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FINAL FANTASY XV discussion [full spoilers talk].

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Can't help but notice that we have yet to start one (unless I am missing something; in that case please merge posts as needed). There was probably some talk on stream(s), but I wasn't able to join those because of technical difficulties. And, regardless of that, it'd be nice to have a single place to go at this shooting breeze about final fantasy things business since we have a new addition to the family now.

So, let's get to it, shall we? Very Happy

XXX

I'll go over my first impressions as gotten from Raxaimus' stream to start things off. (Much kudos to Raxaimus for allowing us PS4 lacking citizenry to partake in the fun, by the way.)

- Perhaps the biggest complaint I have so far is the game's insistence on sticking to Noctis.

Not just in terms of not being able to freely switch between who you are controlling in combat (although I maintain that it was a mistake, Prompto's tendency to forget what 'keeping out of melee range' means when armed with a randged weapon being a prime example why), but also for storytelling purposes.

If you played at least some of the previous games, perhaps you remember points where the point of view shifted to a different character in a different party to show off things happening where the designated main character could not be there to observe at the time, be it in the neighbouring room or on the other side of the continent. Perhaps there was no single one character that could even be called 'the main character' at all and it was a bit more of an ensemble cast kind of story, with several equally important characters and a net of supporting ones?

If you didn't, then, perhaps, did you feel that the sequence of events was... lacking some links in the overall chain, gaps that were in no way effectively filled by the few cutscenes shown from other characters' perspectives? Did you want to see, let's say some of the imperial capital outside of the linear descent into a mass grave we play through in the second to last chapter, with only short bits of some logs and radio broadcasts to hint at how it is - and, more importantly, how it was before all this - outside of this, well, military bunker? Did you want to see what the crown city was like before this all went down? To have some memory of it from before, so that the main characters' plight could be something you could share in instead of sarcastically proclaim 'oooh, main character's town got bombed, what a shock, amirite?'

Well, I, at least, did. And I wanted the game to allow to play through it some way, shape or form instead of going to watch some stuff outside the game, watch some gorgeous short cgi movie in game or just have to piece it all together from scraps the game threw your way. I wanted more awesome stuff to happen on-screen instead of being notified it happened somewhere sometime the player party wasn't around to see.

It may have been more screentime for Luna - a supposedly pivotal character in what goes down over the course of the game, but with surprisingly short presence on-screen - as others on the stream have noted, and/ or someone else. More 'meat' in the section where you have to fix your stolen wheels situation (which, I feel, by itself is a bit questionable; that one imperial officer you are supposed to interrogate appears to vanish into thin air before he ever gets relevant); I cared more for Biggs and Wedge then for the sword guy that was introduced to the party there, ffs. And I don't think that was supposed to happen.

- Summons.

I have missed any explanation for how the game determines what summon triggers when, if there was any. Considering that everybody else on stream didn't either, it kind of looks like it is closer to Trance than anything else, barring scripted appearances.

Which also happens to be a serious contender for worst game mechanic in a mainline non-MMO FF game ever. I hope this is not the case, but I also seem to remember the game summoning Shiva on an opponent that absorbed cold damage in Raxaimus' run. Considering how important securing their support the story says should be, only to abandon you when their power is needed most in the story and how little control you seem to have over them in gameplay, I feel that it could've been done better.

The 'flash', the 'awesome' is certainly there, but the 'substance' is, IMHO, lacking.

- The character presented as the main antagonist is present throughout the game, but there is little substance to most of their appearance. Having precious little screentime is an issue with a number of major adversaries in multiple FF games. But I don't think I like the way this one handles it.

I cannot make myself think as if I have never played a FF game before, so I have no idea what impression he gives off in that case, but he never, ever looked non-threatening or friendly to me. First close up shot with the detailed facial animation raised antagonist flags through just my experience with anime, if nothing else.

Your party is suspicious of him right away, which is better then some narratives have done in the past, but their idle speculation on his motives doesn't really go anywhere; after some point in time they start saying something along the lines of 'it is just spite', but I saw no logical chain leading up to that conclusion, just a statement of fact. Noctis could've arrived to it after his talk with Bahamut, but it's not him that says it.

Why did he do what he did? Was it important for him to have Noctis go through the whole shebang and defeat him then, at the height of his power? If so, why? If there was an explanation of it, I did not notice it.

In fact, if he was going to be angry, bitter and hateful towards someone, wouldn't that'd be the Oc-, eh, I mean the big six?

I'd say this matter suffers for the reason stated in the first point of the list - lack of connecting scenes.

- Stat bloat for enemies.

This is not a new issue for either the FF series in particular or rpgs as a whole, but it needs to be noted all the same, I believe. What is the purpose of making the combat an action rpg if not to allow overcoming insufficient stats with superior play and vice versa?

Now, since Raxaimus has managed to power through it anyways without too much trouble, it could be argued to not be the case, but that second to last chapter was a bit touch and go there for a pretty long time. Cramped quarters, numerous enemies with very much not-trash levels of hp.

Now if Father's Sword one shot the regular mooks like it did in that section at the tail end of the third Prince of Persia Sands of Time game, it'd be a different matter, I think. The game could still drown you in baddies and make the stage challenging, make you feel helpless, but damn trash should not have that much hp, in my opinion.

- Stealth sections in a game not made for them can go screw themselves.

- A bit too much invisible walls and unclimable indestructible fences in the overworld. Jarring, considering how the main character can teleport spam in combat and irritating to navigate to boot.

- Janky camera screwed with gameplay and being able to see the awesome numerous times. Inexcusable.

Aaaaand that's about it as far as first impression major sour grapes go. There is a number of smaller irritations and probably some more things to gripe about as soon as I remember them (you know me, right?), there is a boatload of things I think could've been made better, but I'd get around to rounding them up some other time, if you don't mind.

XXX

Now let's go over some observations of neat things I noticed:

- The ring's drain ability was animated in a manner rather similar to pyreflies. Surprised nobody pointed it out.

- I was extremely glad to see good ol' monster designs and ideas make an updated return in both visuals and gameplay implementation. Even the borderline copyright infringing ones (aka mind flayers). Special note goes to making stuff like Frog and Bad Breath a threat, but not an absolute menace that causes you to lose the encounter instantly if you didn't prepare in just the right way beforehand. Also, Demon Wall is pretty metal. And fast Tonberries are kind of terrifying.

- I was amused and glad to see that the first seriously dangerous mandatory boss was a dragoon.

- Lots of nice story and gameplay integrations, as folks on stream have pointed out. Some of it can be used in examples to strive for in the future games even, I think.

- A nice balance was achieved with references, I think. It was not to the point of being a 'hey, remember that thing we did sometime ago, wasn't it cool?' kind of in your face reminder and it fit the context of what was happening in the game at the time. Or, at least, I believe so. Good ol' themes and plot moves reused, but not quite the same and, at the same time, not deliberately different in everything either.

'Tropes are not bad,' as tvtropes would put it.

- Favourite scene is probably the boat travel one. I think they speak too much about too little, but the idea itself - a lengthy picturesque travel scene as the party discusses their current situation and airs their concerns and fears - is something I approve of. It is skippable as well, which is just dandy.

XXX

In conclusion, I'd like to say that, despite numerous issues, this is, at least, a good game. One may or may not like concrete parts of it or the game overall, but it is a good game nonetheless.

I must confess I feel relieved now. I mean, bloody f*****g Final Fantasy, man. That s**t should not be buried and forgotten among the pile of drat good IPs that are unlikely to ever see the light of day again. And now it won't. Not today.

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Final Fantasies are amongst my favourite games of all time, and the series is basicly holding the spot of my favourite of all jRPGs. I have been awaiting this game for quite a time, and I could not wait to delve into the captivating story of Lucis. I will not deny, they hoype was there, but it was well-founded - or so I thought. Every single trailer, small piece of lore, or video said "This story will be amazing". And with that in mind, I delved into FFXV through various streams and playthroughs, awaiting this masterpiece to arrive. Not saying much, first spoilers arrived because of my lack of caution. And who would've guessed - they hoyped me even more. BOY, was I wrong Very Happy

Yes, I admit it freely, without hesitation. This game is disappointment for me. At least it's story. I have not gotten what I expected, nor what the game has been advertising. I think it will be fair to assess what I expected myself. I don't want anyone to think that I misjudged the game from the start. I do believe that my reasoning had some basis.

First of all, Luna and Noctis's dynamic was one of most hinted at and mentioned parts of the story. Luna was supposed to be pillar of the game. Trailers presented her as a crucial character, her presence was everywhere. Even Omen trailer directly showed her as the opposite to Noctis, playing equal part in the story. Considering her role as Oracle, I expected exactly that. A powerfull, amazing White Mage/Summoner, who plays crucial role in this long tale. Unfortunatelly.... ugh, I lack words.

Luna is barely in the game. She appears for few scenes, before dying, getting barely any lengthy characterisation. Her backstory is not properly developed and presented, her romance with Noctis is basicly not developed at all, it just is, and she dies before we really get to know her.

Next thing, the villains. Oh god, the villains. I will not lie, biggest part of hype, were antagonists. They seemed to be everything I could've wanted. Hell, I have actually designed villains like those myself in this specific team-up few times, oh great irony. There was unhinged emperor, who clearly was the insane person. There was old scientist with equally sick head. There was tragic Ravus, who had clear personal conflict with the heroes. There was awesome Aranea, who seemed like a material for regular warrior antagonist, with whom we would clash quite often. There then was finally Ardyn Izunia, the eccentric, who I guessed immidiately that he was the real brain behind everything. And there was the pack, who made me more interested the more I got into the story.

And what we get? Ardyn, and Ardyn only. The huge pack is brought down to just three of them being developed at all, and out of those, Aranea is antagonist for one boss fight, before we even get her name, while Ravus serves the role... as well, for one scene. Other than that, he says few lines, and that's it. Emperor and Verstael, the unhinged rulers of the empire, who I expected to be psychotic maniacs, are there for ONE SCENE! The FREAKING EMPEROR, has TWO LINES! I cannot comprehend how this could happen. I have no experience with a game, that builds up it's antagonists for such a big part of it's development, which developes them in the freaking movie, but doesn't do jack shit in the actual game. This. Is. A. Joke. Even in older FF's, where villains appeared for a short while, the villains got some characterisation in the background. But here, NOONE talks about Verstael, and Aldercapt is mentioned two times. TWO. TIMES. Maybe I am overreacting, but this is beyond waste. This is a crime.

And so, we get to final package. The latter half of the game is not finished. "World of Ruin", which in FFVI was almost half of the game, is now just one small chapter with final dungeon. Instead of lengthy examination of the effects of the Starscourge on the planet, how people deal with it, how the characters changed because of it, nothing is presented, really. The team just assembles again. Everyone acts exactly the same, and what should feel like a long awaited reunion, is just a small break from cooperation. Yet another joke of a narrative. Tenebrae, which was a genius occasion to flesh out so much of the backstory and how the world works is just a set of flashbacks. Flashbacks. No serious delving into society of Tenebrae, social unrests, how they deal with Luna's death, no. Pure. Nothingess. And the same goes for Gralea. What should be equivalent of Vector is brought down to a single dungeon. And we know nothing of the empire. For all we know, there don't even have to be any civilians in Gralea. They didn't even matter.

And all the other small things, that are left with nothing. Ramuh, who is basicly a small side-quest. Leviathan, which is a small boss-fight, the entire section lasting less than an hour. Cor Leonis, who is on the posters of the game, does not even appear beyond tutorial for real. Iris is a side characters without any input on the plot. Am I to go on? This is beyond criticism. This game lost me after situation with Titan, slowly making me lose all the hope, until I was left with a clearly unfinished game. This should be in development for another year, and I cannot get a grasp how can this be. FFXV as it is was developed for two years. How can the plot be soooo empty. How can so little substance be in there? How is that even possible?! I cannot compute this, and to me, it's an embarassment, on Square's part.

Now... probably anyone who is reading this is probably thinking "He hates the game. He thinks it is garbage". And probably few people I watched the game unfold are now in shock, how can I bash this game so much, after us watching this together, laughing, sharing theories, tearing up, worrying about characters, all of that stuff. How can I bash this game so much? Because I love it SOO MUCH.

Yup. The great irony of this, is that I love this game. I love the characters. I love the setting. I love the themes. I love the music, the visuals. I love every single part of this small piece of art, that crawled out, revealing it's shining beauty. And that is what hurts me the most. It's not that those characters, those threads are not interesting. I still stand by my point - Luna is the most badass female character Final Fantasies got in a long time. She is absolutely amazing, and may actually top Rosa as my favourite White Mage. But I got so little of her. I wanted to cry like a baby when she died... but I couldn't. There was too little substance. And what was an amazing, fenomenal character, who won my heart the moment she appeared on screen, barely got any lines in this lengthy game.
Same goes for others. Aranea, another badass character, doesn't get even a percentage of what I assumed she would get. And don't get me started on Aldercapt.

But here is the problem. I still loved everything I saw. Leviathan was awesome. The political game that was played in Altissia was fenomenal. Ardyn turned out to be most dangerous and interesting villain - and if not interesting, than just awesome - since FFXII(and it had awesome villains of it's own. Aldercapt was just as sick as I predicted, while Ravus's reveal as a decent human being blew my expectations out of the water. The reveal behind Magitek Infantry made me feeling so sick, it was an amazing moment. Fantastic integration of gameplay and story back there, great visual storytelling. The musc was always spot-on, gameplay seemed amazing. The final bosses were impressive, and played out better than I have initially assumed they would. Even the themes, despite not becoming what I assumed they would, still were very interesting.

The interactions between the team were outstanding. I went in expecting to barely care for all of them but Noctis, but turned out liking all of them, regardless of Brotherhood anime. They felt more natural, bonded and cooperative than a lot of teams in Square's history. Spot-on writing. I felt worried about Prompto, I identified with Gladious's fear and frustration, and I felt terrible seeing Ignis carefully walking with a stick. I felt sadness, when Noctis despaired over Luna's death, over his fate and fear of accepting it.

Ardyn was a perfect personal villain. The charm that the actor gave to the character made Ardyn an outstanding antagonist. He was exactly what he should be - a desperate, insane eccentric, who had revenge as the last thing making him go forward. I am dying to see more backstory for him, cause really, there are soooo many ways they can go with him - just as with Luna. I will be blunt, he may turn out to be my favourite FF villain just by acting. He was amazing. I have heard arguments against final boss fight with him, but honestly... even though I will not say it's spot-on perfect, it captured the exact feeling of despair, desperation and sensation that it should - like in FFVI - telling so much about the antagonist, that I did not expect when first seeing him in person. THAT is how you make a villain of the story.

But there is just so little of everything. I want more Luna. I want more Ravus. I want Aldercapt and Verstael. I want more Cor Leonis. I want more Aranea, Iris. I want to visit Gralea, Tenebrae. Where are those, what happened to all of that? Where is the rest of this outstanding, GOTY game?

Hopefully, in DLCs. In them lies my greates hope. Cause if they play it out properly, this game may still turn out to be amazing piece of art, best game in years. But as it is now...
It pains me to say it, but I don't think it deserves the title. It is a Final Fantasy, yes. But it is just it. And that saddens me so much.

And here goes my tantrum. I think this game deserves recognition, for it is truly great, but frustrating work of entertainment. I await new information on DLCs, and they will show as in terms of narrative. Hopefully, they will fix at least some of the problems of this amazing game. Because I will not lie - when I saw the ending rolling in, the new version of Final Fantasy Main Theme playing in the background, with Luna and Noctis sitting on the throne, I felt my heart grow. THIS is Final Fantasy. And I can only look with smile on my face, that the glory of what "Final Fantasy" meant is back. And bloody hell, it came laudly.

I am awaiting - before people justly praising the hell out of this game - some theories and questions asked Very Happy So much interesting lore, excellent characters and plot elements to discuss. Awaiting.

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What were my expectations going in? Was the disconnect between what I assumed the game would be about the reason for my dissatisfaction with the narrative? I think these questions bear answering.

Let's see.

I've watched some sections of some trailers, heard some speculation, most notably Arche's talk about the Omen cgi, but that was about it. I was hesitant, but hopeful about the combat system, without knowing any of the specifics. I assumed there'd be me more urban locations to explore, since I seem to have somehow gotten an impression that there'd be corporate wars of some kind involved.

I've idly thought about what would be cool to have in a game and what it realistically could've been designed in mind with, what the dev team and corporate were likely to bet on, considering previous successes and failures. (I've settled on the nebulous answer of 'like KH and FFXIV'; it worried me a bit, considering how I tend to dislike singleplayer RPGs acquiring features of MMORPGs and how I was no good at Kingdom Hearts combat and platforming, but deliberately stopped myself from thinking about it further.)

And that's about it. I've had much more detailed expectations once the playthrough started rolling, however.

I saw the game start in a capital of a country that has supposedly achieved fusion of things outright magical in nature and stuff much less fantastical to us; I have assumed from the lore intro in the tutorial that both it and the designated antagonist state made of use of magitech in some way or another and was looking forward to the differences in their respective approaches, how it would show their priorities, their thought processes, if there was some kind of assymetric counter technological race was going on and how it could be weaved into the visual design and narrative themes. Would an unexpected third side turn up and upset it with something unforseen some hours into the story, catching one or both countries with their collective pants down, I wondered.

I wanted to see how people lived in this world, how this particular iteration of the 'just like our life, but with magic' idea would handle the similarties and contrasts to irl. Would there be non-agressive non-human npcs or even whole areas and regions of (what essentially is) alien life about? Any notable differences in culture of plain ol' humans? Those nightly daemon incursions, coupled with the gradual decrease of daylight unrelated to any mundane winters they have been having, how did it affect it? What did people think about it? What did they attempt to do about it?

Airships? How and why did they come about? What is their purpose and role in the various countries of the world? How did it affect other modes of transportations and how it was in turn affected by them?

I got approximately nothing of that and was subsequently majorly bummed out.

The stated reason for the player characters' party journey caught my interest after that. It was most probable that things would not go according to plan since this was the very beginning of the game and going out in a single car with just three bodyguards was outright asking for trouble, but the idea of the obviously losing party negotiating their surrender felt like something a believable political situation would be like at that point in time, considering the backstory. I was looking forward to who would try to interfere, how and why and/or what problems would arise even if the signing of the capitulation proceeded as planned.

It quickly went downhill when the winning side decided it'd be cheaper to just crush their opponents with brute force, just in case. A shame.

I got curious how the story would handle what happened next. There was some nice tension rising at first, the party getting news about the disastrous development third-hand, filtered through channels of mass media and who knows how many layers of counter-intelligence and propoganda by both sides. Uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, anger, hatred. All that and more, only amplified by what little they could see and hear in the countryside through radio broadcasts and the enemy moving in to take control of the territories with force of arms.

The awesome sexy cgi spoiled king's death though. And instead of continuing any of the potential political angles, the party gets sent on a quest after, essentially, magical stones, without any explanation as to why or to what end.

The Titan encounter felt like a turning point to me as well. Gorgeous looks and a good balance in terms of difficulty and length of the section, IMHO. But:

Why was he under a meteor and why couldn't he just shift it to the side and lower it to the ground? What was he trying to say and why he felt the need to splatter Noctis? Why did he relent after a bit and allowed its power to be used (however infrequently)? If the empire wanted to prevent Noctis from doing his piligrimage thingy at all costs, why did Ardyn put a stop to that and even directly assisted him instead? What did other major powers in the empire thought and did about it (however much they may have failed)?

In addition, it felt like it should've been much closer to the end of the game. Noctis suddenly gains the abilty to not just dodge or otherwise survive Titan's assault, no, he starts smacking Titan around without any outside interference outside of what power the incomplete royal arms arsenal gave him. It is a notable spike in power in both gameplay and story when compared to the segments directly before and after it, with seemingly no explanation given and is, IMHO, generally doesn't fit in tone at the time. I thought it stuck out like a sore thumb in comparison to fairly even spread of quality before that.

And it got only bumpier after that. I have trouble remembering all the little and big moments that made me raise an eyebrow and think 'I would've done this differently'.

XXX

Overall, I think FFXV's story is an incomplete tease. Enough to write fanfics and fan expansions to the settings about, but incredbly open-ended and empty to leave more than enough space for about anything you could think of.

(We should probably do that.)

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Just finished FF15 so I can finally talk about the game in full without fear of spoilers. However, I feel like I could just copy and paste what Formosan said because I agree with most of what he said. Tabata has said they plan on releasing new scenes to flesh out the game for free (even mentioning bringing in voice actors), but I don't expect much more than what the ME3 extended cut brought.

Despite how that first paragraph can be perceived as my disliking of the game, it's quite the opposite; I thought FF15 was awesome. I definitely plan on replaying the game. The setting had amazing lore, but the game dove rather shallowly into it. I was baffled that the Imperials just vanished, particularly the Emperor, considering his appearance in Kingsglaive.

It's funny: If this was a SNES or PS1 era FF, I think the story would have been fleshed out much more, but the graphics wouldn't have held up very well. Instead, this is the most impressive looking FF to date, yet I can't help but think such visual polish hindered the creation of deeper story elements.

I watched Arch's VOD mentioning his theory that FF15 was a dream. I like that theory even though I hate it when stories pull that out. It explains why you are suddenly just at a location with little to no transition between (like when Noct is suddenly in a containment suit ready to enter the power plant). The movie, Inception, was edited in a similar manner to get that dream-like pacing. Unfortunately that could easily be explained by a lack of time/game development. It also explains how you can jump from past to present while still retaining new items/abilities because... dreams just make sense that way. But again, it could simply be a game convenience.

One thing I will throw out there is the logo for FF15 on the title screen. Notice how Luna is pictured in a resting state. We of course see the inspiration for this logo at the end of the game with Noctis, so it can mean a bunch of different things. FF15 has certainly mentioned dreams several times, including the Platinum demo.

I'm not sure if I buy the theory, but I'm just throwing stuff out there.

*EDIT*

Btw, in case my post comes across as too harsh, to balance things out, I'd like to say the end credits to FF15 was one of the greatest I've seen in a video game. It never got dull.

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