When I started my journey as Noctis in Final Fantasy XV, I was intimidated by all of the game mechanics and narrative elements that were immediately dropped in my lap. The tutorials didnt give me much outside of the basics I needed to know to survive, opting to spare all the detailed information needed to truly enjoy the intricacies of many in-game systems like combat. Sure, it explained that I needed to rest with my party each night, prepare for dangerous encounters with a meal, and visit just about every rest stop I could, but without spending nearly an hour in the tutorial room? I would have been completely lost with both combat and the game’s main narrative — thankfully though, that feeling didn’t last.

Once I started completing the main questline and participating in the open world, I began to learn more about the combat system and other aspects of the gameplay. I started swapping between different weapons and collecting ones for Noctis and his friends, using various abilities from the Ascension System to power up my characters for longer encounters. With time, I slowly came to understand what this new world of Final Fantasy was about despite being absent from the franchise for ten years, and I learned that you don’t have to be a long-term Final Fantasy fan to truly appreciate everything Final Fantasy XV has to offer.

While it’s true that the beginning of Final Fantasy XV isn’t one of the best the franchise has seen from a narrative standpoint, it isn’t a start that simply leaves you hanging. A few panels exist during the in-game tutorial which are essentially designed for the sole purpose of helping you understand the general happenings, motivations, and story at the center of Final Fantasy XV’s main questline. You don’t want to miss these regardless of whether you’re a new or returning player, namely because most of the exposition we’re used to seeing in a Final Fantasy title has been hashed out in the companion film and anime series.

They do plan on bringing this back to the game in future updates however, though it isn’t completely necessary. If you’re still feeling a little confused about the world after checking over the information the tutorial has to offer, it might be a good idea to visit both Kingsglaive (the film) and Brotherhood (the anime) for an afternoon once you’ve started up Final Fantasy XV.

That being said, nearly every element of Final Fantasy XV (including the spotty starting exposition) begins to grow on you the more time you spend with the game. Just like the first time in The Witcher III or Skyrim, Final Fantasy XV begins to present some of the best things it has to offer around six hours in, once you’ve unlocked the complete open world and equipped your party with some handy abilities. This is also about the time you’ll start to hear more from Noctis, Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis as you cruise the open road, discover a ludicrous amount of side quests to dive into, and experience some of the best boss battles the franchise has to offer — it just takes some time to ramp up rather than throwing you straight in.

If you’re a little skeptical like I was about getting started with Final Fantasy XV, don’t be. It’s a joyride at its best, and a bit of a grind at its worst, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a shot if you interested in the fantastical story of Noctis and his bros. Because, after all, what’s better than guys being dudes?

Photos via Nicholas Bashore