Final Fantasy XV, out November 29th for PS4 and Xbox One, is so desperate to tell you it’s for you – whoever you are – that it puts the message there every time it loads. “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers,” it says, as if saying it was the same as it being true.
Square Enix knows the stakes are high for the future of its 30-year-old, 115-million-selling cash cow. But it’s also inexplicably chosen to try and rebuild the franchise’s all-conquering past on the 10 year-old bones of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a spin-off-that-never-was from the underwhelming mess of the last main installment. It’s an achievement of sorts that anything could be rescued from those troubled beginnings, but the question is whether what it’s become represents a new start or a final dead-end. And after spending a decade being reshaped and upgraded, and changing both director and console generation on the way, it’s no surprise that FFXV is a game that never manages to escape the ghosts of its own making.
You set off into the world of Eos on a road trip while the world around you is engulfed by a darkness that the game never properly explains but still expects you to overcome. You and your band of brothers – looking for all the world like some kind of All Saints-sponsored, Backstreet-Boys-Go-Emo-themed comeback tour – are the first obvious break from series tradition, replacing the typically diverse and peculiar casts you’ve spent hours getting to know before with a homogeneously bland maleness. It’s a story of would-be camaraderie starring four people I’d avoid if I saw them on the street.