Final Fantasy XV looks and runs great on PC once you’ve downloaded it all
Some interface quirks remind you it was built for controllers first, though.
By Hayden Dingman
PCWorldMar 7, 2018 4:48 am PST
Image: IDG / Hayden Dingman
It took quite a while for Final Fantasy XV to finally make its way to PC—almost a year and a half after the console launch, to be exact. But in the end it made it over, and as of yesterday you can find the game on an oddball selection of storefronts, including Steam (sure), the Windows 10 Store (okay fine), and Origin (…what?). A non-EA game on Origin? Pretty sure that makes Final Fantasy XV the Dr. Pepper of video games.
Anyway, I’ve barely dipped my toe in. The game’s reputedly around 100 hours long and I’m on hour four, so there’s quite a bit of road trip ahead of me. It’s at least enough time to formulate some opinions on the state of the PC port though.
In short: It’s great, for the most part. Performance is solid at least, which is likely to be the aspect people care about most. I’m “only” running on a GeForce GTX 980 Ti, so there’s no 4K Ultra in my future, but I’ve still maxed out the game at 1080p and the framerate’s stayed a steady 50 to 60 frames per second, with only a few drops when I swing the camera around wildly.
Frame rates increase if you disable the optional Nvidia GameWorks features, though. They look great, but that’s where I take the biggest frame rate hit. There are four: HairWorks, VXAO, TurfEffects, and ShadowLibs. HairWorks is probably the most fun, in combination with Final Fantasy’s usual exaggerated hair and a convertible with the top down. See those billowing locks flutter. There’s also plenty of very furry monsters with interesting HairWorks effects.
The rest add to the experience in their own small ways, with VXAO giving more realistic ambient occlusion, TurfEffects enhancing grass, and ShadowLibs (true to its name) making shadows prettier. Turning them all off gives a big bump though. Disabling ShadowLibs alone added 10 frames per second, with barely any noticeable visual difference. Disabling VXAO added another 10 to 15 frames per second. Play around, find what works for you. That’s the beauty of a PC port.
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Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition
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Other than that, Square’s presets seem pretty well-balanced. Highest looks phenomenal but sucks up a ton of both VRAM and RAM, with High, Average, and Low all disabling options in smart ways, though you’re of course free to dig into the nitty gritty and customize if you want. It can be a bit annoying though, as certain options can’t be adjusted on the fly—it’ll actually kick you back to the main menu. That’s a pain in the ass if you’re trying to stabilize your frame rate, especially since the initial load time is loooooooooong. (Very few load screens appear after you’re in though, at least that I’ve encountered.)
And even with the high-res texture pack installed, some elements are inconsistent. Rocks, for instance, often have an ugly stretched-texture effect even at max settings. I guess Square didn’t expect you to examine the scenery for any length of time.
There are a few other nagging annoyances. For instance, Final Fantasy XV can’t handle alt-tabbing, and the game will force itself into windowed mode, then neglect to switch back when you return. You have to force it to fullscreen again by opening the options menu and turning fullscreen off and then back on again. Luckily there’s a workaround if you’re willing to dig through an ini file.
It’s also all-too-clear the menus weren’t built for mouse and keyboard, with nested menu after nested menu and a constant use of “Z” and “X” to switch between different categories. Controls are spotty in general actually. Although you play as one character, you can trigger special moves involving your party members. The catch: These moves are mapped to a hotkey combo, Ctrl plus either W, A, or D. On a controller, the same moves are done by holding down the trigger and hitting a button—an action that makes sense. But replicating that on a keyboard? Come on. I have over 100 keys here. Use them.
Speaking of which, the game also wouldn’t let me map anything to Mouse 4 or Mouse 5, another small annoyance. And sprinting is done by holding down Left Click? It’s just baffling.
So yeah, performance is great but the port is still rough around the edges in myriad small quality-of-life ways. Will it bother you? Probably not, especially once you’re accustomed to the controls and configure the borderless fullscreen workaround. The game looks great and runs great, and that’s what matters—plus you can fix a lot of problems by just using a gamepad as was clearly intended. There are definitely some quirks though.
As for the story, or at least my initial thoughts on that front? I don’t know. I’ve heard Final Fantasy XV isn’t great at conveying its plot, and more than one person has recommended I watch some five-episode anime Square produced if I want to get the most out of the game. But uh…I don’t want to do that, so I guess I’ll be powering through it the best I can. The characters are charming as hell, and I’m enjoying driving around in our cool sports car, but most of the quests I’ve done so far are pretty rote “Go here and grab this” variants. Hopefully it gets better after a slow start—wouldn’t be unexpected in a Final Fantasy game, that’s for sure.
Anyway, provided I make it through all 100 hours of this trip I’ll be back eventually with a full review. For those who’ve been waiting for Final Fantasy XV ($50 on Amazon) to hit PC though, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to fear provided you have some decent hardware with plenty of VRAM and a ton of space on your hard drive. Actually, the latter’s probably the biggest roadblock: It’s an 80GB download for even the basic version of the game, and if you want the high-resolution textures it’s going to run you another 65GB. Good luck, especially to those of you with data caps.