Final Fantasy Fifteen Finished

What a strange game this was. I’m pretty glad I finished it. The story, fragmented though it was, made it worth the time, though I still don’t know that I’d blanket recommend it to others.

In a lot of ways it feels like the devs were making an open world Final Fantasy and then deadlines started looming and they changed their minds. I spent something like 30 hours playing through the first 8 or so chapters in an open world, doing a ton of side quests and exploring. I remember an Achievement popping for having completed 80 side quests, so I did more than 80. As you play through this part of the game you level up your characters and gear, of course, but you also do things like improve your car and customize Chocobos. Chocobo riding levels up. Fishing levels up. Cooking levels up. There’s even a point where you can start growing things…

And then suddenly the game becomes a more-or-less on-rails experience and you leave cars and Chocobos behind. I spent 30 hours on the first 8 or so chapters and about 8 hours on the final 6 chapters. Also by the time I left the ‘open world’ portion of the game I was leveled near to 50 and doing level 30 content, but by the end of the game I’d only accumulated a couple more levels and the content had caught up to me. I’m glad I did all those side quests or the end of the game would’ve been brutal.

The combat system is so close to being fun, but too often things get too hectic, or a bush or wall comes between your character and the camera and you can’t see what is happening. Towards the end of the game there are some boss fights that change the fighting system and honestly even though I beat them, I still don’t really understand what I was supposed to do. Button-mashing got me through. When the main combat system worked, it was really entertaining.

The Crows Nest is a good place to stop for a bite,

Spoilers Below!

While I never really grew attached to any of the 4 main characters as individuals, during the open world portion of the game I did start to enjoy them as a group. There they are in life-or-death battle and they’re still trading quips, but they’re looking out for each other as well. One of them will draw Noct’s (and the player’s) attention if someone is really hurt, for instance. Between battles they bitch about it being too hot or too cold, or talk about how they can’t wait to get some food. Just kind of normal stuff. It did feel like a group of friends and I was an honorary member of the group.

That all unraveled in the linear part of the game when Ignis, who is kind of the den mother of the group (as well as being the cook) is blinded during an off-screen battle. In that same battle Noct’s intended bride and childhood friend is murdered. Yeah, shit got real, real fast. Noct is consumed by his grief while Ignis is trying to come to terms with his loss of sight. Gladiolus, the tank of the group, takes exception to the fact that Noct is dwelling on someone who is dead and not doing more to help their hurt brother. The two start to fight, a lot. Prompto, who is kind of the ‘everyman’ of the group, tries to hold the team together as best he can.

During the next expedition Ignis wants to come; he asks that the group not leave him behind. I said OK (there was an option to leave him behind and I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d chosen it. I’m guessing the others would’ve insisted he come.) Ignis is now walking with a cane, but he is new to feeling his way and moves slowly. If Noct (and you, the player) move too quickly the others yell at you about leaving people behind. In the meanwhile poor Ignis is stumbling and falling frequently. Prompto tends to hang back to help him while Gladio harangues Noct about his behavior.

Lunafreya dealing with an uppity god

From a story point of view I found this super interesting. Usually in a setting like this (an ‘adventure’ story) if one of the band gets hurt they’re immediately ditched to either die a noble death or to be retrieved later as an afterthought. That the gang brings Ignis with them is both heart-warming and heart-breaking. Just to drive the latter home, the next time you camp you don’t get Ignis offering you a menu of delights for dinner, instead you have 1 choice: a cold can of beans. It’s just kind of gut-wrenching.

From a GAME point of view, though, this was really annoying. Not being able to run as you’re exploring areas was super frustrating, made more so by Gladio at times yelling that we need to hurry (which is kind of his default thing he says through the whole game) and then yelling that I was going too fast. And the meal thing: I’d spent those 30 hours finding every recipe I could, and gathering food from all over the place, so we’d have a wide selection of food (each meal has a different set of buffs that last through most of a day). Having that all taken away really sucked.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough about a five year old game. Overall I enjoyed it, but not to the point where I want to stick around post-story to chase Achievements or clean-up side quests. I was level 52 as the closing credits ran and I have side quests of level 99! The level cap is apparently 120, so I guess they expect people to just keep on exploring for a LONG time post story. Yeah, I didn’t like it that much. If I squint I can see a truly great game in the design doc, but what got delivered was like a 3 out of 5 title.

Shiva: The ice goddess is the hot goddess

Playing Lately: Final Fantasy XV

My Xbox Series X has a lot of storage devices. There’s the 1 TB internal storage built in, and I invested in the Seagate 1 TB pseudo-internal storage module. So I have 2 TB just for Series X games, minus whatever the operating system chews up. For last gen games I have a 1 TB external SSD, and an 8 TB external traditional HDD drive. It’s a stupidly large amount of storage, and the 8 TB drive is pretty noisy and seems to spin up randomly even if I’m watching TV or something. I’m looking to remove it, but in order to do that I need to jettison some games.

All of which is how I came to be playing Final Fantasy XV. I sorted my last-gen games by size and FFXV was one of the biggest at about 100 GB with all the expansions installed. I have no recollection of buying the version of FFXV with all the DLC. Maybe it was a freebie at some point or it was on a super sale and to cheap to pass up? Who knows?

I did recall that I had started the game a couple times in the past but never made it very far. When I fired it up on the Xbox I had some save files with about 7 hours of playtime, last saved in 2017. I opted to start over, honestly assuming I’d bounce off it AGAIN and feel OK about just deleting it from the drive.

Two weeks later I’m still playing and I’ve got around 30 hours into it. I’m not sure why; I wouldn’t call it a great game. It is almost great, but has just enough annoying systems in it to keep it from getting there. Still, I’ve become invested in seeing it through.

I did almost bounce though, after about 3 hours. Then my buddy Irata reminded me that there’s both a movie (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV – available on Netflix) and a short anime series (Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV – available on YouTube), both of which help set the mood for the show, and make the characters (for me anyway) a little less annoying.

In FFXV you play as Prince Noctis and you travel the world with your 3 male pals. All of you dress in black with lots of buckles and such; you kind of look like some sort of emo boy band. I found the characters pretty unappealing until after I watched the shows above, and particularly Brotherhood. When you know their backstory you start to understand them a bit more.

You can eventually change the gang’s attire but that changes their stats too and at 30 hours in I don’t have anything with better stats than what they were ‘born’ in. So I put up with the all-black look.

Anyway, getting ahead of myself.

At the start of the game your party of four are on a road trip. Prince Noctis is off to meet up with his bride-to-be, the oracle Lunafreya. They don’t get very far before all hell breaks loose and suddenly they’re refugees.

From that point on you travel the countryside in your car, the Regalia, fighting anything that moves, doing fetch quests, earning money for food, camping and slowly pushing the story forward.

Combat is almost really fun. In fact it IS fun in the rare moments when you’re fighting alone or with 1 other party member because you can follow the action. Most of the time you’re controlling one of four black-clad individuals fighting enemies that generally come in groups. Trying to pick Noctis out from his three companions and 10 enemy soldiers is a real challenge for me. I often have to run from the battle, then come back at it once I have the space to see what is happening.

Fortunately Noctis has a warp attack that lets him return to the battle quickly and with a big hit on an enemy. When you feel in control, the combat is awesome. It’s just that all too often you’re just trying to parse out everything that is happening in a fight. I mean I guess in a way that’s realistic, right? Battle is chaos. But in a game, to me it’s kind of frustrating.

There’s a “Wait Mode” for combat but I don’t like it much either. Using this mode nothing moves until you move, as best I can figure. If I could quickly toggle “Wait Mode” on & off it would help a lot but to change it I have to pause, access the options menu, find the battle style toggle and turn Wait on or off. It’s too cumbersome to do it very often.

The other big frustration is traveling around, particularly early in the game. The team generally travels via their car, and until Chapter 3 you can’t actually drive it; one of the other team members does. Getting from Point A to Point B can take anywhere from 1 to 8 or 9 minutes, real time, during which you, the player, has nothing to do other than go get a sandwich or something. I think the developers imagined us putting ourselves in the car with our ‘brothers’ and bopping along to the radio while watching the world go by, but that certainly didn’t work for me.

Eventually you start unlocking fast travel points and you get the ability to drive the car yourself, and in the edition of the game I’m playing you can convert the car to an off-road model and start cutting across the wastelands. Travel becomes much less of an issue at that point. Things get even better when you get to start riding Chocobos, complete with their jaunty theme song. That’s always fun (of course… I mean who doesn’t love Chocobos!?).

There’s a day/night cycle and (at least in the early chapters) you do most of your adventuring during the day. At night the bigger, badder enemies come out and your team members will resist you if you try to head out into the dark. For instance Ignis, who drives most of the time, will refuse to do so at night until you reach a certain point in the game.

The idea is that when darkness falls you need to find a place to spend the night. This can be a motel, a caravan (a trailer) or a camp site. Couple twists here. First as you fight enemies and do quests you gain experience, but it is held in a kind of reserve until you spend the night somewhere. While you sleep you level up. Staying at an expensive hotel can mean getting bonus experience. Staying at camp means no extra experience, but camping offers the opportunity to cook a meal for free. Meals give your team buffs that last a good long time. So there’s a balance there: do you want to spend $$ to get extra exp, or do you want to save $$ but get some nice buffs?

There’s also the convenience factor, of course. If you’re adventuring and it gets dark, it’s a lot more convenient to find a campsite nearby rather than spending the time to head back to town to a hotel.

Anyway I could go on and on; it’s a big game with a lot of systems. But it’s also an old game, and not an old game I’d give a blanket recommendation to. But y’know, the blog needs fodder so I figured I ought to at least report in about what I’ve been doing with my free time. Maybe I’ll come back and talk about the GOOD parts of the game at some point!! 🙂

Playing lately…

Even though I now live in the south where summer starts in March and ends sometime after Christmas, I grew up using Labor Day as my end of summer marker (helps that I lived in a resort town and all the summer residents went back to wherever they came from on Labor Day). So some part of me has decided that fall is here.

I touched on how it’s going to be a weird ‘holiday season’ in my last post, but I’m just in the mood for blogging and don’t have any one thing to focus on so I figured I’d just spew out a “What I’m playing” post. I mean, Destiny 2 comes out next week and that MIGHT consume me (and I might meet it with a giant “meh”, I really don’t know) but there’s a long weekend between now and then.

So here’s what’s going on in my gaming world.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate — I’m still playing this even though I finished it a while back. I’m slowly working towards the “Get 100% sync on all story missions” trophy. If I can get that I can probably try for a Platinum. If you haven’t played AC, story missions generally have a main goal and two optional side-tasks/challenges. You can move the story forward by completing the main goal. That will give you 80% sync for that mission. Doing the optional tasks each add 10% to your sync. So to get 100% sync for all the story missions you just have to do all the optional tasks.

So far they’re not too hard during a 2nd play-through since my characters are so mighty compared to the enemies they face. Unless stealth is a requirement I can just stride in and kill everyone and then do whatever needs doing, usually. The ‘remain undetected’ tasks are harder. So we’ll see. I try to get up to 100% on one mission each day. If I try to grind them out I just get bored/impatient and start screwing up.

Next up is Everybody’s Golf, which I picked up due to lots of enthusiasm on /r/ps4 and the fact that I had a $50 PSN gift card burning a hole in my pocket. This is the latest in the Hot Shots Golf series, only now they’re calling it what it has always been called in Japan: Everybody’s Golf. So far, it’s a hoot. It uses the traditional 3-click golf swing system and, aside from the initial loading of the course, plays really quickly. As you play you unlock all sorts of character customization options. So far I’ve only played single player because I’m trying to unlock courses. Looking forward to the online mode which sounds wonderfully chaotic. You don’t teleport from hole to hole, you have to run. Along the way you can find items or even go fishing. Why? Who knows? It’s just a feel-good, fun kind of game.

But at the end of the day it IS a golf game and so it isn’t something I play for hours at a time. I jump in, do a tournament or two, and move on. I can feel my attention start to drift the longer I play and my shots get worse and worse. So not a “main game” but still fun and it was only $40 so I’m good with it. Also I spend way too much time messing around in the character creator:

I’ve always liked the idea of Monster Hunter games but have never really gotten into any of them. With Monster Hunter World coming out in 2018 I wanted to get some familiarity with the style of game. Last summer (summer 2016) for some reason I bought God Eater 2 Rage Burst for the PS4 and it came with a free copy of God Eater Resurrection. So I’m trying to come to grips with GER. There’re so many odd systems to learn and the controls are I guess deliberately bad? Is that how it works in Monster Hunter-style games? Y’know what’s hard? Moving the camera with the right stick (in order to aim) and then using the face buttons to fire. So you can aim or fire, but not both at the same time. Who thought this was a good idea?

I do like GER because there’s a story to it, and I love a story in my games. I’m not very far into it though. Doing Difficulty 2 Missions. Trying to figure out how to play beyond the ‘button mashing’ phase. Keeping the theme alive, I can only do 2 or 3 hunts before my attention starts to drift.

So after juggling 3 games that I’m playing a little of each night, I wanted something more narratively meaty to sink my teeth into. At the same time I was reading about this weird Assassin’s Creed/Final Fantasy XV cross-over and that it was time limited. I bought FF XV at launch and put about 15 hours into it before I stopped. My recollection was that I stopped after learning of all the patches/content that were coming to it, but I can’t be sure. I decided to give it another go. Last night I just had time to do the tutorials again, and start a new game. Now I need to decide if I should go back and pick up my 15-hours-in save, or just keep going with the new game. I think I’ll probably do that latter just because I have no recollection of the story. Mostly I remember Cindy’s boobs.

When I bought FFXV I sprung for the season pass and at some point they gave season pass holders a ring that gives the team protection from friendly-magic-fire. I feel that is going to be a game-changer. I never used magic when I was playing because my pals would always rush in after the mobs and I couldn’t hit the baddies without also hitting my allies. So I just never bothered. With this ring I should be able to toss spells around a lot more casually which I think will make the game a lot more fun. So we’ll see.

So yeah, juggling 4 games. I guess that’ll fill up my weekend. We’ll see how many of them gets pushed aside by Destiny 2 next Wednesday.