Final Fantasy XV. The game that was in development for 10 years and went through three directors. How could it be anything short of success? While this game wasn’t a complete failure, it most certainly did not live up to its hype for most, and the series’ fanbase is split on whether this was a good game or not. Many people try to blame certain aspects of the game for its… less than favorable reviews, but I believe there is no one answer for why this game failed at what it was trying to achieve. Rather, it comes down to many not-so-small reasons that spelled a recipe for disaster.
THE OPEN-WORLD ENVIRONMENT
This seems to be one of the smaller reasons why this game failed. …At least compared to the other reasonings. The overworld is very, very, vast. Not quite as vast as Breath of the Wild, but vast nonetheless. When you have an overworld this expansive, it’s important to fill it. Which the developers did not. You have your main towns, some dungeons, a few outposts… But most of it is empty wastelands with the occasional mob or boss walking around. Most of the time you find yourself driving for a good five to ten minutes before hitting anything remotely interesting. Quite frankly, there’s not much to do…
RELEASING THE GAME BEFORE IT WAS FINISHED
This is another minor reason. Plenty of story scenes and even an entire story PATH were added in a future update. But the biggest update was the addition of playable characters. With this update, you could now play as Gladius, Ignis, and Prompto, something that had been teased years before the game’s release. While I recently made a post about games milking DLC as a way to “finish” their games, I do not believe that was the case here. I believe that this functionality simply wasn’t ready at the time of release. This game was delayed to oblivion, it didn’t make sense to delay it again. But it did feel rather odd that this wasn’t included in the base game.
The story is often the aspect that gets slammed the most. Most players will agree that the story feels rushed. After ten years of developing this game, THIS is what they come up with? Final Fantasy XV’s story is by no means a bad story. It’s just not necessarily what you would think of when you think of the next main series game. Or a game that you’ve been waiting 10 years for. When the game starts out, it sounds like it’s going to be this big adventure. That gets squashed within the first couple of hours. The first half of the story is shallow, focusing on Noctis’ relationships with his three friends Gladius, Ignis, and Prompto, as well as their journey to Altissia for Noctis’ wedding. It’s a very lighthearted journey despite the fact that Noctis is essentially a wanted man. There’s no sense of dread, no sense of urgency… The only sense of dread is in the music.
That all changes when you get to the second half of the game. All of the lighthearted feelings are gone. Suddenly everyone’s world is turned upside down, and there’s not much time left. Oh yeah, and the open-world overworld is gone! Yep, the empty overworld is replaced with linear passageways designed to take you from story point to story point. Without spoiling too much, the only way to get back to the open world is by this gimmick of talking to someone who will take you back in time to before this… dreadful event happened.
Then there’s the matter of Luna. Noctis’ betrothed. Throughout trailers, she looked like she would be an integral part of the story. I mean, come on! She’s Noctis’ betrothed! Some had even theorized she might be a party member.
Nope. Couldn’t be further from the truth. She shows up in short cutscenes throughout your journey to Altissia. Cutscenes that add nothing to her character other than she’s a kind person seeking to help others. When you meet her in Altissia, she’s not much different. This is the most barebones main characters in the Final Fantasy series. Even in the movie where she has a central role, her dialogue is incredibly bland. Speaking of…
In my opinion, this is one of the biggest things that hurt the game. Square Enix invested SO much money and time on this movie. The movie took three years to produce, and only the best actors were chosen to voice the three main characters. The movie itself was mixed.
But WHY did this movie hurt the game? Well, up until the movie was announced, Insomnia was to be a playable area. I mean before the end of the game. There was even talk that halfway through the game you would meet up with Luna in Insomnia where she would become one of your party members as you played through her story. This was from articles well before the game was released, and are now lost.
The point is: The movie is drawn out WAY longer than necessary. Obviously, it had to be done in order to give the movie length, otherwise it would have been a very short film. But that’s the point! This could have been included in the main game and could have fleshed out characters such as Luna, Ravus, and even Noctis.
It feels like they spent more time creating as much media as possible to advertise this game. Movies, anime, food promotions, collaborations, real-life cars… All of this time could have been dedicated to making Final Fantasy XV the best game it could be. Not milking a game that wasn’t even out at the time.
This is by far the biggest reason Final Fantasy XV failed. Because Square Enix somehow managed to piss off their existing fans.
Okay, this wasn’t really Square Enix’s fault. They just have a really bad habit of showcasing games WAY before they’re ready to be released. Ten years, to be exact. I’m looking at you, Kingdom Hearts 3.
Final Fantasy XV was originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a game set in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII. It was supposed to be a sort of side game to go along with XIII, and even Type 0. While Type 0 retained a lot of its connections to XIII’s world, XV did not.
The game was first shown in 2006 at E3, as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. You know, exclusive for a console that hadn’t even been released at the time. Another trailer was shown in 2008, then the game went relatively silent for a couple of years. Then we got this impressive trailer in 2011.
I think we can all agree that Square Enix was a little in over their heads when it came to Versus XIII. The game was originally going to be developed under the same engine as Final Fantasy XIII, Crystal Tools. Yeah, no. Around 2011 they realized that engine wasn’t going to be powerful enough and created another engine, which is what we presumably see here.
In 2012, there were many rumors that the game had been canceled. ….We literally just saw it the year before. What the heck? Anyway, in 2013 the game resurfaced at E3 and was revealed to be Final Fantasy XV.
As you can see, this game was supposedly much darker than the Final Fantasy XV we got. It also replaced Luna with a girl known as Stella.
Stella is just Luna with a different hairstyle and name. No idea why they decided to make that change.
The developers have stated time and time again that most of what we see in Versus XIII is what we got in XV. The story only had minor differences, such as the removal of the Goddess Etro. Because… That was a XIII thing and this game is no longer connected to that universe. Though that story point was quite interesting. Those who had near-death experiences were granted the power to see Etro’s life when another person dies. While they did keep the fact that Noctis had a near-death experience, they oddly removed this bit entirely. Originally it was going to be the reason why Noctis was able to teleport and use certain weapons, but this eventually got changed to just being a quirk of Lucian royalty.
Fans often make the complaint that Stella was so much more interesting than Luna. We got a five-minute trailer of her explaining to Noctis who Etro is, and that’s it. How can you argue she’s more interesting than Luna? How? The developers have also assured fans that Luna and Stella are essentially no different from each other. Though I do prefer Stella’s design…
Many fans shrugged off the developers’ responses, insisting that there was more to Versus XIII that was scrapped as if Versus XIII had an entirely different story than what we got. However, after doing some digging, I’m inclined to believe the developers.
Versus XIII was a game VERY early in development that was shown off to the public way too soon. There was nothing concrete about this game. Just ideas floating around in the developers’ minds, given form through trailers. Even the gameplay might not be real gameplay, but something that was created to assure fans that this game was in development. Everything about this game seemed to be a lie, something constructed to keep fans interested until they could find a way to make this ridiculous project work.
However, if this game wasn’t shown when it was, I’m almost certain that we never would have gotten Final Fantasy XV. They NEEDED the pressure from fans to keep them working on the game. If that pressure wasn’t there, I’m sure they would have scrapped the project before anything concrete came of it.
It’s unfortunate that so many fans point to Versus XIII and say “We want that! Where did that go? Why didn’t we get that?” When that never truly existed, to begin with. What we got was Square Enix’s best attempt at making that happen. It might not be as dark as the original trailer portrayed it to be, but the story we got isn’t a bad one. It might be dragging at times, rushed at times, but it should be judged for what it is. Not what it never was.
I’ll see you guys when Kingdom Hearts 4 releases and inevitably fails for not being Versus XIII.