Final Fantasy XV has finally come to PC. While the console versions performed reasonably well, it’s always up in the air whether a PC port is going to come out well or not. When Square Enix is involved with a Windows port, you can never tell whether it’s going to be unplayable, or it will be pleasantly optimized. Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is, fortunately, the latter. However, it can be finicky, at least when you’re getting started.
I’m not going to cover the plot of Final Fantasy XV, our review, written on the console versions, is an excellent reference for that. Instead, I want to focus on what benefits are exclusive to Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition, and why you would want to buy it on PC over console.
Whether or not Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is the right version of the game for you depends on a few factors. If you have a high-end PC, then it’s a no-brainer to get the Windows Edition. The PC version of the game is by far the best looking, but you got to make sure you’ve got the hardware to push it.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Review: First Hour: Tweak Some Settings, Play For a Second, Tweak Some Settings, Play for a Second
Finding the secret combination to maximize framerate without losing the graphical boost enabled by playing the game on PC is going to be everyone’s first order of business. It took me about an hour to find the perfect setup for my tastes, but your mileage may vary. At first, I really tried hard for 4K with everything on the highest setting, but that was a no-go. It was a jittery, stuttery mess, and so I had to start making sacrifices.
Where you’re going to take the biggest hit in performance with this game, at least if you’re going above 1080p resolution is TRAM. The TRAM setting is just this game’s way of asking how much VRAM, the memory onboard your GPU, you want to use for textures. A “highest” setting here will basically let FFXV Windows Edition suck up all the VRAM it can for textures, leaving none for all the other important tasks you need it for. If you have 8 GB of RAM or lower on your GPU, leave this on “high.”
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Review: Framerate vs. Fidelity
Finding the right TRAM setting helps things a lot, but another big performance hog comes in the form of Nvidia’s GameWorks features. There’s HairWorks of course, but you also get the option to turn on VXAO, TurfEffects, and ShadowLibs. Surprisingly, HairWorks doesn’t have too detrimental of an effect on framerate in Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition. The biggest offender for sucking up GPU power is ShadowLibs. Turning off ShadowLibs and turning shadows from “highest” to “high” allowed me to get around 35-40 fps at 4K with the rest of the settings at their highest.
However, 40 fps isn’t enough for me, because I’m an elitist, and after playing the console version at 30 fps I wanted that smooth, smooth, 60 fps animation. Fortunately, FFXV on PC has a way to set a custom internal resolution. By keeping the game at my TV’s native resolution and setting the internal resolution to 75%, I was able to play at a steady 50 fps, which was the level I was willing to compromise between graphics quality and framerate at.
I will say that Final Fantasy XV looks stunning on PC and it’s the first game on this platform to take me all the way to the limit with my 16 GB of RAM. At first, I thought it was a memory leak, but I believe that this is just one of those games that the developers have future proofed for the next few years. If you let it, it will use an incredible amount of resources, but all that power is reflected on the screen. There’s even HDR support, just like the console versions. It can be finnicky, but that’s more because Windows support for HDR is ultra janky right now. An on/off toggle for the feature would have been appreciated.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Review: Japanese PC Port Syndrome
The keyboard controls leave a lot to be desired in my opinion. Final Fantasy XV was designed around being played with a controller, and so that’s how I played it. The game controls just as well on PC with an Xbox One controller as it does on an Xbox One, and there’s no sort of aiming precision you need in the game that would make using a mouse more advantageous.
If you just have to use a keyboard and mouse though, the controls aren’t horrible in-game. However, the menus are another story. There is no mouse pointer in menus, so you have to either use the scroll wheel or move the mouse forward or backward to highlight various options. This is such a Japanese PC port thing to do, and with how many graphic options the game has and how well it runs in general, I just knew they were going to slip in some stupid design choice like that. Long story short: use a controller.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Review: The Definitive Version
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition isn’t the perfect PC port by any means. It has its quirks, but the advantages over the console editions wipes those out in my mind. Not only does it have all the content available on console to this point at a reasonable price, but it also has mod tools coming and Steam Workshop support already implemented. It seems like the team behind the game, and Square Enix’s leadership will continue to support and promote this game into the future too, so there’s plenty of goodies in store down the line.
Considering the sometimes bipolar nature of Square Enix’s PC ports, I’m impressed with how well Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition turned out. If you have a mid-to-high end PC, this is the way to experience this game, either if you’re playing it for the first time or if you want to go through it a second time.