It's been interesting to see the response to Hajime Tabata's announcement that Final Fantasy XV will be getting a number of updates and fixes. Though hardly the concensus, a number of people have said in effect, "Final Fantasy XV is broken. Wait until the patches."
The free updates were announced earlier today, and will be released alongside the already planned DLC. They include:
- Updates to Chapter 13's gameplay.
- New cutscenes that elaborate upon the story and other improvements to the second half.
- A New Game Plus.
- The ability to use important NPCs as playable characters at some point. Square Enix is also working on a customizable avatar system.
While these patches will certainly improve on the overall experience, I don't entirely agree with the sentiment that players should wait until they arrive. While it certainly has its flaws, as I discussed in my review, it's more complete than Metal Gear Solid V, which kind of trailed off and never really picked up again. On the whole, I found it a very satisfying experience, and I'm actually eager to pick it up again once the new content comes out.
With that said, let me quickly answer some of the charges I've seen:
Charge: The story is incomprehensible without the patches
Final Fantasy XV is a sprawling story with a very narrow focus. The story follows Noctis and his group; but just offscreen, it's clear that big things are happening with the Empire and the world at large. Occasionally, you see this firsthand. Other times, you find out secondhand.
But despite its rather dizzying array of plot points, I found that I understood the story and its stakes quite clearly. It has its heroes and villains, as well as those in-between, and they all revolve around the core of the story, which is Noctis's growth into a proper king. Final Fantasy XV realizes that arc very nicely.
I'd actually liken it to Harry Potter, which is another story with a fairly narrow focus. On occasion, it shifts to other perspectives, but otherwise it's mostly told from Harry's perspective. One consequence of that approach is that big events occasionally happen offscreen. But the advantage of that approach is that we're much closer to the main characters, which makes it easier to sympathize to their emotional reactions. One specific moment that comes to mind in Final Fantasy XV is when Noctis and company hear a particularly shocking bit of news on the radio, and are left to wonder what happened and what they should do. It works because you receive only the smallest glimpse of what actually happens, leaving you to identify with the sense of confusion and fear being felt by the main characters. Sometimes it's better not to have a specific perspective.
Now, would I like to know more about Ravus or the group in general? Sure, absolutely. I actually thought the conclusion to Ravus's story was pretty effective (Protip: Read the papers), but I was definitely invested enough in Final Fantasy XV's world to want to know more. At the end of the day, though, their backgrounds and motivations weren't crucial to the story at hand.
Charge: Chapter 13 is unplayably bad
I had to think for a moment to remember what Chapter 13 was all about. Then I remembered: Oh right, that.
I won't say too much for want of spoilers, but it's basically a really long dungeon that does away with the core combat in favor of a stealth mechanic. And when I say long, I mean really long. As I noted in my review, it dramatically overstays its welcome, and I actually found myself teleporting back to Lucis on a few occasions just to get away from it. Like everyone else, I didn't particularly like it.
But unplayably bad? Eh.
At the end of the day, it's just one part of the story, and it's worth getting through to see the end, which is actually pretty great. I wouldn't really want to wait until the next big patch addresses Chapter 13. After all, it's not like it's going to reduce its fundamental design or its length. As far as I can tell, the biggest change will be buffing the weapon you get, which is welcome but not a massive gamechanger. It would really require a complete rethink to make it anything but awful.
Chapter 13 will always be remembered for being a really bad dungeon, but it would be a mistake to judge Final Fantasy XV solely by its inclusion, much as it would be a mistake to judge Xenogears by the Tower of Babel (though I still hated it). That's not to say that the developers are immune from criticism, but Final Fantasy XV is ultimately much bigger (and more enjoyable) than all that. When I look back on Final Fantasy XV, I will remember it for its lush open world, not for a single awful dungeon.
Then again, that may be because I wiped it from my memory.
Charge: This is proof that Final Fantasy XV was released in an incomplete state
By that logic, no game is complete anymore, because almost every game that comes out now receives months of post-launch support. For that reason, I'm not surprised at all that Final Fantasy XV is getting a whole bunch of post-release support. I'm only surprised that features like New Game Plus are being released for free.
I'll grant that it appears that a bunch of content appears to have been left on the cutting room floor, which is not uncommon in a game of this scale, but most of that has been pure speculation. As it stands, Final Fantasy XV holds up just fine, even when it hits the more linear portion of the story. Its story comprises a complete and satisfying arc, and there is plenty to do in the open world both before you finish the game and after.
Of course, Final Fantasy XV is by no means perfect, but the development team seems to be doing their best to respond to feedback and add in requested features as quickly as possible. That's the way of game development these days: every game is a live platform that gradually changes and evolves based on player feedback. Final Fantasy XV is no different.
In the short-term, it's definitely worth finishing up now, even with the patches arriving in the near future. It's a good and interesting game, and one of the freshest experiences I've had all year. If you're enjoying it now, don't deprive yourself just because some improvements are coming down the line. Who knows, you may wrap up just in time for the New Game Plus.