Reflecting on One Year of ‘Final Fantasy XV’

Alexa Ray Corriea
Games Final Fantasy
Games Final Fantasy

Warning: This post contains spoilers for content across the Final Fantasy XV universe.

Final Fantasy XV: the gift that keeps on giving.

Since its launch on November 29, 2016, players have been treated to a constant stream of new content. Major pieces of episodic content in the form of Episode Gladiolus, Episode Prompto, updates to the main storyline including new cutscenes, and a multiplayer expansion are just a few of the many updates we’ve seen over the past year.

Final Fantasy XV
The world of Eos is big -- and still growing.

These additions have elicited both criticism and praise. Praise for developer Square Enix’s commitment to giving fans more of what they want. Criticism for possibly releasing an unfinished game, launching it too early, before it “felt” complete. Both sides of this argument are valid. But one thing is true: Final Fantasy XV has given us much over the past year. And there is more coming.

But what, exactly, does this all add up to?

A Rough Start

Final Fantasy XV’s journey began over a decade ago with the announcement of Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The game, under the direction of Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura, would be a darker tale with real-world design elements woven into it. “This is a fantasy based on reality” was the game’s tagline. But after a few teaser trailers and tech demos over the years, all news on the game stopped.

We heard nothing again until 2013, when it was announced Versus XIII had been rebranded as Final Fantasy XV. Under the direction of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Type-0 director Hajime Tabata, the game had taken a completely new direction from its original inception.

Final Fantasy XV First Hour
Episode Duscae gave us our first look at these good boys.

A little less than two years later, we got our first big taste of Final Fantasy XV. Square Enix released a free demo included with the North American launch of a localized Final Fantasy Type-0. The demo was called Episode Duscae, and offered a brief slice of combat, narrative, and world-building — a piece to show off what was coming in the finished game.

After much criticism from fans about the combat and some of the content, a new version of the demo was released for free. Episode Duscae 2.0 updated demo fixed parts of combat that players didn’t like and also included mini-quests in which protagonist Noctis could venture off alone with one of his companions. Interestingly, this latter feature was not included in the final game.

In March 2016, Square Enix released another demo for Final Fantasy XV. This one included some narrative backstory of protagonist Noctis. The Platinum Demo wasn’t mechanics focus so much as it was a piece of story. Alongside this demo, we got a release date for the main game: September 30, 2016.

final fantasy xv kingsglaive
'Kingsglaive' gave us our first look at Lady Lunafreya.

That summer saw the release of Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a CGI film prequel to the events of Final Fantasy XV. Following the main game’s release, many criticized it for being incomprehensible without having seen Kingsglaive, since the film answers many questions raised by the opening hours of the game: How did King Regis die? Why does Lunafreya have his ring? How was the city of Insomnia destroyed?

But in August, as the game was nearing it’s release date, Square Enix delayed it one more time. Final Fantasy XV finally launched worldwide on November 29, 2016.

More To Love

Final Fantasy XV has been peppered with minor updates and fixes since it’s launch. But perhaps two of the most notable updates came in the form of additional story content. An alternate version of Chapter 13 — a part of the game many players criticized as being poorly designed and tedious — was pushed to the game. In this version, you played as Gladiolus and Ignis trying to find the missing Noctis and Prompto. Then, a set of new cutscenes delving into the relationship between Lunafreya and Gentiana and shedding light on the game’s confusing cosmology elements were added to Chapter 12.

On March 28, the first piece of story content included in the season pass was released. Episode Gladiolus showed players just where the man went during a part of the game where he went missing. This episode was scarce on content, and while it did offer a closer look at Gladiolus’ past and personality — plus an introduction to XV’s version of Final Fantasy character staple Gilgamesh — it wasn’t well loved.

final fantasy XV DLC trailer
'Episode Prompto' was an emotional rollercoaster.

Episode Prompto, which launched on June 27, was another story. It divided its audience: people loved the story but weren’t a fan of the DLC’s final boss fight. However, the draw of learning more about Prompto’s identity and painful childhood — plus another chance to run alongside fan-favorite Aranea — was irresistible.

But perhaps August 28 saw the oddest addition to the Final Fantasy XV content family. The Assassin’s Festival — which is still running until January 31 of next year — is a crossover with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise. It tells the story of an ancient assassin who saved the city of Altissia, and gives players the chance to earn Assassin-themed costumes and gear for their heroes.

But Wait, There’s More!

Earlier this month saw the release of Monster of the Deep, an entirely separate gaming experience minorly connected to Final Fantasy XV. In 2016, Square Enix announced an entirely new Final Fantasy XV experience for the PlayStation virtual reality headset. It was a game in which you play as Prompto and shoot monsters. This demo was only shown once at E3 2016, and then it vanished. Later Square Enix revealed they had canceled the project and replaced it with something else.

Monster of the Deep
'Monster of the Deep' is a very different kind of experience, thanks to VR.

Monster of the Deep (check out FANDOM’s review) is a VR reworking of Final Fantasy XV’s fishing game, with a thin story and a sometimes difficult main mechanic. While the game itself isn’t great, it’s a special piece of lore. It world-builds for the wider Final Fantasy XV universe. It may not be the best, but for what it set out to do, it’s great.

This same month we got Final Fantasy XV: Comrades (read FANDOM’s review), a multiplayer expansion allowing players to team up with three others to complete small raids against the world of Eos’ monsters. At times it’s oversimplistic. But it provides a significant amount of story — some we needed to hear. Comrades takes place during the 10-year time skip at the end of Final Fantasy XV. It gives players a deeper, better sense of the post-apocalyptic world Noctis wakes up to in the end. It’s beautifully crafted, albeit a tad on the shallow side mechanics-wise, but it does include a surprisingly robust character creator.

More to Come

And that’s not all. Before the year is out we’ll get Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, a scaled-down, episodic story-only mobile version of the main game. Then next month we’ll get the last piece from the season pass: the highly anticipated narrative DLC, Episode Ignis.

Director Tabata has suggested in different interviews that there’s more to come for Final Fantasy XV in 2018. But he’s also said that it’s time to finish the project and move on. Only time will tell how much more the world of Eos we’ll get.

final fantasy xv
Looking to the future.

But looking back, one thing’s for certain. The team behind Final Fantasy XV took a gamble on world-building through multiple mediums. They also chose to release them steadily over the course of nearly two and a half years. We didn’t have all the answers after finishing Final Fantasy XV. But the unanswered questions and mysteries were in its favor. We sought answers, theorized, took to crazy-long Reddit threads to decipher Eos’ mythology and hypothesize on how Ignis lost his eyesight.

In leaving so much left unsaid until later, Square Enix brought Final Fantasy XV’s fans together. They left the doors open, and we went through them as a community. And once we got our answers, we celebrated and mourned as one. And maybe, moving forward, we’ll have more opportunities to do so alongside Noctis and friends.

Alexa Ray Corriea
Alexa Ray is Fandom's Senior Editor for Games, with a borderline unhealthy interest in Kingdom Hearts (she literally wrote the book on it) and all JRPGs, with a more healthy affinity for the anime. When she's not gaming, she's obsessing over Star Wars, all things Disney, and Taiwanese glove puppets.
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