In Final Fantasy XV you play as Noctis Lucis Caelum, a prince who is sent on a journey to meet his bride as part of a peace treaty with the aggressive empire of Niflheim. While Noctis is en route with his 3 companions, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto, the empire attacks the city of Insomnia and kills Noctis father during the peace signing. Notis must continue on his quest to meet his bride lunafria and gain the power to defeat the empire and restore peace.
An RPG is made by its characters and Final Fantasy XV is a mixed bag. I felt that only Ardyn, the Chancellor to Niflheim, was a sufficiently complex and interesting character. Other characters are likeable; however lacked complexity beyond a generic layer with the opposite twist; happy and joking to hide their insecurities, the strong character which reads, etc. There are hints at expanding the companions stories and motives; however, these were sacrificed so that DLC could be sold later.
The main story becomes an satisfyingly epic story of revenge and betrayal and worth playing, even if it sometimes felt cut with holes. The side quests however add little directly to the story in a compelling way and can easily be skipped without feeling like missing anything. This includes even parts wthat should have been part of the main story, such as finding all the armiger weapons which are a core part of the story, but gaining add nothing to the story.
Combat in Final Fantasy XV is fast and interesting, simple controls but still requiring skill and attention. You fight in real time as Noctis while AI controls his allies. In all but the hardest fights the AI is sufficient and the way you interact with them to perform attacks works well and make it feel like you are fighting as a team. The combat blends seamlessly between fights and exploring while still keeping the feel of a JRPG battle mode.
The first half of the game is open world. I liked the take on an open world JRPG, details such as random encounters replaced enemy troops dropping from transport airships and enemies felt like the belonged in their environments. This then leads to a linear second half of the game, which was more tightly focused. There is a change of pace with at one point an almost horror game style of gameplay which I quite liked, even if it did outstay its welcome by the end. The main issue is that the two parts of the story telling feel disjointed, the open world might have worked better had it been used more as a hub for a linear story or if they had kept the whole games more open or just linear.
Final Fantasy XV has a fantasy game like feel. It's a good looking game which will hopefully will stand the test of time well. It was able to draw the landscape well to give a view of an expansive world to explore. Characters are well drawn with Final Fantasy style focus on their hair and the way it moves in the wind or changes when it gets wet.
I think the development history explains a lot about Final Fantasy XV. Originally developed as Verses XIII in 2006, over 10 years ago, it had 5 rewrites and even had content cut and changed in the last year of the release. Final Fantasy XV both captured my imagination while also leaving an unsatisfied feeling due to not being able to deliver. This is made even worse if reading fan theories which expand the universe. Maybe when all the content has been release it will become great; however, currently parts feel cut and side quests feel unrelated making for a disappointing if good game.