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Final Fantasy XV Review

Posted by | PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
We played on Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV is a game about a long road trip taken with friends. It all starts in the most idyllic way possible. It sputters. It comes to a full stop at points. There are arguments. There are plenty of outright fights. But, it all concludes in an almost surreal way. The funny thing about it is that I can’t imagine a better analogy for my experience playing the game.

I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this review a dozen times over in the last few days because I was (and still am) having difficulty putting my feelings into words. I have been anxiously waiting for this game almost as long as I have had children. My love for the Final Fantasy franchise is well documented so this is a tough one. But, I am a professional (sort of) so here it goes.

Final Fantasy XV is by no means perfect. There is no way that a game in development for as long as it was could be. But, it is a remarkable game that stands alongside its peers. Very few people will mark this as the high point of the series, but that’s ok. XV was never meant to be the best. It was meant to be a reminder to fans (lapsed and otherwise) what Final Fantasy is all about: transformation.

Story

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Final Fantasy XV follows the adventure of Prince Noctis and his three best friends as they travel, via a sick ride called the Regalia, to his arranged marriage to the Oracle Lunafreya. This is as straightforward of a premise as you can imagine, but things don’t stay so simple very long.

(This isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens very quickly.) Noctis’s home kingdom of Lucis comes under attack very quickly and succumbs to the might of their neighbor Nifflehiem. Everything from that point forward funnels our heroes toward an epic conflict.

I won’t lie to you. The story takes some wacky turns, but I found myself legitimately interested in what was going on and what was going to happen next with every twist.

It is impossible to talk about the story without addressing the main characters. Noctis is joined on his journey by his three best friends (Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto). Their friendship is a focal point of everything that happens. You see how it impacts each of them and you see the stress that it puts on their friendships. The real key is that this is a group of men who truly care about each other. There is none of the obnoxious testosterone-fueled bravado that we find in other games. The fact that I was able to see men on screen that were genuine and honest with each other and their feelings was refreshing.

Gameplay

The biggest difference from previous games in the series that people will notice, aside from aesthetics, is that XV is an action RPG. They have stripped away the turned based combat from previous games and replaced it with a fast-paced battle system that requires you to warp around the battlefield and switch between a variety of weapons to help build combos on your enemies. The description I gave may make it sound chaotic, but it doesn’t take much time at all before you are racing around the battlefield like a crazy person

One theme that XV manages to reinforce through gameplay mechanics is how small and personal this journey is for Noctis and company in spite of how epic their quest is. The biggest expression of this theme comes in the idea that the game is broken down into days. You are all but forced to rest at campsites throughout the world each night. While resting you are able to bank the exp that you earned during the day and you can even have Ignis combine ingredients you found in the field to make stat buffing food items. The fact is that these adventurers on a world spanning quest to save all mankind

The Rating

Final Fantasy XV is rated T for teen. The bulk of that T rating comes from the combat. Realistic characters are participating in action-packed combat against all manner of robots and fantastic beasts. The rest of the T rating comes from some mild language.

At the end of the day, FFXV is not a game for children. It earns its T rating and parents should be confident in that.

The Take Away

Final Fantasy XV won’t go down in history as one of the best games in the series. But, it is an excellent game that is worth playing. Final Fantasy fans, especially lapsed ones, should absolutely play this game. Everyone else? This should be on your radar if you like stylish action RPGs.

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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 5: City of Light Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, mobile
We Played On: PC

The Final Episode of BATMAN: The Telltale Series had a lot riding on it. It needed to tie up loose ends, provide a satisfying conclusion to the series arc, and still be an exciting chapter all on its own. Luckily, City of Light did all of this and more.

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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, mobile
We Played On: PC

After the minor letdown of the third episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, I felt the latest installment had a lot to do to redeem itself.  I needed to be impressed with not only the plot twists and turns, but also with how much control and agency I felt I had over the course of Batman’s experiences. Luckily, Guardian of Gotham did just that.

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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 3: New World Order Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
We Played On: PC

After the build-up of the first two episodes of BATMAN: The Telltale Series, it’s safe to say I was expecting some major plot developments and pivotal decision-making in the course of my playthrough of New World Order. While there were certainly important events, I found myself a bit disappointed with the decisions I was presented with, as well as frustrated by the outcomes that followed. Though I enjoyed this episode, I had a few negative feelings about it mixed in with all the positive ones.

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NBA 2K17 Review

Posted by | Reviews | No Comments

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
We played on: Xbox One

NBA 2K17, simply put, is a masterpiece that can easily be placed alongside some of the best games in this generation. Yeah. I know what you’re saying.”But, Steve… its JUST a sports game. How can you possibly do that?” The answer is simple. NBA 2k17 is just that good. In fact, I think it is good enough to justify attention from people who don’t even considering themselves hardcore NBA fans.

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The NBA lifestyle is complicated. Players have to balance family, social media, practices, endorsements, and inter-team politics in order to succeed. 2K17 heavily features a MyCareer mode that highlights those challenges as players are thrust into the role of “Prez” a young, brash, and extremely talented high school basketball prospect. A brief stint in college leads to you being drafted somewhere in the first round of the NBA draft. From there you are introduced to Justice Young, voiced by the amazing Michael B. Jordan. Justice was drafted after you and has a chip on his shoulder. Nothing in his life has come easy for him and he sets out to challenge you. That sets the stage for what could be either a rivalry or a great friendship. And you know what? This is where things get cool.

The Gameplay

The MyCareer mode plays out from there like an RPG. You have to  balance your schedule to make sure you attend practices, games, and social events with your fellow players. You can even keep track of the state of the game using text messages and an in-game version of Twitter. All of these activities help earn you points that can be spent on skill upgrades.

That may have been my favorite game mode, but it is far from the only one. There is a full suite of game modes that range from quick play, and online games all the way to a Franchise mode that goes so far as to let you create your own expansion team.

All of these game modes are built on solid basketball mechanics that make it easy for even the most inexperienced gamers to take their favorite players and execute some amazing moves. 2k Games has been making these games for a while and it shows. They have clearly done their research and tried to create a very accessible control scheme.

The Rating

NBA 2K17 is rated E for everyone by the ESRB. According to the rating summary, “This is a basketball simulation game in which players can select teams from real NBA rosters, compete in tournaments, and play through regular seasons. Players can also manage individual franchises and control the careers of their customized athletes. The word ‘hell’ appears in the dialogue.” It is worth noting that the game does feature online gameplay modes and those online interactions are not rated by the ESRB. With that said though, this is not a game that suffers if you don’t take the action online. There is a LOT of game here.

Takeaway

My conclusion shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This is an absolute must buy for any NBA fans. I also strongly believe that anyone looking for a unique take on the RPG genre should look into this one too.

(Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. It is also available on the PlayStation 4. There is also a version available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but they are not as feature rich. This is intended to be a next-gen experience.)