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    dkirschner's Final Fantasy XV (PC)

    [December 21, 2020 04:46:21 PM]
    Burned through this fairly quickly, though possibly the shortest FF game I've played and definitely my least favorite. I finished it in just over 40 hours and that's only because I spent forever doing side quests and exploiting the leveling system. That's a big question I have about this game. Why is it so easy to exploit the leveling system? That's the number one thing I'll remember about this in the future, that I was level 65 doing level 20 story missions, that the game actually let me do that.

    I'll talk about that first because it involves a couple of the game's systems. You gain XP like any other RPG, but it doesn't affect anything until you rest. You are encouraged to rest at campsites scattered across the open world, and if not there, then at rest spots in outposts. When you rest, by default, your XP is tallied as it is, but some rest spots grant bonus XP--up to double! You find a 2x XP rest spot pretty quickly in the game. So obviously you want to rest there, right? Obviously.

    When you rest at camp, one of your bros, Ignis, will cook a meal. You're encouraged to rest at camp because you can eat one of these stat-boosting meals. And these can be legitimately awesome, boosting stats by a huge chunk for a long time. You can also purchase these meals at vendors. Early on, at the chocobo farm, I found that the vendor sells a meal that increases XP gain by 50%. So obviously you want to eat this meal constantly to have this buff all the time, right? Obviously.

    What this means is that I spent most of the game running (driving, really) around doing side quests with a +50% XP buff, saving up tens or hundreds of thousands of XP and then resting for 2x XP for massive level increases. For example, the last one I did I went from 48 to 63 instantaneously. 15 levels at once! And those weren't the low levels that always go fast!

    What this also means is that I was supremely overpowered for the entire game. Literally the entire game. Side quests were the only challenge because I did so many that some of them kept somewhat pace with me. The story missions max out around level 55, and I think that's the closest I was (when I was in the mid-60s) except near the beginning of the game. I often took hunts (a type of "kill x of this creature" side quest) that were higher levels than me, but by the end of the game, I had like two side quests that were over 65 (and one was 99, which I didn't realize until I attempted it and almost died. Quests were never near my level, so why would I check it?!).

    So one of this game's biggest flaws is how ridiculously easy it is, unless you purposefully don't use meals or XP bonuses to your advantage. Even then, it's probably still easy because, while death happens, it's rare. To die, you have to get knocked unconscious (HP to zero) and then have your "second" HP bar deplete to zero also. You will have a zillion items that you can replenish nearly anywhere and use any time in battle, so there is no reason you should ever die. I died once but it was during a timed event where I ran out of time. I never died from, you know, battle. You can also set your companions to auto heal and they will help you up if you are hurt too.

    Easy as the combat is though (and as much as I wish they'd taken cues from a Soulslike game), it's a lot of fun. It's fast and flashy and combos (link strikes) with your teammates are a joy to pull off. I never really got tired of fighting, which is one reason I did so many hunts. The main character can cycle between four weapons or spells and has various gauges to monitor that allow him to do (or command teammates to do) various special attacks. Your teammates' special attacks level up as they use them and I had them mostly maxed out without any problem whatsoever (again, overpowered). My favorite thing about the combat is "warp strikes," where you launch yourself to the nearest high point and then zoom through the air to attack faraway enemies. The farther you are, the more damage you do.

    My other favorite thing is the bro bonding. It's kinda cheesy but I found it endearing and heart-warming too. The game is basically a boys' road trip. You and your three best friends go off saving the world in a car. There's the smart friend, the jock friend, the goofy dork friend, and you, the emo friend. They play right into their stereotypes, are voiced really well, and play off each other well. This is one part of the game that I thought I would suffer through, but was surprised to enjoy.

    Now, the larger story in which their bro trip is embedded sucks. It's disjointed, dense, and was told so poorly that I rarely knew or cared what was going on. It checks all the video game story boxes: kings and royalty, wild west, mechs, zombies, demons, magic, research and evil scientists and experiments gone wrong, a vicious imperial army, prophecies, gods, and so on. You also, in the course of it, get to attack enemy bases, customize cars, wear outfits, gather resources, and do all the modern video game things too. I think they even added a multiplayer mode, which looked like Horde mode to me. There's also DLC that apparently is the only meaningful source of character development for your bro companions.

    I could take any or all of those things to pick apart, but I'll stick with the one thing that seems to define the game: driving around in the Regalia, your royal car. I both liked and disliked this. I liked that it was novel in the context of a fantasy game (this game is all about fantasy in a realistic world, which was a neat idea). I liked customizing it, even if that generally just meant buying some decals at shops or going on some item hunting quests for upgrade parts.

    But talk about restrictions! At first, you can't even drive it. Ignis (smart bro) has to drive. Fine. Except he refuses to drive at night (demons come out and he's scared). Super annoying. It forces you to camp or just wait out the night. Eventually, you either level up enough or hit a story point and he lets you drive. Awesome. But he still won't let you drive at night. Stupid. Eventually, you level up enough and Ignis deems you strong enough to drive at night. This is fine, except you stop every time you see a monster. You can't drive around it (even after you upgrade the Regalia to a giant monster truck). Stupid. Eventually, you level up enough so that you can kill any monster easily enough and it's just a minor inconvenience. But Ignis STILL makes you sit through dialogue with him every single time you want to drive at night, where he makes sure you don't want to rest somewhere instead.

    When Ignis drives, you can fast travel (when you drive, it's manual). Fast traveling only works if you are going between places that you have visited before and discovered their parking spots. Otherwise, you have to sit there while Ignis drives in real time. This takes on average probably 5 minutes to get somewhere. I read about 100 pages of a book over the course of this game while Ignis drove around. And folded a lot of laundry, packed for a trip, ate meals. I mean, thanks for making video game time more productive, I guess, but damn. Was that necessary? Can't I just fast travel? Or drive faster?

    Maybe this says something about the game as a whole. There are a lot of neat ideas. But the implementation wasn't always on the mark. I often found myself wondering why the game wanted me to do this or that or why this or that wasn't different. In the end, I sort of wondered why I'd stuck with it and played the whole thing. I think it's because I really was having fun doing all the open world stuff, even if I did read half a book while doing so. Then around Chapter 8 or 9 (of 14), the game railroads you into linear story chapters and you are basically done with the open world with little fanfare. Why did I spend all that time leveling up?! I didn't even need 10 of those levels! I was so glad when it ended (Chapter 13 is like 5x too long) and relieved to be done. It's like all of a sudden at the very end I was like, "This game sucks!" But it was just my late-game thought. I really enjoyed most of it, weird as it was.

    Recommended? Not really, unless you have to play all the Final Fantasy games.
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    dkirschner's Final Fantasy XV (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 14 June, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Monday 21 December, 2020

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Really different beginning to a game. Lots to learn. Promising! ------------- Fun combat, lame story. Bros are cool.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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