I never would have expected to be playing Final Fantasy XV this holiday season. Not even in my wildest dreams. The 10 year development cycle must have gone great, because this fifteenth entry of Square Enix’s JRPG series is my game of the year.
What can I say? Before this holiday season, my GOTY pick would’ve been Firewatch if you would’ve asked me. The indie hit surprised me and became one of my favorite stories this year. It would have to be my honorable mention now because Final Fantasy XV blew me away from all angles.
Knowing that Square Enix was going to change the formula up a bit from it’s previous entries in the series; combat and all. I have to admit, I was skeptical to the whole idea. Four dudes in their 20’s(?) that are basically on a road trip to a wedding. Sounds crazy to me. But It turned out to be a fantastic idea and just showed how big a Final Fantasy world can be. About 100 side quests (not all great), monster hunts, towns, cities, enemy variety, HUGE boss fights, and more. Driving around in the Regalia was relaxing and actually made me appreciate the world that is Eos.
Something that bugged me about the driving was that it got kinda annoying in the post-game to complete side quests. You can’t always fast travel anywhere you want to go so that leads to you riding a chocobo or driving your car for minutes at a time. It can get frustrating to get places when you’ve already seen the sights. That’s my only gripe on the traveling in the game.
The relationship between Noct, Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis proved to be a strong point in the story. There was a huge over-arching story going on, but all I really cared about was the guy relationships with one another. Their banter and conversations made going anywhere an adventure. Prompto even takes photographs whenever he can which just adds that much to the journey. I loved looking back and remembering all of the good times (and bad) that the crew went through.
Final Fantasy XV‘s combat was one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Every battle was super fun and easy to maneuver. It took some time at first to get used to it all, being a new system to the series, but once I got the hang of it I was beating the imperials like nothing. It all felt so smooth and forgiving; when I was losing a battle countless times, It was always my fault not the game’s. Trying out Noctis’s array of weapons was fun and provided strategy to enemy counters. Knowing which enemy was susceptible to what weapon was key to multiple difficult fights.
This latest entry in the series is spectacular. It’s a welcome change to the series that surprised me and delivered what was expected and more. It’s the game I spent the most time with this year and my favorite. 2016 is the year Final Fantasy was the best.