So you’re joining Noctis and crew for the road trip to end all road trips. Now what kind of food should you bring? And how do you convince them to let you be in charge of the music?
Final Fantasy XV, which comes out today for PS4 and Xbox One, is full of things to see and do. Driving around with your party of bros can be a real blast. But you’ll want to be prepared—so follow these tips if you want to have a good time.
It’s boring and unnecessary. The first couple of quests in the proper game will do a way better job of easing you into Final Fantasy XV’s unique combat system, and besides, you can always choose to train with Gladiolus at camp if you want some practice.
There’s really no reason to run around the world and hammer through sidequests as soon as they open up. Just do whatever feels natural.
Even after you get out of the open world and into the more linear portions of Final Fantasy XV, you can go back any time. You can also revisit the open world once you’ve completed the game, so don’t stress out if you’ve left sidequests unfinished or dungeons unexplored. Many hunts and quests are designed to be finished once you’ve beaten the game, anyway. You also won’t miss much if you skip the ones that seem really boring.
When you’re out on the open road, it might be tempting to take advantage of the game’s fast travel feature to zip between destinations, but you’d be missing out. Part of the game’s charm is watching Noctis and pals drive from place to place, not just because it helps evoke the feeling that you’re really on a road trip, but because they have a lot of funny, interesting conversations as you drive (that you’ll miss if you use fast travel). The world is gorgeous, and getting to listen to old Final Fantasy music on the Regalia’s CD player is a nice touch. Speaking of which....
Every time you get to a new town or outpost, go to the vendor and see what “key items” they have. Usually they’re selling a CD or two that you can add to your collection. (Bonus tip: Buy the portable music player in the Regalia’s shop if you want to listen to your CDs on the go.)
Wherever you see a fork and knife icon on your map, you’ll find a restaurant, where you can sit down and chat with the owners for all sorts of good stuff. You can talk to them to see nearby landmarks, eat food for temporary stat buffs, and ask them to send you on monster hunts.
To build up your party’s stats and abilities, you use what’s called Ascension, a Sphere Grid-like system that lets you unlock a series of nodes using Ability Points. One of the first nodes you should unlock is Ignis’s Regroup ability, which heals your entire party. It’s one of the best techniques in the game, and will save your ass from danger multiple times.
After getting Regroup, unlock the nodes that let you gain AP while driving and riding chocobos—nothing better than getting free Ability Points for stuff you’d be doing anyway.
The auto-save system is fine, but it never hurts to be careful, especially when you’re about to go into a new dungeon. Besides, you never know when you might want to replay a cool sequence or chapter.
In most Final Fantasy games, you won’t spend a lot of time using the Defend command. Final Fantasy XV is very different. Enemies can hit hard, and often, the best way to take them out is to get good at dodging and parrying. When the square button (on PS4) appears on your screen, hold it down, then get ready to hit circle ASAP for a counter-attack. Lots of tough enemies have unique parry animations, and pulling off a good counter can help a lot.
Different enemies have a variety of strengths and weaknesses. Some enemies might be weak to swords; others might be weak to daggers. Ignis’s Analyze ability will let him scan enemies once in a while, and you can also switch to Wait Mode to see weaknesses more easily, but the best way to discern an enemy’s weak point is to keep an eye on the color of your damage numbers. If they’re purple, the enemy is strong against your attack. If they’re white, it’s neutral. And if your damage numbers are orange, you’re in good shape: That means you’re hitting the enemy’s weakness.
As you’re rolling and warping around the battlefield, one of the best ways to do extra damage is to go for Blindsides—attacks from an enemy’s blindspot. Not only will this give you a damage multiplier, it’ll usually trigger a cooperative attack with Noctis’s friends, which can be way more powerful than solo fighting.
One good way to take out enemies in Final Fantasy XV is to “break” their appendages. To do this, look for body parts (legs, tails, fins) to target and use warp-strike to do as much damage as possible. If you successfully pull off a break, the enemy will crumple and enter a “vulnerable” state that leaves them susceptible to more damage for a few seconds.
It might seem like magic is a valuable resource, given that you can only craft it from magic draw points throughout the world, but it’s not. Don’t worry about hoarding it. Magic sources are relatively common—you can find them next to any campground on the map—and unless you’re in a more linear section, like the last few chapters of the game, you can feel free to throw spells around whenever you feel compelled.
Just be careful not to hit your party with spells. Pro tip: Using Ignis’s Regroup is a good way to get everyone away from the fray so you can throw a magical spell at your enemies without hurting your buds.
It’s hard to enjoy Final Fantasy XV if you’re rushing. The best way to play the game is to slow down, explore, and take the time to stay at hotel resorts all across Lucis, where you might just see an optional scene or two.
Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful game, and you’ll appreciate the sights a lot more if you go into the options menu and set the HUD to off. It’s tough to play the whole game like that, but when you’re driving around or exploring, all that UI can get in the way of how awesome the world looks.
One of Final Fantasy XV’s biggest problems is that it gives you no indication of which items you should keep and which you’re safe to sell. One tip: Don’t sell your Oracle Ascension Coins. There’s a guy in Altissia who will let you trade them in for powerful gear.
There are a lot of posters, books, and other random objects sprinkled throughout the world, and they help add a lot to the story, especially later in the game. If you don’t read everything, you’re gonna miss out on some important story beats.
It’s very easy to breeze through Altissia, the gorgeous Venice-inspired city you’ll see in the middle of the game, but you’d be remiss not to pay a visit to the Colisseum, where you can wage on monster battles for fun and profit.
NPCs like Cindy the mechanic and Sonia the professor will give you tedious quests at first, but later they’ll send you off into optional dungeons that are worth the journey. Cindy will offer some useful rewards that make your car better. It’s also worth taking photos for Vyv, the guy in Lestallum who looks like Hurley from Lost. His quests are easy and will give you a lot of money. The end of Vyv’s chain also leads to a nice treat for Final Fantasy fans.
When you’re exploring—especially once you’ve finished the game—here’s a useful tip: If an area of your map is lightened up, you’ve been there already. When you’re hunting for new stuff to do, keep an eye out for dark areas and landmarks that seem like they should be important. Chances are, there’s a new dungeon hidden in one of those little terrain markers.
This may seem obvious, but those two items are the most important ones in the game. Potions will get your characters out of Danger mode, and Phoenix Downs will revive Noctis and his pals—the only way to avoid getting a Game Over when you’re knocked out. You’ll want as many of both as possible. It’s also useful to keep a regular stock of status-clearing items like Antidotes, Golden Needles, and Maiden’s Kisses.
Try not to eat all those delicious steaks until you’ve finished the game and started doing postgame content. You’ll want those HP and attack buffs for Final Fantasy XV’s difficult monster hunts, superbosses, and optional dungeons.
I know, I know, he’s super-annoying, always asking you to pull over and take photos. But you can safely ignore his requests and get on with the good stuff.
Every yellow question mark is a new sidequest, and they can sometimes be hard to find, especially after you’ve explored all three regions of the open world map. One pro tip here: Go to “Icons” in the map screen, then disable all the icons EXCEPT for the yellow question marks so you can see where they’re all at.
Then go talk to Cindy. Trust me on this one.
There you’ll find someone named Ezma who will help you figure out the answer to a little dungeon mystery that you might have been wondering about.
When you stay overnight at a hotel, you’ll get a bonus multiplier on whatever experience you’ve accumulated. These bonuses can make a huge difference late in Final Fantasy XV. Once you’ve finished the game and want to get your characters really high-leveled, it’s smart to hoard XP and then travel to Altissia, where you can stay at the Leville’s special suite. It’s pricey, but will give you TRIPLE the experience.
Somewhere on the map, there’s a hidden dungeon that ranks among the best things I’ve ever done in a video game. Within the next couple of days I’ll have a separate Kotaku article about this dungeon—complete with instructions on how to find it—but for now, I’ll just leave you with the advice to go seek it out. (One hint: You need to finish the game first.)