Final Fantasy XV is a massive game that could have been so much more. After only 34 hours I have no desire to continue playing which makes me regret paying the full $60 at launch. Although Square Enix has promised the game will be continuously updated and improved over time, having "finished" the story in such an incomplete state, the likelihood that I will return is slim. Spoilers ahead.
After ten years of development, the overall level of quality in FFXV leaves much to be desired especially in the latter half of the game. The biggest problem with Final Fantasy XV is the sheer number of characters involved in this story that get no where near enough screen time to actually impact the story. In the early section of the game, Noctis cries over the death of an old man that had barely any screen time. Presumably the player is supposed to feel some connection but the whole scene felt disjointed and poorly written. More importantly, characters that are pivotal to the story such as Emperor Aldercapt or Luna's brother Ravus get glossed over with barely an impact. In fact, for someone that's supposedly pivotal to the story, the Emperor dies off screen and serves almost no purpose. The player can find his coat in chapter 13, the worst section of the game.
The Regalia has many issues, chief among them is that it isn't fun to deal with. It takes forever to fast travel on the PS4, driving the Regalia is the better alternative for most of the game however, it artificially caps the speed of the Regalia and prevents the player from any discernible movement left or right. When the player is in control, the driving mechanics feel heavily restricted and incredibly boring. There is almost no traffic in the game, artificially controlling how the player drives is a needless act.
When Ignis is driving, the player can change radio stations, interact with a bare bones shop and do little else. Simply allowing players to edit party gear would help ease the tedium of watching the game play itself. There are a few times where one of the guys will say something the player needs to respond to during driving, whether it be going to a photo spot or resting for the night. These could still be in the game while in a menu by giving an auditory cue to press a button and switch out to dialogue or to indicate the drive has ended. There are simple changes to the regalia and how the player interacts with it that will drastically improve the overall game.
There are several characters that join the party from time to time over the course of the game. Iris, Gladiolus' sister, acts as a dedicated healer with little to no combat prowess. I found her to be quite useful at the time and would have liked to have the option to keep her around, perhaps integrate her into the party. The same goes for Aranaea the dragoon. In one of the best boss fights in the game, Aranaea proves herself to be a quick mercenary that can dish out heavy damage all over the battlefield. When she joins the party later, after Gladiolus leaves for absolutely no reason, she dominates the dungeon searching for mythril in a surprisingly fun series of fights. Unfortunately her writing comes across as stale at best. Both survive the apocalypse at the end of the game and are said to be thriving taking on demons and defending people. There is absolutely no reason why they aren't able to join the party in the post game, outside of glitches that allow Aranaea to join the party.
As the game progresses it becomes progressively more linear. Around the mid game, players are boxed in with limited ways to level and are forced to make due even if they are extremely under leveled. This is a mistake that Final Fantasy made before, as players in Final Fantasy X encountered a section where the only usable character has to be over leveled before entering otherwise the game is incredibly punishing. Eventually, in chapter 13, Noctis loses all his fellow friends and has all his abilities and weapons blocked. He is forced to fight alone through a series of boring maze like sequences with only slow magic and eventually a weak sword. The developers clearly want to make the player feel as frustrated, demoralized and confused as the main character does with the thought that things will all work out in the triumphant end to the fighting, making it more emotionally appealing for the player. At best, it was heavy handed albeit with good intentions. Unfortunately the reward is far from good enough to justify the frustration.
At the end of the lengthy chapter, Noctis is sucked into the last remaining crystal of power. He convenes with the being Bahamut and absorbs the strength of the crystal. It takes ten years in which the world is decimated by demons. When Noctis returns, he takes the fight to the true evil, a former Lucian king named Ardyn Caelum. The Astral gods that bestowed power to the Caelum line, of which both Ardyn and Noctis are a part of, created the chain of events that destroyed the world by one of the people the gods empowered to save it. The fight itself is horribly designed, introducing new mechanics with no time to develop. It has no checkpoints during the several stage boss fight and has camera controls that cannot keep up with two characters with warping abilities when it barely follows the player during normal combat. The previous boss Ifrit was majorly difficult but exceptionally fun, making the half baked actual final boss all the more underwhelming and frustrating.
The final cutscene rolls, culminating in the destruction of the immortal demon Ardyn and the death of Noctis, followed immediately by a scene of Noctis and Luna on their wedding day, which never actually happened, as they fall asleep together on the throne. The world is still completely destroyed, most of humanity has been wiped out but the player is supposed to feel rewarded for ridding the world of the demon lord. It is a disjointed narrative to the interactions of the four friends trying to save their world. Across the entirety of the game, there are glimmers of the grand Final Fantasy Square Enix wanted to tell, and it would have been an epic tale. Unfortunately that is not the tale that was published, and it was not the tale I played.