By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong
FINAL FANTASY XV proved to be a surprise for quite a few quarters when it was first released in 2016. Moving away from the complicated, if cryptic, plot of FF XIII, FF XV focused less on the bigger picture and more on the characters surrounding it. In pursuing its storyline, it paid extra attention to protagonists, and, along with its preferential option, introduced significant changes to the gameplay, including the implementation of a real-time battle system that amped up the pace and provided loads of action. Moreover, it went through multiple patches and balance fixes, not to mention introduced downloadable content, to underscore its strengths on both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
Considering all the effort Square Enix has put in on the latest addition to its venerable franchise over the last one and a half years, it’s no surprise to see FF XV porting over to the PC. The Windows Edition includes all previously released content free of charge, effectively making it the definitive version of the same story found across all platforms: following Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum on his journey to redemption. It starts with him making his way to fiancée and Oracle Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. Accompanied by sworn protector Gladiolus Amicitia, friend Prompto Argentum, and advisor and tactician Ignis Sientia en route to his wedding, he receives grave news that his city has been attacked and taken over, and his father killed in its defense. To reclaim his throne, he must then retrieve the Royal Arms, the magical weapons of his ancestors, in order to free an ancient called The Crystal from the clutches of his enemies.
The synopsis might make FF XV appear dark and grim, but the first hours of gameplay are decidedly not: In the prologue section, Noctis and his companions are basically free to do whatever they wish. All have their quirks, fighting styles, strengths, and weaknesses, and with their own distinct personalities flavored by nice touches such as small talk during travels and call-outs during battle, it’s hard for players not to associate with them. Given the lush world the game has on offer, the strong characterization comes as a pleasant surprise.
Parenthetically, FF XV can be jarring at first. Featuring a mix of modern and future technology with magic and medieval weaponry, the game presents distinct differences in theme and art style that shock the senses when put together. For instance, players will find the juxtaposition of golems, slimes, and knights with Noctis’ Audi and cup noodles immersion-breaking. Past the initial reactions, however, it goes about establishing its universe with confidence and consistency, thus allowing for unease to give way to understanding.
Certainly, it helps that FF XV’s gameplay is top notch. Noctis is able to use multiple weapons on the fly and switch between them at will. He can teleport during combat to predetermined spots and use items to boost his or his allies’ performance in battle. He is also able to perform joint attacks with them, coordinating moves that are both powerful and flashy. Departing from the turn-based mechanics of previous FF games, they provide a change of pace that doesn’t feel out of place; they present a good mish-mash of tactical maneuvering and real-time combat.
FF XV’s world itself is large and open for exploration. Populated towns dot the landscape, and since there are myriad quests to choose from, there is little to no risk of free-roaming turning stale. Meanwhile, the main story stays competent despite its uneven pace, and with the Windows Edition containing all available DLCs, FF XV on the PC winds up as one of the better FF games to be released, and certainly a game not to be missed.
That said, the level of enjoyment players ultimately derive from FF XV’s Windows Edition will depend on the quality of their respective rigs. While the game can run well on powerful computers and thus make for an outstanding audio-visual experience, it falters on lower-end machines. In the latter cases, owners will have to make certain compromises in tonal fidelity. Equipment with dated central processing units or inadequate graphical power will definitely have difficulty running the game at constant frame rates, let alone bask in high-dynamic-range media profiles. And here’s the clincher: Along with the high-definition texture pack, the installation will take up a whopping 155 Gigabytes of disk space, and is best run on solid-state drives.
Admittedly, the FF XV Windows Edition is basically just the console version repacked for the PC. Previous owners of the game, especially those who pre-ordered FF XV and subscribed to its season pass, will not find much by way of new content. That said, the Window Edition is the best FF XV iteration to have, making it an auto-buy for gamers who have both a strong computer and are new to the game. For all its deviations, it’s still a Final Fantasy release, which, in a nutshell, makes all the difference.
Video Game Review
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition
PC via Steam
• Enjoyable, flashy, fast-paced combat that rewards skill and is satisfying to play through
• Large, open environment with plenty of optional quests to tackle, and a lengthy campaign to boot
• Beautiful graphics with keen attention to detail
• Windows Edition has no real new content to speak of
• Requires a powerful PC to play without compromise
• Might turn off veterans of the franchise due to how different it feels compared to its predecessors