Just over a year ago, Square Enix released the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV. The game was a weird and wonderful mash-up of worlds; part futuristic, while still retaining the fantasy elements so intrinsic to the series; part typical role-playing epic, but set against the backdrop of a heart-warming road trip. The end result was a bit of a mess, but compelling nonetheless, and the experience has continued to grow over the months with multiple expansions and updates.
If you’re curious how that world came together, though, Dutch art gallery Cook & Becker just released a fantastic new book that details the work of the artists behind the game. It’s a huge tome that includes everything from lush concept paintings to rough, hand-drawn maps of the game’s world. And for fans of FFXV, it’s a chance to explore how it all came together.
“So much high-detail design goes into these productions,” says Maarten Brands, founder and director at Cook & Becker. “This is not something you can always appreciate when playing the games as things tend to fly by. This book for us was a great opportunity to sort of pause the game and film, and appreciate the workmanship and artistry.”
Called Art & Design - Final Fantasy XV, the book is almost entirely visual. There’s a brief introduction explaining the story and world — the book actually covers both FFXV and the Kingsglaive CG movie — but after that, it lets the artwork (mostly) speak for itself. The goal, according to Brands, was to show the work that went into the game’s creation in a way that was approachable to both fans and newcomers, to make the kind of book anyone can pick up and enjoy. So there isn’t much in the way of descriptions explaining what a chocobo is, or how magitek armor works. “When art is as good as this,” says Brands, “it is strong enough to stand on its own, and to be appreciated in its own right.”
The book comes in a strange shape. It’s sort of like a widescreen version of a hardcover, with an extended shape that measures 15.7 by 8.9 inches. (The special edition is even bigger, coming in a massive box.) This makes it a bit awkward to put away — the book juts out of every bookshelf I own — but it also gives the art room to breathe. This is especially true for the incredibly detailed paintings, as you’re able to get a good look at the finer points of everything from intricate hairstyles to shockingly realistic recreations of meals like a roast and carpaccio. (There’s even a cute little insert with the recipes.) One of my favorite aspects of the collection is how it covers a huge range of styles. There are 3D renderings that look almost like photographs, and bubbly, colorful illustrations of wildlife and in-universe posters.
To put it all together, Cook & Becker’s designers went to Square Enix’s Tokyo office for several days, working alongside the game’s art team. They gathered a huge range of images, many of which were cut for room or because they were too small to display in high resolution. The game’s artists also helped with determining the flow and layout of the book. “They really pushed us to not stick too closely to the story or narrative arc of the video game and to not go into too much detail about those aspects,” says Brands. “They really wanted us to show the art and focus on that.”
The final product is 220 pages that cover virtually every aspect of the game’s visual design, but in a way that’s still interesting to those who haven’t played it. It may not fit on a shelf, but it’s an ideal coffee table book that anyone can pick up — even if you have to Google what a moogle is.
You can grab the book directly from Cook & Becker on its website.