Final Fantasy 15: a 15-hour preview, release date, VR DLC, and everything you need to know

 Fast Facts

  • Final Fantasy 15 release date: November 29, 2016
  • Formats: PlayStation 4/Xbox One
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Price: Regular Edition: $59.99/£44.99, Deluxe Edition $89.99/£69.99

We’re inching ever closer to a full-blown review for the long-awaited Final Fantasy 15, with (a very appropriate) 15 hours of playtime, as well as a tie-in movie and anime series under our belts. With only one month to go before its November 29 release date, the question still lingers: can FFXV live up to the hype?

The game has a lot riding on its shoulders, as the very future of the almost 30-year-old series likely depends on its success. As such, it’s blowing out all the stops. There’s a theme song by Florence and the Machine blending the classic Final Fantasy prelude with Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’. There’s the aforementioned feature-length CG prequel, a five-episode anime series, a handful of playable demos, even a free pre-order exclusive game to sort through, not to mention the truckload of gameplay videos and character details that have trickled out over the last few years.

Here’s everything you need to know about what will probably the strangest road trip you’ll ever embark on. 

Even 15 hours with Final Fantasy 15 is not nearly enough

Final Fantasy games have always been massive time-sinks, often requiring dozens of hours just to complete the main story, nevermind hidden dungeons, bosses, and collectibles. So it should be of little surprise that an extensive 15-hour hands-on preview of Final Fantasy 15 (see what Square Enix did there?) is just scratching the surface of this massive game.

Still, if you’re wondering what a Final Fantasy road trip with intense focus on bonding your bros, taking selfies, and cooking in the middle of the wilderness while the stereotypical warring kingdoms plot is pushed to the background feels like, here’s a short summary: it’s good.

Final Fantasy 15 delayed until November 29, but for good reason 

Originally slated for a worldwide September 30 release date, Square Enix has delayed Final Fantasy 15 by two months, with a (hopefully) final release date of November 29. It’s disappointing – especially considering the big deal Square made about its release date at March’s Uncovered event – but director Hajime Tabata released a five minute video detailing a surprisingly valid reason behind the delay.

Tabata is taking the extra two months to polish some of Final Fantasy 15’s rougher edges and, instead of requiring people to download a day-one patch with all of the bug fixes, that extra time allows Square to put that work directly on the disc. This means players who may not have access to the internet won’t be out of luck with a sub-par experience. Whether or not it’s entirely true is hard to say, but it’s a surprisingly candid and open response for a delay, and more time will hopefully lead to a better game. 

Hey, it’s been ten years. What’s two more months, right?  

Final Fantasy 15’s story is meant to be more mature and politically charged

While FF13 focused on a tale of godlike fal’Cie and the cosmic consequences of their spunky human servants going rogue, FF15’s taking a more political approach to its story. The big players here are the kingdoms of Lucis and Niflheim, which are naturally at war over something magical, specifically a set of crystals Lucis has used to build its civilization. Cue Niflheim’s surprise invasion of Lucis – King Regis Lucis Caelum is reportedly killed in the ensuing chaos, as is his son, Noctis Lucis Caelum. Except Noctis is the main character and you’re definitely playing as him, so it appears rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

While power-plays and politics aren’t at all new to the series (a few adjustments and that same description could work for FF12), FF15 also seems to be a more mature take on that classic JRPG story, starting as far back as Noctis’ early childhood. The game’s puts particular emphasis on the relationship between Noctis and his father, treating it with surprising sensitivity and none of Final Fantasy’s typical flashiness. While we won’t know for sure how much of that interest will be realized until the game is finally out, this tiny peek alone is already fascinating.

Final Fantasy 15’s characters are going on a road trip

Noctis Lucis Caelum, the heir to the kingdom of Lucis, is who you’ll be controlling throughout most of FF15. He’s a stereotypically rebellious young man (you might say he’s got a bit of a Squall-ish streak), choosing to live by his own rules as opposed to following the strict code of conduct set by his royal overseers. With his kingdom under siege, Noctis and his friends must protect the crystal of Lucis and exact revenge on the forces of Niflheim at all costs. He’s also arranged to marry Lunafreya who is also his childhood friend, and shares a very close bond with his father King Regis.

“Noct” isn’t your average moody prince; a near-death experience in his childhood endowed him with the ability to sense the impending death of other people, a power that (for some reason) also allows him to summon a variety of weapons from thin air. He’s also able to shield himself with a magically-enhanced dodge, and teleport around the battlefield at will. He’s the only character in the game who can use any type of weapon he chooses, including spears, swords, axes, lances, and guns. And he’s the one that does all of the summoning.

Gladiolus comes from the house of Amicitia, part of the royal circle of Lucis, whose sole duty is to protect the royal family. Gladiolus (or “Gladio” for short) grew up with Noctis, forming a deep bond with the prince that goes beyond the scope of duty. He’s also the fellow responsible for teaching Noctis how to fight, and you can spar with him at any rest point if you’re ever feeling rusty. Best described as a bruiser with a heart of gold (you can tell because he has tattoos and laughs a lot), it looks like he’ll be helpful balancing out Noctis’ stormier attitude. He’s also constantly thinking of new moves for you to try out and learn as you progress, and he specializes in heavy weapons.

Noctis is a bit of a loose cannon, so it’s the job of the prim and proper Ignis to keep the prince in check. Like Gladiolus, Ignis has a storied past with the young heir, and the two have developed a trustful bond. His official description depicts him as an “unwavering voice of reason” with a “classical education” who will one day counsel Noctis when he becomes king of Lucis. For now though, he’s the group’s main battle strategist, as seen in the demo when he comes up with a plan to take down a beast that’s way too tough for our heroes to handle. He’s also the team cook,  capable of crafting dishes that offer stat bonuses in addition to looking dang tasty. His weapons of choice are a set of twin daggers.

It’s very likely that Noctis has Prompto (who looks strikingly like Cloud, if Cloud shopped at Hot Topic) to thank for some of his rebellious nature, as this womanizing troublemaker is a wanted fugitive. The two supposedly met during their school days, and though Prompto is friends with the prince of Lucis, he was raised in an inferior social class and harbors resentment about it. Not that you’d know – the guy’s super peppy and talks a lot about the wonders of his rich upbringing, so you wouldn’t think he was familiar with adversity. That’s clearly not the case though, and my guess is the whole class-difference-thing is going to come up when it’s least convenient for Noctis. He loves taking photos and you’ll be able to make use of his camera in-game, and he’s also an expert marksman, and is able to wield a variety of handguns and shotguns. 

Noctis’ pals all have a unique specialty on the field, and not just because of their unique choice of weapons. As you fight, a gauge will slowly build over time, and once it fills up enough, you can call on one of your teammates to pull off a special attack. Additionally, each member of your party has a special skill they can use off the field: Noctis can fish, Gladiolus focuses on survival, Ignis offers stat boosts with his cooking, and Prompto will take pictures along your journey. 

After (seen in trailers back when the game was known as Versus 13) due to story conflicts, Lunafreya has risen to take her place as the leading female of FF15. She’s the childhood friend of Noctis, as well as his bride-to-be, and the Oracle of Tenebrae who is said to be able to talk to the Gods. While the identity of those gods is far from certain, the Titanic being that Noctis and company are on their way to visit in the Episode Duscae demo seems like a likely candidate.

She’s no damsel in distress either, acting as a major part of the game’s plot and taking an active role in events, even if she isn’t part of your main party. There is a possibility that she will join up with Noctis as company in time, perhaps as one of the mysterious female party members Tabata has mentioned in the past. At the moment we can’t say for sure if that’s the case, but I’d put gil on it.

Lastly, every fantasy fellowship needs its battle-worn veteran, which is where the 42-year-old Cor Leonis comes in. Cor has devoted his life to studying the art of war, and is bound by duty to protect the crown, though he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Noctis. He’s a guest character that doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Noctis and co, but is good friends with King Regis. 

Final Fantasy 15’s villains are members of the scheming kingdom of Nifelheim

Until now we’ve just known the villains of FF15’s story as ‘the generic evil empire’, with a few images of old men with ratty-white beards and ominous coats tossed in for flavor. Now those old men have names, and brought a few younger compatriots along with them. In a fairly recent , director Hajime Tabata the big bad few in charge of the Nifelheim Empire, and now we’ve gotten an idea of what they actually do – that flippant-looking redhead from the FF15 announcement trailer is apparently the prime minister, and the unnerving dragoon is Aranea Highwind, captain in the Nifelheim army and possibly a distant relative of Kain. The old dudes, meanwhile, are the Empire’s resident mad scientist Verstael, and ‘former’ emperor Iedolas, who works from behind the scenes to control the country.

The report also delved into the makeup of the Nifelheim Empire, explaining that it’s a mechanized society that uses robots in place of human ground troops and decks its captains out in medieval-looking armor. But they’re distinctly lacking in magic, which Noctis’ home nation of Lucis has in spades. I think I have an idea where this whole invasion nonsense started.

Final Fantasy 15’s gameplay is an intoxicating blend of magic spells, summons, and real-time action

Final Fantasy games have traditionally adhered to the turn-based JRPG battle standard, but have been edging away from that in recent iterations, particularly Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy 13 and Type-0. FF15 takes another step away from tradition by adopting an action-heavy combat system akin to that of Kingdom Hearts, where fights unravel in real-time. Main character Noctis and crew can run around the battlefield, actively dodging attacks and following up with brutal strikes without waiting for a meter’s permission. You can also climb giant monsters when fighting them to target their weak points for massive damage.

Weapons and spells are mapped to the D-pad where they can be switched easily mid-combo depending on your situation and playstyle. Start things off with a fireball from a distance before switching to a light blade for quick attacks and then finish it off with a heavy strike from a two-handed sword. Noctics can also warp to far off points to regain his HP, and then warp back into the fray to cause even more damage. Learning when to dodge, when to block, and when to warp will also be key to keeping your HP bar in the green.

Speaking of HP, health management has changed quite a bit from previous games, too. While 0 HP has meant Game Over since roughly the dawn of time, losing all your hit points in FF15 means you enter a critical mode where your max HP is depleted every time you take a hit. If you happen to survive the encounter, your HP will only increase to that reduced maximum until you head back to camp and rest.

As for magic,  you’ll draw from elemental spots throughout the map like Final Fantasy 8 – but that’s where the similarities end. For one, it’s not tied to any of your stats, so you can cast magic without worrying about decreasing your HP or strength. It’s more like crafting: go into the menu screen, set an amount of the element to determine its power, combine with items to give it special attributes, then equip it and use it like a grenade imbued with fire, lightning, or ice power. You still have MP, which is tied to your weapon-based attacks and warping abilities, so traditional magic seems to be a bit more suited for special cases.  

It wouldn’t be Final Fantasy without some colorfully-constructed summons, and on that front, FF15 goes big. Really big. So freaking big that Noctis sits comfortably in the the palm of his summon’s hand while the creature blows away a ten-ton behemoth with an atmosphere-puncturing lightning staff. Holy freaking damn. Sadly, you might not see these summons as often as you’d like, because they can’t be called upon at will. Unlike other games in the series that let you choose when to call your magical monster backup, in FF15 your health has to drop to zero before you can unleash the beast. Still, it looks like it’ll be well worth it to witness the hell they unleash. So far we’ve seen Ramuh, Titan, Carbuncle (though he’s a lot smaller and more adorable than the others) and Leviathan. There are also a few more hiding in the official Amano artwork though we’ve yet to see what any of them look like in-game

Final Fantasy 15’s car will get you where you need to go

With such a huge open-world to explore you’re going to need something faster than walking to get around it all. With one of FF15’s central themes being that of a road trip, your car, the Regalia, is your main mode of transportation. It comes equipped with everything any ‘ladz on tour’ could possibly need, including a radio station that plays music from the entire Final Fantasy series. It’s time to shuffle or boogie.

Don’t expect Final Fantasy 15 to play like Grand Theft Auto, though. Driving is more hands-off than you’d expect – even giving you the choice of letting Ignis handle the driving for you. If you do get your hands on the wheel, your car wants to stay on the road, and it’s mainly for allowing fast passage between major destinations. If you want to explore off the beaten path, you’ll have to do so on foot, or find a Chocobo if you want to move a bit faster. You’ll also get to take to the skies after your car get’s an upgrade towards the end of the game which turns it into a particularly fancy flying machine.

Final Fantasy 15’s minigames include pinball, fishing, and more

Like in previous entries, minigames are making a return, though this time it’s pinball and fishing that take the top billing, rather than Blitzball or card games. Justice Monsters V is the name of pinball minigame which you’ll be able to play at tables in various rest stops on your journey. A standalone version will also be coming to mobiles before the release of the main game, though they might not be able to cross over fully. At the moment they’re only looking into shared leaderboards.

Fishing is also not only a relaxing way to pass time in between kingdom-saving heroics, you’ll also be able to have a fish supper, as Ignis can use whatever you catch as cooking ingredients for your evening meal. Party members also have hobbies they’ll share with you, such as Prompto using his smartphone to take photos of your adventures and potentially side-tracking your mission in order to get the perfect snap. Gladiolus, meanwhile, is an avid outdoorsman and will often request training sessions with you to work on new moves. And hey, why not – what good is a roadtrip (even one you take on to save the world) if you don’t have some fun along the way?

Final Fantasy 15’s season pass will get you more bro time 

If you want to keep the adventure rolling, Square Enix will release a season pass to keep you satisfied. Right now, it’s only available with the Digital Deluxe Edition for $84.99 or as a $24.99 upgrade to already-purchased digital pre-orders, and details are scant on what the pass actually contains, but you’ll likely get to spend some more time with Noctis’ buddies in special, exclusive missions. 

The Season Pass description says that it contains individual episodes named after Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus, as well as a ‘Booster Pack’, a ‘Holiday Pack’, and an ‘Expansion Pack’. No idea what’s in any of those yet, but Square Enix has stressed that it’s not “cut content” from the main game, and that development will only begin once the game is finished and released. Expect to hear more details about it in the coming months. 

Final Fantasy 15’s Kingsglaive movie tie-in explains the state of the Kingdom of Lucis, and you should watch it 

Kingsglaive is a two hour introduction to the world of Final Fantasy 15, explaining the political backdrop leading up to the events of the game, while introducing a few of its most important characters – and it’s pretty dang good, too. While it only got a very limited release in theaters, it’ll be available in digital form on August 30, and Blu-ray editions are coming in standalone form (potentially in October, but the delay of the game could shift that) as well as in the Deluxe and Ultimate Editions of the game. 

Final Fantasy 15’s Brotherhood anime delves into the backstory of Noctis’ buds, and it’s pretty good, too 

If you want to immerse yourself even further in Final Fantasy 15’s backstory, be sure to check out Brotherhood, a five-episode anime series exploring the motivations behind each of the main characters of the game. They’re smaller, more character-driven tales than what you’ll find in Kingsglaive, but they’re surprisingly well-written and are well worth watching. And they’re free to stream on YouTube, though if you want a physical copy of the mini-series, the only way to get it right now is through the $270 Ultimate Collector’s Edition. 

Final Fantasy 15’s free VR DLC stars Prompto 

Yep, Final Fantasy 15 is going VR as well. Don’t expect to play the entire game in virtual reality, though, as it’s more of a self-contained VR ‘experience’ putting you in Prompto’s shoes as you help your buds take down a giant behemoth with a pistol. It’s a free add-on for Final Fantasy 15, coming exclusively to the PlayStation VR platform. 

Final Fantasy 15’s A King’s Tale is a free prequel for GameStop/GAME pre-orders 

Holy crap, there’s even more Final Fantasy 15 to go around. If you pre-order at GameStop in North America or GAME in the UK, you’ll get a free game called A King’s Tale, a fictional prequel starring King Regis. Young Noctis wants a bedtime story and his dad is more than willing to oblige – and the story he tells is the setting for a pixelated side-scrolling brawler featuring many of the characters and monsters from FF15 proper.  

Related Final Fantasy 15 news

Why it’s worth waiting two more months for Final Fantasy 15
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy 15 review
The Final Fantasy 15 season pass has extra “episodes” for Noctis’ bros
Sony’s VR line-up lets you be Batman, explore Final Fantasy 15, and more
Final Fantasy 15 on Xbox One showcases Shadow of the Colossus-style titan fight
Final Fantasy 15 director explains how ‘Final Fantasy disease’ impacted development
Final Fantasy 15 huge world feels like a real place… even when it’s invaded by 100ft gods

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