Final Fantasy XV is not the first time we have been graced by the presence of Square Enix’s illustrious and long-running Final Fantasy series on PC - in fact, we have had nine of them - but it might be the most PC focused of them all. Those inscrutable words, ‘Windows Edition’, belie a lot of new features, DLC extras from the console version, and Nvidia-powered graphics updates.
What do they all mean, though? Precisely how useful is voxel-based ambient occlusion, and should you care about its compilation of additional gubbins? Only you can decide. It is your life, after all. To that end, we will arm you with the information about all of FFXV:WE’s glimmering new treats presently.
Check out performance review to find out how Final Fantasy XV runs on PC.
The very real and absolutely nonsensical ability to play as Gordon Freeman
As in the chap who saved us all from alien invasion in 1998. Yep, that Gordon Freeman. Stoic type, enjoys a good crowbar, you know him. Has absolutely nothing to do with the Final Fantasy universe in even the most tenuous way. That one.
And yet, here we are, talking about his debut in the Final Fantasy series. Available as a pre-order bonus to anyone who bought the game prior to March 1, the iconic HEV suit, crowbar, and ‘scientist glasses’ of gaming’s most combat-savvy particle physicist are one of several new costume options for Noctis and his pals. Look, this is as close as we will ever get to that threequel, so let’s just embrace it.
The best thing about modding communities is that, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gon’ git. The major deviation in that simile being that Mrs Gump was in no danger of opening a box of nude strawberry cremes and ‘immersive’ 4K resolution pralines.
Nvidia GameWorks features
This is a substantial addition to an already impressive Luminous Studio engine. Nvidia bring voxel-based ambient occlusion (VXAO), TurfWorks (better grass), Hairworks (lustrous manes on animal life), ShadowLibs (better shadows) to the graphics menu, offering several ways to pile on extra fidelity on top of what the console versions can do.
There are other tweaks, too, like improved flame and tessellation effects. It is a demanding suite for any rig if you plan on enabling them all at once, but the visual benefits are pronounced - particularly in VXAO’s case.
A bigger version of the Insomnia Ruins with two new boss fights
In the console versions of FFXV, towards the end of there was a sense of... the unfinished. Despite it being an absolutely gargantuan JRPG we are talking about, in which you can lose half an hour on a throwaway diversion like fishing, there are elements that feel incomplete in that final act. Thusly, the new Windows Edition addresses that by expanding on that content. If you just started a new game, you will get to it in about summer 2020.
Specifically, new side-quests await in the ruins of Noctis’ former hometown, along with boss fight encounters with Cerberus, Omega, and the Rulers of Yore. There is some degree of confusion about this - previously the latter fight was available only as a multiplayer mission despite feeling very much a main quest event. It looks like that has been rectified now.
What is the most PC gaming thing? Correct, it is cleaning an old mouse by popping out the ball and using a q-tip to dislodge the gunk inside so that your aiming’s more precise in Quake III. The second most PC gaming thing, though, is first-person mode.
For the first time, it is available in the Windows Edition of Final Fantasy XV. It is a natural fit with mouse and keyboard control, also supported, and even if you do not want to play through the whole game like it is Skyrim, the ability to pop in for a closer look at the environment is always pleasant. Good for screenshotting, too.
A high-res texture pack and 8K support
If you saw the above sub-heading and thought, ‘yep, my rig will run games at 8K without any problems, let’s give it a go’, then you must be from the far future. Tell us how Bitcoin’s doing, will you?
We digress. An enormous 40+GB high resolution texture pack is available for Windows Edition to enhance visuals at 4K resolution and beyond. It also lends another use to the first-person mode: scrutinising things like floor surfaces and pillar textures up close. Imagine being a denizen of Eos, spotting Prince Noctis crouched on the floor, his nose almost touching the mosaic tiles, studying them with ironclad concentration. “Are you… are you alright there, Noctis?” You ask.
“I think these might even hold up at 8K,” he mutters to no-one in particular.” Meanwhile, there are robot armies running amok in the countryside and Insomnia lies in ruins.
All season pass content
Everything previously released to console gamers is tied up with a neat bow and delivered off the bat in Windows Edition. Don’t look for the bow in your inventory - it was figurative.
That includes: Episode Gladiolus, Episode Ignis, Episode Prompto, and the Comrades multiplayer expansion. The first three refer to your faithful party members and offer a chance to get to know them better by walking a mile in their shoes, as it were. Comrades, on the other hand, is your only chance to play FFXV as an online multiplayer game without the central party members.
Create your own avatar, team up with others, have massive JRPG fights. Each is a substantial piece of content, so on the off chance you ever finish the base game, you still will not truly exhaust the full extent of Windows Edition’s content for dozens more hours yet.
On a slightly more incidental note, Windows Edition also brings over additional weapons, Regalia car skins, and items sets that were previously available as DLC. Whether or not you have much interest in bonus cosmetic items like this, there is a distinct feeling that you have got one over on the games industry when they turn up for free in a game you just bought.
A royal boat to go galavanting around in
Why drive when you can sail? Well, because if your journey takes place across land, sailing would either require a huge diversion around your destination’s coastal perimeter (and you would probably still have to drive for a while inland upon disembarking), or the impossible endeavour of dragging an aquatic vessel across land somehow. You may also suffer from seasickness or a fear of the sea.
Sorry, got a bit locked in there. What I meant to say was there is a boat in Final Fantasy XV.
A royal boat, no less. A really fancy one. You can very nearly smell the Alcantara suede trim. The royal vessel allows you to explore the oceans and small islands between Altissia and Cape Caem and indulge in a spot of fishing. There are new fish around those parts that lead to new recipes, too.
An accessory carrying the new ‘Armiger Unleashed’ ability
Donning this unspecified accessory after locating it in an unspecified part of the world gains you the chance to dole out even more powerful attacks when the Armiger of ancient weapons is unleashed. Let the treasure hunt (or Reddit trawling) commence!
Future content into 2019
To circle back to an earlier point, Final Fantasy XV isn’t 100%, absolutely, done-and-dusted finished. That is not to say there are bits hanging off it or ‘Under Construction’ tape preventing access to certain areas, it is more that the grand story has yet to have all its threads definitively concluded, as indicated by the game’s director Hajime Tabata asking players whether they want a happy or sad ending to the game in March 2018 - years after its initial release.
With that in mind, there is plenty more to come in terms of story content through the next year, and Windows Edition players will get all of it, no strings attached, when it drops.