Game Commentary: Final Fantasy XV's Story

I just got the platinum trophy for Final Fantasy XV. That's really not saying much because it was pretty easy to get. The game has so much more content on top of that. By content, I don't mean sidequests that tickle your funny bone or stories that test your morals. I mean, well, just dungeon crawling really. Thank God the game's battle system is enjoyable.


Final Fantasy XV took 10 years to develop. Does it live up to the hype? Somewhat. I don't think any game takes 10 years to develop unless you're talking about PROPERLY done VR MMOs. The game went through so many development cycles with the story and gameplay constantly being changed based both on fan response and the vision of the team.

So, the story of FFXV is pretty simple. Someone kills the king and now you, as the prince, have to take back your throne! The game has consistently been advertised as a revenge tale. Noctis has to take back his throne from Niflheim, the Empire that wants to rule the world. He is joined by his brothers in arms and they set forth, through hardships and love, in the hope that Noctis can bring light upon the land again. This premise is great. It's simple but tells of an epic tale. Too bad they didn't stick with that premise.

See, Luna did so little in the story that all the trailers featuring her were basically all her cutscenes. She gets killed halfway through the story which felt like a waste of the character. She didn't get to do anything really. Everything from then on felt both good and bad. Ignis going blind and that little chapter with your bros was done well. It was very much needed to establish their resolve and character arcs. The car being destroyed is also a great form of symbolism.

The bad comes from Chapter 13 onwards. Firstly, jumpscares are completely dumb and in a game like this, very uncalled for. That whole resident evil vibe of that chapter was horrible. We didn't need that especially because the first 75% of that chapter was for nothing. Literally, we got nothing out of it. No character development from Noctis or the villain, nothing about the story, not even painting the end of the world properly. Papers were scattered about and other players kept insisting that reading that is crucial and is great storytelling. Sure, but that could have been done very differently. You didn't need that waste of a chapter.

Also, the Empire contributes zero to the story. You get the huge leaders written off out of nowhere, the demon plague looks very much retconned into the story and it just felt like there was no need for a Niflheim. The main villain was Ardyn and it seemed that they focused so much on his story that they completely wrote away almost everything they advertised for since the start.

The story was rewritten so many times and after playing through it, it felt like someone wrote the script 10 years ago and decided to change major things recently but didn't bother to proofread it. There's so much disparity in the plot that its hard to digest. The story felt very different from what I expected and so, while all the plot twists were unexpected, they didn't hit as hard as they should have. I felt more confused than emotional.

Killing off Luna so early into the game was stupid, I'll just put that out. They could have spent more time on her character and killed her off towards the end. Like, replace Chapter 13 with her death and stretch out the final chapter leading to Noctis' own. The only reason I felt a little emotional that she died was because I thought of letting go Aranea as best girl for Luna since Noctis loves her so much.

Killing off Noctis is also uncalled for but the reasoning was fine. As everyone sacrifices themselves for the king, so too shall the king sacrifice himself for them. That part was good. Noctis accepting his death establishes his character as the rightful heir to the throne and parts well with Noctis' arguments at the start, where he stated that his dad did not think of the people but only of his son. I didn't mind that part.

But then, they decide to timeskip 10 YEARS in a matter of minutes. Timeskips can be done but the idea of timeskipping in a video game is to ease the player into the new timeline. Timeskips work for animes and manga because you can just cut off publication for a month or so before resuming. This emptiness or 'pause' for the viewers allows them to more closely connect that the characters are actually going through hellish training and when they come back, they appear so fresh that you can see that 2 years or however long has actually passed. For a video game, this sort of cut off can't happen because it's an interactive experience till the end. So the best way to do a timeskip is to ease the viewers into the new timeline.

FFXV, aside from simply saying 'A few weeks later' just puts you smack down into the middle of warzone 10 years later. And then you go off to fight the final boss. Heck, even at that emotional camp scene at the end, they didn't do it right enough for me to believe that the four friends actually caught up and made peace with Noctis' departure. They had one slow camp scene that could have been skipped. That's it. That's all Square Enix did to reconnect Noctis to his friends after not 2 months, after not 2 years, after a DECADE of hell that all of them went through.

At the start of the game, it also felt weird that even after Regis' death, the crew's banter never seems to get depressing. That's a small matter and is always a problem with open world games but they could have maybe changed the tone significantly before slowly letting up as Noctis comes to terms with it. I mean, the whole accepting his destiny as king and accepting his dad's death took, what, two quests? The game suffers from a major pacing issue.

Luna's brother's story arc was also stupid and very much a misfire (if intended) or very much shoehorned into the story (if not). He didn't need to be in there along with the emperor and whoever else.

Now, what would have been a perfect FFXV for me? First of all, Square Enix's talk about changing Final Fantasy to fit a more modern audience is wrong. This story felt SO much like a Final Fantasy game trying to fit into a western game world. They didn't shift the franchise's direction. They just squeezed it into a different mold. Squeeze being the key word here.

FFXV could have gone perfectly with simply the revenge story they promoted until the release of the game. This is how I would have done it. Noctis and friends find out his father dies and the Empire takes over the crystal. Now, they hunt for him while Luna goes around awakening the Astrals so Noctis can get his power. Noctis does not come to terms with his father's death as easily but throughout his journey, he connects with people from all walks of life and truly comes to terms with his father's actions, his brothers and his destiny. Noctis, having obtained the Royal Arms and Astrals then proceeds to fight a war with the Empire and receives help from the people and nations he has connected with.

Luna fits somewhere till 3/4 through the story where she decides to aide from the sidelines while Noctis fights in the frontlines. Ardyn can be written off completely or have his own short story arc where he is played out to be more of a traitorous character to Lucis than a crazy madman. Noctis can also die at the end of the game but for a better ending, get him to finally reclaim his throne and wed to Luna. The postgame content will then allow you to continue your adventures in the open world as King Noctis and the shift in tone will then welcome a myriad of additional postgame content. Beating the game will also allow you to bring a fifth party member into the field or switch others out (considering they wrote combat AIs for Aranea and Iris but don't actually allow you to fully team up with either of them at the end).

Of course with this, I'd opt to remove the open world for multiple HUGE areas instead. This way, they can create more unique settings with better execution in their story. Like, reduce the size of the current open world to just Duscae and Leide/Cleigne. Then, make Altissia and Tenebrae actually playable with their own towns and areas. With this, you can establish three different nations separate to Lucis that will allow the players to transition from a whiny prince to a resolved king. You can also throw in a bunch of smaller in-between dungeons/areas if you want. I'd much prefer this to what I got. Actually, I EXPECTED this to what I got.

And if they're feeling extra generous, once we can fly, allow us to fly everywhere without the need of a loading screen

This change could have fixed their pacing issue, their character development issues, their linearity issues, their villain issue and their Final Fantasy mold issue. They could have gone with the simple, albeit cheesy, story of redemption and revenge. Instead they chose to write an otherwise decent story but push it into a gaming experience that did not fit.

I like to believe that something went wrong towards the end when they decided to rewrite the script. They just failed to stitch back the whole piece together. I'd like to believe that the game was in fact the best Final Fantasy game ever.

Thank God the gameplay is great.


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