Don’t Sleep on Getting Final Fantasy XV Free on PS5
The road to Insomnia.
Road trips aren’t a common theme in video games, as it’s often difficult to match the scope of what a real location-hopping trip would entail. In 2016, after nearly a decade of tumultuous development and rebooting, Final Fantasy XV tackled the idea of a “fantasy road trip,” and did it with gusto. FFXV is a bit of a baffling game, disjointed and messy in some ways, but wildly ambitious and utterly charming in others. It ends up in one of the most unforgettable experiences the series has to offer, one that wouldn’t be what it is without its quirks and flaws.
FFXV tells the story of Noctis Lucis Caelum, the young prince of the flourishing country Insomnia. In a bid to make peace with the militaristic Niflheim Empire, Noctis agrees to an arranged marriage with Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, the princess of one of the Empire’s vassal states. With this setup Noctis heads out on a lengthy road trip to get to his wedding, accompanied by his three closest friends and vassals.
Rather infamously, FFXV is split into two major halves. The first focuses on the open-world road trip where you travel around the world of Eos. The second half focuses almost entirely on linear story segments that lead up to an explosive ending. While it may feel jarring initially, this split serves a purpose.
The first half of the game really focuses on getting to know the main party, taking ample time to build the relationship between Noctis and his friends. You learn how Ignis has basically been an older brother to Noctis throughout his life, how Prompto learned to overcome some of his insecurities, and how the weight of responsibility has affected Gladio. These are four incredibly complex and well-written characters, and XV is the best Final Fantasy has ever been at showing “brotherly” bonds.
Part of what works about the road trip portion of the game is simply how much fun it is to drive around Eos and hang out. The world of Eos simply feels vibrant, and it’s especially interesting to see smaller rest stops and hotels dotted around the map, on top of larger cities and settlements.
FFXV is loaded with little details that help make its world and characters feel rich, like Ignis asking if a rest stop has his favorite Ebony Coffee. A huge part of this is the photo system, which has Prompto snapping photos of your journey along the way. It’s a remarkable system that automatically takes shots as you play, which you can then review every time you rest at a camp or hotel. You can save and edit any photos you want, and it really helps FFXV lean into that road trip feel, showing the gang just hanging out and having fun.
Because of that laser focus on the main party, however, you don’t get as much of a sense of the overall world as you might in other Final Fantasy games. Again, though, that serves a purpose, as the ending becomes an emotional rollercoaster that plays with your attachment to the main party.
It’s also important to note that the version of FFXV in the PlayStation Plus Collection is the Royal Edition, which packs in all of the character DLC episodes and a host of new content. This includes new ways to explore, like the Royal Vessel boat, and even a new dungeon at the end of the game. A lot of this new content expands on the stories and personalities of Noctis’ friends even more, and help flesh out the story in meaningful ways.
Of course, a huge part of any Final Fantasy game is the combat system, and FFXV was the first game to take steps into the realm of action, which we’ve seen further honed in Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI. Combat is a bit different as it’s not full action, but rather you hold a button down to have Noctis use auto-attack combos. There’s a big focus on dodging and timing, as well as utilizing different weapons that enemies are weak against.
One of the interesting changes made by the Royal Edition is that you can unlock abilities to swap to other party members during combat, whereas in the original game, only Noctis was playable. Each of the bros has a wildly different playstyle; Prompto has shooter mechanics, Gladio feels like a hack-and-slash, and Ignis falls in line with an action RPG. Being able to play as all four characters helps make FFXV’s combat system feel more dynamic and vibrant.
There are plenty of criticisms to weigh at FFXV, from a lack of a hard mode for combat to the way it underdevelops characters like Lunafreya. Despite all that, however, it remains one of the most unique and imaginative entries in the entire Final Fantasy series. It’s weird and experimental at every turn, and that’s a big part of what makes Noctis’ journey so entrancing from start to finish.