Playthrough: A Spring of Suffering

Box Art

Welcome to The Starlight Megaphone‘s playthrough of Final Fantasy XV, released worldwide for the PS4 and XBox on 29 November 2016, and for Windows alongside a mobile ‘Pocket Edition’ version in 2018. It is for the present the latest main-series release in the long-established Final Fantasy franchise of role-playing games made by Square Enix (formerly Square Soft), until the forthcoming release of Final Fantasy XVI (currently planned for June 2023), at which point Final Fantasy XV will become the second-most-recent release in the Final Fantasy franchise.

Final Fantasy XV builds on previous Final Fantasy games by being the next game in the series, following other previous games which have come before it. And, breaking with previous games in the franchise, which feature character-driven stories in which the player uncovers a meaningful and human tale against a backdrop of science-fiction and fantasy, Final Fantasy XV entirely changes the formula by having a car as the main character instead. Although he is not the main character, the story also focuses on a young man called Noctis Lucis Caelum, which also happens to be his legal name. As the heir to the throne of Lucis, he is next-in-line to the crown, and his tale will take him to meet, and attempt to rescue, his betrothed–the princess Lunafreya–to whom he is engaged. On the way, accompanied by his comrades–Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto–he will face a variety of events of every description.


The battle system of Final Fantasy XV differs from previous games in the series by being nothing like them. Other games in the series have enjoyable, complex battle systems, which reward engagement by increasing overall party strength and effectiveness in combat. Final Fantasy XV tries a different approach by not doing that. Instead, it offers a battle system which, in a spirit of true innovation, has no effect on the game whatsoever. This is an excellent decision if the game is aimed at people who do not know how to play games at all, or who are unable to read and therefore use the complex skill tree. If you are unable to read, and are having this post read to you by a helper or an interpreter, be aware that you are probably the target audience of Final Fantasy XV.

The characters (and car) may be customised in a variety of ways which affect their cosmetic appearance. However, these customisations do not make the characters more interesting, or more pleasant to have in the party. Nor are there other characters who can join the party on a permanent basis. The party is restricted to Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto, and as such no other characters join. There are other characters in the game, such as Cindy, the Chocobo-themed car-repair girl, but she does not join the party. There is also a fat photography nerd, and a strange mid-twentieth-century gangster, but they also do not join the party. The main villain of the game, Ardyn, dresses a bit like Gogo from Final Fantasy VI. However, unlike Gogo, Ardyn cannot join the party. Finally, Cid, who owns the car repairshop, is a welcome reminder that one is playing a Final Fantasy game, without which it would be impossible to tell. He, too, cannot join the party.


After the main release of the game, the director, Hajime Tabata, released a plethora of content in the form of both mandatory patches and Downloadable Content (DLC). The main story of the game was only fully developed in the later DLC releases, exploring the party’s interaction with Brands™ like Nissin, Mitsubishi, and Coleman. In fact, several years of DLC content was threatened, and some of it was even released before Square Enix stepped in and fired Tabata in an effort to stop him producing still more DLC sidequests. Unfortunately, before they were able to do so, a variety of DLC was, in fact, released, including a story about how Prompto takes pictures with his camera, and a story about at which thrift store Ardyn shops. No additional characters may be recruited via the DLC. Even in the DLC, Ardyn cannot join the party.


Please use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, which version you are playing, challenges you have faced, strategies and content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you believe the unwise and frankly insane changes that have been made to the Final Fantasy franchise in Final Fantasy XV were to its benefit; or do you prefer the timeless design of the better games which were released before it? Is this one of your first experiences with the Final Fantasy series, or are you a embittered, long-term fan, now hollowed-out and filled with disappointment at the mere mention of a new game in the series? What sorts of changes would you have made to the decision to release the game? What members of the continuing committee would you like to see punished? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the angriest comments for our podcast discussions.


The aim in this playthrough is to complete the main game storyline by 5 May 2023. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion and encourage other players, whilst helping us to monitor and adjust the length of the playthrough. Please also make use of our official Discord channel, where we have an #events channel dedicated to playthrough chat.

Please join in with us and comment about your experience! Our playthrough is intended to encourage anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the genre. Comment and tell your friends!

Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone‘s staff members and readers in A Spring of Suffering: a Final Fantasy XV playthrough!


  1. Like it or not I’m having a blast. Can’t help it. Unfortunately any pretense of shame vanished as soon as I fired it up this morning. I lose track of time when I play it.

    This morning I did another hunt, got some treasures and things from the area. Right now I’m doing a sidequestc and the next hunt after that. Should reach rank 2 then I think. Coming off XII only a few days ago I truly appreciate how simple the hunt system is. (And not having stare into the back part of a bunny eared furry character who wears way too little clothes.)

  2. After spending an entire day updating the game and installing DLC on the PS4 Pro, I realised that it was already fully ready to go on my older, launch PS4, where my saved file is still located.

    It seems that I completed all of the DLC except for the Ardyn chapter, by which point I was heartily sick of the game. Loading it and having a look at it was enough to remind me of how terrible it is. Absolutely soulless visuals, mostly unimproved by the soundtrack which is used so sparingly that it seems like the development team was ashamed of it (probably because it is so good). And of course a battle system which has no meaningful effect on the game whatsoever. It is designed for people who don’t really like games at all, but who want to get the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a task. So players can simply hold down the square button and let the game do the work, and then they get a nice little dopamine hit as if they had actually accomplished it themselves. It’s like repeatedly completing a four-piece jigsaw puzzle in order to get a reward again and again. It encourages people to avoid real challenges, and reinforces the ossification of the mind. Detestable.

    The pocket edition, then, is the necessary recourse. It’s much better on the whole: there are still a *few* (but only a few) of the brainless “side quests” of the WoW variety described above, but there are some better development choices as well: treasure maps which show a location between one or two prominent landmarks, forcing the player to recollect what they have seen, or go looking for something which conforms to the map. These are not difficult, in particular, but they do at least require the use of creative intelligence, rather than a sort of unthinking collecting mentality.

    The music is a constant companion in the pocket edition, and it is all to the good. The soundtrack is very good, and it really elevate the game.

    The camping and cooking mechanics, which are extraordinarily intrusive in the standard edition of the game, are in the pocket edition not intrusive at all – they occur naturally, at the end of chapters or missions, when the party would have some downtime in the course of the story. Also, the number of long, interminable car rides has been much reduced, with the car now on autopilot, and the rides lasting only long enough for the dialogue to be completed.

    Long loading times are still present (at least on Switch), but nowhere near as long as in the standard edition of the game, where many minutes will sometimes elapse on a loading screen just to fast travel from one location to another.

    The graphics are of a D make variety that still manage to look quite attractive somehow. The polygonal characters suggest to the mind the ambience of the original release of Final Fantasy VII, but not so crude, and backed by XV’s voice acting. The result is a game that avoids the deleterious effects of trying to appear photorealistic: its visual appearance is timeless, rather than bound to the technological advancements that make it possible. Consequently, although XV’s original version now looks quite dated and bland, the pocket edition is still colourful and attractive.

    The battle system now features a large skill tree for the entire group, and its various unlockable features all benefit the party in meaningful ways. It’s quite excellent! Unlike the launch edition of the game, there is some real challenge here, and having the right skills unlockes can significantly help. Party members in the pocket edition can and will die frequently, so it is actually important to manage the party effectively.

    But above all, the more streamlined experience, devoid of 30-minute car rides and 60-minute fetch quests, is the big selling point. It makes the game into a coherent experience where the player is continually with the party members and the forces that drive them (and the game!) forward, not distracted by a bunch of simplistic, cookie-cutter minutiae designed only to pad out the experience with filler.

    I played through two and a half chapters on the first day, and hope to get through the rest of chapter 3 today, and maybe even chapter 4. The pocket edition contains ten chapters, although they are not of equal length.

    Those who have tried to play the original version and found it unappealing should really have a try with the pocket edition. It’s a much better game in every way, and it is not expensive. Good luck!

  3. Caught my first fish, did a few more hunts. Accepted a level 11 hunt which I think I can do now. Look forward to playing more tomorrow.

  4. I’m in the final chapter of Pocket Edition. The game moves along at a quick clip, for which I am grateful. But the writing (and script/VA) are unchanged, and that is an area where XV really suffers. The storyline is largely incoherent, and only becomes more nonsensical the closer one gets to the end of the game. Weird, time-shifting Noctis up against immortal (apparently onnipotent) Ardyn really takes the giddy biscuit at the end, a plot twist as bad as Time Compression.

    The forced ‘conflict’ between Noctis and Gladio is particularly bad. It comes out of nowhere, and then is resolved by Ignis, after hours of gameplay, with a one-sentence retort. It’s clear that the developers decided they needed more “emotional interaction” between the party, and so instead of building that end of the story, they decided to make one of the characters inexplicably angry at another character. And because there’s no reason for it, they needed an equally inexplicable reason for it to go away. Everything in this game is about telling, not showing. There is no in-game foundation for any of the character behaviour, it’s just a series of puppets emoting at each other whilst the game tells us ‘here is where you are supposed to feel X’ without ever actually creating the conditions where a viewer can reasonably feel X.

    XV is a very bad game. But the pocket edition at least streamlines the experience and gameplay to make it a little less bad.

  5. Congrats on completing!

    This morning I have been collecting treasures and food ingretients as well as hunting and sidequesting.

  6. I’m definitely not doing a great job this time around. Not lack of enjoyment though, I do enjoy my time when I pick it up and the other games I have going (FFVII, Octopath II and Shining in the Darkness).

    No the problem lies elsewhere. I’m so drawn to reading right now it’s hard to put down my books and pick up my games. It doesn’t help that I’m reading some brilliant books like Doctor Zhivago and Mrs Dalloway.

    That said I have one more hunt to try and then I’m off to the end of the first chapter I think.

  7. Winter, you just missed the podcast recording, so we’ll read your comment in the following week!

    Hopefully, you will be able to encourage other players. Imitanis said he will be starting soon, and maybe we can get Tactics Jack to make faster progress!

    And of course, what about LC11? He’s probably done already!

  8. Hit chapter 3 this week! Right now I’m on sidequest galore. And loving it honestly. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do 😂

  9. My chances are extremely slim. Not for lack of playing though, but I’m completely sucked into it again and last time I rushed a bit to see the end and this time I just want to roam the world and work towards the platinum. Reached Lestallum this weekend. Actually got in a lot of hours and enjoyed it a lot.

  10. This week was a disaster for gaming. Usually I’m good at balancing what I do to make sure my (permamently injured) arm keeps at what I call the «new normal» even though it’s been years now I suppose. Unfortunately sometimes I just do too much and it was a combination of many things this time. It takes it a while and lots of rest, reading and only one handed gaming to get back on track. Had to cut Switch too this week, but hopefully I can slowly begin to play it very soon. It’s a bit better today.

    So yeah long story short I have watched the PS5 longingly this week. I enjoyed what I got to play a lot though and would like to play more as soon as I can. Thanks for hosting another playthrough!

    (Meanwhile I’m playing DQIV which actually is exellent on mobile and perfect one handed. And The Quest is great for that too.)

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