Square Enix released its once console exclusive Final Fantasy XV for PC audiences with the aptly named Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition just over a year on. The question that has to be asked is, whether the wait has been kind and how well it stacks up with a multitude of PC configurations people have. Naturally we can only speak from our own experiences to confirm any anecdotal evidence from many others who might come up with technical problems associated with PC gaming. Sadly, Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition doesn’t escape a selection of technical problems and quite frankly for some people is a bit of a mess despite its obvious prowess over the console release. It kind of reinforces the whole point of console gaming, where you download and play whereas on PC there are often hoops to jump through and pitfalls to avoid as a punishment for opting to play the supposed best version. So, have a read of our Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition review and determine whether the wait has been worthwhile or should have been longer all things considered.
First things first though. Final Fantasy XV tells the story of Prince Noctis and his three pals who start the adventure on a journey where our lead character prince is to be married to his betrothed princess Lunafreya – something along the lines of bringing peace to the lands in the process. However, there are some dark politics and nefarious characters at hand throwing a huge spanner in the works to scupper any sort of lasting peace. We shall say no more because a story based RPG such as this one really needs to be experienced first hand and having things spoiled too much takes away from the initial impact of story events when playing. What we can talk about though is what is included in the package, how it all plays and the gameplay features and whether the culmination of all three makes for a worthwhile investment.
Starting with what is included in this Windows Edition is the core game and all of its features but with the addition of some new threads for the crew to mess around with and some extra items to equip – one of which prevents leveling up the characters for added challenge. There is an expanded Insomnia City Ruins: Map and then some additional extras for customization of the Regalia vehicle, a first person mode and then the creme de la creme HDR 10 support, 4K support, high resolution textures (coming in at a whopping 63 Gb) and a nice mixture of graphics effects to mess around with. On top of this there are separate stories for the three friends, so that’s Gladiolus, Promto and Ignis campaigns as added DLC, and then the multiplayer Comrades mode. Not bad then coming in at £34.99 via Steam.
All is good on the content front and regardless of what gaming PC or laptop you own the gameplay is pretty fresh offering real-time combat, featuring lots of chain moves with the three companions against a nice selection of well designed beasts. The combat comes in fast and furious allowing the choice of magic and melee attacks on the fly. There is a choice also of a more tactical wait option for those who desire it, but the active mode feels just right here. Considering the open nature of the maps (outside of dungeons of course) you’re free to pick and choose your fights and if encountering an enemy a little too powerful for your team the choice of running away remains a valid tactic. Players are free to explore the lands visiting safe havens along the way, various tipsters offering monster hunter style quests and the usual assortment of errands – which are perhaps not becoming of royalty, but whatever. There’s a decent amount of content to engross players whether that’s following the main story arc, running the side activities, simply goofing around leveling up or enhancing each of the characters special skills (Noctis is a dab hand at fishing). It has to be said though, compared to some of the previous Final Fantasy games and despite being tied to the CGI Kingsglaive movie the game’s story doesn’t feel as epic. With the four characters it’s designed to be more of a “bro” adventure and for all intents and purposes watching each character evolve is pretty neat once you wrestle past some opening fluff. However, overall the premise pales in comparison to the plight of some of the series past lead characters who are simply much more interesting than the brooding prince – admittedly this is rather subjective.
As a game and having rinsed out the original PS4 release, Final Fantasy XV ticks all the right boxes and works for what it sets out to achieve. It’s well produced and offers some fresh takes on old ideas (tents and camping anyone?). There is a lot to like about this offering which despite lack of diverse cast to pick and choose from in your party throughout the adventure does a grand job of keeping one’s interest.
So, now the elephant in the room so to speak and to be clear not everyone is going to experience issues with the performance. As mentioned, the game is a bit of a pain and as of the time of writing, a patch has just been released which fixes the massive FPS drop when using summons (a feature that appears later on in the story) and speeds up the initial loading. Great! However, a bigger issue and one we have encountered regardless of what settings are used is some sort of memory leak which builds until it crashes to desktop. For us this happens around every 30 minutes of playing time no matter what is done within that time frame. It’s a royal pain and not isolated to our system either as a number of fellow PC gamers are suggesting the same issue. If you happen to be in a dungeon between auto saves then you might have to repeat some sections. So it’s good a patch has been released so soon after release but sadly not addressing an issue which affects more people starting out. Patches and fixes are a given in this day and age, but this particular issue is pretty damaging to the experience.
That said, the visual splendor has to be commended as the year long wait has been worth it in terms of visuals. There are a neat select of Nvidia specific effects such as hair-works and soft shadows, enhanced ambient occlusion to give the game a most vibrant and detailed look way beyond the PS4 and Xbox One. When playing in native 4K with the high resolution texture pack installed and with HDR 10 enabled it’s a sight to behold although mostly just falls short of maintaining 60 fps (more like 40) when using a GTX 1080 Ti. Settling for 1440p and keeping closer to 60 fps is a much better option right now as the graphics still look incredible, with fine details showing off more than previously seen. Square has catered well to the PC audience and to be fair have provided the best platform to experience their vision – aside from the damned technical issues which will no doubt be fixed sooner rather than later – or at least we hope so given the speed of the latest patch.
Audio is also of a high standard as well with a pleasant orchestral soundtrack although the best feature is being able to drive around in the Regalia and listen to the soundtracks of past games as well whilst you soak up the scenery outside of fast travelling.
As mentioned there is a lot of content included in the package, so players are going to get their monies worth and then some. Especially with multiple plays (you can up the difficulty as the default might be a touch too easy for some) and the multiplayer. The only gripe here is a seeming lack of players in the Comrades mode but at least there is AI to make up the numbers and for those who wish to play through its campaign solo.
It’s pretty hard not to come away from Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition impressed and that’s in the face of some pretty serious gaming interruption which whilst highly frustrating needs fixing pronto. That said, gamers looking to dive-in need to be aware that in its current state you are potentially going to be getting a disrupted experience which won’t sit well with those looking to embark on longer gaming sessions, or in fact anyone on the receiving end. Final Fantasy XV is a good game, great even when it all works and it’s this promise PC gamers have to cling on to until Square can sort out the technicalities. In short, the Windows Edition is the definitive and best platform to play the game on or at least it will be eventually. So with that caveat in mind, and it not being reflected in the score below Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is well worth the purchase especially if you own a high end system (and HDR 10 compliant monitor or TV) to run it with all the bells and whistles enabled. Except you might do well to just hold off the purchase until some more patches are released – such is gaming these days whether that’s on console or PC.
Score 9/10 – (when it’s fully working)