Final Fantasy XV is a brand new direction for the series, dropping players into an expansive open world to explore. Of course, in Final Fantasy tradition there’s still a central plot to follow, but by and large there’s a ton to do in the word of Eos outside of the story. This style feels like a marked change for the Final Fantasy series and one that, for the most part, completely pays off. Much of the success that comes from Final Fantasy XV’s open world is due to just how expansive and intriguing Square Enix has made it. There is, however, one aspect of the game that suffers a bit for this: the story.
Eos is an absolutely breathtaking world, and Square Enix has really put a ton of work and technology into building it. Everywhere you look you’re greeted with sweeping vistas, dense forests, and dank caves, all teaming with wildlife and enemies. First and foremost, Final Fantasy XV’s open world succeeds just because of how well it’s realized. Each area spans basically as far as you can see, and Noctis and crew can travel pretty much anywhere. Visually, each region feels distinctly different as well, from the arid desert of Leide to the wetlands of Duscae and the rocky shoreline of Cleigne.
Despite each area feeling so different, Final Fantasy XV does a great job seamlessly blending everything together. Some points of the world use rocky areas to seamlessly switch areas, while others may have the car (Regalia) passing through a tunnel. Oftentimes the switch to another region happens before you even realize it, and suddenly you’re looking at an entirely new landscape. Driving the Regalia is a mechanic that only reinforces the vast feeling of the world, even if it is a bit slow at times. You get a good look at the environment as you’re driving, and as mile after mile whizzes past, you really feel like the party has been traveling quite a distance.
Wildlife fills the entire world of Eos, going about their daily routines of grazing and wandering. Some beasts will openly attack the party, while others will leave them alone unless provoked. It all builds a convincing world that feels almost alive in a way.
The music of Final Fantasy XV also has subtle changes to reinforce this idea. Battle music is different between each region in the game, along with exploration themes. Music is quite brilliantly done in the game actually, even down to specific towns.
Take Lestallum for example, which has a peppy tune with a guitar and drums. When you first pull into town, the theme plays lightly, and as you make your way further into town the music adapts to where you are, injecting more of each instrument and changing up the tune a little bit. Finally when you hit the market, the guitar and drums are coming through loud and clear, and although it’s the same song it sounds very different. This also happens when you’re riding a Chocobo as the theme playing will seamlessly change when you enter the water, winding the music down and kicking it back up when you get on dry land.