It may be that the final campfire scene in Final Fantasy XV is the single most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced through a video game. After spending 50-some odd hours with Noctis and his lovable band of dude-bros, having been absorbed into their friendships through a near-endless Road Trip to Save the World and subsequently having seen Noctis sacrifice himself ostensibly to save the world but actually to save his friends, that posthumous flashback to their final night together as they sit around a campfire—just like so many nights before only with the somber knowledge that this fire is the last fire because, in the morning, all their labors will finally reach their cruel conclusion with Noctis marching to his death—is wrenching because, more than the visually impressive game-world or the satisfaction of questing, it’s the relationships between FFXV’s four central characters that make the game worth playing.
What is most confusing about FFXV, then, is that despite getting so much right with its handling of the relationships between those four characters, the game’s presentation of its overarching story is completely incompetent. Noctis is supposed to be The One, the mythical hero who alone can save the world, except that the communication of that entire narrative framework is vague at best. His enemies and the literal gods that alternately confront and help Noctis come and go with almost no explanation, the result being that his hero’s journey is underdeveloped, underexplained and underwhelming. I mean, I get that he’s evil but who the fuck is Ardyn anyway?
The game also offers another iteration of The One in Noctis’s romantic interest, Lunafreya. Again, the game fails to develop anything more than a perfunctory narrative and relationship between what we’re led to believe are Shakespearean, star-crossed lovers. After pouring two days worth of my life into this game, if Luna really is The One for Noctis, then I’m left wondering how the hell he knows it because I sure as shit didn’t see any kind of meaningful bond between the two of them. As it is, they barely interact throughout the game, save for a handful of flashbacks to when they were prepubescent children and then when Noctis shows up just in time to see adult Luna be murdered. Theirs isn’t a compelling romance.
It seems likely that a lot of these issues and relationships are addressed and expounded upon in the litany of ancillary FFXV material that’s out there. But you shouldn’t have to watch a straight-to-DVD movie and a web series just to understand the plot of a game that you’ve paid $60 for. That’s poor storytelling. (Thanks, Marvel.)
All that said, I really did enjoy FFXV. Would play again.