I was really excited for the Comrades DLC for FFXV, and, in a way, I still kind of am. I’m not excited about it being here, however, but for what will be coming later down the line. There are a lot of questionable design choices and a narrative thread that feels somewhat rushed, which makes for a short-lived period of initial enjoyment followed by a frustrating slog that ends in total boredom. Right now, it isn’t great, and I’ll get into exactly why in a moment. Just remember that, while you read, as grim as it all might sound, there is a probable silver lining on the horizon.
That’s as best a recommendation as you’re getting, right now.
Comrades is set in the ten-year gap toward the end of FFXV’s base game when Noctis enters his weird kind of spirit hibernation and the world goes to hell. You’re one of the “lucky” survivors, now walled into the remains of Lestallum and helping to protect the besieged city as one of the Kingsglaive. Specifically, one of the Kingsglaive that betrayed the protagonists from the prequel movie of the same name. Now, because an unidentified, disembodied voice told you so, you’re fighting both for others and to redeem yourself. Some characters from the main game will make appearances as you restore power to Lucis but they’re never the focus. This is all about you, buddy!
To me, all of the above makes perfect sense because I’ve watched the prequel film and finished the main game. If you’re new to FFXV and maybe decided to pick this up to play with friends, you’ll be completely lost on the plot. The base game may be, “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers,” but Comrades expects you to already have a fair amount of background knowledge before even beginning if you hope to understand what’s going on. That’s not exactly unfair, all things considered. The rest of the “narrative” within Comrades isn’t exactly spectacular and doesn’t impact the main story so much as it just fills a gap in the late-game. Really, that’s all the DLC for FFXV does, it fills gaps. In that respect, Comrades did… Okay? Let’s go with okay. The ending is disappointing, but it’s not the real ending, is it?
It isn’t. There’s, like, a whole other chapter of the main game that takes place after this.
For the way the world is designed, Comrades really isn’t what I was expecting. Unlike the main game, you’re not in an open world that you can freely roam. The presence of the darkness, and the messed up daemons it brings makes it too deadly to traverse on foot beyond the walls. At least, that’s what you’re told when you’re walled into Lestallum. The only time you can leave is by taking on missions, which are styled after the hunts from FFXV’s base game. You don’t actually trek out to these destinations, either, you’re transported to a campsite that works as a match lobby, before being transported directly onto the field where the monsters are. Honestly, it takes away from the sense of wonder and adventure inspired by the main game and shows just how much that aspect of the design added to the game.
You will level up as you go along, and upgrade your equipment, but you have no inherent magical talent. Unlike the crown prince or his royal retinue, you have to borrow your magic like a scrub, which means having to work much harder for your power-ups. Pretty much all available upgrades are locked behind un-powered areas of the map, which serves as your (very elaborate and slow) talent tree. Completing missions gives you the energy you need to restore power to places, which nets you better gear and, in turn, lets you go on more missions. If this is starting to sound a bit like an MMORPG to you then good, you’ve been paying attention. You may or may not be happy to know that there’s a necessity for some MMO-like grinding, as well, so… Hooray?
This is MY Kingsglaive, Jezza – he exclusively uses daggers, Naruto-runs wherever he goes, and will kill anything you point at for a durry. On ya, Jezza!
If you’re wondering how this all actually plays, it’s something a bit like this: Cutscene, cutscene, grinding, upgrade, grinding, cutscene. Rinse and repeat. Until you get to the end of the story, at which point you can really just take out the “cutscene” parts. There’s really nothing to do except go on the missions, which aren’t that interesting when your character has been stripped back to being a Lv. 1 Noctis with less interesting abilities. Combat isn’t fun when I can’t do cool things, and while I did enjoy the combat system of FFXV a lot, Comrades wears it thin pretty fast. I feel like this might have been a great opportunity to bring back the classic FF Job System to shake things up a bit, and flesh the Kingsglaive out a bit more. Sadly, however, there’s no such luck.
You can travel to other towns when you unlock them, but there’s precious little to do there, and missions can’t be launched from these locations. Likewise, the towns can be directed to help you once there are enough people in them, but this can only be done from the towns themselves. It works out to a lot of back-and-forth busy work between locations for little payoff, and the load times have not improved since the base game’s release. Comrades is also prone to crashing, connection timeouts, and other technical issues that already make you wait a long time for things to just move along. When considering these all these problems in combination, it makes you wonder how it was released in such a state.
Were the QA testers sniffing glue?
There’s more, so much more, but everything mentioned above surmises the core issues with Comrades. Right now it seems like every potential good idea for this game is held back by poor implementation, and you might be wondering why I haven’t just written this off as a “Not Recommended” already. To put it simply, I don’t think this is it. Being the second-to-last of the promised DLC releases, I assumed that it would be shunted out without much of a care as to how it plays. Less than a week after release, however, significant issues were already being patched, and Squeenix are addressing player feedback.
More to the point, a second season of DLC has been announced, which I can almost guarantee will mean the continued support and expansion of Comrades. While it currently feels like Comrades is severely lacking in specific areas, Squeenix have already shown that they’re not afraid to dig back into the game to add stuff in. It’s an odd approach, and could potentially set a dangerous precedent for the industry, but in FFXV’s case I feel inclined to shrug and say, “Sure, sounds good.” So far it’s resulted in a bunch of quality side-content that’s provided some much-needed background on the main story, and I feel like Comrades will do the same for its role in everything.
Watch this space, essentially.
FFXV Comrades isn’t great – for now – but the development team behind the game’s post-release content has a track record of improving things over time. The expansion has a mountain of technical problems, a ham-strung design in comparison to the main game, and becomes tedious and repetitive to play after only a short while. These are, however, all fixable issues, and in the immediate wake of Comrades’ release, it was already receiving improvements and fixes. I have little doubt we’ll see more added to it over time, likely in the form of new mission types and possibly some narrative improvements. Whatever the changes, I’m certain that this will feel and play very differently in six months time. For those interested, or burned by the initial offerings, I’d recommend keeping an eye on it and waiting.