I’d like to begin this article by saying this: Final Fantasy XV is a very good game. By completely overhauling the traditional turn based combat system, and replacing it with a slick and energetic new real time battle system, this is the game that’s breathed new life into a franchise that, in recent instalments, has honestly begun to lose some of its magic.
Unfortunately, whilst in the combat department, this game has been a huge success, in terms of narrative… Well, it’s not so hot. In fact, I would go so far as to describe Final Fantasy XV’s story as a complete and utter trainwreck. In terms of storytelling, it’s really not that much better than Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Questions are left unanswered, potentially interesting characters are left unexplored, and others actually disappear completely midway through, never to be mentioned again.
It’s hugely disappointing to watch the second half of a game so spectacularly ruin the first half. Playing Final Fantasy XV is like watching someone handcraft a beautiful four poster bed, lovingly dress it in a luxurious duvet, with the softest pillow, and the finest of silk sheets, and then squat on top of their handiwork and take a huge dump right in the middle. Followed by Ignis snapping his fingers and declaring “I’ve come up with a new recipe,” with everyone around him looking confused, and a little bit sickened.
Anyway, with all that in mind, here are the five moments the narrative of Final Fantasy XV really loses the plot. Obviously, this article contains spoilers, so if you’re yet to finish it, please click away, and come back after you’re finished.
Pretty much every time Ravus appears on screen…
Okay, it’s pretty difficult to pin it down to just one moment with Ravus. His entire story arc is just too poorly explained. When you first meet him, he is presented as a villain. You have a little scrap with him, and he beats the crap out of you. The next time you see him is during a flashback, in which he’s talking to his sister, Lunafreya, the love interest of the main character, Noctis. The third time you see him, you find him lying on the ground, dead, and for some reason, Noctis is sad about it. Oh, and he’s also carrying Noctis’s dead father’s sword.
What makes this so confusing is the complete lack of screen time Ravus is given. The game makes absolutely no attempt to link together these three moments to explain why he transfers from the role of antagonist to antihero. Ravus’s unfulfilled potential is a great example of one of Final Fantasy XV‘s biggest problems: It just felt like they were trying to force too many characters into one story. If they’d taken all the time they wasted on lesser characters and used it to let me spend some time with Luna, maybe I’d have given a damn when she died.
Prompto’s Big Revelation
Let’s be real here: Of the four beautiful boys, Prompto is the worst. His stats are dreadful. He has a propensity for constantly needing rescuing. He frequently asks you to stop the car, so he can take a picture. All in all, when you’re trying to enjoy adventure time with Gladio (the undisputed best of the beautiful boys), he’s just a pain to have around.
However, all those minor annoyances are nothing compared to how utterly idiotic his big story moment is. Upon rescuing him from the clutches of the evil empire, he reveals his deepest, darkest secret:
He has a barcode on his wrist that allows him to open doors in the enemy’s fortress.
Once again, this is an example of the game making a huge revelation, but making no attempt to explain what’s happened, or why the player should be interested. This moment is supposed to reveal that Prompto isn’t from the same place as the rest of the party, and was actually born to be a soldier of the Niflheim army. Unfortunately, as this revelation has absolutely no consequence on the rest of the story, the moment carries no emotional punch. I didn’t (and still don’t) care about Prompto’s history – I was more interested in how he survived being kicked off the roof of a moving train.
Ardyn Being Revealed As The Villain
Ardyn is a strange villain. When he’s first presented to you, he just seems too suspicious. The game literally tells you not to trust him, every single time he appears on screen. You almost assume that he can’t be the big bad boss at the end of the game, because it’s just too obvious. He must be a red herring.
Nope. He is the game’s final boss. What makes this especially egregious is that his backstory isn’t even that clearly explained. He’s a former king, who for unidentified reasons has been cursed with eternal life, and so he’s decided to take it out on everyone by plunging the world into eternal night. To me, it felt like I’d stumbled into a movie halfway through and trying to make sense of the plot unfolding before me.
Don’t get me wrong, Ardyn himself is cool. With his delicious, slightly over the top vocal delivery and the fact that he chooses to wear a fedora (the most evil of head gear, apparently), he could have been a perfect villain. Unfortunately, the narrative just doesn’t support him. In fact, if you read the deeper story behind the game, it’s actually hard to hate him. He saved the world from the Starscourge, and then got dicked over by the Crystal for doing so. In many ways, it feels disingenuous to refer to him as a villain.
And as for your final battle with him… Well, let’s put it this way… It doesn’t take a genius to know that, if I’m able to check my email without pausing in the middle of a major boss fight, the developers have fucked this one up.
Just… Everything Involving The Six
A major part of the concept of the game is that the empire is trying to kill the Six, who are essentially a bunch of generic element infused Gods and Goddesses. There’s a fire one, an ice one, a water one… You know how it goes. You’d think an important concept like this would be given lots of screen time, and plenty of build up and explanation. Instead, there are a couple of optional books you can read, that give you a rough idea of what the Six do and literally nothing else.
One of Noctis’s missions is to save them from being killed, and he goes about this by… err, fighting them? If you beat them, you will be granted the power to summon them and rain down their powers on the enemy. But then, when the empire succeeds in killing both Titan and Shiva, you can still summon them later in the game, even though they’re already dead. So, the Six can be both alive and dead at the same time I guess? And also, why was Ifrit such a dick for no apparent reason?
In all honesty, to me, the Six felt like they had simply been stuck into the game in an attempt to add more spectacular boss fights. None of them actually have any relationship to the plot. You’re only given the power to summon some of them at the last minute, so it almost feels as though the developers realised they’d forgotten to use the attack animations they made for each of the six, and so they just threw the ones they missed at you at the last minute. All in all, the Six are just confusing, and unnecessary addition to the game, that it really could have done without.
Getting Sucked Into The Crystal
… I’m going to be completely honest right now. I have no idea what happened at this point in the game. Seriously. Now that I’ve completed the game, I’ve taken the time to go through the Wiki pages, and do the necessary research to figure out what happened at every point I didn’t understand. This is the only point where I am still absolutely clueless.
The build up to the climax of the game sees Noctis and his friends fighting their way through Ardyn’s tower, searching for the Crystal, which they believe will grant Noctis the power to vanquish the daemons forever. When Noctis finally reaches it, however, it turns out to have been a trap set by Ardyn. Noctis gets sucked into the crystal, and trapped in the “Astral Plain”, waking up ten years later in prison, after a cryptic (and barely intelligible) conversation with Bahamut (one of the six mentioned earlier.)
Now I have a few questions about this. I could eloquently string all of these questions together but to save time, I’m just going to put them all back to back. Why was Noctis sucked into the crystal? Why did Bahamut wait ten years to send Noctis back to reality? Why were none of the other characters surprised when Noctis returned ten years later? Why does Ardyn not just kill Noctis when he’s weak and powerless, rather than waiting ten years to do it?
The narrative of this game would have been so much better if it had just been streamlined.
It may sound like I’m whaling on a few select areas of Final Fantasy XV, but here’s the thing. I’m actually having to cherrypick my criticisms of Final Fantasy XV‘s narrative because if I tried to list all of them, it would take many thousands of words, and many hours to read. Suffice it to say, it’s a bit of a clusterfuck. The narrative of this game would have been so much better if it had just been streamlined. If we’d been allowed to spend a little time with Luna, and Regis, and all the other characters I was supposed to give a damn about when they were killed, maybe the game would have carried some kind of emotional weight. Instead, the entire thing just felt hollow, empty, lifeless, and confusing.
I’m well aware, Square Enix is planning to patch the narrative of this game, so it doesn’t require taking the time to watch a feature length movie alongside it. Is this an acceptable solution to the problem? Well, no, it’s not, but there’s not much we can do about it at this point. Final Fantasy XV will forever be an imperfect experience and an imperfect game. An ideological part of me thinks that this may serve as a warning to developers of the future, but the realist in me knows, that this game has made enough money that it really doesn’t matter how the game was received – the developers at Square Enix are currently rolling in a big pile of money, laughing their freaking heads off.
I mean, I don’t blame them. I would be too.