Whenever a new game releases, we expect that it’s a completely finished product with not much else to add after a player beats and completes all there is to offer. Sometimes DLC may get developed and added later for purchase, as this has been a common practice for most video games. But once a game has been experienced for the first time and we feel mostly satisfied with what we have played after it’s over, we’re already moving onto the next story and gameplay to pull at the heartstrings and excite us. The game we just played will still be the same game when we revisit it at a later date, right? Not exactly when we look at a video game like Final Fantasy XV, the one game so far that’s striving to give players newer content with tweaks to the gameplay each and every time you decide to load it up on your console.
Square Enix has gone beyond just downloadable DLC to play post-game. Since its release on November 2016, Final Fantasy XV has become the game that’s never truly “finished” or over. New content and additional adjustments to the gameplay has been added over a year later and remains ongoing. Among the newer additions to the game, not including the DLC episodes centered around Noctis’ companions, are chapter selections, multiplayer mode, brand new cutscenes for the main story, and character swapping. The most recent release of the game’s Royal Edition for PC and console also includes the ability to play the game in first-person and brand new boss fights near the game’s grand finale. With so much new content packed into a game that’s already considered old with even more DLC episodes slated for later in the year and into 2019, is this a new business model to extend a game’s player experience or is it to cover up an admittedly incomplete and convoluted story the studio is now attempting to fix with DLC and patches? I’d say it’s a bit of both.
Game reviewers largely gave FFXV favorable reviews with an 81 metascore and a 7.5 user score on Metacritic. What the main story may have lacked or left many players wanting, it made up for it with a fun battle system and charming, engaging characters. But the game isn’t without its naysayers. A lot of the reviews I’ve read on social media or even on Metacritic itself often criticized Square Enix’s handling of the story and the overall finished product of the game. It didn’t live up to the standards fans of Final Fantasy games were expecting, especially when a game like FFXV had such a long development cycle back when it used to be known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
Many who have read my past blog posts about FFXV would know I love the game in spite of its flaws, and it’s really the one and only Final Fantasy game I have ever fully beaten and completed. That honor could have went to Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS or even the much reviled Final Fantasy XIII, but there’s a bunch of reasons why I never made it to the finish line with either of those games, though it was close. From what I’ve read about people’s experiences with the Final Fantasy series and the discussions I’ve had with my cousin and gamer friends, the one conclusion I have drawn about the series is this—everyone’s opinion about what they consider to be the best Final Fantasy game of all time is subjective.
Everyone is going to agree or disagree with other people’s choices and opinions of the many entries in the series over the last few decades. Not everyone will agree that Final Fantasy VII is the gold standard of the series, just like some will think Final Fantasy XIII isn’t as bad of a game fans claim it is. The beauty of a series as large as Final Fantasy is there will be an installment that will speak to everyone. Does that mean we think our favorite game is perfect? No, but you can love something while still being able to acknowledge its shortcomings as well.
Critics of FFXV who feel the continuous updates to a game that probably should have most of its content and mechanics already present from Day 1, not including the DLC episodes, of its initial release date have a right to be upset. A large part of the main story in FFXV has some plot holes and unexplained pieces that simply don’t make sense without the outside media tied to the game. Unless you watch the movie Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, the short anime episodes on YouTube, and read the free downloadable prologue that segue ways into the game, a lot of the story will leave players grappling to keep up with the events happening in FFXV. Even after having done all of this personally myself, I still feel the story is a missed opportunity at reaching its full potential.
While Square Enix may have heard the criticism from fans and are taking steps to fix the story with new updates to the game every few months, it’s still a situation where FFXV may have benefited from an extra few years of development before they fully released the game out into the world. The extra boss fights along with a new cutscene toward the end of the game in the Royal Edition, which players who already own the game and own a season pass do have to pay a little extra to gain access to the newer content, has left some gamers feeling angry and cheated. If the newer content didn’t feel like such a cash grab and was offered as a free download, fans may be more open to seeing these new updates. Instead, practices like this continue to reinforce the idea that FFXV is an incomplete game that got released too soon.
On the flip side, FFXV’s ongoing efforts to give players something new to play every time they decide to load it up on their consoles isn’t such a bad way to stretch out the experience for as long as it makes sense to keep doing it. From the special events, like the Moogle Chocobo Carnival, to the new multiplayer feature Comrades, where you play as your very own customized Kingsglaive character, it’s a fun way to keep the game fresh and enticing to play past completing the original story.
Final Fantasy XV, for all its wonder and imperfections, is an experiment in growing a game beyond the finished product. Not everyone will like the approach Square Enix started with FFXV, or fans will acknowledge the studio’s motives behind the updates and patches but forgive them for it if it means spending a little more time with a game they fell in love with. Maybe I should be angry or disappointed in Square Enix for not having a lot of this content in place from the beginning, and yet, I overlook it all because I can’t forget the positive impression the game left me with when I played the whole thing for the first time. If I can recapture those emotional highs and lows with Noctis and his band of bros, if only briefly, I’ll gladly purchase and download every bit of new content each and every time.