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Feature Article

Final Fantasy 15's First 15 Hours

A world of wonder and possibilities.

"A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers."

Final Fantasy XV boldly opens with this statement, and rightfully so. During my time playing its first five chapters, I found it brimming with references to both previous games and the wider Final Fantasy universe. But for every familiar concept I encountered, I was introduced to a plethora of new details and mechanics. FFXV tries to embrace both the familiar and unfamiliar, attempting to pull in two different audiences into its distinct, open world. While this direction might be an issue for those concerned about the game's focus, what I played was packed with exciting moments and promising possibilities.

The narrative told in FFXV's first five chapters is captivating, offering an enticing setup for an epic conflict. However, at times, it makes you feel like you need to watch its expanded universe stories first to get the full experience. In the months that followed FFXV's reveal, its narrative was strictly kept under lock and key. But thanks to recent offerings, like Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, we've received explicit details on protagonist Noctis and crew, as well as the conflict between the Kingdoms of Lucis and Niflheim. The developments that occur in these stories are impactful and increase your understanding of the events at hand, but they're only shown briefly or mentioned in passing during the game's early hours. As a result, there's a lack of urgency; a sense that details are missing from the plot that better show the plot's stakes.

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FFXV wastes no time in throwing you into its open world, giving you plenty of activities to do aside from the main quest. You can take on hunting contracts to eliminate local monsters for money, gather resources, or seek out hidden treasures; the frontier is instantly open for you to explore to your heart's content. And the number of things to do only increases the further you play, as more side quests open up additional opportunities. It helps that everything is opened up organically as you explore. People randomly ask you do something for them, your friends might propose taking a photo together at a nearby landmark, and you might even seek out an adventure yourself running towards a question mark on the map. These instances create a natural flow of activities, blending moments spurred upon your own inclinations with those that simply emerge from your time playing.

While the side quests I played were interesting to take on at first, the further along I got, the more they started to become rudimentary fetch quests, taking me from one point to the next until I was rewarded with a prize and a pat on the back for my troubles. Some side quests did give me slight insight to the world, such as a frog gathering mission that shed light onto the impact of the plot's events on the local wildlife. But none of the quests I pursued seemed to provide anything more than small flavor details about the world at large. Despite the lack of variety, each side quest proved a worthwhile diversion with an interesting premise that was rewarding enough to embrace even if the payoff may have not been worth it.

The brief time it takes to access FFXV's open world makes it stand apart from past entries. But none of this would mean anything if the combat system wasn’t up to par. Fortunately, this aspect has been the highlight of my experiences thus far, providing tense and exhilarating battles against a variety of creatures both small and large.

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Unlike the battle systems from previous Final Fantasy games, FFXV take cues from action games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, by allowing you to switch weapons mid-combo, giving you the ability to string together custom combos. Each weapon type you can brandish is distinct, providing its own special attack animations. While not as technical as a hardcore action game, the complexity of combat still feels satisfying and refined.

The excitement of battle is further amplified by the Warp Strike ability, which, as the name implies, allows you to evade attacks or close the distance on enemies by instantly teleporting to their location. But it's an ability strictly tied to your MP (Magic Points) meter, so you can't use it recklessly. Using it too much can put Noctis into Stasis, a state that renders him weakened until you can take cover or warp over to a nearby safe area to recover MP. Warp Strike is difficult to get used to at first (zipping around the battlefield can be disorienting). But it's a useful ability that rewards methodical thinking and precise timing.

This brings up another unique quality about FFXV; magic spells are no longer tied to MP. Rather, they're tangible items that you directly equip and use in battle. But first you need to craft a spell by harnessing elemental energy via crystals found in the environment; these can then be constructed into spell. Items can also be combined with spells during the crafting process to add new effects. For instance, you can craft a fire spell with a curse effect that diminishes enemy attack power. Magic is given a much more palpable quality thanks to the new crafting process, feeling more like a physical, destructive weapon that you can hold and throw, rather than an abstract energy you just summon from the ether.

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But if there's one thing that has made the most impact during my time exploring, it's food. Eating plays an important role in the game, as it can temporarily buff your statistics in myriad ways. For example, a Vegetable Medley Dish can increase your attack by 20 and your HP by 150. Cooking food is more than the quirky diversion it makes itself out to be; it's a necessity that can determine whether or not you survive some of the game's tougher enemy encounters.

Even after just 15 hours, I can tell FFXV is a massive game packed with things to do and locations to explore. The need to know about its expanded universe seems like an unfortunate requirement that undermines the impact of the story, and the overreliance on fetch quests can be tedious at times. But none of this puts me off of FFXV's open world. Whether for fans or newcomers, the game's numerous mechanics and activities proved rich and engaging. What remains out in the world of Eos is undeniably alluring, and I can't wait to explore more of it once the game finally launches this November.

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mgespin

Matt Espineli

Matt Espineli is an Editor at GameSpot. He loves MGS, film noir, and westerns, but he very much loves YOU too.
Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

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