My journey with Mass Effect: Andromeda ended, which means I finished my video game challenge ahead of schedule than I thought I would. As I have mentioned in my last post, I gave myself free reign to just choose any video game I felt like playing. It didn’t make sense starting a new video game challenge with most of the month nearly gone already. I decided to go back to Final Fantasy XV after putting that aside in an attempt to complete another video game challenge. It seems like I’ve been doing well on the completion front this month because Final Fantasy XV is now also in the bag. It has been an incredible trip with this game and there’s plenty to say after reflecting on it. Fair warning to those who have yet to play or finish Final Fantasy XV, there will be heavy spoilers about the game. Read at your own risk.
The last time I played Final Fantasy XV, I left the game sitting at Chapter 8, knowing I would be leaving the vast open-world of Lucis for Altissia once I boarded the boat to the glittering city along the canals. I was already over 50 hours into the game, as I reported in a previous post I did about FFXV. I wanted to make sure I did as much of the sidequests in the game as I possibly could before I wouldn’t be able to go back to Lucis for now. By the time I completed Chapter 8 to move onto Chapter 9, I was reminded again of just how much this game will take your breath away. The boat ride to Altissia reveals an elegant city of columns, statues, and structures surrounded by canals and waterfalls. Altissia will immediately call to mind the city of Venice in Italy, and from what I read, that’s exactly where the developers got their inspiration for Altissia from. I’ve been to Venice more than once already and it’s my favorite European city to visit. Seeing Altissia and some of the buildings in the game really brought me back to the dreamy romance of Venice. Even Prompto comments about how romantic Altissia is when Noctis and his crew finally get to traverse the city streets.
Walking around and doing some sidequests in Altissia are a little limited and can be a lot more tiresome after a while. As much as I really loved being in a new area of the game, I found myself missing the wide open space of the road and stretches of land with the Regalia to take Noctis and his companions from one end to another. It’s not so much that Altissia is a huge area. It’s more like Altissia can be a bit confusing to navigate. There’s a lot of twists and turns, very much like a maze, and it’s also exactly how the real Venice feels, if you’ve ever been there before. I’ve gotten lost many times trying to find simple quest markers on the map because I would reach a dead end or I can’t figure out how far something is by gondola or walking. Altissia eventually starts making you feel as if Noctis is too boxed in this poshy city.
When you’re finally ready to move forward with the rest of the story, Chapter 9 is really the beginning of the end for the light and carefree road trip vibe the game sets up in the first half of the story. Noctis reunites with his betrothed, the Oracle Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, only to have her die after the summoning of Leviathan goes terribly wrong. The tone of the story shifts from light to dark, and the plot progression from Chapter 9 and on quickly speeds up towards the end of the game. This actually surprised me. I didn’t expect to move from one chapter to another at the pace it did. While I was aware that the second half of FFXV switches to more linear gameplay, I wasn’t prepared for when it finally happened. Not that I really needed to do more sidequests to level up my guys at this point in the game––Noctis at 67, Gladiolus and Ignis at 65, and Prompto at 64, but an option does open up in the second half of the game where Noctis can call upon Lunafreya’s dog Umbra at a rest stop to take you back to the “past” Lucis or Altissia to do any sidequests you still may want to do. I tried this option at Chapter 14 just to see what it was like and it felt weird going back to the past, almost like a strange time travel element, even if it’s not. This brings me to how the rest of the second half of FFXV plays out.
Noctis and his bros suffer many challenges and hardships after Chapter 9. Well, maybe more Noctis, Ignis, and Prompto than Gladiolus. Noctis awakens to find himself in possession of his father’s ring, the Ring of the Lucii, discovering Ignis lost his sight during the evacuation of Altissia, and the confirmation of Lunafreya’s passing. As the guys continue onward to Gralea by train, the capital of the Empire of Niflheim, to retrieve the Crystal stolen by the empire during the fall of Insomnia, Noctis gets separated from his friends. First is Prompto, after Ardyn Izunia, the Chancellor of Niflheim, attacks their train and tricks Noctis into pushing Prompto off the moving train. Then, it’s Gladiolus and Ignis, after their train derails and the wreckage forces them apart for Noctis to continue the journey to the Crystal alone.
Chapter 13 is the much hated and flawed part of the story players complained about when FFXV initially came out before a new piece of story DLC/patch released, known as Chapter 13 Verse 2. Chapter 13 Verse 2 came out to help address the confusing bit of plot that happens in the pre-patch Chapter 13. In the pre-patch chapter, the player follows Noctis through an oftentimes frustrating ascent towards the Crystal and saving Prompto in a mysterious lab facility. Some players have complained that this particular chapter was unnecessarily long and maybe too challenging to progress the story further. There’s also a missing explanation of how Lunafreya’s brother and high commander to the Niflheim Empire’s army, Ravus Nox Fleuret, ends up dead and a somewhat now willing ally of Noctis when the crown prince encounters Ravus’ lifeless body. Chapter 13 Verse 2 is a new path where you get to follow Gladiolus’ and Ignis’ side of the story, as they race towards the facility where the Crystal is kept and to reunite with Noctis. It’s considered an easier, shorter path and does show what happens to Ravus before Noctis encounters him as he is in the game.
With the patch/new path in place, the player is given the option as to which character you wish to follow in the game. I chose to do Noctis’ path because the game is really his story and I wanted to see why many hated Chapter 13 before the patch. I agree, it’s long and maybe more labyrinthine than Altissia, but I did find it necessary to Noctis’ development as a character. You really do see Noctis grow and change in the second half of the game. It also reveals more of Noctis’ hidden feelings, his own personal fears and insecurities, when he’s alone and not with the guys. You hear Ardyn’s voice taunting Noctis as he tries to navigate the facility to first find and save Prompto. Ardyn preys upon Noctis’ own doubts of whether he can truly be the king he’s destined to become and his fear of losing more people he loves. Noctis is a character who has trouble expressing himself to others and can often come off as detached and apathetic when, in reality, he cares far more than anyone realizes. You can imagine why it’s painful for Noctis to lose Lunafreya when he didn’t really get the chance to express how much he really does love her. Or how tortured Noctis feels after realizing he pushed one of his best friends off the train, wondering what Prompto must think of him. As cumbersome Noctis’ path is in Chapter 13, it’s significant in gaining more insight into what our main character is truly feeling when Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto aren’t around. When you beat the entire game for the first time, the main menu will open up Chapter 13 Verse 2 to play separately. At least players are saved from going through the entire Chapter 13 again.
By the time Chapter 13 ends, Noctis is absorbed into the Crystal and ends up sleeping within it to gather his magic for the final battle ahead and to learn the real truth of what it means to be the chosen king to bring back light to the world. When Chapter 14 begins, Noctis awakens and we discover 10 years have gone by since Chapter 13. At this point, Noctis and his friends, when they’re reunited at Hammerhead once more, have visibly aged and changed. The character evolution for these core characters are complete, especially Noctis. The chosen king has finally arrived, no longer the reluctant prince who rather avoid his destiny, but a man who is ready to take the responsibility and burden he has been groomed to fulfill for this moment.
The second act of the game is an emotional one all the way to the end. Noctis’ unavoidable fate, his death upon using the Ring of the Lucii and the Crystal’s power to vanquish Ardyn from the world once and for all, is grim and depressing. I became very attached to Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto right from the start. And the further you get into the game, the more the attachment stays with you. Knowing Noctis has to die and he won’t be able to live out his life with his friends, no more road trips or camping under the stars, it’s a reality that sinks in hard and deep. There are plenty of tearjerking, heartbreaking moments at the end. The biggest one is the camping scene you see during the credits in the game. You watch as Noctis struggles to tell his friends how much they mean to him and how sad he feels about no longer being able to be with them. I cried hard during this scene, and it didn’t help seeing Prompto not even trying to hold back the tears himself when his best buddy expresses his gratitude for having them in his life. Many people who have played FFXV seem to agree that the best part about this game is the characterization of these four men and their tight friendship. They definitely go down in my book as one of the most memorable video game characters to ever be created. It made me reminisce on the happier times Noctis and his bros had in the earlier parts of the game when everything didn’t entirely fall apart just yet. It was simply a bachelor party type of road trip before Noctis got hitched. A final hurrah. This moment along with a few others nearly broke me when I played for the first time.
The game’s strengths definitely are the core characters, the pretty graphics, the amazing music, and gameplay. However, the game does kind of fall apart in overall story, especially in the second half. It truly isn’t a perfect game and the story gets really confusing to follow. I thought it might not be necessary to have watched the movie Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV or even the anime Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, but after having beaten the game, I think it may actually be kind of required. At least if you want to understand certain events that happen outside of the game. Or why characters act the way they do. Brotherhood gives you better context on why Noctis is the way he is by the time you meet and play him in the game, as well as how his friendships became the tight bonds they are with Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. Kingsglaive lets you see how Insomnia fell, why Ravus is bitter towards the Lucian royals, and how the relationship between Noctis and Lunafreya started. There’s even a free downloadable prologue novel called Final Fantasy XV: Prologue Parting Ways Square Enix released prior to the game. The short digital novel recounts what is happening in Insomnia before Noctis and his friends depart for their trip. The prologue also ties into the events leading to the Kingsglaive movie and to the video game itself. As many people in game forums I read have said, there’s just huge chunks of story that could have been better incorporated in the game itself rather than the separate pieces of media it became. Without Parting Ways, Brotherhood, and Kingsglaive, FFXV is a mess of a game from a story standpoint. Even armed with all the information the separate media gives you, there’s still a whole lot more story and character fleshing that could have been done in FFXV. Once it moves away from the road trip portion of the story, the problems with the story as a whole becomes more and more obvious and harder to ignore. I would have wanted a little more background into Ardyn’s tragic story and why he becomes the villain he is, hellbent on watching the world burn. A few cutscenes to Ardyn’s past, during the time Ardyn reveals his true identity to Noctis, would have helped make the story easier to understand. But as one game critic has said about FFXV, the game hits more than it really misses.
As sad as Noctis’ story ends, it does offer some happiness in the final few scenes where Noctis and Lunafreya are reunited in the afterlife and have the wedding they never had when they were living. Seeing these two happy and at peace makes the death of Noctis far more bearable. For a great in-depth look at the romance between Noctis and Lunafreya, check out Michaela’s post about them on Objection Network. I only wish the final scene also included Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. I suppose the closest you’ll get to a final shot of Noctis and his bros is if you have Noctis choose a group photo of them during the scene Noctis asks Prompto if he can look at Prompto’s pictures and take one from the bunch to keep.
I may have finished the game, but the characters and how it all ended are still lingering with me. There’s still the DLC episodes to play, of course, like Gladiolus and Prompto, with Ignis’ episode coming out in December. Yet, it’s still a bit hard to let go of the game. As soon as I finished FFXV, I had to get the full soundtrack, including the separate songs Florence and the Machine did for the game. I have been listening to it on repeat ever since to let me stay with FFXV a little longer until my emotional attachment to the game eventually loosens bit by bit. The game’s story may not be the best of the Final Fantasy series, but it’s the only full Final Fantasy game I’ve personally beaten and it’s good enough for me. I know someday I’ll go back to FFXV and play the main story all over again on New Game+. For now, I’m glad I went on the road trip with Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. Their friendship is one I won’t ever forget.