With the decade-long wait for Final Fantasy XV about to reach its conclusion, publisher Square Enix has started its inevitable marketing blitz of media tie-ins. Joining other ventures like side-games, anime, and mobile apps, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV serves as the cornerstone of Square’s cross-promotional strategy, acting as both an introduction to the world of the main game and a side-story taking place concurrently with it. Given the mixed reception of Square’s previous film endeavors, it was difficult to predict where Kingsglaive would succeed and where it would falter. Find out exactly how well the film stands on its own and as a part of the larger FFXV universe in our Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV review.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Review — The Story

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Kicking off with a barrage of political backstory, Kingsglaive introduces a prolonged war between the kingdom of Lucis and the empire of Nifleim. The Nifleim Empire (framed as the film’s antagonists) has steadily conquered many of Lucis’ outlying territories, and threatens to soon overtake the capital city of Insomnia. The only true protection Lucis has now is a large, magical crystal controlled by King Regis (played by Sean Bean), which grants his soldiers magical abilities and fortifies Insomnia with a force field. Believe it or not, these are the set-pieces that are most easy to understand in Kingsglaive‘s lengthy introduction; what remains is an onslaught of proper names, excessive narration, and confusing plot sequences.

While I’m sure most fans can get a solid understanding of these events through the game or on the Final Fantasy wiki, the film itself fails to acquaint the audience with its world in any graceful way. Instead, a person with no prior knowledge of FFXV‘s story will be left unsure of which faction they should get behind and why exactly the war is happening in the first place. Kingsglaive may actually require that you study up on the source material beforehand. If not, you run the gambit of feeling frustrated too far into the story because you, essentially, didn’t do the homework.

Most of Kingsglaive revolves around a proposed treaty between Lucis and Nifleim, a treaty that would end the war for good but grant considerable power to Nifleim. With a great deal of political discourse, social unrest, and conspiracy, Kingsglaive feels more like a thriller than the action movie some video game fans may be looking for. Most of the tension wrapped up in the plot lies in how the treaty signing is interpreted by Lucis’ government and populace. The kingship maintains a level of distrust throughout these political dealings, and the citizens of Insomnia lay divided on the notion of a treaty.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Review — The Look

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But beyond the film’s muddled backstory, praise should be given to the film’s visual presentation and production value. Square Enix definitely spent a lot of money to make this movie beautiful. The world, in both its art style and design, presents plenty of eye-catching images, especially in establishing shots and action sequences. The city of Insomnia is particularly well realized, offering a striking blend of old-world architecture and current-day technology. Final Fantasy fans should be assured that the great world building the series is known for is present throughout Kingsglaive.

Much like the state-of-the-art CGI seen in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 15 years ago, Kingsglaive‘s facial animation is also beautifully rendered and well executed. In how the characters move, talk, and emote, their faces are both a technical showcase and an achievement in photo-realism. There are actually a handful of times when the characters on-screen truly look like real people. Despite my reservations from the trailer, the film only skirts into the uncanny valley a few times, particularly when antagonist Emperor Iedolas (played by David Gant) speaks. Something about how his lips move makes him very unsettling. Unless this effect was intentional as to cause unease in the audience, there’s no excuse for Iedolas’ face to be animated so badly when all other characters are handled so well.

If anything, the film did its job as a marketing tool, as I now consider seeking out the game just so that I can see more of the world that the film so impressively presents. Despite a few framing and editing problems that cause the film to feel more, at times, like an extended video game cutscene, Kingsglaive should be admired for its visuals. They made our Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV review worth it.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Review — The Characters

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The film follows Nyx (played by Aaron Paul), a member of the Kingsglaive, a group in Lucis’ royal military primarily made up of refugees from the kingdom’s annexed territories. Spurred on by an obligation to their fallen homes, Nyx and his pals are sent out to the front lines against the Niflheim threat. While a bit of an archetype, Nyx as a duty-bound hero who gives the audience someone to latch on to, despite the confusing political plot going on around him. His character arc never feels as satisfying as it should, but the film at least gives Nyx a few moments of introspection and a few opportunities for development.

The same cannot be said for the characters wrapped up in the political conflict — such as King Regis or Emperor Iedolas — who exhibit a considerable lack of clarity and yet are given considerable screen time. For most of the proceedings leading up to the day of the treaty, the film withholds the actual motives and allegiances of these characters for no clear reason. A bit of uncertainty is okay to build tension, but a few well-introduced mysteries early in the film are enough to achieve that goal. And when all is said and done, these political characters demonstrate no arc whatsoever. The good politicians stay good, the bad politicians stay bad, and their concealed motives are rendered moot because they never amount to anything beyond what should have been made clear at the beginning of the movie.

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The film’s increased focus on these static political characters continually takes away from what should be more developed story arcs of the protagonists. Admittedly, Nyx and his Kingsglaive allies are provided the beginnings of interesting character arcs built on identity and obligation to a cause. Some even undergo important transformations throughout the film. However, the redemption of one character or the betrayal of another cannot be appreciated because the audience is too busy second-guessing the political affairs that the movie seems to focus on more than it should. The audience is left frustrated several times because the film has its priorities mixed up.

A priority problem also arises in Kingsglaive‘s connection to Final Fantasy XV. Because the film is a byproduct of the game, there are far too many moments in which the audience is reminded that another (arguably more important) story is happening elsewhere, beyond the actions and the characters on screen. Far too often are the events of the film dictated by characters that have agency in the game, based on knowledge the audience could in no way understand without an acquaintance of the game. Despite serving as the main character, Nyx (and the audience by extension) is frustratingly jerked around through the plot just because he doesn’t have a larger role in Final Fantasy XV. Nyx thus has an impotent role in the greater story, and his arc is left un-gratifying.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Review — The Action

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Action fans will at least be happy to know that Kingsglaive retains the slick and stylish battle scenes that were in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. These are the scenes that viewers will definitely enjoy the most, as they are exciting and most representative of classic FF action. It should be noted that when action sequences ramp up, the film feels confident enough to drop in plot devices without proper introduction and without discernible reason. Don’t be surprised when a giant squid monster unexpectedly appears for a single fight, never to be acknowledged again. But for those invested in the raw spectacle of these action scenes, these unexplained elements can be easily excused until after the movie is over.

While they may slip into the unrealistic at times, perhaps as expected, the action sequences are clearly the ones that the FF film-makers are most comfortable with and the scenes they should have focused on the most. However, given the excess of political plotlines, the action scenes are only designated to the beginning and climax of the movie. I’m sure most Final Fantasy fans would have preferred to see way more swordplay and way less throne room conferences. This aspect of the film was the most disappointing in our Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV review.

Additionally, for a film choosing to emphasize political conflict over action, Kingsglaive rarely develops its political themes in any substantial way. The status of the Kingsglaive as refugees invites a few thematic considerations early in the film, such national identities and political influence. And the one-scene introduction of a rebellion could have invited a discussion on the partiality of a governing body or the power of an oppressed population. However, these themes are unfortunately never explored beyond being briefly introduced or vaguely attached to character motivations. Had the film invested in such ideas, the prioritized politics over action would have at least been excused.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Review — Conclusion

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Despite a great look, solid action, and a few interesting ideas, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a vastly troubled film. Final Fantasy fans will surely find the series’ distinct style well represented in the film, and outsiders luckily won’t have a hard time appreciating the film as a raw spectacle. Kingsglaive can be described as “fun to watch” at the very least. But, the convoluted story and frustrating approach to characters will certainly leave viewers in many ways dissatisfied.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV review
Final Fantasy fans will surely find the series' distinct style well represented in the film, and outsiders luckily won't have a hard time appreciating the film as a raw spectacle. Kingsglaive can be described as "fun to watch" at the very least. But, the convoluted story and frustrating approach to characters will certainly leave viewers in many ways dissatisfied.
Overall Score4
  • Gorgeous visual design and animation
  • Stylistic and fun action
  • Great musical score
  • Convoluted & undeveloped political storyline
  • Too many static characters
  • Not enough action
4Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

About The Author

Associate Editor

Rodney is an experienced video game journalist, having attended E3 the past four years and written for outlets such as Zelda Informer, Laser Time, and Nerd Hero. He is both a writer and editor, and strives to become a full-time video game journalist.

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