Final Fantasy XV already exists in single-player games, movies, anime, VR games and mobile games. With the arrival of the Comrades expansion it is time to add multiplayer to that ever-expanding list of media.
The main games in Final Fantasy have previously done multiplayer successfully: XI and XIV are both accomplished MMORPGs in their own right – though XIV took a while to get there. And it was even discussed at one point to create a standalone Blitzball game based on X’s legendary mini-game.
XV’s multiplayer – or to give it it’s full name, Final Fantasy XV Multiplayer Expansion Comrades – then shouldn’t come as a surprise given the time and resource invested already into this entry to the franchise, milking it for all its worth.
Comrades takes place during the 10-year gap in XV, in which Noctis learns the truth about his destiny, and where the world gets plunged into constant darkness. It is up to you, a member of the Kingsglaive, to defeat the daemons that spawn and bring power back to Eos. Power is generated by completing missions and earning Meteorshards. They provide kWh that you can assign to power nodes on the world map, starting from Lestallum. As you progress further outposts can be visited and more missions undertaken.
As the game starts, players are re-introduced to Libertus Ostium, a member of the Kingsglaive and one of the main characters in the film itself who wasn’t mentioned in the game at all. He informs you that you cannot recall your memories and is your companion on the ride back to Lestallum. During this journey, you create your avatar from a limited number of clothing/hair options. Extra items can be purchased after completing missions, using the gil you have earned.
Comrades takes a massive slice of inspiration from the Monster Hunter series, providing a central hub where players can buy weapons and outfits, and deciding upon which mission to undertake. After choosing, players are dropped into a camp where they can select a health item to take with them, before readying up to tackle the mission. The missions come in a few sizes, with hunts returning from the main game but also alongside a new mission type known as Defend. This requires the party to defend a location – sometimes a building or a corridor – whilst being attacked by wave after wave of enemies. It’s certainly not the most original mission structure, but a welcome addition to XV nonetheless. Other missions require you to escort an NPC or play solo, and these are typically used to introduce characters from the main game.
Returning characters are also present within Lestallum acting as vendors. Vyv – the one that is Hurley from Lost – offers you a chance to look at photos taken of you in action. Iris – Gladiolus’s sister – is there to provide you with new attire to customise your avatar with and Cid returns to help you upgrade your weapons, just like he did with the Regalia.
Having an online component is all well and good if it doesn’t feel tacked on, but most importantly it has to work. Whilst this isn’t completely ‘tacked on’ – it is currently very basic – the same cannot be said about its performance.
Thankfully there is an option to recruit AI partners, because so far, I have only managed one complete game with other online players. On one occasion, we got further than normal and as far as the campsite to prepare for the hunt; but the game would not load in the fourth player into our instance. Instead, their player slot duplicated the player name underneath but not their avatar and we were left to quit out of the game and retry. I say that this is ‘further than normal’ because most other attempts at starting a Quick Game have resulted in Comrades suddenly going offline. It still plays when ‘Offline’ but there is no way to go back online, save for completely exiting the game and starting again. But that then brings into play the loading times…
Before you even start-up Comrades you must sit through three loading screens and two different start screens, as well as the standard load screens for entering the camp, then entering the mission and exiting missions. It isn’t necessarily that there is an over-abundance of load screens, but each one takes well over a minute each time and is severely hampering to a feel of any progression. Early estimations put this DLC at a hefty 20 hours from start to finish, but at least 25% of your time is easily spent waiting for the action to happen due to unnecessarily long loading times. 20 hours is a decent length for any DLC, but this requires a lot of grinding to get to the end. Simply put, there aren’t enough missions to allow progress and the levelling up of your character without having to repeat the same missions over again.
Final Fantasy XV Multiplayer Expansion Comrades does have the basis for a solid online experience despite its obvious shortcomings that currently exist. Much like GTA Online, a game that overcame its teething problems, it looks set that Comrades will keep waving the flag for XV long after the upcoming Episode Ignis releases. Square Enix have already promised the four main characters will be playable at some point and there are even some options which are currently blocked out, stating they will be available in future releases.
My advice would be to just hold out a little bit. To start now would cause frustration to take hold due to the loading times and sporadic matchmaking. This will be a fantastic edition for Final Fantasy XV when it is patched and updated, but it just needs a bit more time and TLC.