I have an unreserved love for Final Fantasy despite, and perhaps even because of its flaws. It truly adds to the experience to learn about Final Fantasy XV’s troubled development and how Hajime Tabata and his team salvaged it from the remnants of “Versus XIII.” Knowing what it is, compared to what it might have been, gives one appreciation for what is actually in the game, and what it promises for future games under this new direction. FFXV has also enjoyed a huge amount of post-release support, paid and free alike, with much more on the horizon. It’s been weirdly “fine-tuned,” as well, with the development team delving back into under-developed parts of the game to add new dialogue, scenes, and content in general. The Windows Edition is a mirror of that cycle, being technically rough port in parts while still maintaining a level of quality above its peers, with the promise of improvements in the future.
This is my Chocobo, his name is Gavin, and he is the prettiest.
It’s worth noting I played the original PS4 release of FFXV through to 100% completion, and yet I’ve still been going out of my way to do virtually everything in Windows Edition, aiming for 100% completion again on this version, and not just out of obsessive compulsion. I could have played only the story missions and seen the bare minimum of new content to write this review, but I’ll be damned if I’m not enjoying it as much as my first playthrough. My tenacity alone should be an indication of how great the game itself is, since doing so has meant putting up with more than a few technical problems. I’ll get to later, however, because it should first be said that this is one of the better PC ports to be released in some time.
There are problems, but they’re only being experienced by a small percentage of players it seems, myself included. The experience of most players has been that the game is well optimised for PC, with due care given to technical customisation. That last part I can confirm myself, since I can see the settings at least. What’s present is a step-above most ports, but if you do have problems, boy do you have problems. Frequent crashing, stuttering, frame-rate dips and freezing, models clipping or spazzing out, character dialogue continually cutting itself off, and more besides. I have experienced all of these to greater or lesser extents, depending on the problem, and I’m not alone in that.
“She’s a right mess! Well, give us a few months and we’ll patch her right up!” – Square Enix, probably.
More than anything, the Nvidia enhancements seem to be the cause of a lot of these problems and turning them off significantly reduced the frequency of their occurrence for me. It didn’t eliminate them entirely, however, and even after the most recent patch, I’ve continued to experience everything I’ve talked about to some degree. Although I’ve not been able to find anyone else with my exact problem, I’ve only been able to play the game audio through speakers. Any attempt to use headphones results in horrific screeching at volumes beyond what my headphones should possibly be able to produce. Based on the history Tabata and his team have for going back and reworking the game, though, I’d be surprised if all of this went unaddressed for much longer. They’ve promised content for another year to come, so it would certainly behove them to maintain the reputation they’ve established.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of funky and interesting features that have been added to the game, some more useful and fun than others. For instance, you can now go off-road with the Regalia Type-D, which is a huge monster truck looking thing that allows for hydraulic-powered jumps. It’s exactly as rad as it sounds. And you can now take on up to ten hunts at once instead of having to constantly trudge back and forth between tipsters. There’s also stuff like the first-person mode that was kind of neat at first but then just felt weird to me, and I quickly abandoned it. Playing as Gladio, Prompto and Ignis during combat, exploring the sea on the royal vessel, and a new dungeon are among a slew of recent additions that can make the whole game feel fresh again.
The Windows Edition does have all the existing major DLC, which is Episodes Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis, as well as Comrades. For what I feel is the “ultimate experience,” having already beaten the game once, I’ve been playing the episodes in tandem with the main story, starting them wherever they crop up in the storyline. I must say, the feeling is sort of like watching the Lord of the Rings Director’s Cuts back-to-back, since the amount of story information filled in by these episodes is extraordinary. For the spoilers contained within, they aren’t worth playing unless you’ve beaten the game once already, and I can see why they’ve been kept separate. It would be great if later down the line they could integrate them into New Game+, however.
It isn’t just the extra story information that appeals about the Episodes; they offer some great variation on the main game’s usual fare. To me, FFXV’s combat system feels much more akin to a brawler over typical JRPG, or even western ARPG combat systems. It’s light on tactics and is lacking in any in-depth mechanics required to change how it works or evolves throughout the game. That’s where the episodes shine brightest, elaborating on that core concept with the side-characters’ style woven in. Episode Gladio takes the brawler concept further, with an emphasis on chain attacks and parrying, while he undertakes his own short quest of self-discovery. In Episode Ignis you can switch the element imbued to your daggers to change your fighting style, adapting to each situation as it comes, while fighting for control over a city battlefield. And Episode Prompto basically turns into a third person shooter, with some serious Dirge of Cerberus vibes going on, while proving that Prompto wouldn’t be utterly useless if he were given more than a pistol.
Seriously though, this could easily be a Dirge Of Cerberus style spin-off game on its own, if they wanted to make it… I want them to make it.
There’s also new content that’s been added to the main game in the form of new quests, new story sections in some of the less fleshed out parts of the game, item packs, bonus weapons, and a heap of other smaller things. Particularly in the case of the infamous Chapter 13, these are marked improvements over what was in the initial release and is otherwise enjoyable bonus content for returning players. Not everything that’s been available on PSN or XBL in the past has been brought across to the PC, but, as with everything else, I would say that it’s only a matter of time. As an aside, it would be great if they could bring back the time-limited events, such as the Moogle Carnival and Assassin’s Festival as permanent additions to the game. Having played it so much when it first released, I wasn’t keen to jump back on it so soon to play that content and I doubt that I’m alone.
Much as Final Fantasy XV’s opening line suggests, this is a game for fans and first-timers alike. If you’ve not played FFXV before and want to give it a try, this is (probably) the best way to experience it so far. For those who’ve already played the game before, there’s so much to come back for after a year in post-development. Even if you’ve never played a Final Fantasy game before, this is such a departure from the series’ usual style that I implore you to give it a try. Many of the major “improvements” promised by the development team have already been implemented, and there is a heap of extra content in the included DLC. As it stands, the only major issue with this otherwise solid port are the technical issues being faced by a minority group of players, and I suspect this won’t be the case for very long. If the quality of the future content holds up, I’ll likely be coming back for a third playthrough in another year’s time.