Final Fantasy XV’s plot is the way it is because Tabata couldn’t understand the main beats of Nomura’s original story when he took over. This is why the plot is overly subtle, slow in the beginning and fast near the ending. It builds of course, but a lot of the story beats are mixed together: First get the king’s weapons, then find Luna, uh-oh now she’s awakening the Astrals we better recruit them. My dad’s dead, let’s go fishing! OK, we found her, now she’s dead. Shiva’s dead, jk she’s Gentiana. Where’s Cor? Let’s keep working with this creepy guy who works for the empire. We’ll never guess where he got the name Izunia from. Starscrouge!
Then I thought back to all of the trailer evidence. And it all made sense. Here are the beats of what the story could have been:
- King Regis knows the Empire is going to invade Insomnia, so he sends Noctis on a quest to get the royal weapons (but keeps the real reason from him). Here we get to do the fun road trip stuff. Noctis gets to learn about wonders the world, because he was sheltered. We also get to know more of Luna and they hang out. And here we meet Ardyn. Since the empire hasn’t attacked yet, it makes sense we’d trust him (even though we know we shouldn’t). By the way, we get to explore the Kingdom before we go on our mission and do a couple of side quests. We report back to King Regis once we get our fill. After we leave, we leave for good.
- Noctis retrieves the weapons but realizes he’s too late when he returns to the Insomnia. He battles it out against Ravus. Yet Leviathan attacks…but why? We get to play through the Kingsglaive invasion of the game. The King dies here by Glauca, an important boss. In the King’s dying breath, he tells Noctis to find Luna.
- So, it was Luna who summoned Leviathan. And she’s awakening The Six to help us “Reclaim our Throne”. We have to meet her, but along the way, we have to recruit The Six. Ifrit will turn to Ardyn’s side at the end of the game. Here we get to continue with the fun road trip stuff, but Noctis’ is much more depressed and it shows. Plus, we get to play this battle and this outburst makes sense. In Lestallum, Iris tries to cheer Noctis up. Here we have a slight love triangle and a slight dating sim that eventually resolves itself by Iris coming to realize her feelings weren’t love, just gratitude from their earlier meeting. They remain just friends and she wishes Noctis’ wedding well (building up to the inevitable).
- When they finally get three of The Six (Ramuh, Ifrit, Titan), they meet up with Luna in Altissia. The story slows down so we can finally see Noctis and Luna’s relationship bloom. He opens up to her, becomes vulnerable and softer. Maybe they even share a kiss. Ardyn leads an attack on Altissia. Then, Leviathan attacks AGAIN! and we get this. We defeat Leviathan and we recruit him. Ardyn kills Luna to stop her from ruining his plans (she also knew of his plan to release Starscrouge). Ardyn tries to kill Gentiana, but she turns into Shiva and halts his attack. After Ardyn flees, Gentiana/Shiva agrees to give her powers to the bros. Now we have five of The Six (completing the elements), so where is the sixth? Obviously, Bahamut in the crystal. Ravus remembers what Ardyn has done to his beloved sister, and seeks revenge…slowly warming up to the bros.
- This is when Starscrouge lets loose. We would have seen Ardyn backstab the Emperor. These chapters would have been longer to explain what’s going on, and why it’s much worse than the Empire. This is also the point of no return, so if you haven’t done the side quests yet…do so. After that, it’s a train ride to our final destination where every loose end will be clarified and tied up. Maybe we’d explore Eos to find and recruit our past party members, and SEE what our guest party members are doing. Chapter 13 would have to be shorter as a result.
Cor was to watch over Noctis. In his DLC, we’ll see all of his exploits of how he thwarted the efforts of the empire. But let us realize Nyx got all of the cool development Cor should’ve had. A Glauca boss would inexplicably survive the Insomnia battle would have provided an arc for Gladio. A Verstael boss would have provided an arc for Prompto.
Final Fantasy XV is what happens when Square Enix doesn’t efficiently parse story correctly. The game is great, and everything about the open world aspect works with each other. But if the road trip took a backseat to the story (as a dessert rather than the main course), we would have seen a much smoother storyline.
Still, I like the story but it will probably be better once we see the patches.