Laxan and I have waited the full 10 years for this game, so here is my part of the review. I had this in one of the threads below but felt an official review thread was more convenient, and I have also edited the review a bit since first posting it.
These characters are perhaps the best developed team in FF history. You feel like these guys are actually close friends, brothers even. I have heard some complaints about the so-called cringe-worthy dialogue. I'm not seeing it. These are the kinds of jokes, quite literally, that I crack with my brothers. The usual goofy, unrealistic dialogues that happened in FFX to FF13 are gone. Seeing them bond over their sarcastic jokes, cheering each other on, and occasionally bickering is real to life and absolutely a huge step in the right direction with character interaction. Their unique skills, hobbies and of course their personalities makes them very distinct, and it's good that no one can get completely sidelined and get practically no play/screen time.
Open World: A+
If you played the Duscae demo, the open world is much like it, only 20 times bigger. It doesn't feel like a whole world, because it isn't, it is more of a small country, but the landscapes features are fairly diverse and beautifully detailed. Having to fight in the landscape and interacting around it is a very nice touch, because it is done in a way not conventional to open-combat games like Assassin's Creed. Somehow the scale makes the overall world seem small, as your entire gameplay takes place almost entirely in a set of country sides and a few cities, but it doesn't do any damage to the actual world you play in because it's so big that you can practically get lost in it for days.
Battle System: B+
The battle system feels very similar to Kingdom Hearts 2 and it is nicely fluid. Where some may miss the turn-based system, the action combat adds the nice dynamic of being able to manually dodge attacks, instead of relying on your evasion statistics. I have not tried Wait Mode, but from the videos I saw on it, it seems like a nice compromise for those who really wanted the game to be turn-based.
Something that the action-based element adds to the game is that you no longer just have to accept your death if you accidentally walk into a fight you cannot handle. Like I said, you don't have to rely on your evasion stats. I accidentally went into one of the garrisons earlier than I should have and my party kept dying, so quickly it was not worth reviving them anymore. I basically had to take out the Magitech Soldiers one on one, and then use turrets to destroy the assault tanks. It took a long time and a lot of careful movement and strategy, but I cleared the base on my own despite being totally outmatched. I don't think this kind of thing would have been remotely possible in a turn-based system.
The techniques with your teammates is nifty, but at times it feels a little odd. I kind of miss the Cross Link system from the demo, but perhaps it caused too many bugs? It was a more dynamic system with more possibilities in general though.
The weapon system is pretty nice as well. There's more than just elements and status ailments, there are also weapon weaknesses to exploit in various, so you can stack their vulnerabilities.
You can go the whole game without using Elemancy, but it has a lot to offer and there's so many different ways to mix abilities in with your spells.
The worst bit here would have to be enemy tracking. Locking on requires you to hold R1 and then R3 for a definitive lock. You cannot move the R stick to adjust the camera while locked on, it will instead change the enemy you are locked onto. And that wouldn't be a huge issue if the camera kept good angles on the enemy you have selected, but it doesn't, and to make it worse, sometimes your enemy comes off lock if they move out of sight or go too far. KH2 had a much better locking system than this.
Missions take on a kind of series type, like Assassin's Creed does. Some people have you go on a series of missions to find them a gemstone, or to take pictures, or find dog tags or frogs. The picture missions can be a tad annoying since you always need to make sure you get to the spot during the daytime. Hunts can be misleading, since it seems being the same level as the monster isn't good enough - you need perhaps a 10 level advantage or more to even be on equal or better grounds.
Overall, the new system was somewhat nice to see and it helps with the variation of simply grinding for EXP or money through battle, and it's nice to have destinations on the map.
Story Plot: C+
I'm sorry to say it wasn't that good. It was overall okay. I wish it would have been close to perfect. Back when I played the Duscae Demo, I knew already the gameplay was headed in a good direction. But I was worried about the story, since so much had changed and we knew so little about the main villain - practically nothing, actually. Sadly that worry came to life. Be warned, I am going off on a rant here.
It was a very good game overall, but it should have been much better after waiting 10 years for this. I feel like they need to reboot this just because of the story failings, go back to the drawing board and change everything from Chapter 9 onward.
The gameplay itself is amazingly fun. For the first few days, I was saddened to put down the controller for the need of sleep, I was so happy to have my hands on this game. Even towards the end, I still felt that way. But the main pitfall to this game was the story. It was too short. It can be completed in about 15 hours if your focus is to just reach the end. That's about as short as a one character play-through in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
All of the original footage from before 2014 doesn't exist at all in the game. Completely scrapped. And a lot of those scenes alluded to much more interesting story elements than what we now have. More scenes with Noctis and Regis were in older trailers, with Regis looking quite a bit different and younger, and they seemed to have more interaction within the game itself. Noctis' crew was there for the invasion and it seemed Noctis got back his throne back much sooner and was planning his revenge against the empire, instead of what the final product had happen - the empire complete dying off-screen to seemingly no consequence and without anyone caring.
The Emperor and the other imperials are shown in like one or two cutscenes, and that's it. They seemed almost irrelevant to the story, completely overshadowed by Ardyn. It seems like they had their spotlight in Kingsglaive, and then it was all over.
Ardyn, by the way, was a very interesting villain. Tragic and psycho too. Another thing is that he could have easily won over the world without any kind of struggle at all - he could have killed Noctis so many times before their final fight, but he wanted Noctis to reach his full potential before they fought, leading to his downfall.
Luna dying before Noctis really reached her was overly tragic and it made the game from that point onward feel too sad. They do a good job of making you feel Noctis' anguish, but it is not the vengeful, dark and edgy Noctis we saw in old trailers. He is being a brave king, preparing himself to meet a tragic end instead. Instead of being a tale of revenge and redemption as once insinuated, it became a story about a final desperate attempt to bring the world back from the apocalypse.
A key plot hole here is that the crystal absorbing Noctis for 10 years makes no sense. His destiny was to stop Ardyn, but it makes him wait 10 years while the world goes to hell? Why wasn't he given the power he needed right away? As far as I am concerned, this plot bit of the 10 year gap was not needed and it seems like it was an idea that was added late, as there was never any footage alluding to this plot element before 2016 as I recall. It seems artificially added, it doesn't make sense and it was unnecessary. It's like when in Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword stupidly froze Link till he grew up, while allowing Ganon to grab the Triforce and take over the world. Plot induced stupidity allowing the enemy to take over the world while the hero grows up.
Also, despite the final scene being a happy one after most of the final hours and most of the ending being sad enough to bring grown men to tears (my eyes certainly were getting ready to make waterworks), it too doesn't make sense. It comes out of nowhere. Noctis is supposed to be dead along with Luna, but it shows them getting married happily, which is nice, because it seems that is what Regis intended for them from his words in Kingsglaive and thus, we are given a very vital piece that was to be expected from the ending. But no clarification is given about whether this is some afterlife or if the gods gave them their lives back to bring back order to the world. This ending also feels very out of place, like this was the ending intended for a different version of the story, perhaps the older scripts where it was still a revenge tale and one where Luna never died. They spent the last few chapters putting a sour, bitter, sad taste in your mouth because all of the bad things that kept happening, and they pull a 30 second scene out of the hat to somehow make it seem like a happy ending. It doesn't cut it. There should have been a much longer, detailed epilogue explaining what was going on, long enough to immerse you in the end to make you feel happy with them after all that occurred. Instead, you might crack a small smile knowing the ending had some happiness to it, but more than anything you are left wondering what the hell just happened.
Elements that they showed from Kingsglaive could have easily fit the narrative of the old story stuff they scrapped, such as the revenge tale. The Omen trailer seems like it should have had ties to the story, but it doesn't really seem to have any relevancy to this game's plot.
All of the content, from Kingsglaive, Brotherhood, the trailers, and the game itself seem to line up until Chapter 9. The story just took a massive dive after, and also takes a kind of bad twist with the empire magically dying off. The story was enjoyable before this, but it became weird, sad and trippy afterward. It felt like a completely different world.
I wonder if the game suffered some massive creativity loss to the story when Nomura left the reigns to Tabata. I feel like anything good that came from this game was leftover ideas from Nomura because all of the cool stuff we see from Kingsglaive and the game itself had roots traceable to the old trailers. We never saw any elements of the bro-trip in Nomura's time, and while there was nothing wrong with that element and in fact it was pretty good... it seems the shift to it being a focus made Tabata shift far too much attention away from the war with the Empire - something that Nomura seemed to be very focused on in every trailer from his era as director of the game.
How could they have fixed all this wonky, bad plot? They should have kept the revenge tale, kept Luna alive and have her join the party, they got all the Noble Arms and Astrals, and then Noctis' crew take the war back to Nifelheim. They systematically take down their enemy empire, defeat the emperor and Ardyn, have them find the crystal, and finally save the world from the starscourge. I talked to a work friend who also beat the game and he agrees this kind of ending would have made way more sense and it would have lived up to expectations of the past decade.
I am angry at Tabata for failing so massively with this game's story and for throwing so much of the good elements that the old trailers showed. It seemed as though he wanted to make this product his own so much that he had to throw out every cutscene that existed from Nomura's time, change the character designs of people like Regis, the Emperor and swap Stella out for Luna. It's like he took the bare essentials of what Nomura had conceptualized and then artificially added on his own poorly made story to the latter half of Nomura's ideas. I now wish Nomura had kept the reins for this game to completion because it seems from the hints that Tabata dropped, the storyline failings I see came from his changes.
The story just feels so incomplete, it has too many plot holes and things left unexplained. You never even see Pryna do anything so I don't know what her purpose is besides being someone for Prompto to find in Brotherhood, but you could have substituted her presence for Umbra. The whole Prompto twist seems like it was put there for no reason, it adds nothing to the story. You never fully understand what's going on with Ravus and his seemingly shaky stance. It's like they threw pieces together for different story ideas and forgot to tie them together and flesh it out. It feels too rushed, and there's never been an indication to a sequel to justify the feeling of the story not being complete.
Final Grade: B to B+
Overall the game is worth playing, and more than once. I've already invested about 100 hours into it through two different playthroughs and I'm not sick of it. FF13 didn't get have half that much playtime from me and I will never play it again - I can guarantee, given I have some free time, I will play 15 numerous times. Despite its failings in regards to the story, it has given me hope in the franchise again and I'm glad to say this is still a pretty darn good game, one I can see winning Game of the Year.