Thursday 14 December 2017

Games: Fantasy to the power of four

Final Fantasy XV, (PS4/XO), 5 Stars, Age: 12+

Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Ten years in an incubator, Final Fantasy XV had no right to turn out as sweepingly entertaining as it has. This umpteenth instalment of the iconic Japanese RPG has survived the spin cycle of developmental chaos, multiple changes of direction and the loss of its chief writer.

What has emerged from this tunnel of hell is a consistently enthralling open-world adventure, gleaming with distractions and beautiful backdrops. Beneath the sheen, though, it hews closely to the Final Fantasy source code, spinning a road-movie yarn about four buddies fighting to reclaim a lost throne in a land that's part post-apocalypse Fallout, part optimistic 1950s Americana.

The camaraderie of this goofy but likeable boyband forms the core of FFXV's appeal, even if their baffling character arcs get lost in a welter of monster slaying. The signature semi-random battles of Final Fantasy have shifted dramatically into real-time in XV. An option to slow the action remains but combat now feels frantic, even confusing, thanks to an uncooperative camera.

Yet the epic nature of the encounters - in scale, speed, strategies and variety of enemies - proves much more rewarding than Final Fantasy's turn-based system of yore.

FFXV's open world disappointingly narrows into a much more linear storyline in the second half. But by then its darker, moodier voyage will have compelled you to see to its satisfying conclusion.

Scéal

(PC), 3 Stars, Age: 7+

Crafted by a small team in Carlingford, Scéal uses the small Co Louth village as the setting for an ethereal ghost story based on Irish folklore.

Lovingly animated in a hand-drawn watercolour style and underpinned by a haunting trad soundtrack, Scéal makes a handsome first impression.

But it quickly becomes clear there's less to Scéal than meets the eye. It plays like an interactive book as you wander the village piecing together the events leading to a young girl's death. There's nothing wrong with that genre, per se.

Alas, without anything meaningful in the way of puzzles or gameplay, the slight story can't hold the interest. It's all over in less than an hour, with only an option to replay the entire thing leading to a different ending.

Still, at just €5, it's clearly an undemanding purchase that showcases some promising talent.

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