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- Final Fantasy XV
If there's one thing I can say about modern Final Fantasy more than anything, it's that it isn't afraid to try something new. Since Final Fantasy X the series has routinely taken drastic measures to implement new combat systems, each very different than the last. In some cases this hasn't proved successful, but at the very least it's ensured that every adventure has been different than the last.
Final Fantasy XV serves as yet another great example of this. Delivering what it calls the Active Cross Battle system, it has a free-form system that provides an incredible amount of flexibility, not only in terms of movement but ways to engage and attack in battle.
As with previous games, the combat system has been met with mixed reception. Some RPG fans have commended it for being exciting, while others have found it redundant and lacking in depth. I happened to fall under the latter during my early hours of playing the game. It was such a problem that during my first 10 or so hours I despised loading up Final Fantasy XV. This made the review process completely unenjoyable, and almost convinced me that Final Fantasy would never again entertain me in a meaningful way.
It wasn't until I had completed several chapters that I felt that I needed to take time to try and understand what I was doing wrong. After spending time talking to other players and watching YouTube videos, I found that I had only scratched the surface of something that was actually terrific.
Preparation was the first thing I learned to respect. Cooking, setting up techniques, and wisely choosing Ascension skills is certainly part of this, but what I found made the biggest impact was simply investing in better weapons. Nothing is worse than feeling like the damage you're doing is insignificant, resulting in needlessly long battles. Heading to the highest level area I had access to and purchasing the most powerful weapons available was a huge boon to my experience.
Heading into combat with better weaponry I found that I was encouraged to critically wound enemies from behind, and pull off huge attacks with the greatsword, even if only to see big chunks of enemy health bars come flying off. It reminded me a lot of the difference between playing a poorly geared player in World of Warcraft, and one with full epics; being something capable of destroying enemies is so incredibly satisfying, I've found myself now addicted to the quest for better gear.
Related: Final Fantasy XV Official Review
This investment in equipment also led to me making some weapon choices for Noctis. Unlike the other three main characters, he has access to almost every weapon type. Personally, I found that spears weren't all that interesting, and decided to experiment with daggers—a great idea. My strategy ended up being that I would prioritize the daggers for battles where I needed to be quick on my feet, but could transition into a greatsword for huge blows that affected crowds of enemies. And when it came time to deliver burst damage, I could pull out my hero sword and put my opponents in the emergency room.
Although these preparatory elements played a big factor in myself learning to enjoy Final Fantasy XV, what made an even bigger difference was understanding how to transition between warp strikes and warp points. Although the tutorial teaches you all the essentials, it doesn't really explain how important it is to be mobile on the battlefield. There is no rolling or blocking here like in Dark Souls. Instead, it's all about warping, which requires MP.
Dancing between enemies and retreating for health and MP regeneration is an art in and of itself. It requires that you pay attention to your MP pool and manage it carefully, while also keeping a watchful eye on where enemies are and their attack patterns. It's all about flowing into and out of combat in a smooth manner that minimizes damage received and makes you unreliant on dodge.
The last thing I learned about is the Portable CD player. I'm a music fanatic, and consider many Final Fantasy songs to some of the greatest works of all-time. The Portable CD Player has allowed me to listen to classics such as One Winged Angel and Saber's Edge while out and about. This might sound trivial, but Final Fantasy XV has a notoriously sub-par musical arrangement. Pushing it aside for emotion-invoking works across the entire Final Fantasy spectrum is not something to be underestimated.
I'm happy to be able to say that I enjoy Final Fantasy XV. I can now understand why someone would say that the game is absolutely amazing, while also being able to empathize with those that simply aren't feeling it. It really is a great game, and one that clearly demonstrated that Square Enix is listening to fan feedback. Now excuse me while I get back to finishing more side quests.
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