Final Fantasy 15 (or XV) has been a long time coming. Starting life as a spin-off in the Fabula Nova Crystallis series around a decade ago, a combination of scale, ambition and protracted development saw it morph into a fully-fledged entry in the series. With the game’s recent delay into later in the year, now’s a good time to visit everything we know about it – from how it plays differently to other Final Fantasy games, how you can spend time fishing and racing Chocobos, and get up to speed on the story before release.
Final Fantasy 15’s development: A game 10 years in the making
Before we get into what Final Fantasy 15 is today, it’s worth a quick recap of the game’s long development history.
Work began around a decade ago in 2006 as PS3 exclusive Final Fantasy Versus XIII, part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series of entries alongside Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Type-0 (originally known as Final Fantasy Agito XIII) and the Japanese-only Final Fantasy Agito.
While those games eventually released, updates and information on Versus XIII were sporadic at best, and for a time, it joined the likes of The Last Guardian, Half-Life 3 and Shenmue 3 as mythical sequels or vapourware that would seemingly never see the light of day. Here’s how it looked in 2011 as one of the few trailers released by Square Enix:
It was said that the game’s scale and scope led to the decision to rebrand it as a mainline entry in the Final Fantasy series. Before the game’s re-reveal at E3 2013, significant changes to the game’s development team were made, with Type-0 director’s Hajime Tabata taking the helm. As part of the transition, a number of important story changes were made, from the removal of heroine Stella, to the adjustment of a sequence of events at the start of the game. The development team has also sought help from other studios to complete certain aspects – such as Just Cause developer Avalanche to help with the game’s airship.
Since its re-reveal as Final Fantasy 15, Square Enix has been more open about the game’s progress during tradeshows and a series of Active Time Report videos. The game saw a large playable demo packaged exclusively with the PS4 and Xbox One HD re-release of Type-0, which was rejigged with an extensive balancing patch to address combat and technical concerns following fan feedback, changes that will also make it into the final game.
A second ‘Platinum’ demo was also released for free in March 2016, taking the form of surreal showcase that saw a younger version of the game’s lead, Noctis, follow Carbuncle through a series of dream-like landscapes, transforming into animals and cars, and activating switches that could change the weather and time of day. As well as a light taste of combat and story, completing the teaser unlocks Carbuncle as a summon in the full game.
Final Fantasy 15 gameplay: How does it compare to other Final Fantasy games?
If you want a comprehensive look at the game in motion, then check out a 50 minute (!) gameplay video of Final Fantasy 15, which covers everything from exploration to cutscenes, combat and customisation. (And most importantly, cooking.)
What’s new and different in Final Fantasy 15
- The game’s regions are explored as part of a free-form open-world – a welcome change for those complaining about the linearity of FFXIII – by foot, by car (on road or by air) and other means. Players can freely roam, take on side-missions or continue on the main quest, and the time of day and weather conditions can impact the monster spawns and activities available. By chatting to locals, you can add outposts, resting spots and other points of interest on your map to later investigate.
- You can eat food – made at campfires based on ingredients in your possession, or ordered from restaurants – which give you temporary stat boosts to take into battle. Resting also gives you an opportunity to tally the XP you’ve accrued in recent battles and other activities.
- Each party member has a different non-combat skill they can use in the world; Noctis can fish, Gladiolus is an expert in survival, Ignis can cook and Prompto takes pictures. Each one can be levelled up over the course of the game, and has a degree of complexity and customisation. Fishing, for example, allows you to use a variety of lines, lures, rods and reels to increase your chances of catching certain types of fish, that can then be cooked by Ignis for stat boosts.
- While previous Final Fantasy games – such as online titles Final Fantasy 11 and 14, as well as spin-offs XIII-2 and Lightning Returns – have had expansions and DLC, none so far have seen a season pass. FF15’s DLC sees each companion character Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto playable in their own episodes, as well as content described as a “booster pack”, a “holiday pack” and an “expansion pack”, suggesting new environments to explore.
- During E3 2016 Square Enix revealed a ‘VR Experience’ within the Final Fantasy 15 universe. The playable demo saw you in the shoes of Prompto, assisting fellow party members in taking down a huge Behemoth, followed by a meeting with Cidney, not unlike the Episode Duscae demo. Square Enix has said the full experience will be available as a free DLC update for PS4 users sometime after launch.
- While not specifically gameplay related, following in the footsteps of Leona Lewis and Final Fantasy XIII is a collaboration with Florence + the Machine, producing a selection of tracks that you’ll hear over the course of the game. “In some ways the landscape of Final Fantasy and my own internal landscape seemed to fit quite well, it’s mythical and beautiful and epic,” said Florence of the arrangement.
How combat and abilities work in Final Fantasy 15
- Encounters and combat take place in real time. Not unlike Final Fantasy XII, enemies roam free in the environment, with a seamless transition into a combat phase. The position of party members and enemies matter; if you circle around foes, then your teammates can chip in a powerful ‘Blindside Link’ attack. You can also use the environment to your advantage by ‘warping’ to specific points – such as nearby cliffs and buildings for temporary respite – as well straight towards a targeted enemy for a powerful attack. You can also escape battles by literally running away from enemies.
- Combat can be as simple as holding a button to dish out a stream of physical attacks, but you can also conjure different weapons on the fly for quick or slow and heavy attacks depending on the situation or enemy. It’s also possible to hold a button to defend against incoming attacks, or physically dodge out of the way to avoid damage entirely. Noctis can also use a Limit Break-style attack named Armiger Arsenal when his MP is full, dishing out powerful attacks until the gauge is depleted. Elsewhere, though you primarily control Noctis in battle, you can call upon other party members for combined special attacks.
- One of the main sources of magic is through crafting. Not unlike FFVIII’s Draw system, you can absorb fire, ice and lightning energy from deposits out in the world, which are used to craft magic flasks that can be used in battle. The amount of energy and additional catalysts – such as consumable items and food ingredients – will create different effects, from poison to the ability to multicast the attack upon multiple enemies.
- Players can accept Hunts, which have you defeat monsters for a bounty, from items to Gil (money), and can sometimes see you track enemies in the wild by finding tracks and clues before the final encounter. Hunts are likely the source of most of the game’s side content.
- Players gain new abilities by spending AP points in the ‘Astralsphere’. It looks similar to FFX’s Sphere Grid, allowing characters to earn new magic, passive and active abilities, and increase their equipment slots. AP is gained from levelling up, completing quests, strategic ops (performing specific requirements in battle) or by “impressing friends in conversation”.
What you’d recognise from other Final Fantasy games
- Like FFXIII and Type-0, Final Fantasy 15 isn’t part of the same universe as other Fabula Nova Crystallis games, but it will share some of the same themes and elements. It will also continue to be “linked and underpinned by the backdrop” of the same Crystal legend even after the change from Versus XIII, said producer Yoshiniori Kitase according to Videogamer. “Obviously the title’s been changed to Final Fantasy XV – but that hasn’t actually changed. The story and the world is still going to be linked and backed up by that. So yes, there is the link between XIII and XV, and they both share that mythology as a backdrop and a starting point.”
- As well as cars and airships, Chocobos are another mode of transport, allowing you to travel through water and up ledges to reach new locations. You can also use them in races – both against other party members and through an obstacle course – rewarding you with medals that you can then decorate your prized bird with.
- Moogles will be in the game too, after fans voted them in as part of a Twitter poll. Just don’t expect them to be very chatty.
- Final Fantasy 15 will have some familiar rogues; Behemoths, Iron Giants and Malboros will all make an appearance. Many of the franchise’s naming conventions – from the game’s currency Gil to items like Pheonix Down – will be there too.
- Summons – or ‘Archaeans’ – will have a role to play both in the story and combat. Once defeated in battle (or through undisclosed other means), Noctis can call upon them as screen-filling allies. Archaeans confirmed so far include Ramuh, Titan, Leviathan and Carbuncle.
- As well as mechanic Cidney, her grandfather Cid makes an appearance as a master mechanic who can modify certain weapons with the right parts.
- Expect some end-game content, including a few bonus areas and monsters that can only be encountered once you’ve beaten the story. This hopefully includes a few superbosses, which would be perfect for those who enjoyed the challenge offered by the likes of FFVII’s Weapons or Yiazmat from FFXII.
Is there any post game content?
– I won’t say too much but there’s some areas (& monsters) you can only reach/fight once you beat the game
— Final Fantasy XV (@FFXVEN) August 18, 2016
Final Fantasy 15 story, setting, Kingsglave and Brotherhood
Square Enix is gearing up to the release of Final Fantasy 15 with a spin-off movie and animation, and has been open about how the game begins – but those who want to go in fresh, be wary of light spoilers before reading onward.
Final Fantasy 15 centres around a long-standing conflict between two countries; Lucis, the last nation in possession of a powerful crystal, and Niflheim, an empire of warring factions who lost their own crystals over years of battle.
A peace treaty between the two nations is set to finally end the conflict, with Lucis prince Noctis (the game’s main character) marrying Lunafreya, an oracle from Niflheim’s Tenebrae province. However, the treaty turns out to be a cover for an invasion attempt by Nifhiem who want the crystal for themselves, kicking off the events of the game.
Noctis and his loyal entourage – Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto, who are also the game’s party members – manage to avoid the attack and set off to meet up with Lunafreya and restore their kingdoms to their former glory.
How Kingsglave and Brotherhood tie into Final Fantasy 15
The events surrounding the opening of the game is explored further in Kingsglave: Final Fantasy XV, a feature-length CGI film starring Aaron Paul, Lena Headly and Sean Bean, which centres around the royal guard protecting the King of Lucis, as well as animated series Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, which delves into the backstories and relationships of the game’s party members.
Kingsglave: Final Fantasy is receiving a limited release in US cinemas from August 19, as well as a global digital release on August 30th and Blu-ray on October 4th.
Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, meanwhile, is available free on the game’s official YouTube channel, releasing around every one to two months, with a special sixth episode only available in the game’s Ultimate Collector’s Edition.
Final Fantasy 15 release date and pre-orders
Originally scheduled for September 30, Final Fantasy 15 was recently delayed until November 29. Game director Hajime Tabata explained while the master version of the game is finished, it wasn’t up to scratch and so wanted to put its meaningful day one patch on the disc.
There’s also a rather limited Ultimate Collector’s Edition for £189.99 that offers a heap of bonus items, including a couple of steelbook cases, both Kingsglaive and Brotherhood on Blu-ray, the game’s soundtrack, an art book and a Play Arts Kai figure of Noctis. There’s also some in-game DLC too – a Royal Raiment outfit, a Masamune weapon, a platinum-coloured Leviathan car, and Travel, Camera, Angler and Gourmand item packs.