The verdicts for Square Enix's latest installment in its flagship franchise have stated that the game is a resounding thumbs up, with almost everyone hailing it as one of the better Final Fantasy titles to date.
And rightfully so. I myself loved it, and would even be bold enough to rank it among my top 5 Final Fantasy games (the list now stands as VII, IX, VI, IV and XV). But even with all the praise the game has had, there has also been a unanimous consensus that Final Fantasy XV had a lot of flaws that keep it from becoming one of the true greats.
Much has been said
about the difference between the first and latter half of the game, the amount
of main campaign missions, and the multiple glitches you encounter in an 80+
regular game playthrough. But what I thought of as the biggest flaw in Final Fantasy XV was its battle system.
Messy is probably the best word to describe it.
In my opinion, the greatness of a Final Fantasy title anchors heavily on the diversity and charm of every character. That weight is carried by the main characters more than anything else and it is up to the developers to make sure their personalities shine in every possible aspect. And with only four main protagonists, this is even more vital.
Much has been said about the game's horrible battle camera and lock on glitches, to which all have no excuse, what with games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect being around and featuring great in-battle and seamless transition cameras.
But I've got beef with more than just that. Final Fantasy XV lost a certain charm in the franchise's combat, making the characters that you fight with get lost in the background most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I love Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto, but they have no constant identities in a fight. Sure, they do the occasional critical hits, special moves, and what not, but they usually feel more like special skills rather than companions in a fight.
The lack of the ability
to tell them what to do is a huge issue for me because it wasn't just a handful
of times wherein I found myself going into a fight alone and discovering that
my three friends were taking their sweet ass time to get in on the fray. Not
being able to concentrate attacks effectively on a target is one big issue as
well (when you're in Costlemark Tower at level 65, you'll know my pain).
You're probably saying, "But that sounds like Kingdom Hearts to me, not to mention a lot of those new action RPGs out there!" And I would gladly tell you that you're right, but therein lies the problem: it's just not a satisfying excuse.
As I previously mentioned, Final Fantasy games are anchored on the personalities of the main characters, and it becomes troublesome when 3 of your 4 heroes' presence can't be felt in the battlefield. Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto are way too good to be characters that are relegated as Noctis' "back up". Each one of them is vital to the completion of the journey and shouldn't be merely as sources for critical hits and extra damage.
These guys are not Donald and Goofy in Kingdom Hearts; they are more essential. While I would never make light of the importance of Donald and Goofy in Kingdom Hearts, one would always know that Kingdom Hearts is Sora's story. Donald and Goofy were awesome characters but ultimately, it was Sora who had to save every world, and it didn't matter who his companions were at any given time.
Noctis' journey is fundamentally different. Although Noctis would eventually be revealed as another "chosen one", the game's backbone was built upon a journey of brothers. They weren't accidental companions looking for their king; these guys would be with you from start to finish. Not being able to tell them apart or where they are in battle is a huge flaw in the game.
Every great Final Fantasy game allowed you to create a party for battle that suited your specific preferences. Want to create a party in Final Fantasy IX that is full of healers? Put in Eiko and Garnet together with Zidane. Want to go crazy physical in Final Fantasy X? Have Tidus, Wakka, and Auron in the front lines.
The point is, Final Fantasy games used to allow you to assess each character's strengths and weaknesses and allow you to devise a strategy based on preference, situation, and skill. It was a huge part of the beauty of the games. It doesn't just enhance the battle mechanics, it immerses you in the adventure. You grow to love these characters more while also allowing a singular experience that is unique to each player.
People might argue
that Final Fantasy's class/job system
is obsolete in an open-world system, but that would be inaccurate. Final Fantasy has been fiddling with seamless
transitions from environment to battle gameplay ever since Final Fantasy XII. Say what you want about that game, but in my
opinion, the gambit system was great. It allowed seamless transitions when entering
into fights and allowed you to approach battles the way you wanted to.
With a Final Fantasy VII remake looming in the horizon (which, funnily enough, is the only other Final Fantasy game without a real class system), Square Enix needs to address this issue. Continuing this system will greatly diminish the dynamic that Final Fantasy VII's characters had (and trust me, if we don't see Tifa and Yuffie breaking bones and taking on the Ultima Weaponin glorious HD, then a lot of people will be royally pissed), and there is only so much sword waving that we can take from Cloud Strife.
Joking aside, it pains me to say that the Final Fantasy XV experience could have and should have been so much more. It hurts that an already great game was bogged down by something as trivial as this.Final Fantasy has tried for the longest time to evolve with the times, but it is important that it never compromises the uniqueness of the experience that gamers have been accustomed to and expect in Square Enix's flagship franchise. It is after all, beyond anything else what made Final Fantasy the household gaming name that it is now.