Final Fantasy XV is an open world action role-playing game where players take control of main protagonist Noctis during his journey across the world of Eos. While accompanied by his three companions Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto, Noctis is the only character directly controlled by the player: he can navigate through simple movement, jump over small obstacles, sprint for a limited time, and perform context-based actions such as taking cover behind objects. The world is a large connected landmass that can be explored on foot, or by using the party's car "Regalia" or chocobos, recurring galliform birds in the Final Fantasy series. Both the Regalia and chosen Chocobos can be customised by the player, and Chocobos can join in battles if their connection to the characters is strong enough. While Chocobos are controlled manually, the Regalia can be either manually or automatically controlled. The party can also fast-travel to areas unlocked on the world map. The Regalia must be refueled periodically at petrol stations. In towns the party can visit, there are inns and hotels where they can stay, shops where items and equipment can be purchased with the in-game currency gil, and local tipsters, non-playable characters (NPCs) who provide information on quests, from main story missions to side quests. Side quests are also available from individual NPCs found in towns. During some story sequences, dialogue choices appear for Noctis, with the selected option altering the response from NPCs.
The game uses an action-based real-time battle system, dubbed the Active Cross Battle system. Instead of using a menu interface, the player selects commands directly mapped to buttons on the controller, such as "Attack", "Defend", "Magic", and "Item". Battles take place within the current environment rather than transitioning to a separate arena, and can range from open plains to enclosed building interiors. When approaching enemies, a threat meter appears on the top of the screen, growing in intensity the closer the party gets to the enemy. When the party gets close and attacks or is spotted, the battle begins. Running away from enemies and out of the combat zone in normal battles ends combat. During battle, each character has health points (HP), and Noctis also has magic points (MP). HP is depleted whenever a character is attacked, while Noctis's MP recovers over time when not in combat when not using associated abilities such as warping or special weapon skills. The maximum HP cap decreases if all HP is lost, with some enemies such as Daemons able to lower the HP cap with their attacks. If all HP is lost, the characters enter Danger Mode, a brief period where a revival item must be used. If Noctis is defeated, the game ends.
Noctis can perform three actions in battle: the standard attack; "Warp", which takes Noctis to a targeted area such as another enemy or an out-of-the-way warp point, and "Defend", which blocks and parries attacks. There is a "Wait Mode" option available, where if all player input stops the battle pauses, and players are able to select new enemies to attack or actions to take within a time limit. An option available for both Noctis and Ignis in "Wait Mode" is Libra, an ability which displays an enemy's health, strengths and weaknesses. Noctis has access to a wide range of melee weapons, including single and double-handed swords, polearms, axes, shields, firearms and daggers. The weapons manifest from thin air as Noctis fights, and can be manually shifted by the player. The type of weapon equipped determines the attack speed and the amount of damage on normal attacks. In addition to normal attacks, there are attacks that deal more damage based on Noctis' position such as "Side Strike" or "Blindside", in addition to the Warp Strike attack. Attacks from enemies can be parried, and depending on the quality of the parry Noctis can counterattack. If wielding a shield-type weapon, a successful block staggers an enemy, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Story-related weapons are the Royal Arms, which Noctis can summon for a special attack called "Armiger", when the meter fills during combat: while more powerful than standard weapons, Royal Arms consume HP with each use. Noctis can also use two classes of firearms—Guns, which range from handguns like pistols to rifles; and Machinery, powerful weapons that have varying effects depending on the type used, from generating a powerful shockwave to dealing high melee damage.
Noctis' companions, while controlled by the game's artificial intelligence, can perform contextual commands. As Noctis attacks enemies, a meter called the Link Metre fills. When full, Noctis' companions can trigger Links, cooperative actions in battle. Noctis can also issue Commands to his companions: Gladiolus performs a sweeping attack with his sword, Ignis uses his daggers to mark enemies so Noctis can perform a warp strike attack, and Prompto uses his firearm to launch a flare that distracts and slows enemies. After each of these, Noctis can initiate a followup attack. Noctis can also trigger an Armiger Chain, where he splits his Royal Arms between his companion before launching a single attack.
Magic is separated into two types: Elemental magic and Ring magic. Elemental magic is separated into three types; Fire, Ice and Lightning. Elemental magic is drawn from points across the world map, being absorbed into special flasks and used to craft magical bombs that can be used on enemies. Elemental magic can also be combined with specific items to add new effects, such as healing party members while damaging enemies. Both Noctis and his companions are able to use Elemental magic. Ring magic, accessed when Noctis has acquired and equipped a story-related item called the Ring of the Lucii, has access to more powerful magical abilities such as "Death", which drains an enemy's health. After a certain point in the game, Noctis can call upon summoned monsters called Astrals, which aid the party by launching a devastating attack. The summons featured are series regulars including Titan, Ramuh, Leviathan and Shiva. Their types of attack, and even whether they assist at all, is dependent on the environment: for instance, Leviathan can only be summoned in the open when there is a body of water nearby. At certain points in the story, Noctis is joined by guest characters who have their own actions triggered when Noctis performs specific actions in battle.
After each battle, characters earn experience points (EXP), but they do not automatically level up when a certain amount of EXP has been gathered. Instead, the party must go to safe zones called "Havens", namely rest sites like inns or campsites. When the party rests at night, each character gains levels depending on the amount of EXP earned. If defeated in battle, all EXP gained up to that point since the last level up is permanently lost. Activities in the overworld earn the party Ability Points (AP). AP is spent on the Ascension, the game's leveling system, which is divided into skill trees called "Astralspheres". Each Astralsphere is sorted by type, being associated with magic, combat or passive abilities. Spending AP opens up nexuses within the Astralsphere, which in turn grants access to further nexuses which require higher amounts of AP to unlock.
Noctis' companions each have their own skills which themselves level up based on usage, and affect equipment. Noctis' fishing ability improves the more times he fishes and the better items he uses, which in turn spreads to his equipment. Gladiolus' Survival skills increase based on the distance the party has travelled in a day, which improves the quality of their equipment and items. Ignis' cooking can be improved based on ingredients either purchased at shops or found in the wild, and his meals grant stat boosts to the party. Prompto takes photos during the party's journey, and the quality of his own skills increase over time.
Final Fantasy XV takes place on the Earth-like world of Eos, which is divided into three continents: Lucis, Accordo, and Niflheim. Lucis, located in the northeastern part of Eos, is a kingdom in possession of a magical artifact known as the Crystal, gifted to the reigning Caelum dynasty by the world's deities in antiquity and accessed through the hereditary Ring of the Lucii. Accordo, located in the southern part of Eos, is an island nation formed through a union of free trading cities. The western continent is home to the technologically-advanced empire of Niflheim and the nation of Tenebrae, the latter of which is ruled by the Oracle—a priestess with the ability to commune with the world's deities and halt the Starscourge, a plague that absorbs all natural light and allows nocturnal monsters known as Daemons to roam the world. Significant beings within the world of Eos are the Astrals, a divine race that serve as the guardians of the natural world and are divorced from human affairs.
For many years, Lucis has been at war with the militaristic Niflheim, who has subjugated most of Eos; Tenebrae retains limited political autonomy due to the Oracle's influence, while Accordo is free to conduct its own affairs provided that they do not interfere with Niflheim's interests. Meanwhile, Lucis's capital city of Insomnia remains unconquered due to the Wall—a magical shield powered by the Crystal that keeps Niflheim's Magitek army at bay, but drains the king of his life-force. At the game's beginning an armistice is declared between the two nations, and a union of states is proposed via a marriage between Prince Noctis of Lucis and Lady Lunafreya of Tenebrae.
The two main characters are Noctis Lucis Caelum, the crown prince of Lucis and the sole playable character, and his fiancée Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, an Oracle and a former princess of Tenebrae. Noctis is accompanied on his journey by three others: Gladiolus Amicitia, Noctis's bodyguard; Ignis Scientia, a prodigy military tactician and Noctis's advisor; and Prompto Argentum, a friend of Noctis from a lower social class. Guest characters include Cor Leonis, a legendary warrior of Lucis who acts as a guardian to Noctis's party, and Iris Amicitia, Gladiolus's sister. Other key characters are Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, king of Lucis and Noctis's father, and Gentiana, Lunafreya's attendant. The empire of Niflheim is ruled by Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt. Aldercapt's allies include Ardyn Izunia, the imperial chancellor; Ravus Nox Fleuret, Lunafreya's brother and the supreme commander of the imperial army; Verstael Besithia, the empire's head researcher; and Aranea Highwind, a mercenary dragoon in service to Niflheim. Other named characters include Cid Sophiar and his granddaughter Cindy Aurum, mechanics who maintain the party's car; Jared Hester, a retainer to the Amicitia family; Talcott, Jared's grandson; and Camelia Claustra, the First Secretary of Accordo.
In Lucis, Noctis and his friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto are en route to Accordo's capital city of Altissia, where Noctis's wedding to Lunafreya is to take place. Along the way, they receive news of the empire's attack on Insomnia and theft of the Crystal, and that Noctis's father King Regis has been assassinated. They meet up with Crownsguard commander Cor Leonis, who tasks Noctis with retrieving the weapons of the Lucii—the ancient kings of Lucis—in order to rescue the Crystal and reclaim his throne. The party also comes across Niflheim's chancellor Ardyn Izunia, who guides them to the Astral Titan at the Disc of Cauthess. After he fulfills Titan's trial and fights off imperial forces attacking the Astral, Noctis learns that Lunafreya persuaded Titan to lend him his power. They continue to travel across Eos, retrieving Noctis's ancestral relics and meeting the Astral Ramuh with assistance from Gentiana, Lunafreya's spirit attendant. Over the course of their journey, they discover days are steadily growing shorter, accompanied by the Daemons increasing in number. These phenomena are part of the Starscourge, which if left unchecked, will see Eos plunged into eternal darkness and overrun by Daemons.
The party eventually arrives in Altissia, where Lunafreya has taken up sanctuary. Lunafreya awakens the Astral Leviathan so Noctis can obtain her power, only for Leviathan to go on a rampage when Niflheim attacks. Ardyn reveals his true colors by mortally wounding Lunafreya, disrupting the ritual; however, she succeeds in awakening Noctis's powers, allowing him to defeat Leviathan. While unconscious, he is visited in a dream by Lunafreya's spirit, who gives him the Ring of the Lucii. Noctis wakes to find Altissia in chaos, and that Ignis was blinded during the battle. The party continues towards Niflheim's capital of Gralea by train, while Ignis' blindness and Noctis's prolonged mourning of Lunafreya cause friction between Noctis and Gladiolus until Ignis forces a reconciliation. Ardyn tricks Noctis into throwing Prompto from the train, and holds Prompto and the Crystal captive in Gralea's main fortress, revealing that the Crystal's power can destroy the Daemons. Noctis continues to Gralea—receiving the Astral Shiva's blessing from Gentiana, who reveals herself to be Shiva's human form—where the party finds that it has been overrun by Ardyn's Daemons. Noctis's powers are suppressed, forcing him to don the Ring of the Lucii. After rescuing Prompto, who is revealed to be magitek creation, the party continues to fight their way through the fortress, encountering Lunafreya's brother Ravus, who has been transformed into a Daemon by Ardyn.
Forced to separate from the party, Noctis finally reaches the Crystal, only to be slowly pulled into it. Ardyn then appears and reveals himself to be Ardyn Lucis Caelum, a former healer and king of Lucis who was chosen by the Crystal two thousand years ago. Ardyn had saved Eos by absorbing the Daemons into himself, only to be denied ascension by the Astrals and demonized by Noctis's ancestors. Rendered immortal by the Daemons' power, Ardyn has since sought revenge on the royal bloodline and the Crystal, hastening the onset of the Starscourge while waiting for the True King to appear so he could destroy them both. Within the Crystal, Noctis encounters the Astral Bahamut; he learns that he is the True King of prophecy, who will cleanse the Starscourge and restore light to Eos. Noctis prepares himself to fulfill his destiny, knowing that it will cost him his life; upon his return to the mortal realm, he finds that ten years have passed. He reunites with his friends, who have been keeping the Daemons at bay since Eos's descent into eternal darkness, before heading to the ruins of Insomnia. After the party defeats the rogue Astral Ifrit, Noctis confronts Ardyn alone and kills him in a climactic duel. Noctis then ascends the throne, and using the power of the Lucii and the Crystal's light sacrifices his life to purge the Starscourge and the Daemons from the world. In the spirit realm, Noctis—with the aid of Lunafreya and the Lucii—destroys Ardyn's spirit.
In a mid-credits flashback, Noctis tells Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto how much they mean to him during their last camp together. In a post-credits scene, Noctis and Lunafreya reunite in the afterlife, as a new dawn rises over Eos.
Final Fantasy XV was primarily developed by Square Enix's Business Division 2 studio. Additional studios that helped with development included HexaDrive, XPEC Entertainment, Plusmile, Umbra, and Streamline Studios. Staff included director Hajime Tabata; producer Shinji Hashimoto; main writer Saori Itamuro, who wrote the scenario based on the original draft by Kazushige Nojima; and art directors Tomohiro Hasegawa, Yusuke Naora and Isamu Kamikokuryo. Character designs were by Tetsuya Nomura and Roberto Ferrari, with later revisions by Naora. The main characters' clothing was designed by Hiromu Takahara, lead designer for Japanese fashion house Roen. The soundtrack for Final Fantasy XV was composed primarily by Yoko Shimomura, while both real-time and CGI cutscenes were directed by Takeshi Nozue of Visual Works, Square Enix's in-house CGI production studio. Logo illustration was by regular series artist Yoshitaka Amano.
Development began in 2006 as a spin-off title for the PlayStation 3 called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. It was announced as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy, a subseries of games linked by a common mythos, and ran in Square Enix's proprietary Crystal Tools engine. Developed by the team behind the Kingdom Hearts series, it was intended to be a darker entry in the Final Fantasy series than allowed in the main series. Nomura was the original director, designer, and created the initial concept and scenario. The project suffered from a prolonged and troubled development, only making fragmentary appearances over the following six years. As early as 2007, the project's scale prompted talks of rebranding it as the next mainline entry. With the internal unveiling of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it was decided to change it into a mainline entry, with a proposed PS3 version being scrapped due to technical troubles. The game's engine also changed, shifting to the company's new proprietary game engine Luminous Studio. At the time of its rebranding and shift to next-generation consoles in 2012, Versus XIII was described as being on 20-25% complete, with Tabata saying it never took shape.
When Tabata took over from Nomura, the entire development team was reshuffled and development started over again, although he worked as a co-director with Nomura until late 2013 to ensure the project remained as true as possible to its original vision. Among the changes were the removal of the original story's opening, and the replacement of original heroine Stella Nox Fleuret with the similarly named Lunafreya. The connection to Fabula Nova Crystallis was also reduced, with branding and mythos-specific terminology removed to aid in the game's marketing. Thematic, aesthetic and design elements were retained due to their core place in the world and backstory. The main concept behind Final Fantasy XV was "a fantasy based on reality", with the world being very similar to Earth and having fantasy elements gradually intruding into an otherwise normal setting. In pursuit of this, locations in Eos were based on real-world locations such as Tokyo, Venice and the Bahamas.
Initially announced in 2006 alongside XIII and Type-0, the game was publicly rebranded at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo, with regular updates on the title beginning the following year. A game demo titled Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae was released in March 2015 as a limited addition to Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. Its initial worldwide release, September 30, was announced in March as a big event in Los Angeles titled "Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV". At the event, it was revealed that Final Fantasy XV had multiple pieces of tie-in media, used by staff to expand upon the story without developing multiple games. Dubbed the "Final Fantasy XV Universe", it included a second demo titled Platinum Demo: Final Fantasy XV, a CGI feature film title Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, an original anime series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, and a mobile title based on a minigame within Final Fantasy XV. Further mobile titles were developed either as tie-ins or expansions of the media universe. Despite initially being scheduled for September 30, further polishing work resulted in the date being pushed back to November 29. Story and gameplay-based downloadable content, in addition to patches to improve the game's performance, are also planned, including a shooting-based side game for the PlayStation VR titled Final Fantasy XV VR Experience.
Dualshockers had given Final Fantasy XV a perfect score and awarded it the Game OF The Year.
Final Fantasy XV received "generally favorable" reviews from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.
Various game designers stated Final Fantasy XV was their favorite game of 2016, including Final Fantasy series creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Atlus' Shigeo Komori, Koei Tecmo's Takashi Morinaka, and Sony Interactive Entertainment's Teruyuki Toriyama and Shuhei Yoshida.
Final Fantasy XV won numerous awards from various gaming publications, including "Game of the Year" from DualShockers, CGMagazine, RPG Site, RPG Fan, and GameFAQs, "Best RPG" (People's Choice) from IGN, MMORPG, RPG Site, Spazio Games, and PlayStation LifeStyle, "Best Soundtrack" from IGN, RPG Site, LaPS4, RPG Fan, and US Gamer, and "Best Cast" from Game Informer, RPG Fan, and US Gamer.
PlayStation Blog awarded Final Fantasy XV awards in the categories of Best PS4 Game, Best Use of Pro, Best Soundtrack, Best Visuals, and Studio of the Year (Square Enix).
Within the first twenty-four hours, Square Enix reported that Final Fantasy XV had shipped five million units worldwide in both physical shipments and digital sales—a figure which allowed the game to "break even" on development costs. This gave Final Fantasy XV the biggest launch in the franchise to date. It received the most first day digital sales in Japan for a game up to that point, and set records for physical shipments and downloads in mainland Asia. In Japan, the PS4 version topped Japanese gaming charts, selling 690,471 units. The Xbox One version sold 3,791 units. Total sales of both versions came to 694,262 units, down from Final Fantasy XIII but up from A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV. Second week sales in the region were 79,792 units, down 88% from launch week. The game's release boosted console sales for the PS4 over the previous week by 42,102 units. In the United Kingdom's all-format gaming charts ending December 3, Final Fantasy XV was the second biggest Final Fantasy launch after Final Fantasy XIII. According to Square Enix, shipments had reached over six million worldwide by January 2017.