Final Fantasy games are long, complex affairs. After spending a good 40-60 hours with one, I tend to have a much better understanding of how the game mechanics work, and I almost always have a list of things I wish I knew when I started. As is my way, I’ve assembled all my notes on Final Fantasy XV into this one, convenient article intended to give new players a leg up. As always, I won’t be spoiling any plot details here. I’ll just be explaining the game mechanics, but if that counts as a spoiler to you, then you have been warned!
In general, combat gets easier the longer you play the main storyline. You’ll gain new powers, including Armiger and access to summons. Additionally, late in the game, you will be given a special magical artifact that gives you abilities to exploit enemy weaknesses that are otherwise impossible to target.
Yeah, at times the game tries to tell you that you’re approaching a point of no return, but for the most part what that means is there’s a good hour or couple of hour long chunk of linear game coming up. Even after you leave the main open world area, shortly after that point in the game, you gain the ability to return to it at any rest point. Once the game is over, new game plus and chapter select options unlock. Basically, there is almost nothing that is totally missable, and any point at which you’re locked out from areas you’ve visited tends to be pretty short.
Q: Why do I keep dying?
The game is only over when Noctus falls, so keep him healthy and on the move. The most important thing to remember about combat is that Noctus is really not the tank – he’s the DPS. He’s basically more like a thief or assassin rather than a front-line fighter. He gets major bonuses for backstabbing, he can disappear from combat for extended periods, he has crazy dodge/agility, but he’s not the best in terms of HP or defense.
If you keep this in mind when you’re fighting, you’ll have a much easier time of things. For instance, one valid strategy is to warp in, get a few hits, hold down the “phase” button to auto-dodge attacks, and then run away when the enemy counterattack is over.
Avoid big packs of enemies – this is a surefire way to get surrounded and stunlocked. Instead, use your allies as distractions and wait for the enemies to spread out a bit, then sneak or warp in and get some cheap backstab hits in.
Pro Tip Potions and Hi-Potions are cheap and will keep you out of “Danger” mode without having to wait for your companions to rescue you.
If your team wipes, run away! Usually this means you’re not going to be able to kill the enemy without spending a lot of items, which is rarely worth the effort. Nothing sucks worse than to use a bunch of items and not even kill the thing you’re trying to beat.
Q: How does maximum HP work?
Noct and his companions can suffer maximum HP damage through combat. Max HP will slowly tick down as long as you’re in “Danger” mode, but it can also be damaged by daemons even when you’re not in Danger.
Max HP will slowly regenerate outside of combat, unless you’re in a dungeon (usually marked by a red door/arch on the world map). HP regeneration boosting accessories and outfits will make it regenerate faster. Eating at a restaurant or resting automatically refills max HP.
You can also use items to restore max HP, notably elixirs. It really pays to stock up on these, especially before tackling a dungeon. Phoenix downs completely restore max HP, but they’re more expensive so it pays to save them for when you’re in real serious trouble. When Noct is in his death animation, they will save you from game over.
Q: How do I effectively use Noct’s Warp Strikes?
Noct’s “warp strike” is a bit complex and poorly explained. If you tap the warp strike button, Noct will warp in whatever direction he is currently facing. This move has occasional uses, like getting out of a sticky situation or covering a short distance quickly, but it’s not the main way you’ll use his warps.
If you’re locked on to an enemy (by holding the lock on button, naturally), tapping the warp strike button will send you flying towards the point where that enemy is, even if there are obstacles between you and it. Warping takes a little time and has a maximum range, so while you’ll usually hit your target, it’s not a 100% guarantee.
Finally, in most areas there are “point warp” locations. If you face one of these points and hold the warp strike button, you’ll warp to that location. If you’re standing on something (usually a rock), your MP will immediately refill and you’ll get moderate HP regeneration. If you’re hanging from your sword (say, on a radio mast), you’ll get MP refilled plus your health will quickly regen.
Experience and Level Up
Much like every RPG since the dawn of the genre, your team in Final Fantasy XV gains experience by killing stuff and completing quests. However, this experience is only applied to your characters when you rest.
Where you rest makes a big difference in your experience gain. The nicer the place, the more experience multiplier you get. Camping gives you no multiplier, campers give you a small boost, hotels moreso. The best hotels in the game are:
- Gauldin Quay – Available early on, this hotel will give you a 2x experience boost for 10,000 gil
- Altissa – Available much later in the game, this hotel gives a 3x boost, but costs 30,000 gil
At the start of the game (until level 30 – see the Fast Travel section below), you’ll likely want to sleep/camp during the night since you can’t fast travel or effectively fight daemons during the evening.
Once you can spend the nighttime hours doing something productive, and have enough money that those prices don’t seem outrageous, focus on maxing your XP boost. Rack up a huge amount of XP without sleeping, then tally it up at once in the best hotel you can afford in order to get the biggest bonus possible.
Gaining AP in Final Fantasy XV is just as important as XP, maybe even moreso. The two are somewhat linked in that you gain 3 AP every time one of your characters levels up. However, this is a very slow way to gain AP.
The skills in the “Exploration” tree are decent to pick up early, as many of them give you AP – so they effectively pay for themselves. You can gain AP for driving, for instance, so if you don’t mind watching Ingis drive everywhere, you can bank AP by sitting through what is effectively the world’s longest loading screen.
However, the quickest way to earn AP is through combat. The key to earning easy AP in Final Fantasy XV is that link strikes that kill an enemy gain you +1 AP. There is also a set of accessories that give you bonus AP for getting A+ ratings in the three different categories that show up in the post-battle wrap up screen.
So: quickly kill weak enemies with link strikes and the AP just rolls in. Here’s a video that explains one particular method of maximizing the potential of this AP gain method:
Some notes on this method: I found that blowing the whistle did not summon enemies as I expected it to. The workaround I found was to blow the whistle, and as Noct is putting his hand back down, open the main menu, wait for the menu to start appearing, and then close it again. That caused the enemies to spawn.
Q: What Ascension Grid skills should I prioritize?
In the early game, you’ll likely want to stick to cheap skills (ie, cost of less than 50 or so). Specific highlights include:
- If you’re going to take anything from the Exploration tree, do it early.
- You will probably want Chocobump to gain AP from chocobo rides, and Roadrunner to gain AP from driving.
- If you try fishing and really like it, Angler Action is probably worth it; it pays for itself after catching 18 fish.
- All the experience bonus nodes are basically worthless since they’re just 10 EXP each time they activate.
- You probably won’t spend a heck of a lot of time camping, since you lose your “Hotel EXP Bonus” when you do.
- Combat is a key tree to prioritize to speed up fights.
- Early on, grab Stalker and Super Stalker to boost blindside damage. (Remember: you’re a rogue!)
- Warp Factor and Warp Factor II boost warp strike damage, so here again this is a big damage boost for you.
- Airstep and Airslip are good if you prefer swords/polearms.
- Blink and Blink Boost pay off if you can manage to nail the timing on Blink. The window for dodging is actually pretty forgiving, IMHO.
- Recovery tree nodes help save items and keep your allies in the fight.
- First Aid is a no-brainer for all of your allies. I thought just the basic First Aid node was enough for me, but you can boost it with Advanced First Aid if you wish. It just gets expensive since you’ll want all these nodes three times over.
- Hang In is worth it, although often times in battle you won’t have a “hang spot” – when you do, having the heal bonus helps, and it’s cheap!
- Sprinter and Distance Runner are obsolete if you have the free Holiday DLC which includes the Stamina Badge
- The Savior’s nodes can be OK if you’re often in danger and getting saved, but I found myself mostly getting myself out of danger using potions/elixirs
- Most of the Stats tree is really intended for the late game, but there are a few cheap early ones.
- Take the bonus Accessory Slot nodes that are cheap, since accessories are plentiful and can create some significant boosts
- Health Level is cheap and worth it. Level II and Level III are more expensive and can wait a bit; Level III in particular is very expensive compared to the benefits.
- Teamwork is full of passive skills your allies will fire without your involvement
- Link Up and Super Link Up are no-brainers. Here again, you’re boosting one of your key damage dealing skills.
- Deathblow can be helpful, since it means your allies will jump in when an enemy is vulnerable and do massive damage.
- The rest of this tree you can take at your leisure – Venom Fang and Antagonize are good picks, but they’re all worth having eventually.
- Techniques are your allies active skills. Bear in mind that you can only equip one on each ally at a time, although you can swap them during battle if you go to the “Gear” section of the main menu.
- My pick for Prompto is Piercing Shot. It does decent damage and lowers an enemy’s defense.
- Ignis is easy – Regroup. This is what I used 99% of my tech bar on in the early to mid game. It heals and removes “danger” status from your entire party. When you get past the point where you need Regroup regularly, Enhancement is an excellent alternative.
- Gladiolus’s Cyclone is decent. It works well against enemies that are grouped together.
- I never used the “Change to…” skills, but if you like playing as your allies in the “Episode” DLCs, then they might be fun
- If you use Wait Mode, you might as well invest AP in it.
- Warp-Ambush is a good one to get, as breaking appendages reduces stats and can grant you unique items from monsters
- Elementalist works great if you uncover an elemental weakness that you can exploit via magic or enchanted weapons.
I was not a big fan of the way magic works in Final Fantasy XV, so I didn’t really invest much in the Magic tree. The top half of the Armiger tree is worth getting once you unlock Armiger.
When you get towards the late game, you’ll be thinking about 99 and 333 AP skills. Here are a few that actually were worth it:
99 AP Skills:
- Fitter Survival – As Gladio’s skill improves, he’ll find better and better items. Getting double items is even better!
- The 99 AP skills on the Stats tree are worth it – Health Level II, Spirit Level, Strength Level, and Vitality Level.
- If you lean heavily on Techniques, then Tech Damage will speed up the regeneration rate as you take damage
333 AP Skills:
- Airdance is a lot of fun, especially when paired with Osmostrike. MP regen & midair dodge FTW!
- Point-Blank Warp-Strike can be quite useful in the mid to late game when you’re a bit more tanky and can afford to stay in close quarters with enemies
- Impervious is a double bonus – for one, it negates HP damage, and it also allows for fast recovery from knockback, even while in midair
- Accessory Slot 3 for everyone is a must for the late game, but it’s expensive to get for everyone!
Most of the 999 AP skills that are worth it are Limit Breaks (ie, let your hits exceed 9,999). Unfortunately, the only one that impacts Noctis is Limitless Link, and it only works for link strikes.
Gil is fairly easy to come by in Final Fantasy XV. The fastest way to gain it is to clear missions, especially the hunts you can take on at most of the diners in the game.
You can also gain gil by selling items that are dropped by the stuff you kill, or items you find lying around. These items can also have a couple of other purposes, though. One is upgrading certain weapons, which requires that you bring an upgradeable weapon plus a (usually pretty rare) item to Cid. The other is in boosting the strength and properties of the magic you craft.
There’s a pretty spoiler-free list of items that are used for upgrades on GameFAQs. Keep in mind that you only need one of each type of item for the weapon upgrades. IGN has a good page about the weapons that can be upgraded, and where to find both them and the parts you need.
I didn’t use magic much, since I didn’t really like the friendly fire aspects of it, and the limited/more complex crafting scheme associated with it. That said, I do know that various bits of money (coins, banknotes, etc) can be used to craft magic that boosts experience gain, which means those items are probably worth hanging on to.
One thing I would not suggest is going out of your way to grab procurement points like treasures and cooking ingredients. If you’re headed past one of these already, sure, pick up what’s there. However, spending a lot of time grinding these nodes just doesn’t yield much in the way of gil savings or useful stuff.
Q: What do I spend my gil on?
We’ve already identified a few gil sinks – one is buying items to keep your max HP up, and the other is spending cash on hotel rooms to get experience multipliers. No doubt you’ll also blow a bit of cash here and there on the various “hobbies,” like buying fishing gear and cooking supplies.
I also suggest buying at least one of every type of weapon. Especially in the early-to-mid game, having elemental weapons of every type will make exploiting enemy weak points much easier. The most expensive/best purchasable weapons in the game can be found at Meldacio Hunter HQ, in the far northwest of the map. You don’t have to have unlocked the Vesperpool area in order to visit the shop here, so once you start racking up massive gil, consider making a stop. Each weapon there costs 10,000 gil.
The Regalia is the fastest mode of transportation in the game. For a paltry sum (10 gil) you can use it to warp between any parking location that you’ve already visited. Use this to your advantage whenever possible!
From the outset of the game, Ignis will be willing to drive (or fast travel) at any time during the day. However, he will generally refuse to drive at night, and encourage you to seek shelter instead. As I mentioned above, you can sleep to pass time, but you’re going to be cashing out your experience at that point, and it’s best to queue up a whole bunch of experience so you can sleep in an expensive place and get the max multiplier.
However, once you reach level 30, Ignis will ask you again if you are sure you want to travel at night, and if you say you want to, he will be convinced that you’re strong enough and offer to drive/fast travel in the nighttime as well.
When on the road at night, there’s a chance you’ll be attacked by daemons, who can interrupt your travel until they’re defeated. However, you cannot be attacked if you fast travel. Thus, once you hit level 30, you can use the nighttime hours to fast travel around and not have to either waste time waiting for dawn, or waste experience bonuses spending the night in remote locations.
Pro Tip Liberally abuse the “Return to car” and “Return to rest point” options on the map screen! If you need to jump around, sleeping in a bed convenient to one of your objectives (say, back in a town where you are taking hunts from) and then parking the car near another (say, where the hunt takes place) means you can jump back and forth quickly.
Chocobos are an important mode of transport in Final Fantasy XV. There’s one chocobo system in the base game, and a different one for raising and breeding them in the Comrades expansion.
In the base game, you can get your chocobo on as early as chapter 3. Once you leave the first landmass in the Regalia, Prompto will see a sign for the chocobo post, and try to get you to go there. I suggest heading there immediately, as you don’t need to be in a rush to visit Lestallum right away. (It would seem like this would hurt your relationship with Gladiolus, but he doesn’t seem to care…)
Pro Tip Chocobos can cross certain bodies of water, even though your characters can’t really swim. The Vesperpool in particular can be crossed with ease while riding a chocobo.