Review: Final Fantasy XV Assassin’s Festival (PS4/XBO)

I don’t think anyone was meant to enjoy a free event THIS much!

Developed by: Square Enix Business Division 2
Published by: Square Enix
Released: August 31, 2017-January 31, 2018 (Timed Event)

Okay folks, so I’m going to admit I probably enjoyed this free DLC more than I damn very well should have. Like – really enjoyed it! Even sitting here right now writing about it I find myself trying to stop a smile from creeping across my face. Announced at Gamescom starting August 31st until the end of January, the worlds of Final Fantasy XV and Assassin’s Creed Origins collide in a limited timed event – the Assassin’s Festival. In this event, similar to the Moogle Chocobo Carnival back in January, players partake in mini-games and quests in order to obtain exclusive themed goods and medals to spend on prizes galore! But is engaging with the festivities worth your effort this time around? I’m just gonna come out and say it, if you are not a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, then this event probably is not for you. However, if you, like me, are a fan of the series but dropped off for a game or two or five, this event gives one hell of a fix for those of us who held dormant the desire for tracking and assassinating.

I think Noct might be enjoying the roleplay a bit too much?

Before I get into the actual content of the DLC, I know what some of you are thinking, “What on Earth does Assassin’s Creed gotta do with Final Fantasy?” Well, believe it or not, this is not the first time these two franchises have crossed universes, some might remember the Assassin’s Robes making an appearance in 2012’s (cringe) Final Fantasy XIII-2. What’s even more surprising, this collaboration was in the works since TGS (Tokyo Game Show) 2015! Some eagle-eyed fans might have caught glimpses of this affiliation as far back as October 2016, with the spectacle that is the “Omen” trailer. Square Enix and Ubisoft Montreal have been teasing this project since before Square even released Final Fantasy XV! The most recent tease was at Gamescom last month with the Assassin’s Creed Origins trailer. If you are interested in seeing all the teasers alluding to this cross-over, scroll down the review to find all videos from both Square Enix and Ubisoft. This collaboration came from the developers mutual love and respect of each other’s work and that admiration manifests itself perfectly in this DLC.

“Unexpected” indeed. From the Omen Trailer.

As someone who felt like they (for the most part) wasted their time with Final Fantasy XV’s other free event, the Moogle Chocobo Carnival, I am ecstatic with the leaps and bounds Square Enix took to make sure their first (in hopefully many) collaborative events was something special. The outstanding addition of a main story quest and subtle nods to the Assassin’s Creed franchise all over Lestallum are the main attraction here. Rather than just place the player in familiar map adorned with extravagant decorations and tell them to go “partake in the festivities,” the Assassin’s Festival gives you a motive, a reason for being there in the first place by starting off in medias resseveral days before the conclusion to the main quest. Unlike the Moogle Chocobo Carnival, the main quest here is not to simply lay eyes upon the glorious fireworks display (by the way of which, of course, take place after the main quest) but rather, Square Enix took the time to create an actual story to encompass why exactly the Assassin’s Festival takes place in Lestallum each year. I won’t spoil anything here, but I highly recommend you play the Assassin’s Treasure Hunt to learn more of the Legendary Assassin that called Lestallum home.

Murdering people, fun for folks of ALL ages!

Also, unlike the previous free attraction, the Assassin’s Festival changes the gameplay mechanics a bit by infusing elements from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, enabling Noctis to explore and hunt just like a real master assassin. Noct now has a bit more maneuverability to ascend buildings, traverse pipes, interact with objects to conceal his presence from enemies, and is even gifted the use of the Brotherhood’s most prophetic tool…the Hidden Blade. And just like in the Assassin’s Creed series, Noct has the ability to scale the tallest building in the area to synchronize with the environment and mark points of interest and quests on the map. While these systems are not as fully fleshed out or engaging as that found in Assassin’s Creed, I commend and appreciate Square Enix for going the extra mile to add aspects from another series as homage into a free DLC event.

I wasn’t expecting edge-grabbing let alone synchronization!

Combat during the festival controls a bit differently than that found in the main game. Conveniently, the Niflheim Empire is in town and places a jamming device that weakens Noct and limits his magical powers. Noct needs to rely on his newfound abilities gained from joining the Brotherhood of Assassins to take down the Niflheim Infantry stationed in Lestallum and bring peace back to the festival.

Time to suit up!

When engaging in combat with the Nif soldiers, Noct will not arouse the guard’s suspicion immediately due to his attire (the whole of Lestallum is cosplaying Assassins). However, run or jump in front of them and just like in the main game a red bar will appear letting the player know that the enemy is alert to your presence. Since Noctis can no longer directly engage enemies in combat, he must find a way to get the drop on his opponents. Evade enemy suspicion by using garbage cans, haystacks, and even doorways to hide from the enemy’s sight, wait for the most auspicious moment and assassinate the target. Rather than play the waiting game, while hidden Noct can draw the enemy’s attention by whistling (triangle button), making landing the kill on a target a breeze.

Breaking and entering!

If you are stealthy enough you can even perform run-and-gun assassinations, assassinations where you blend in with the crowd to strike down an unsuspecting Magitek Soldier or even my personal favorite, air assassinations. Nothing is more satisfying than stalking your prey from the rooftops and then making the death-defying leap to put a hidden blade in their neck!

Look out below!!!!!!

Better than that still, is the double assassination. Through my entire time gallivanting around the Assassin’s Festival I was only ever able to perform one double assassination, that one time…felt so gooood.

That one time I pulled off the Brotherhood’s most legendary of techniques…the double assassination.

While you’ll want to try and assassinate your targets from the shadows, you can get the best of most foes by simply walking right up to them and press the assassinate button. There will be a split second where you’ll arouse their suspicion but you’ll be able to land the kill regardless in most cases.

“Nothing is true; everything is permitted.”

Enemy encounters in the Assassin’s Festival take place in multiple stages if you are unlucky (or unstealthy) enough to get caught. A chase sequence will commence where all enemies are now alert to Noct’s presence and will converge on your location. The only way out is evade the enemy’s’ line of sight and hide until suspicion dies down. During the chase sequence a “stealth marker” will appear on the top of the screen that goes from red to yellow to eventually green to indicate Noctis’ notoriety.

(Assassin’s Insignia showing the enemy threat levels.)

You cannot hide or avoid enemy suspicion if the stealth marker is red only. If it is at a caution level of yellow, you can safely hide in an obstacle. If you are spotted while trying to get into a hiding spot, the enemy will physically drag you out and try to engage the defenseless Noctis in battle once again. If that happens, the chase sequence will start all over again and you must, once again, try to avoid the enemy and look for a hiding spot. Once you have successfully avoided detection and the stealth marker is at yellow, jump into a hiding spot and wait for the cooldown of 10 seconds to elapse before you will be allowed to safely explore the festival once again. If you are finding it difficult to avoid the soldiers detection remember to hold down L3 to sprint. If you are able to break the enemy’s line of sight, Noct will generate a hologram to divert the enemy’s attention, leaving a perfect opportunity to make your escape. The easiest way I found to lose the enemies suspicion is to simply warp to higher ground, the stealth marker will immediately go from red to yellow, allowing you to hide until the chase sequence ends.

“The Prince of Garbage!”

The main quest has Noct and the gang take a scheduled break to Lestallum to enjoy the annual Assassin’s Festival when, of course, the Niflheim Empire shows up to ruin all the fun. The leader of this assault is none other than Brigadier General Loqi Tummelt! Still upset about suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Noctis and Cor in the Duscae Region, Loqi is out for vengeance and will use every underhanded trick in the books achieve his goals. The main quest shouldn’t take you longer than an hour to complete unless you get side tracked. After you complete the main quest, Holly gives the players a set of Medjay Assassin’s Robes to be used in the main game.

Don’t remember him? Don’t feel too bad, no one does! But Loqi does seem to have some jokes about Nocts favorite pastime…cosplay.

As I stated earlier, a big part of my enjoyment of this event comes in the form of the characters interactions with one another and the references to Assassin’s Creed. The majority of these encounters are experienced through the main quest.

“Who are you?!” “Your friendly neighborhood Assassin.” I mean come on, guys! This writing is just too good to ignore!

In my whole 100+ hours with the main campaign, I never once related to or really cared much for or about Noctis, until now. We know from camping every night that the gang’s fans of a video game called, King’s Knight, so it’s not so hard to draw a connection to the crew heading to a festival that celebrates a video game series. What was not immediately apparent from the main game, was just how much of a gamer Noctis is. Noctis is a mega Assassin’s Creed nerd! As an Assassin’s Creed fan myself, I get giddy just watching Nocts’ excitement at being surrounded by a property he holds so deep in his heart. Noct even gushed at the chance to enlighten Gladio on the phenomenon that is Assassin’s Creed, only to quickly get shot down. I know this feeling far too well, my sisters sometimes ask me questions about a title and I, (bursting at the seams to share my passion with them) sometimes go a bit overboard. 

Noct…I don’t think he’s even listening.

Prompto shows the same enthusiasm for the festival as Noct, at first, but that passion slowly dissipates as Noctis attempts the “Leap of Faith” for the umpteenth time. Noct’s frustration at the increasingly bored Prompto for not getting the shot of him taking the Leap cracks me up every time! A small 2 hour session was able to do what I thought was impossible, make me care for Noctis, unequivocally making the Assassin’s Festival worth the price of admission for me. (It’s free folks, play the damn festival.)

As you travel the festival grounds you will occasionally run into your boy Gladio….er well to put it lightly macking on a myriad of different women. Make it a point to bug him and cramp his style and he may just throw a few Medals your way. SCORE!

There are many festivities that take place during the Assassin’s Festival, if you took part in the Moogle Chocobo Carnival a couple may be familiar to you. However, some of them are locked out until you complete the main quest, so I beseech you to do that first. Whack-a-Cactuar, the EXINERIS Range, and Chocobo Races are back and so is the photography quest from Vyv. New festivities are Capture the Flags and the Assassin’s Treasure Hunt. Of which I can’t recommend the latter enough. The Assassin’s Treasure Hunt is by far and large the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the entire festival! The angle of the treasure hunt is you are a member of the Assassins Brotherhood who is trying to both find and protect their treasure before the Templars get their hand on it. Hints are plastered all over town by none other than the head of the Lestallum Assassin’s Chapter, Lestall. However, it is up to you to discern the truth from the lies, as Lestall has sprinkled half-truths in his hints in order to lead the Templars astray. Completing the treasure hunt nets you the coveted Medjay Shield.

Do not be deceived by the “color of lies.”

Other themed items one should be on the lookout for are the Dream Egg, Viva la Vista, Assassin Frame, Assassin Mascot, and Assassin Insignia. As a matter of fact, if you were lucky enough to score the Dream Egg from the previous event it would have hatched by now bestowing the player the Master Assassin’s Robes. Curious enough, even after the Dream Egg hatches you are still left with it’s shattered remains. The Dream Egg Shard is described as follows: “A remnant of the oblong object received at the Moogle-Chocobo Carnival.” Could it be that this mysterious object will be revisited in the future?

Another point of interest is the SQUARE ENIX Cafe. You want all the special items in the festival, well here’s another one for you. Visit the cafe and order the only item on the menu, “Semur Skewers.” Not only will you get a new recipe for Ignis, but the dish bestows Endurance on Noct, which allows him to sprint without expending stamina. It comes in real handy for avoiding Nif’s during your time at the festival.

With a nice side of vomit to wash it all down.

As a side note, there is one quest in particular I HIGHLY recommend people don’t go out of their way to complete, and that is the “Shady Dealings” sidequest. There will be a man on the roof of a building who will ask multiple things of Noct (do ALL of the assassination techniques challenges to get the corresponding medals) but the main thing he wants is Broke Magitek Cores. Bring him the cores and Noct will be rewarded with medals to spend at the prize counters. The only way to get the cores is by what else, defeating the Magitek Soldiers littered around the festival grounds. The catch, they won’t always drop the cores. At first the man seems reasonable by asking for 1 core, then 3, 5, 10, 20, until he loses his goddamn mind and asks for a whopping 99 Broken Magitek Cores! Getting to 20 was a grind so getting 99 is just overkill. But, of course, my dumbass had to do it. I mean, after jumping through fire to get all these cores for him surely the nice man will sprinkle in something extra for my efforts. Right? After collecting the 99 cores and giving them to the man on the roof I was blessed with the gift of…25 medals. I hate my life.

Broken Magitek Core – “ A highly explosive piece of broken magiteknological equipment. Must be handled with extreme caution.” Oh GOD what did I give to this man?!

Something I would have not normally mention in a review for a free update (or in fact dedicate this much effort to) but be have to here, is the music. The music gets the job done and then some. Every single track for the Assassin’s Festival is brand new and composed internally at Square Enix, all except one. What is considered one of the best themes in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, “Ezio’s Family” from Assassin’s Creed II plays a prominent role in the Assassin’s Festival by serving as its main theme. For the festival, Square Enix got the original composer of the piece, Jesper Kyd, to create a new arrangement. The original composition of “Ezio’s Family” was beautiful and haunting. An indelible piece that perfectly represents the Italian Renaissance.

Give it a listen here:

(The original Assassin’s Creed II vers. of “Ezio’s Family”)

Kyd’s new arrangement for the Assassin’s Festival, while not as memorable as the original composition, is upbeat and energetic yet still holds the same rhythm as the original, albeit with a different tone. The traditional use of an Italian mandolin throughout the piece and during the solo truly helps to heighten the atmosphere of the festival and transport the player to another world.

(Original Assassin’s Festival composition of “Ezio’s Family.)

Another standout here and my personal favorite composition from this crossover, “Loqi’s Theme,” encapsulates just about everything one would want in a piece that drives the climax of the hunt. Reminiscent of yet another one of Jesper Kyd’s Assassin’s Creed II gems, “Venice Rooftops,” “Loqi’s Theme” perfectly mimics the ups and downs of an assassin on the pursuit; the slow but methodical reconnaissance of the target, the ever-increasing anxiety of success, and the anticipation of the kill. The flute accompanied by the steady beat of the drums simultaneously reminds me of music from both Naruto and the Dynasty Warriors series.

From the battle theme, to the main menu and even the new rendition of “Rodeo de Chocobo” you are seriously doing yourself a disservice if you choose not to listen to these new tracks. I just hope these new tracks are available in a future update for use in-game for the Regalia or my handheld radio.

Fireworks, just as promised.

Besides the increasingly slow frame rate when big crowds are on-screen the only other major hiccups I had occur were triggered in relation to the same event. While trying to obtain the top score in the final round of the EXINERIS Range targets would mysteriously disappear from sight. If I passed the crosshairs of the turret to where the target was supposed to be. However, it would still count the points as if it was still there. After this little glitch occurred the frame rate dropped to a crawl so I exited out of the mini-game to find a new (albeit awesome) glitch.

Everyone got a touch too much radiation. They look like bloody superheroes! Especially Iggy.

Final Verdict: Download it! Final Fantasy XV: Assassin’s Festival is a free download (you just need a copy of FFXV) and a timed event so you might want to jump on this before it’s gone. I wasn’t expecting much from this event but the new mechanics, original story, music, and affectionate nods to the titular property is more than enough to keep you entertained for a least an hour – more than I had ever hoped from a free add-on. If I wasn’t hyped enough already, this definitely got me in the mood to do more assassinating on October 27th when Assassin’s Creed Origins is available. And if this collaboration opens the door for more collaborations like, it I’m all aboard!

Final Fantasy XV: Assassin’s Festival is available now until January 31st and was played on a standard PS4 for <cough> more time than I am willing admit here.

Every trailer teasing at the Final Fantasy XV x Assassin’s Creed Origins Crossover

Final Fantasy XV: Omen (1:23)

Assassin’s Creed Origins announcement trailer.  (1:31)

Assassin’s Creed Origins Gamescom trailer.  (0:24)

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