not a bad group for starting an epic. That’s what Heroes Journeys are for, to turn such white breads into real men.

Whether that will happen, of course, has to be seen in much more time than the allotted three hours, but there were hints in this direction given the crisis. I am quite confident about that. As for the female lead: I guess there is one. One seems to stick to the tried and tested action film concept: Sausage party with female company. At least at the beginning. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be the first (relatively) openly homosexual Final Fantasy. The camping scenes, which are supposed to show the bonding of the figures, simply work after more than four buddies on a fishing trip. I am of the opinion that something could go between the strong and the funny. Born this way, they are on the right track, baby.

Back to the game of entourage: The reason I feel so comfortable with this one is also that it doesn’t take five hours to let me slip into the game from an overfed tutorial intro. Only three. And even that knows how to fill it in a meaningful way. After the comprehensible intro it goes on a road trip, which begins musically with an elegant understatement and swings into one of the more memorable titles of the series. That might be a small thing, but I think it’s important how a game like this introduces itself and after the messed up moments from 12 and various 13s it’s nice to see that the series has retained its style. A little cheesy, a little pathetic, but also a little humorous and very charming.

The game world itself that you get to see afterwards is just as crazy as it is in all role-playing games. You have an apparently well traveled highway – slightly futuristic technology is enriched with magic, Final Fantasy stop – gas stations and huts included, normal-looking people wander around doing their thing and you really just want to yell at them all the time: “Hey, How can you have a relaxed coffee here !? There are five meter high scorpions in the desert! ” But since one could also ask the question in a Witcher how a normal farmer can ever get from A to B alive at all, it is a clear case of Whatever.

This world is opened to you in three stages. First you are stranded and should explore the area a little on foot. The game guides you very gently through the mechanics – maybe a little too gently. If you don’t camp, level up and prepare a little in front of the first boss, you will learn the hard way that occasionally saving manually cannot hurt. Next, you’ll have your car fit and ready to go again. Here you learn that this is not a car GTA. You are not allowed to leave the streets. But step on the gas yourself and operate the radio, in whose tape deck a best of the Final Fantasy soundtracks does its work. But it is nothing more than an automatic journey. So it’s only logical that you can leave the steering wheel to the mystical. And finally you activate the Chocobo rental stations. The only reason there are cars in this world, and not just giant birds, is probably because the cars have better upholstery. Chocobos are faster and most importantly, they are allowed to run anywhere. Final Fantasy 15 is a Chocobo GTA. Without prostitution and mass murder, but close.

The open world itself isn’t really that special at all. In fact, there was always an “open” world in Final Fantasy. We called it the upper world. Sure, you couldn’t go everywhere straight away, that’s not really “open”. But it’s not so different here. You stand in front of a desert in which there are randomly distributed monsters, crafting materials – urgh … -, a side quest here and there, none of this is fundamentally different from previous games in the series. You unlock new areas in the course of the story, through which you then wander, it’s all very familiar. And it doesn’t play badly. It quickly creates a fluid process in which you take turns exploring, fighting a little and following the actual story over and over again. If that’s the pace and timing of the whole game, it might very well hit the ideal point between the flow of the game and a little flow.

To get more technical: The basic concept of levels and skills stands as a rock-solid J-RPG framework behind all of this. The fact that you only climb the level when you find a safe resting place is the greatest specialty. The structure of the skill trees is ultimately just a variation of familiar concepts. Each character has their own with their own skills that define them in their playful role. The “Anyone Can Do Anything” system from 13 finally went overboard and the fight adapts to this.

I have to admit, I hated the battle of Final Fantasy 15 with devotion for the first hour or two. It just looked like it wanted to be played like a Souls game. But that’s not the case. MMO is getting a little closer to the matter. Hit zones and ranges without pixel contact are more decisive, the attack speeds are more like ATB systems and the most important thing is to take cover in good time. Basically, you always have three AI friends who keep your opponent busy and do their part with confidence. The most important figure, however, is you yourself. You give the commands for the super specials of the others, you land the decisive hits yourself and you coordinate the events, even if the game knows how to hide this very subtly. Since you as a player take more risks than the conservative AI, you will be hit faster and then it helps to keep your head down.

For this reason, it is important to learn the teleport jump first. There are points everywhere that you can aim for. If you jump there, you are at least out of melee range of the enemies for the time being – ranged fighters catch you anyway, which is why you should look where you are jumping. Here you heal faster and, above all, you regenerate very quickly the action points that you urgently need for any kind of relevant attack. When you’ve found that flow of attacks, coordination with the AI, and tactical retreat, it begins to reveal that someone was very concerned about the fight. Getting over the first hour when that doesn’t seem to be the case is the task that you must face. But it’s worth it and by hour three I was actively looking for the fights because I was starting to really enjoy them.

I’ve found enough. Even the first dungeons showed up. Quests for legendary weapons here, enemy outposts there, new enemies everywhere. Special talents want to be used, shops visited, the bonuses from various inns to be explored. The game began to unfold meaningfully at a brisk pace and to offer me options in order to be able to experience his world in a structured enough way but with a lot of freedom. And that was the point after just under three hours when I ended the play-off session. It was clear that you would either sink into it for the next few dozen hours – which unfortunately I wasn’t able to – or let it sink in for the time being.

The realization was that after those few hours I really liked Final Fantasy XV. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, I prepared myself for everything inside. But not on the fact that after so many years of experimentation this Final Fantasy feels like a modern version of almost original games today. You have a classic, comprehensible story (plus crystals) that is 100% Final Fantasy-matched in tone. Heroes who first have to become such. Game mechanics that are neither unnecessarily complicated nor too simple. A combat system that is tactical and varied and thus successfully continues the mixture of action and round that the series has always striven for. An upper world that is now moving a little more towards the “open” world. I leaned back after three hours and could clearly say, “Yes. This is Final Fantasy.” And: “That’s really good. I want to play that.” I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by this. But all the happier I left the test session and now look forward to the end of November with real anticipation.

Order Final Fantasy 15 from Amazon