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An in depth look into Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV a name which for almost a decade has been shrouded in obscurity lost to myth and thought forgotten, a name which Square Enix now hopes will resurrect one of gamings oldest franchises.

Originally titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, development begun shortly before its announcement in May 2006. The announcement came at the launch of Square Enix’s release of Final Fantasy XIII and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. After XIII’s controversial linearity and poor reception, a growing trend since Final Fantasy X, Versus XIII became many fans hope for a resurrection of the franchise, even going so far as in buying the Playstation 3 solely to play Squares’ upcoming installment.

Yet at this point Versus XIII fell into obscurity not to be heard of for several years as Square Enix tried to salvage Final Fantasy XIII by quickly announcing a sequel followed by a bizarre concluding third installment with Final Fantasy Lightning Returns.

It’s not unusual for fans of a game to wait years for sequels, take Diablo 3 for instance. But what separates Final Fantasy XV from others is that unlike them it has been in active development for almost 10 years. The game’s long development time has even been criticised by the franchises own creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi stating bluntly:

 “Final Fantasy XV is taking too long.”

The games absence from the public eye certainly helped to sink the game further into legend. Unsurprisingly, leading to several rumors concerning its possible cancellation or shift to another platform.

Final Fantasy XV

A new name & vision

In June 2013, seven years and a month after it was first announced, Square Enix debut Final Fantasy Versus XIII’s first official trailer at the LA Convention Center. Along with the trailer came the announcement that the game’s name had been changed to Final Fantasy XV. Director Tetsuya Nomura revealed that behind closed doors Square Enix’s 1st Production Department had decided upon the name change years earlier.

“Around one or two years after we announced FF Versus XIII,” he said, “it was suggested to us to shift to FFXV as part of the company’s direction. By that time, a fair amount of time had already passed since the announcement and Versus was a well-known title, so it wasn’t a given that this would be XV; it could have still been Versus. Personally, I came to accept the idea once FF Agito XIII’s name was changed to Final Fantasy Type-0.”

It was during this event that it was also revealed that development had switched from the PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Nomura also explained the platform shift in an interview with Polygon.

“there are several reasons,” he explained. “We had originally thought about making this announcement last year, but due to assorted reasons that got delayed. This meant that the lifespan of the current generation of consoles was starting to pose a problem to us. If we were a year later, other companies will have more time to research the next generation, and releasing the game against their products on the older generation could have caused us to look inferior when people inevitably compared us.”

As was to be expected Nomura and his team had hit the graphical limitations of what the PS3 and 360 were capable of. Triling an alpha version in 2012 on the PS3 proved that if the team remained bound to the previous gen hardware Final Fantasy XV would simply not live up to the expectations the team had envisioned for the game at all!

After the PS3 was abandoned a DirectX 11-based development method, using the Luminous Studio engine, was favoured for its ability to easily port games to the next-generation systems. At this point it’s important to acknowledge that the game, like all games, is being developed on exceedingly powerful PCs and that the Luminous Studio engine is compatible with multiple platforms.

“This lets us develop full-spec without worrying about individual platforms, then port it to each console in the most appropriate way. As a result, the original Final Fantasy XV runs on a pretty high-spec PC, and how close a console gets to this original depends on its specs.”

Final Fantasy XV BannerBased solely on Nomura’s statements and taking into account the specifications of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, bluntly, we won’t be seeing Final Fantasy XV look as good as it currently does in trailers, if it runs at 60 FPS in Full-HD I would be surprised. The current generation consoles have already received significant criticism for not being powerful enough. We’ve seen the issues this has caused, games which look drastically better in trailers (Watch Dogs) as well as on their PC variants.

So what about just releasing the game on PC. Nomura reveals:

“This isn’t something we’ve really discussed, but it depends on the demand. Currently it’d require a pretty expensive PC (2013), but if we get a lot of people in the future who want to play it with full specs, I think we can discuss supporting that.”

Recently Square Enix has started to take a greater interest in the PC with ports of both XIII and XIII-2, however, these were sub-par ports at best and have been riddled with bugs. However, this does not have to be the case with Final Fantasy XV due to its native Directx 11 development. What’s more important at this point is proving that there is demand for the game on PC.

Its not entirely without reason to believe that the game could be popular on PC, simply take a look at Final Fantasy XIV Online an MMO which has had significant success on PC as well as Square Enix’s success with other games such as Tomb Raider 2013. Personally I feel that not releasing Final Fantasy XV on PC will prove to be an oversight as well as a missed opportunity, especially considering the importance of Final Fantasy XV.

Plot

Story

Throughout the development of Final Fantasy XV the games’ story has suggested a darker tone, set in a contemporary world, a fantasy world based on reality, one which resembles our own. What we have seen so far depicts a Final Fantasy with an emphasis on character emotion and psychologies.

Yet like many of the previous Final Fantasy games, this too starts with the tale of a crystal. For years the crystals have been used as instruments of war, fueling power hungry nations’ political agendas and technological ambitions, until this sustained conflict almost caused them all to disappear. The last remaining crystal resides in the contemporary kingdom of Lucis, seat to the royal family of Caelum.

Lucis is also home to our story’s protagonist, Noctis Lucis Caelum, a prince of the nation who was endowed with a power connected to the goddess of death during an incident in his early youth.

As a result of controlling the last crystal Lucis has been locked into a prolonged cold war with the world’s other nations which have lost their own and fear Lucis’ vast power. This sets the scene for what appears to be the start of the game which opens on an historic day in the war, a peace treaty signing between Lucis and Niflheim, in order to end the cold war. In an early trailer we see Noctis being driven, within Lucis, to a celebration for the signing as he watches the Niflheim airships hover above the city center off on the horizon, eventually falling asleep blissfully unaware of the uprising to come.

However, moments before the peace treaty is signed Lucis is betrayed by Niflheim, as the military nation starts their invasion. Niflheim proceeds to take the nation’s crystal for its own before launching attacks on Solheim, Tenebrae and Accordo. Noctis and his companions, Ignis, Gladiolus, Prompto and Cor, are forced to flee from Niflheim’s forces. The companions now start traveling by car across the world in order to defeat Niflheim and retake Lucis’ crystal.

In another pivotal scene King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII and his retinue are shown in a stand off with what appears to be an assassination party lead by Emperor Idola Aldercapt, emperor of the country of Niflheim. Due to the now active war, during the course of the game, Noctis is forced to fight Stella Nox Fleuret, a woman who wields similar powers to him yet shares a deep connection with him.

Characters

Noctis Lucis Caelum

Noctis Lucis Caelum, a playable character, is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XV. He is the son of King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII and heir to a dynasty of the kingdom of Lucis. Noctis is a young man with short, spiky, black hair and blue eyes. However, both his hair and eye colour change to reflect his emotional state. Noctis is a strong and distinctive person but he often looks concerned in the game’s trailers.

Nomura has confirmed that Noctis will not have the “Cloud-like” personality, but rather a personality which is new to the series, one which Nomura has wanted to try out for a long time. Noctis is an ordinary man who acts tough because he feels it is his duty to protect his kingdom and its citizens. This often results in his actions seeming rash and occasionally he overestimates his own strength.

Due to an accident in his childhood which most likely involved Stella Nox Fleuret, Noctis can see the “light”, and has the power to foresee a person’s death. Though he does not wish to fight her, circumstances force Noctis to confront and fight Stella Nox, and he is speculated to be opposed by a mysterious man, robbed entirely in white. Noctis has a number of companions and his family is known to operate in a similar manner to modern-day mafia.

King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII

Father of Noctis Lucis Caelum and the 113th king of the royal family of Lucis, the last kingdom to control a crystal. Niflheim’s army seeks to end the reign of the Caelum family as an assassination attempt is made on Regis’ life.

Little is currently known about Regis, in January 2011 the “Square Enix 1st Production Department Premiere” trailer showed him sitting on his throne, pondering and talking to himself. One can faintly make out his words: “You’re not fit to be king”. While many assumed this statement was directed at Noctis, it is actually directed at someone else.

He wields a falchion with an engine attached to its hilt and like Noctis has the power to conjure and arsenal of weapons out of thin air as well as manipulate them. A power which seems possible due to the crystal.

Emperor Idola Aldercapt

Emperor Idola Aldercapt our stories antagonist and the emperor of the nation of Niflheim.

Idola is key to the forming of a peace treaty between the nations of the world on Final Fantasy XV. However, though Idola signs the peace treaty with King Regis Caelum of the kingdom of Lucis, to settle the dispute over the last crystal kept within the city. The treaty is soon revealed to be a ruse and Idola leads a full-scale invasion of Lucis to steal the crystal. In trailers, he is seen holding Regis at gunpoint.

Gladiolus Amicitia

Gladiolus Amicitia is part if Noctis’s group of companions and will also be a playable character in the game. Although not directly controllable, he is in Noctis’s party and the player will be able to co-opt moves with him and issue him commands.

An early childhood friend of Noctis and Ignis and the eldest child of his family. Gladiolus serves the Lucis as shield and due to their long friendship is considers as a brother by Noctis.

Prompto Argentum

Also a member of Noctis’s gang, though not directly playable, he is in Noctis’s party and the player can issue orders at him. Prompto is a foreign fugitive who is also a childhood friend of Noctis. He wields firearms despite their ban in the kingdom of Lucis and though a wanted felon maintains a playful attitude.

Cor Leonis

He is also known as the “Immortal Shogun” due to being one of the three best fighters in the kingdom of Lucis. He is not friends with Noctis, but rather with his father, and is a guest character in the party on occasion.

His personality is stubborn and stern. A military man sworn to King Regis and his country and is strict with Noctis, and though he does not always agree with Noctis and the group, he is duty-bound to watch over them.

Ignis Stupeo Scientia

A companion of Noctis and a party member who is also not directly playable.

He is Noctis’s closest childhood friend alongside Gladiolus and Prompto. He acts as a strategist for the royal family as well as the group’s driver and chef. He is always composed and serious with cool personality, something to contrast Gladiolus and Prompto. Ignis has been friends with Noctis since early childhood. He received a special education for gifted children to work as a staff officer for Noctis and acts as the understanding consultant for him.

Stella Nox Fleuret

Stella Nox Fleuret is a character in the game and a member of the wealthy Fleuret family which resides in the land of Tenebrae. Little is currently known about Stella, except that she meets Noctis at an aristocratic meeting, and they share some sort of connection. She has an honest and polite attitude, but is assertive and true to her beliefs due to her upbringing.

After a near-death experience early in her life, similar to Noctis, Stella can see the light from the Kingdom of the Dead, which grants her special powers. Magazine articles have drawn similarities between her unwanted conflict with Noctis and that of Celes Chere from Final Fantasy VI.

Like Noctis and Regis, Stella can materialize weapons from thin air, as she summons her rapier from a rune similar to one used by Noctis, to summon his sword.

Luna

You would be forgiven for confusing Luna with Stella, online speculation even suggested that Luna was in fact a later development version of Stella, though this has been proven otherwise.

Luna first appearing in the Tokyo Game Show 2014 Trailer. However, extremely little is currently known about her. In the aforementioned trailer glimmering motes of essence surround her, likely alluding to the nature of souls. The only thing known so far is that Luna resides in Altissia, potentially taking refuge there, as Ignis mentions “She made it out alive?”

Setting

Lucis

Final Fantasy XV is set in a world similar to present-day Earth. Yet like all Final Fantasies, Crystals in this world play a significant role, being magical objects of political power to major nations and countries throughout this world. Due to the influence they have, wars and strife have been mainly centered over these crystals, yet due to these conflicts many of the crystals are either now lost or thought destroyed. As a result of losing their crystals, many of these nations have focused their efforts on developing their military power, but at the cost of progressing their culture, leaving them in a medieval-like regressive state.

The nation of Lucis manages to escape this fate, growing to be a technologically-advanced and progressive nation. Yet this is mainly due to possessing one of the last crystals, which has been kept intact and safe from the wars, facilitating Lucis the power to prosper and modernize in a consistent and steady fashion. The capital city of Lucis is called Insomnia.

Niflheim

The militant nation of Niflheim is the main enemy of Lucis. Niflheim is also the only other nation which has a crystal. Entrusted with a crystal possibly by the other nations: Tenebrae, Solheim and Accordo. Yet, this does not stop Niflheim attacking them along with the invasion of Lucis.

World

The world of Final Fantasy XV is that of a seamless open experience, with vast fields able to be explored as far as the eye can reach. Cities too resemble that of a sandbox game, one in which the player can explore by driving the party’s car, RHS-113. Early development information suggested the party would be able to fly airships such as in older Final Fantasy titles, yet in January 2015 director Hajime Tabata said the airship issue was “still to be determined”, however, the player will be able to ride chocobos. Square Enix has also stated it cannot guarantee that the game will be entirely seamless as important scenes will likely require some loading.

Linearity was one of Final Fantasy XIII’s major criticisms, Square wants players to be free to explore far and wide and possibly stumble upon optional content, such as dungeons, in XV but make sure objectives are laid out clearly so players won’t get lost in the vastness of the available area.

The world of XV also incorporates dynamic day and night cycles and cloud formations are done by physical calculations, lighting and the shadows change as the day goes on. At night towns will be lit up, with people turning the lights on in their homes. A single in-game day lasts a real-life hour with 40 to 45 minutes being daytime, and the rest being night time.

Conclusion

Development continues a release date is unknown

With the shift to the PS4 and Xbox One Nomura’s desire to create a seamless Final Fantasy experience is now closer than ever before. From the game play trailers and announcements, Final Fantasy XV’s world exploration will be completely open world, reminiscent of old Final Fantasy titles such as I – VII as well as contemporary games such as Skyrim and GTAV.

“I wanted FF15 to be as seamless as possible, and to achieve that, we needed to have all the actions you could potentially do always be available in memory. Since this is FF, after all, you have lots of potential factors, from the varied weapons to the party members’ individual actions and magic spells. Keeping this massive amount of RPG character data around, and having them fight all kinds of monsters on a large map…”

In December 2014 Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy Type-0, an upscaled PSP game coming to the PS4 and Xbox One next March, will come bundled with the a playable demo of Final Fantasy XV. Square Enix also insisted that the only way will be able to play the game before it is released is to purchase Type-0. “We’re never going to release it as a stand-alone piece down the line,” Square Enix’s Scott Strichart wrote on the PlayStation blog.

When we will be able pick up Final Fantasy XV is still a complete uncertainty. Development within the last couple of years has ramped up substantially and more information about the game is being released monthly. Though a 2015 release date is both possible and anticipated so is a 2016 release.

However, pressure is on for Square Enix to deliver something truly exemplary, in fact the future of Final Fantasy depends on this titles success as Square Enix has already raised concerns for any investment in the series if Final Fantasy XV does not perform.

In 2014, it was also announced that sole directorial duties have been taken over by Hajime Tabata, who had been co-director.

About Jeremy "FugiTive" Paton

๏ BA (Hons) Architecture Graduate ๏ Gamer • Web-Designer • Artist • Forge Network Founder. Editor and Designer for Forge Gaming Network.

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