Part game guide and travelogue, part exploration of good game design, and part fanfiction, this article series sets out to showcase the best of what Final Fantasy XV, my favorite Final Fantasy game, has to offer. New posts will come out every Friday.
Day Two: A Hurricane of Feathers
We woke up at dawn at Merrioth Haven, a small campsite to the southwest of Hammerhead. The night before, Ignis cooked veggie medley stew with some of the provisions we’d collected that day, along with ingredients he brought along.
Our first order of business was to take out the Bloodhorn, a mutated Dualhorn wreaking havoc on the locals. It was much bigger than other Dualhorn we’d seen and much, much meaner. Something was wrong with its eyes — darkness itself seemed to be seeping from them.
It took a bit of work, but we were able to take the beast down eventually. On our way out of the gorge where we found it, I picked a peck of Leiden Peppers and inspired Ignis to come up with a new recipe. Cindy gave us a call a little bit before 8:00 AM to let us know that the Regalia was fully fixed! So we made our way back to town.
As we’re nearing Hammerhead, a giant bird — and I mean, a BIG ASS BIRD, descended from heaven and almost took us out with its wind shear alone.
Luckily for this blog series, we did not die and our adventure did not end there in the claws of a force of nature. Instead it harmlessly flew off into the distance. I’m sure we won’t ever come across it again.
Let’s talk about Hammerhead and visual language for a minute. Final Fantasy XV is not the first Final Fantasy title to take place in a modern or premodern environment. But from the first moment we’re seen pushing our roadster down a two-lane highway in what could easily have been southeastern California, Nevada or Arizona, we are much more readily able to place ourselves in this world. Hammerhead reinforces this intense feeling of place for me; I could easily have driven past this truck stop when I was a kid going to motocross races with my parents.
And yet, Hammerhead is also functionally a typical JRPG starting town. There’s an inn, an item shop, a place to buy new starting weapons, a place to get a bunch of quests, and so on. But the disguise is flawless.
The inn is a trailer. The quest hub is a diner. Your item shop is a 7-Eleven from 45 years ago. Your main supporting cast is an aging auto mechanic and his “grease-monkey granddaughter.” Even if you’ve never or rarely traveled down Rte. 66, you know damn well that Hammerhead is a stop along it.
I think this closeness to reality is the point. There’s a moment where I distinctly notice an American Express credit card logo in the window of the convenience store in Hammerhead. I can see myself eating at Takka’s pit stop and enjoying their Jambalaya for real. This world is not just fully lived in, but it’s as close to ours as a Final Fantasy game can get.
Day 3: Dog Pets and Dog-tags
We handily completed the monster-hunting tasks Takka gave us, and left Hammerhead for Galdin Quay. As we were leaving, Cindy gave us one final job: deliver a package to a motel near Longwythe Peak.
Ignis drives, and we get one of my favorite experiences in the game: idle banter as the Leiden landscape blurs by. I really, really like this, and it’s why I never fast travel: instead of spending four minutes on a loading screen, I can spend three minutes listening to these characters have a chill conversation. Or watch them take in the scenery in silence.
We deliver the package and are greeted by a very welcome furry friend: Umbra, Noctis’s dog!
Umbra has brought Noct a shared diary that he and his betrothed, Oracle Lunafreya, have been keeping. Is it the most efficient method of communication, making this pupper walk across the countryside? No. But he seems happy to do it and it’s romantic as hell so I won’t hear anything bad against it.
This triggers a cutscene where we see a much younger Noct and Luna sitting on a bed reading a storybook. A wheelchair is in the background, and it’s implied that Luna used her powers to cure Noct of an illness or injury.
I really like this. I like the idea that Luna and Noct were friends as kids, and that their getting married isn’t something they’re being manhandled into.
Back in the present, Noctis replies to Luna’s message and Umbra just sorta trots off. I love him. And that’s it, we’re done in Longwy-nope, someone asks us to talk to Dave, the leader of the Hunters. I guess our exploits with Takka’s tasks have gotten around.
Dave explains that sometimes Hunters go out into the brush and never come back. It’s up to other Hunters to retrieve their dog-tags. He asks us to go on one of these retrieval missions for him. He tells us that the owners of the Crow’s Nest Diner will have more information and also some Good Ass Fries if we’re hungry.
The owners of the Crow’s Nest give us info on the dog-tag as well as some pesky monsters terrorizing the motel. We go hunting, retrieve the tags, and camp out at Emmelle Haven. Ignis makes “mystery meat sushi.”
Day 4: Roadside Assistance
As we were preparing to leave for the Quay, finally nearing the end of our quest, we notice a guy just sort of stranded. His car’s engine is smoking. Hammerhead’s some distance away and Longwythe doesn’t have the tools to help him. So we offer to go back into Hammerhead and pick up a repair kit.
This takes all day. So we stayed at the motel.
Day 5: We Finally See the Sea
With nothing else holding us back, we make our way to Galdin Quay. For real this time.
The sea is breathtaking. It’s the first time Prompto has ever seen it, and for once he’s silent. Off in the distance, an island that looks like a crater looms.
The water is a clear blue. The sand a pearlescent white. Gulls flock overhead. As we park the Regalia and walk towards the Quay proper, I overhear a woman talking about the ports being closed. A strange man waylays us at the entrance. He confirms our fears: the port is really closed. He claims to be a “man of no consequence.”
With no ships to take us anywhere, we decide to get the lay of the land. Inside the Quay, we make our acquaintance with the head chef, Coctura. She tells us about some havens and procurement points and, as always, lines out some monster-hunting quests for us to do. We take the ones available to us, including one at night. If we’re truly, truly stuck here, might as well make the best of it.
Irritatingly, Dino Ghiranze, a reporter from the local paper, has decided to blackmail us. He’s promising to keep our presence in Galdin Quay secret if we can get him… some rocks. Cool, cool cool cool. Love this.
Next time on Final Fantasy: Boys Diary
The boys do a stupid fetch quest for stupid Dino and meet their worst nightmare — the big ass bird from earlier in the week! With no boats coming in or going out of Galdin Quay, the boys make do with some monster-hunting, including their first night mission! Gladio and Noctis bond on the beach! And… News from Insomnia. All that and more on the next Final Fantasy: Boys Diary!