I played Final Fantasy XV for about three hours last week and didn’t hate it. Actually, I really enjoyed it.

It was also the first time I’ve really played a Final Fantasy game. I’ve dabbled in the less acclaimed Final Fantasy X on PS2, and the more obscure DS title, Ring of Fates, but I’ve never dedicated any series time to the franchise. Turn-based combat usually puts me off as I tend to opt for more action-oriented, real-time combat.

With that said, between the combat mechanics and the excellently established narrative of FF XV, I suddenly have a lot of interest in the long-awaited fifteenth instalment.

It surprised me too. Not only did I have limited interest in the franchise, but the game’s development has been bogged down by delay after delay and has been previewed poorly, even by other members of the team.

Final-Fantasy-1Surprisingly, the game is good and fun to play. It is, of course, pitched at newcomers such as me. It evidently has taken inspiration from many recent Western RPGs. Rockstar, Bethesda and CD Projekt Red have been kicking goals during FF XV’s development and have set a new benchmark.

The real-time combat is fast and fluid, yet still requires still requires party management and tactics. Even within the first couple of hours, there’s substantial enemy variation, forcing me to keep on my toes and utilise every new mechanic as they were introduced.FF2Similarly, the story was intriguing. Backstory and lore are alluded to, not meticulously spelt out and it takes a turn not long after the introduction. The pre-rendered cutscenes are beautiful with facial animations explicitly conveying character emotions.

It’s not all rainbows and lollipops, though. I’ll stress it was by no means a final build of the game but, the¬†presentation is still a little rough, even if I ignore the visual bugs. Texture quality pales in comparison to cutscenes and overall polish is lacking slightly. It’s not as far away as I feared

The driving mechanics are far too restrictive. Driving from A to B is essentially automated but on the bright side, you can make a coffee and get some snacks while the game drives you about.Final-Fantasy-3

The open world falls victim to the same problem as Metal Gear Solid V; the open world seems just too sparse for my liking. It might just be isolated to the particular region of the map the demo focused on, but I fear it’ll feel underpopulated and lifeless.

On-the-whole, I was left wanting more. The story was compelling and the combat engaging enough to make me reluctant to put the controller down.

Here’s to hoping everything pans out.

Final Fantasy XV will release on PS4 and Xbox One on November 29th.