Some stories are just too good you don’t want them to ever end. You’ll want to spend as much time with the characters you have come to care about, or the world is just too amazing not to stay in it a little bit longer.
This is how I felt about the video game Final Fantasy XV. It’s one of the few games that stuck with me after I finished it and I welcomed the new content they kept adding onto it. When Square Enix announced the cancellation of their planned DLCs for episodes Aranea, Lunafreya, and Noctis, I was disappointed. I was really looking forward to playing them. When a book was later announced to finish up the story of the main game, I was quick to buy it as soon as it came out.
Final Fantasy XV: The Dawn of the Future is from the Square Enix development team who was behind the Final Fantasy XV video game. They took all three of the canceled DLC episodes and wrote it as a narrative novel. Though Episode Ardyn was released and part of the extra content for the video game, the book also includes the entirety of his episode to act as a prelude for the events that follow after. While Episode Gladiolus, Episode Prompto, and Episode Ignis serve as backstories for events that happened in the main game, Episode Ardyn was meant to be, not just backstory for Ardyn, but also the connective thread for the unmade DLC episodes.
I see why Episode Ardyn needed to be included in the book, but I was less engaged with reading that section of it compared to the others. This is because I’ve already played through his story and know all about his sad past. I know I could have just skipped his part and moved onto Aranea’s section, but I didn’t think it would be right to skip over it. I also thought maybe there might have been some new revelations I might have missed when I played Ardyn’s episode. There wasn’t, and I kind of sped through it in my eagerness to get to the parts that were new.
Each chapter is broken down like this: Aranea’s takes place during the fall of the Nifelheim empire, Lunafreya’s is about how she gets resurrected from the dead and is bestowed with new powers and a new calling, and finally Noctis’s chapter concludes the whole book with an epic battle that happens soon after he awakens from a 10 year slumber within the Crystal, an alternate fate than the one he got in the main game, and a happier ending for all involved. After reading The Dawn of the Future my feelings are a bit mixed.
Let’s start with the good parts. The book does better explain some of Final Fantasy XV’s more confusing plot details, and changes the way you look at certain events in the main story of the game. The book also includes pages of glossy concept art of what the FFXV team were thinking of for each episode when it was still in development. The art was hands down some of the coolest and most beautiful images I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Not that I expected anything less from the art department working for Square Enix. However, there are some flaws to the book that’s as hard to ignore as the video game.
Each individual part of the book reads more like a descriptive play by play of every intended gameplay function and boss fight players would have experienced had the DLCs got to see the light of day. Reading it felt less like a traditional book and more like organized developer notes, which they probably were but it’s glaringly obvious to anyone who’s an avid reader outside of gaming. There were also a few grammatical typos, which could be overlooked but maybe a tad annoying if you prefer to have your books read once or twice by an editor before it went to print. The one thing I probably won’t quite get over was how disjointed the story and game came together.
Final Fantasy XV had a lot of promise from a story aspect. I, for one, loved the idea of a Final Fantasy game taking place in a world that sort of feels like our own but isn’t at the same time. I enjoyed the road trip concept and the different areas we got to travel to during the game. However, separating key pieces of the narrative to be experienced on other mediums, such as anime shorts on YouTube or a digital e-book, and shipping a game that was never quite ready were all missteps by the studio.
This isn’t the first time a video game was shipped and released as a half-finished product. It’s a bad precedent video game makers have been doing in the last few years, and has frustrated gamers who expect a solid experience for the price they’re paying on release day. Not only is this a poor business practice, but you risk losing the faith and confidence of your fans. I still love FFXV, warts and all, but reading the book and knowing what the team behind the game had planned for the story, from start to finish, only serves as a terrible reminder of how much this game was mishandled on so many levels. Had all this content that was outside of the game been a part of FFXV from Day 1, minus the Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV movie, this game could have been so much more than what it got in the end. Instead of reading about Episode Aranea, Episode Lunafreya, and Episode Noctis I should have been playing them!
I don’t regret buying the book. It’s a chance to go back to a story and world I thought was more or less finished. Final Fantasy XV is a story that demands more of your time and investment than most people are willing to give it. If you’re a fan and can see past the shortcomings, Final Fantasy XV: The Dawn of the Future is a worthy book to add to your collection.
Reviewer Rating: 9.0/10