Final Fantasy XV : Most Improved Game of 2017
Final Fantasy XV is aging like a good wine.
Since the game's release for Holiday 2016, Square Enix has been adding large amounts of content to the latest title in the long-running series.
FFXV had a troubled history, originally starting life as "Final Fantasy Versus XIII," and under enormous pressure to carry the franchise forward after a decade of disappointment, delay, and the (relatively) poor reception of its predecessor. The series was looking like it might be fading away unceremoniously.
The Tetsuya Nomura-headed project was released in November 2016 to good, if not spectacular, reviews, particularly considering its namesake. It was found to be uneven, with exceptional moments of story and gameplay, and not-so-great grinds through poorly designed areas. The promise of the game's beautiful open world and deep lore and characters was unrealized and felt rushed and unfinished. Reports at the time claim the game was unfinished by Nomura's standards, and DLC would be needed to finish it.
Despite these challenges, fans stuck by the game, and the developers promised to make good on the potential of the game. (To be fair, they also had a season pass to provide content for.)
And as we approach 2018, Final Fantasy XV is better than ever. Four major pieces of DLC have been released, all included in the season pass. Tweaks and adjustments have also been made.
The heart of these DLC releases improves the game's strength, the main cast and the relationships between them. Episodes Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis all take the members of Noctis' bachelor party and give them much needed context and depth. While the gameplay of episode Gladio was frankly disappointing, Square Enix stepped up their game for Prompto and Ignis, giving them the treatment they deserved.
Outside of the "episodes," the game has also added a major multiplayer component, with one of the finest character creators in a recent release. The "Comrades" expansion teams you up with other members of the elite Kingsglaive to have more monster-hunting fun, filling the 10-year time jump taken by the game near the climax.
Perhaps best of all, Square Enix has taken the most interesting gameplay element of the episodic content, the new battle mechanics, and seamlessly integrated them into the main game, completely changing up the game's already fluid and fun battle system into something with considerably more depth.
In addition to these major changes, a number of quality of life improvements and welcome features have been added over the course of the year. You can take the Regalia off-road with the Type-D update. Tracks from the DLC made their way into the game's radio, and even alternate paths through the dreaded episode 13 have been added.
Don't want to battle? There is even "Monsters of the Deep," a fully fleshed out VR fishing game featuring the crew.
Even with all of this, the game is not done. Rumors of a second season pass are floating around, possibly giving players even more "episodes" around major characters like Luna or one of Final Fantasy's greatest antagonists, Ardyn.
If you haven't picked up FFXV, or if you put it down, 2018 is a great place to rejoin the Chocobros on their road trip.