The Final Fantasy series has long been a chimera of radically different ideas. It may have been built off of the foundation of classic role-playing game design and storytelling tropes, but it's always pulled inspiration from a variety of sources. Fire-breathing dragons co-exist with steampunk airships. Low fantasy meets high fantasy, meets sci-fi, meets underwater sports games, meets costume dress-up - and that's just one game in a series that's about to enter its third decade of existence.
Final Fantasy 15, then, continues that long-standing tradition, and you can see it immediately in its 'fantasy based on reality' aesthetic. But it's not just an eclectic mish-mash of narrative themes; it also combines ideas from a wide variety of classic and modern video game genres and gives them the kind of unique flair you can only find in a series as fascinating as Final Fantasy. If you're a fan of Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, or even racing or fishing games, you'll be surprised by how much Final Fantasy 15 has to offer.
The role-playing genre covers a wide range of experiences, from the sprawling snowscapes and hidden dungeons of Skyrim, to the character-driven vignettes that make up The Witcher 3, to the more linear story and combat-focused Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy 15 aims to bridge the gap between styles, combining the big, open spaces and free-form adventuring found in Western RPGs with the kinds of explosive narrative moments you'd find in a classic JRPG.
As the recently displaced Prince Noctis, you'll explore the vast world of Eos with your best friends, looking for ancient weapons and powerful magic in an attempt to reclaim your throne from the evil Nifelheim Empire. This presents an interesting dichotomy - you're completing story missions to help move the plot forward, but you're also on the World's Greatest Road Trip, hanging with your bros Ignis, Prompto, and Gladio while stopping for gas and a bite to eat at tiny rest stops, exploring the wilderness, and helping the locals solve various problems for experience points and profit.
It's the best of both worlds, offering the freedom to do whatever you want - as long as you're strong enough to best the fiends which stand in your way - and scripted moments which send you into a labyrinthine ice cavern on the hunt for powerful weapons, or a cinematic battle with the massive, screen-filling Titan. Stat-hounds will find a lot to like here, too, as Final Fantasy 15's Ascension Grid gives players ample opportunity to upgrade their party with a variety of new abilities, buffs, and special attacks however they see fit. Final Fantasy 15 offers a unique take on the genre, giving fans of both open-ended freedom and story-driven drama and intrigue something to enjoy.
The Final Fantasy name is often synonymous with tactical turn-based combat, but it's also driven by a constant desire for reinvention, and the fifteenth entry in the series is changing things up in a big way. Instead of waiting for meters to fill up to pick out attacks from a menu, Final Fantasy 15's combat is dynamic, three-dimensional, and plays out entirely in real-time, taking cues from action-packed greats like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.
It's simultaneously unlike anything in the series and yet still deeply Final Fantasy, as Noctis and his team use a combination of magical weapons and elemental attacks to do battle with the myriad enemies and monsters throughout the game. As Noctis, you'll be able to wield a variety of weapons, from broadswords, to polearms, to even pistols and rifles - each one with their own strengths, weaknesses, attack animations, and more. With his trademark Warp Strike, Noctis can flit around the battlefield in an instant, using the space around him to attack enemies from behind for more damage, or to get a quick breather from combat to recharge his health and magic points. As you do damage, you'll be able to perform Link Strikes with your teammates, activating special abilities which can alter the state of combat in a variety of flashy attacks and supporting maneuvers.
Final Fantasy 15's combat is the fastest, most action-focused system in the series yet, often existing on the cusp of pure chaos. But it's also much deeper than it appears at first glance, revealing more and more of its layers while you play. And for series fans who may want to enjoy combat at a slower pace, Final Fantasy 15 has you covered, too. Simply turn on Wait Mode, and all of the action will come to a halt whenever you stop moving, giving you a chance to survey the landscape and plan out your next moves without fear.
Final Fantasy games are known for their sense of adventure, but they also share a lot of DNA with contemporary and classic adventure games, and the fifteenth entry in the series is no different. Many of Eos' citizens have problems, and you're the only one who can take care of it for them. Sometimes that means defeating a particularly clever monster, other times it involves finding items, solving puzzles, taking photos, or simply talking things out with someone.
Final Fantasy 15's dialog system even takes a page out of the adventure game playbook. As you chat with Eos' citizens, you'll sometimes be presented with a choice on how to proceed - do you offer to take on a quest for someone pro bono, do you ask for money up front, or do you ask your buds for advice on what to do? Your choices won't necessarily impact how the story plays out, but they'll affect how you perceive its characters and the world they exist in. You'll even get different rewards, like cash, experience points, or items, based on what dialog options you pick.
As much as Final Fantasy 15 wants to tell a gripping narrative, it also wants you to explore and take things in at your own pace, to let you live a virtual life in a world as alien as it is familiar. Eos is a place where cell phones and magic spells co-exist, and Final Fantasy 15 gives you the freedom to get lost in it all.
While the pull of its main quest will inexorably tug you forward, you're largely free to explore the world to your heart's content. Take on Monster Hunts at the local diners and slay packs of fearsome beasts for money and gear. After turning in a completed hunt, play a round of Justice Monsters V, Final Fantasy 15's strange, fantasy-themed take on pinball. Drive around and help random passers-by on the street with their problems, stop to take pictures with your buddy Prompto, or simply wander around looking for trouble in tucked away caverns.
Once night falls, dangerous Daemons appear along Eos' many roads, and you're encouraged to make camp or rent a room at a nearby motel. Here, Ignis will cook one of the many recipes he knows (as long as you have the ingredients for it), which will give you various stat buffs for your next day of adventuring. You'll also bank all of your earned experience points, leveling up and gaining additional Ability Points with each stop. It creates a daily rhythm unlike any open-world game out there, drawing you further into living a life in this unfamiliar world.
The Regalia is our retinue's constant companion - a slick, luxury convertible which Noctis and company will use to navigate Eos' numerous highways and byways. You'll be able to customize and upgrade the Regalia over the course of your journey, and can change its color and appearance, apply decals, and more at Cindy's shop. It's mainly a method of conveyance, and the control you have over it is minimal, but you can still take the wheel whenever you like - or hand control over to Ignis and let him chauffeur you around while you soak up the scenery.
If you're itching to actually race, though, you'll be pleased to know that there's an entire racing circuit in the game - a chocobo racing circuit, that is. Once you've gained the ability to rent these giant, ostrich-like birds, you can hop on over to the racetrack and compete against your friends in a variety of different courses and challenges. It's not quite the same as gunning down the streets of Duscae with a V8 engine, but don't discount chocobos - these fast and furious birds can drift through corners with the best of them.
If you're looking to kick back and relax for a few, maybe try taking up fishing. Noctis can cast a line at a variety of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans, fish for ingredients for one of Ignis' many recipes. Or he can take the bounty he catches and sell them at the local shop to fatten his wallet, which he can then use to buy better fishing lines and bait to catch even more impressive fish. Or you can feed a cat hanging out by the pier. Actually hooking fish involves a minigame which evokes strains of the Sega arcade classics of the late 90s. Just don't waste too much time - there's a kingdom that needs saving, after all.
Oh, did we mention you can feed stray cats? Come on, people. You're not going to let her go hungry, are you?