Thursday, April 25, 2019

Final Fantasy XV

So, a while back I saw Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition in the $10 bin at Wal-Mart, and figured, hey, why not.  This is the version that includes all of the expansion pass goodies, plus a bunch of new additions unique to that version of the game, including expanded final dungeons and boss fights etc.  I made a post about how I felt I'd gotten my money's worth out of the game.  It was okay, not great.  Very light on story, heavy focus on side quests and open world exploration.  Plus it had all of the story DLC (that had been released at the time) included.  I played it for a bit, got my $10 bucks worth, and lost interest, moving on to other things without finishing it.

I don't know what made me go back to the game with the intent to finish it, but I did.  The first half of hte game is a bit of a mindlessly enjoyable open world game.  But the second half is much more involved, story-wise, and removes the open world aspect almost completely.  I enjoyed the second half of the game a heck of a lot more than I did the first half, and finished the game from where I'd left off at in just a couple of days.

So here are some final thoughts on the game before I get to my rant on the DLC.  The characters are a bit flat.  So much so that Square-Enix actuall made a short anime series just to give the characters development and back story that was completely absent from the game.  You know, the things that motivate characters to do the things that they do?  Yeah, you have to watch an anime series on youtube to get those.  They're not in the game.  And that, right there, is the biggest problem with this game.  So many vital story and character elements are just not there.  Would it have killed them to put these anime scenes into the game as flashbacks at camps or something?  And then there's the Kingsglaive movie, which, again is vital to understanding the plot and how everything comes together, but was not included in the game, because SE wanted to rake in some more cash on a theatrical release, which they did, it was a pretty high grossing movie in Japan, if nowhere else in the world.  I really enjoyed it.  It's a pretty good movie.  And there are SO MANY Breaking Bad jokes to be made throughout its runtime.  But, again, it was story elements cut from the game, that you're kind of lost not knowing.  This is the problem. I can forgive flat, or ridiculous characters.  I can forgive outrageous plot threads, and plot holes you can drive a medium sized moon through.  These are staples of the Final Fantasy series.  Don't believe me, go replay Final Fantasy VII.  I'll wait.  You back?  Yeah, now you see what I mean, right?  I can forgive those, because they're part of the charm of the series.  What I can't forgive is vital story and character information being left out of the game and only available from outside sources.  This is not how good storytelling works, folks.  Imagine playing through the fall of Insomnia as Regis, or Nyx, or hell, even Lunafreya, instead of having to watch a movie to find out what happened off screen while the Bro-Force was asleep in Galden Quay.  This was also a huge problem in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, except there was no anime series or movie you could go watch, you had to read all of the lore and character information in datalogs that you actually have to hunt down through a maze of menus to even find.  It's a step up on XIII, but still not great.

Anyway, the story does get good about halfway through, and the end of the game is decent, if feeling a little rushed.  Again, I only paid $10 for it, so I got my money's worth.

I also played through the story DLC.  I don't mind supplemental story being added to a game after the completion of its story.  Sometimes I'll even actually pay for it, but usually not, because I've discovered something wondrous, ladies and gentlemen.  If you wait long enough, eventually there will be a complete or game of the year or whatever version of the game that includes it all, and usually for a reduced price.  But then there's games like Final Fantasy XV, where vital sections of the story are removed from the game to be sold later.  This, I do not, and cannot support.  Let's take a look at Final Fantasy XV's season pass compared to another game I bought the season pass for, Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  The season pass for FFXV was $15, with with you got a few weapons, an online multiplayer mode, and 3 story DLCs ranging from 1 hr to 2hrs in length each.  The season pass for XBC2 was $30 and you got all kinds of free goodies, a challenge battle mode, the ability to alter character appearances in the main game, a new game + that allows you to set your level for the difficulty you want in a replay, more rare blades to summon, and an expansion to the game that took me almost 30 hours to complete.  the story DLCs for FFXV were blatantly cut out of the main storyline of the game and sold separately as additional content.  the story in XBC2 is complete in itself, and the story DLC there is like a completely new and separate game that takes place in the same world to delve deeper into the back story.  Even at twice the price, I felt the XBC2 season pass waswell worth the money.  If I hadn't had the expansion pass included in the Royal Edition of FFXV I wouldn't have bothered.

So, there are 4 story DLCs for FFXV

Episode Gladiolus
Episode Prompto
Episode Ignis
Eisode Ardyn

Episode Ardyn is not included in the royal edition or the season pass.  There are also the canceled Episode Lunafreya and Episode Aranea, which are being rumored to be getting made after all, but probably not.

Episode Gladiolus is the most blatantly cut out of the game, dude randomly says hey guys, I'm out for a bit, catch ya later, then comes back and never says where he went or what he did.  This is probably the least enjoyable of the 4 in my opinion, because it just wasn't very interesting, and I found the combat difficult and clunky.  It was just a series of boss battles without much in the way of story.

Episode Prompto was much better, and it shows some very vital story elements for Prompto that really needed to be in the main game.  His motivations as a character are all laid out, and he's given a lot more depth than he otherwise has.  I had trouble playing through this one, becuase it's a combo of stealth sections and shooter sections, and I absoltely despise stealth games with the fiery intensity of a million George Foreman grills, and I don't really care for shooters either.  Story is great, and the character development is necessary, and really needed to be added into the main game.

Episode Ignis is by far the best of the original 3 season pass DLCs, and it is aboslutely vital to the the story of the main game.  If you do not play this, there are large elements of plot and character motivations that make absolutely no sense whatsoever without.  Ravus' random side change?  Yeah, that's explained.  Ignis' complete personality shift in the second half of the game.  That's explained too.  I WOULD say to play this immediately after fighting Leviathan, except for one HUGE problem.  IT SPOILS THE FREAKING END OF THE GAME!!!!  They remove a vital section of the story, on that elements of the ending of the game make no sense without, and put it behind a paywall to get, and you can't even play it where it needs to be played because it spoils the end of the game!  The story was good, the character moments were great, and Ignis' combat is really fun to play.

Episode Ignis was the best of the 3 season pass DLCs, but Episode Ardyn is far and away the absolute best of the four.  It gives so much back story and motivation to the game's main villain that was just completely missing from the main game.  where the other three DLCs were blatantly removed from the game, this one looks like it was made because the creators felt they needed to explain more about Ardyn's character.  This is more in line with the type of DLC I'm more supportive of.  Supplemental material that either adds more past the ending of the story, or clarifies parts of the story that were maybe a bit vague.  The combat is really fun, and Ardyn is just so gleefully evil that he is a hell of a lot of fun to play as.  You have an entire city to run around and just destroy and murder to your heart's content, all while he makes wisecracks and sarcastic comments.  It's probably the most fun I've had with Final Fantasy XV, period.  BUT at $9.99 for a 2 hour story DLC, it is ridiculously overpriced.  But, again, I only paid $10 for the main game and other DLCs, so I figure $20 altogether I still got my money's worth.  I loved this one, I only wish it had been a bit longer.  My advice would be to wait another 6 months or so until they release the super mega royal edition, which includes Episode Ardyn, or periodically check out the PSN/Xbox/Steam/Whatever store for a sale on a bundle of the royal edition and episode Ardyn.

So, in the end, I enjoyed the game.  I was suffering from a sever case of lowered expectations after all of the marketing and initial reviews of the vanilla game, but Final Fantasy XV today seems to have had a lot of the problems fixed, a lot of the holes filled in, and if the DLC is blatantly removed from teh main story, you can get it included in the royal edition.  The Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime, and the Prelude to Episode Ardyn anime are both free to watch on the official Final Fantasy XV youtube account, and the Kingsglaive movie can be rented and streamed from Amazon for $0.99, it's definitely worth a buck to watch.  Episode Ardyn was probably my favorite part of the entire game, but, again, it is RIDICULOUSLY overpriced.  If you can find the royal edition of the game for cheap like I did, I definitely recomend it.  While I don't feel the game was really worth full price, I do feel I got my money's worth and more for the price I paid.

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