Final Fantasy XV PlayStation 4 PS4 Game of the Year 1

Jeez, where do you start with this one? What could have quite easily been a catastrophe, Final Fantasy XV has made into our top five games of 2016. For many of us, there's a distinct feeling of relief when we stop to think about Noctis' road trip. We're weirdly thankful that everything turned out well, and more importantly, we're over the moon that Final Fantasy seems to be getting back on track after years of struggle.

Having said all that, we don't want to make out like Final Fantasy XV's success is solely due to our low expectations; this is an open world action role-playing game that stands strong as a memorable journey. Sure, it has its flaws – mostly in the storytelling department – but its willingness to carve its own path through a now crowded genre should be applauded. For what it's worth, we reckon that Final Fantasy XV is one of the most unique big budget titles that we've played in years – and that's quite an achievement for a game that clearly takes inspiration from so many different places.

"Final Fantasy XV is one of the most unique big budget titles that we've played in years"

An endearing cast of primary characters help take the title's road trip framing to the next level. Where the plot stumbles, Noctis, Ignis, Gladio, and Prompto usually pick up the slack through an abundance of smaller, more heartfelt interactions with one another. There's a sense of camaraderie here that Final Fantasy hasn't unearthed since the classics, and that's really the linchpin of the game's overall tone. Whether you're taking a long, cosy drive towards your next destination or you're traipsing through a forest as the sun goes down, you never feel like you're alone as Noctis; your buddies have always got your back.

There's much to be said for the all-new combat system, as well. Like most of the release, it could have been a mess – early demos didn't exactly inspire confidence – but we ended up with a fast and fluid set of mechanics that work well together. While it does take a little time to wrap your head around the ins-and-outs of it, once the system does click, it offers up a satisfying rhythm. Plus, warping around the battlefield at lightning speeds is almost a game within itself.

It took ten years for Final Fantasy XV to make it from announcement to release, and at times, that disjointed development cycle shows in some of the game's most misguided moments. But for all of its flaws, there's a heart and soul to this fifteenth instalment that the series hasn't embraced in what feels like an age. Genuine hope for the future of Final Fantasy has replaced our very cautious optimism – and that's what Final Fantasy XV absolutely had to accomplish.

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Is Final Fantasy XV one of your favourite games of 2016? Did you enjoy your road trip across Lucis? Summon your swords and warp into the comments section below.