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Final Fantasy XV was a few steps away from being great

I want to preface this post by mentioning two things: these are my impressions of the base game (not including DLC) and this is the first Final Fantasy game I've ever played.

What I liked: The thing that sticks out to me the most was the camaraderie between the main characters. I know some people didn't really like the characters because they felt flat, one dimensional, and lacked depth in their personalities, but they all came to grow on me at one point or another. They were able to capture (at least on a basic level) of what it's like to spend time with your boys, albeit in a fantastical world where the dialogue sticks very closely to the plot. When they rolled the credits at the end and showed the montage of all the pictures you took throughout the game, it was really emotional and a very effective way to convey the strong bond you built with the your friends.

The music in this game was A1. Yoko Shimomura did a fantastic job composing music for all the different locations, combat scenarios, and world exploration. The sign of a good soundtrack for me is when I catch myself humming the music outside of playing the game and FFXV accomplished that.

From what I understand, a lot of people didn't like how big the open world was because it felt empty and was too big for its own good. However, that didn't really bother me personally. I don't think open world games need to be filled to the brim with things to do in order to be justified or to be enjoyable. Most of the world is made up of forests and countrysides anyways, so it didn't need to be filled with more than it had. It had enough monsters and scattered items throughout so I never felt alone whenever I was exploring. I played the game on Series X in the 4K mode and the game looked stunning, albeit a little dated in terms of the textures used.

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I also managed to do 42 side quests throughout my playthrough. I know many people think the side quests were boring, uninspired, and felt like padding. To a certain degree, they are correct; many side quests were basically "drive here, fight some monsters if necessary, collect this specific item, report back to the NPC who gave you the quest." But I really enjoyed the side quests as I probably spent 12 out of my 34 hours of playtime doing them and they really encouraged world exploration since many side quests happen in different areas on the map, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the open world.

What I disliked: I'm going to get the big one out of the way first (spoilers). I absolutely hated chapter 13. It ripped away everything I liked about the game all at once. You lose your powers so you feel somewhat helpless after feeling OP for the entirety of the game and the relatively shallow combat system is reduced even further to basically just locking on and holding B while the life force gets sucked out of the enemies. You basically get caught in a dungeon with multiple levels and tight corridors, completely removing the open world aspect of the game. I hated when things just jumped out at me randomly or I got caught by a faulty Magitek soldier (I'm a bitch when it comes to horror games and I can't stand jump scares). And on top of all of that, they take your friends away from you and you're by yourself for a majority of the level, which removed my favorite part of the whole game. I know they did all of this to focus on the plot and Ardyn's motives for wanting to kill Noctis, but it came at the expense of all of the redeeming qualities of the game.

The storyline was pretty confusing for me (spoilers). I haven't watched the prequel movie which explains a lot of the game's backstory (just hit Netflix a few days ago but apparently it's pretty bad, like most video game movies), but I did watch the Brotherhood epsiodes on YouTube and that helped to further explain the relationships between Noctis, Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto which I enjoyed. But the fact that the game just skips over major plot points (like why Ignis went blind after the battle at Altissia, why Ardyn is immortal and has a grudge against the Lucis bloodline, or why Gladio just disappears a third of the way through the game and comes back with new scars while acting like nothing happened) and locks it behind DLC and other content found in different places is a poor way to tell a story driven game.

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I was 50/50 on the combat for most of my time playing. It started off fine, but when the enemies got stronger and I was still using the same weapons I started the game with 10 hours through since I wasn't aware of buying stronger weapons or upgrading them, it felt unnecessarily tedious. The camera during combat is abysmal, sometimes it'll just lock into a certain position when fighting and gets obstructed by trees or a wall in dungeons and you can't change it without repositioning yourself entirely. When I found out about buying weapons and upgrades, the combat became a little less tedious and I felt more powerful but it doesn't change the fact that you need to just lock on and hold B while moving the left stick for all combat scenarios. There were also 2 items that completely broke the combat system and made it irrelevant: the Ring of the Lucii and the Magitek exosuit. After chapter 13, you emerge from a 10 year slumber with a charged up ring and when you go back to the past with Umbra, almost every enemy with a lower level than you can be destroyed in 1 second by a single hit. I don't remember when I got the Magitek exosuit, but when you equip it you basically become immune to damage from enemies for a while and you end up no longer having to dodge attacks or buff yourself with potions and elixirs. When the items are combined, the combat becomes boring and lacks any excitement (great way to blast through side quests though).

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Minor nitpick: I didn't like how the game would close off certain parts of the map based on where you are in the story and didn't allow you to explore until it said so, I found that unnecessarily restrictive.

TL;DR: FFXV is a game with really good qualities and is worth a playthrough in my opinion, but it has several factors holding it back from achieving greatness and could've been so much better if they didn't spread out the content between DLC, a movie, and a short animated series. Leave your thought about the game in the comments, I'd love to discuss further.

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