Though Final Fantasy XV launches Tuesday, November 28, reviews already started coming in Monday, and so far they are really positive. A number of popular review outlets have praised the game for many gameplay and story elements despite a massive shift in direction from previous iterations on the long-time fan-favorite franchise.
While not all reviews are quite as glowing, they all speak to great execution of this epic game that's been 10 years in the making.
But of course, what you want to find out is, "Should I buy the game?" The answer depends on how much you like the changes, and how much the game's shortcomings mean to you. Read on:
Polygon - 9/10
One thing is consistent in nearly every review: The amazing execution of Noctis and his friends's group dynamic. Polygon focused on this perhaps more than any other outlet.
Unlike most Final Fantasy games where you acquire new party members over time as you make your way through the ever-complex narrative, Final Fantasy XV starts with your party fully assembled. Sometimes you'll be introduced to new characters, but for the most part, you stick with your three friends: Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus.
"Final Fantasy 15's strongest moments are found in these more mundane elements, the bits that are about just hanging out. As they drive across the countryside, Noctis and crew share charming, everyday banter that's all about building up their friendship rather than relaying plot beats."
- Phillip Kollar, Polygon
The friendship between the characters grows and is tested as events unfold on screen, but it is their bond that helps guide the narrative. Instead of seeing the world through the lens of different party members depending on when narrative focus switches, the group reacts to the narrative as a collective, and your shared experience adds to the gameplay.
Despite FFXV's shortcomings, this is one strength that holds all the weaknesses together.
Destructoid - 9/10
Destructoid in particular complemented the great attention to detail. The game's long development cycle is evident in how polished every piece of the environment feels.
"It's mostly because that 10-year development cycle was spent painstakingly orchestrating every little detail. It's not just a shop you're getting items from, but Kenny's Fries. Or if you take a break to play a minigame, you might jump into the Justice Monsters Five pinball machine, which has an entire backstory to it."
- Chris Carter, Destructoid
Destructoid also speaks to travel and resting. Traversing the landscape doesn't seem to take an inordinate amount of time, and resting with party members feels great thanks to the aforementioned narrative focus of the game. Some other outlets had a slightly more pessimistic view of these systems, but there is still great attention to detail that makes the world more engaging and fascinating.
"Seeing everyone with frozen hair after an ice spell is cast really makes you feel like you're part of the "next generation" that was promised with this era of consoles. It's a collective of little things that begs you to take your time (beyond min-maxing and item collection) in a way I haven't seen thus far in this series."
- Chris Carter, Destructoid
It's clear that in this regard, Final Fantasy XV is a huge step up for the franchise, as the great detail focus and immersion helps guide you through the game, even when things get a bit frazzled.
GamesRadar - 4.5/5
As previously implied however, the game is not perfect, and nearly every review puts a large part of the criticism on the ironically rushed second half of the game that feels disjointed and incomplete. GamesRadar+ explains this pretty dramatically.
During the first half of the game, the world feels truly alive as you do side quests, traverse the countryside, have fun with your friends while they joke around, and learn the game systems. But the second half of the game introduces odd mechanics and feels almost entirely linear.
"Once the story starts taking over, though, 'Final Fantasy 15' is practically on rails, funneling you through its final chapters with one encounter after another until you hit the finale. This half will easily go down as one of its most divisive elements as it drops the open world and party-based structure almost entirely for a handful of linear events, one-off battles, and a lengthy dungeon that requires you to forget everything you thought you knew about its combat in favor of something so radically different you'll wonder if it originally belonged in totally different game."
It's not just the game mechanics that feel out of place, but story elements come seemingly out of nowhere and so many twists and curveballs are thrown that the game just doesn't seem quite the same. Several reviews complained that it seemed like there were a number of systems that were being iterated on that never feel complete. They keep the spoilers to a minimum, so we don't know entirely what that means, but some reference survival-horror tendencies and even rogue-like stealth—both very unusual for a Final Fantasy title.
IGN - 82/100
If you've read much about this game, you'll know that the combat system discards most of what made previous Final Fantasy games. There are no more menus, and combat doesn't happen in turns. There is a live action combat system that you find in most modern RPGs, which could be a good or bad thing if you liked the Final Fantasy X style of menu and turned based combat.
"Though Noctis is more well-rounded statistically (and can wield any weapon type), his three wards feel more or less like his equals. That their usefulness makes battles look like Avengers-style swirling melees isn’t the only upshot, either; it also makes them feel vital, further reinforcing the themes of closeness and brotherhood that make up the backbone of the story."
- Vince Ingenito, IGN
The combat system in general is solid and fluid. The animations are flashy, each character feels powerful, despite the fact that you can't control them, and it is rarely frustrating. But IGN doesn't paint a completely positive experience with the combat system. The lack of magic is aggravating for long time fans of the franchise.
"Spells are both tied to a cooldown period and are limited-use consumables that need to be replenished by absorbing elemental energy from designated deposits and enemies - not completely unlike the much-maligned Draw system of Final Fantasy VIII. Even worse, spell variety is downright anemic, with only the most basic black magic stalwarts of Fire, Ice, and Thunder (and their second and third rank equivalents) making the cut."
- Vince Ingenito, IGN
There is some room for customization, but in general, spells feel rather bland (though powerful). The other draw back is how Summons are used in the game. While in previous iterations of Final Fantasy, you could always rely on Summons to bail you out of bad situations, Astrals, as they are called in this universe, only appear under certain very specific conditions, and even when those conditions are met, they sometimes don't appear. Very frustrating.
Still, overall the combat system is a success despite some irritants. It just isn't perhaps the best iteration we've ever seen in a Final Fantasy game.
Metacritic - 86/100
Currently the game has an 86 on Metacritic, which would put it at the highest rated single-player Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy XII, making it the successor that many Final Fantasy fans (including this writer) have been waiting for.
So is FFXV for you? That depends on if the positives truly are positives for you, and if the negatives are things you can live with. But if professional reviews are any indication, this game is a solid pick up that will be hours of fun.