For a period of six years of my life, I took an annual road trip with my friends. We traveled up the East Coast to a family cabin on a gorgeous lake nestled in Upstate New York. There, we would disconnect from our typical routines and spend most of our time relaxing on, in, and around the welcoming (and often chilly) water.
Outside of kayaking and swimming, our leisure time was not so different from that spent at home. We played tons of video games, conversed on all manner of geeky topics, and consumed copious amounts of beer. But the hours devoted to these regular activities seemed different, more special in a way. We were outside of our usual habitats, experiencing novel comforts and making treasured memories together.
The period of my life spent on that lake with friends has passed for now. Most of us are at the age where growing families and careers fill most of our waking hours. But we still make the time to share new amusements with each other, particularly when it comes to great beer and video games.
A recent trip to my family’s homestead reunited me with another good friend. We had not seen each other for some time, so we prepared for the occasion by bringing beers from our respective local bottle shops. I packed some dark and heavy hitters, while he spoiled me with a six-pack of ales from his neck of the woods.
Among these beers was the Pennyrile Pale Ale from West Sixth Brewing. According to the brewery’s website, the name of this brew is, “a common term referencing the largest geographical area of Kentucky, Penny Royal – speckled with beautiful lakes, rolling hills, and plateaus.”
Brewed with Mosaic and Citra hops, this honey colored ale wears its ingredients proudly, offering a crisp nose of papaya and passion fruit with a hint of resin. The tropical fruit character of the hops carries over the the flavorful body of Pennyrile. After a dry start similar to buttermilk biscuits, a cascade of juicy guava and tart orange takes over, finishing on a tangy pine note.
As I enjoyed this seasonal pale ale, I took some time to reminisce over photos from previous travels with my beer-gifting comrade. On any adventure with friends, I typically play the role of photographer, snapping dozens of pictures to catalog our journey. So it’s no surprise that I immediately took to the road trip stylings of Final Fantasy XV.
Just like the Pennyrile Pale Ale, I was gifted Final Fantasy XV by a good friend. I had been eyeing the game for some time, but I was hesitant to make the plunge. After all, I had not played an entry in this series since Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2, nearly a decade ago. Fortunately, my buddy had acquired the game at launch, and he was eager to share the joys of this new digital world with me.
As the game opens, a message displays on the screen: “a Final Fantasy for fans and newcomers.” This is probably the most accurate (and succinct) description I can give about Final Fantasy XV. With engaging action-based combat and gorgeous visuals, the game is very accessible to modern players. At the same time, FFXV provides plenty of strategic options when it comes to battles, as well as the trappings and themes that are right at home with those who have previously enjoyed the series. Additionally, the in-game tutorials and hints are completely optional, so you can enter FFXV with as much or as little handholding as your preferences demand. Even as I clock 14 hours into this game, I am still discovering new mechanics and abilities for my traveling party.
Despite the unencumbered gameplay and abundance of chocobos, my favorite part of Final Fantasy XV has been the narrative of a cross-country journey with friends. Right from the start, our heroes are tasked with simply driving from their home to a neighboring kingdom. There is no enemy threat, no cataclysmic event to thwart, just a group of four dudes borrowing a family car to meet up with their pal’s betrothed. Even as the game unfolds into a larger story, the core tale of camaraderie is reinforced throughout. As I traveled to an outpost for a small resistance faction against a massive empire, my virtual buddies still bantered about their favorite drinks on the road and encouraged frequent stops to snag pictures of the journey.
In fact, taking pictures is one of the key points of Final Fantasy XV. Along with camping, fishing, and cooking, these skills are assigned to each member of the party. As our heroes drive from one service station to the next, they can execute on each of these abilities to strengthen the party (or simply add some fantastic details to your personal experience). This is where Final Fantasy XV truly shines for me. As I made my journey through the world of Eos, I made sure to save every goofy, exciting, and endearing picture my virtual comrade took along the way. I have shared each of these pictures with my friends who are also playing the game, creating a sort of message board for hilarious and heartwarming mementos from our travels. Through this game, we have taken a sort of virtual road trip together, sharing our new experiences with each other and laughing all the way.
At the start of 2017, I marked my calendar with several concrete adventures, along with spaces for some potential exploits. Ultimately, I hope for numerous journeys with my friends and family, filled with exciting and heartwarming moments. Thanks to the gift of Final Fantasy XV, I am able to start the year with a fantastic digital expedition that I can share with some of my closest friends. When I sit on my couch, exploring the wilds of Eos, I know that my achievements are being documented by my digital buddy Prompto. I will send these pictures to my real life companions, making sure that everyone receives and enjoys these moments. As I finish the last sip of a Pennyrile Pale Ale, I can easily recommend the tropical hop of this beer with the road trip experience of Final Fantasy XV.