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Final Fantasy XV

Platform(s): Android, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: First Production Development
Release Date: Nov. 29, 2016

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PS4 Review - 'Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on Aug. 30, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

In Final Fantasy XV, previously known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the armed forces of Niflheim launch a devastating assault upon the Kingdom of Lucis, casting Crown Prince Noctis and his comrades out of their homes and into the fray.

Buy Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition

Final Fantasy is one of the most renowned and loved gaming brands in the industry, especially when we are talking about role-playing games. Given that it's the JRPG that many of us grew up with, the latest installment, Final Fantasy XV, didn't live up to the franchise's legacy in the eyes of fans and newcomers alike. After a long and troublesome development cycle, the game had major issues at launch. Some parts of the plot seemed to be missing or obscured. It was based in a world that didn't offer any meaningful interaction beyond activities and quests, which seemed easy and unoriginal. To top this all off, the new combat system didn't have enough technical depth to please genre veterans. Although the action sequences were flashy and impressive, the overall game left something to be desired.

However, the game was still a fun, solid RPG with beautiful visuals and the boldness to actually try something new, even if it didn't work out as expected. When we reviewed it in 2016, we gave it a solid 8 for those very reasons. After several updates to the game and story, many of which were paid DLC, we're looking at a different game today.

Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition (Windows Edition if you're gaming on PC) includes all of the paid DLC and then some. If you're already in possession of the base game and the Season One DLC, you can purchase a Royal Pack to get the equivalent content. The main questions that fans and interested gamers will have is, "How well does FFXV Royal Edition hold up when played as a 'complete package' in 2018"? After all, there were many valid criticisms when it first launched, and even more DLC is on the way. We took a look at the PS4 version of Royal Edition and were slightly underwhelmed.

Of course, the story remains the same. We take control of Noctis, heir to the throne of Lucis, on his way to marry his betrothed Lunafreya in an effort to create peace between his home and the kingdom of Niflheim. The plan backfires, and his father is killed and Niflheim has been taken over while Noctis and his comrades are looking for Lunafreya. What follows is a series of car rides and quests to fix what's gone wrong by searching for powerful weapons handed down by your forefathers. This is a fairly broad explanation, but to avoid spoilers, this should do.

Before we can jump into the extra content — both exclusive to this edition and contained in the previously released DLC — we have to acknowledge the changes that were made to the base game via free updates. FFXV has received a myriad of free content enhancements ranging from a bestiary and fishing catalog to crucial additional story cut scenes and an alternative path to one of the most baffling game design decisions ever. It doesn't fix it, but it does offer another path so we can at least choose our demise. Other additions include a new version of the in-game car, the Regalia D, which finally enables off-road traversal and allows players to freely switch between the characters in their party. It does make the game slightly more enjoyable, but sadly, it doesn't fix the most gaping plot holes surrounding your direct comrades Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto. This is where the paid DLC substantially improves the story and gameplay offering and fills in the holes in the overarching story.

The Royal Edition includes all four DLC packs so far, each of which focuses on one of Noctis' comrades. The DLC features stories that are set during the main story line but dives deeper into off-screen story elements that seemed out of place or unexplained. That only covers three DLC packs. The fourth is called Comrades and takes place after the main story. It offers an online co-op mode so your character and some online friends can venture into the world to hunt down enemies or restore infrastructure. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds a lot of fun since you team up in lobbies and take on contracts to kill monsters. It feels like a cross between FF Online and Monster Hunter, and it adds replay value if you're into the fighting system and like a challenge. It's not as open as the main game, but it boasts an impressive amount of content for DLC.

The three character expansions for Noctis' comrades steal the show, since they piece together aforementioned story issues, they offer good action-packed side-quests that are cinematic and varied. Joining Gladiolus with his heavy weapon and play style is drastically different than the shooter-style story surrounding Prompto or the furiously blade-swinging Ignis. It's the paid content that adds the most to the full Final Fantasy experience, with story backgrounds and engaging gameplay that arguably outshines some of the content in the main story. If you can, do yourself a favor and experience the full game from start to finish with the DLC added in at the right junctures to get some character development and plot refinement. In the end, FFXV is still all about its characters, who are likeable, enjoyable and its biggest asset — even if the story can sometimes be scattershot.

With DLC and free updates out of the way, what does the Royal Edition add to the Final Fantasy experience? It does add one or two significant content updates, but overall, it's more of a discounted all-in-one pack rather than an overhauled edition. The main addition is a more refined ending. The original story came to a very anticlimactic climax, and the surprise ending wasn't impactful because it came way too soon. This edition rectifies that by adding a new map for the Insomnia City Ruins, so there are more monsters and bosses to take down before the final curtain falls. The Royal Edition adds more, but the rest of the exclusive content falls behind in terms of significance. There's a new and more powerful combat move that uses all armiger weapons, called Armiger Unleashed, and it add something to combat mechanics, but it devolves into being little more than gimmicks.

It requires a few more quests to earn the Regalia D off-road vehicle, so it's a more significant acquisition in addition to the royal cruiser, making it possible to roam the wide seas, which are plentiful on the map. Unfortunately, the game doesn't utilize the space at all, so users must cruise over an empty ocean to relax or occasionally go fishing. The newly added first-person mode is quite similar. While it's surely nice to have and to explore the world in the first-person perspective, it is entirely useless in combat unless you want to get seriously motion sick. What's left are a few more items and achievements, but those are granted and plentiful anyway thanks to the DLC content.

Let's also talk about the technical enhancements that FFXV has seen in the past two years. Higher resolutions, performance mode, and HDR make this an experience that, on paper, has enough options to satisfy gamers on any platform. Unfortunately, the game suffers from severe frame drops in all modes, especially when trying the Quality options on a PS4 Pro. It looks beautiful, especially with HDR enabled, but it still has enough bugs, oddly muddied textures, and low-res menu items that seemed avoidable. It's a beautiful game that reflects its actual gameplay all too well. It's flashy and promising, but it's underwhelming when it could've striven for excellence.

What does that do to the Final Fantasy experience? We have to acknowledge that this game is one of the most renowned video game brands, but it's been two years since the original game's release, and the gameplay experience still feels very incomplete.

We know that Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition won't be the definitive edition of the game, since more DLC is scheduled. This is the most complete and most beautiful edition of the game thus far, but it's asking you to buy into a very good but still flawed experience that is slowly but surely catching up. If you truly can't wait until the real complete edition surfaces, you'll have a decent experience at the very least. Otherwise, pass on this title and wait another year. The mammoth project that is FFXV will eventually come to a satisfying conclusion.

Score: 7.3/10

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