It is no secret there is a lot riding on the success of Final Fantasy XV.
The series has been alienating fans since the release of XIII (and it’s two sequels XIII-2 and Lightning Returns)
and while not bad games by any means, have led the series in a direction that just feels for lack of a better word very un-Final Fantasy.
The saving grace has been the brilliant MMO A Realm reborn XIV, Type-0 and re-releases of X/X-2, but as far a solid single player entry goes let’s just say it has been a long time coming and the good thing is, Square Enix knows this.
Enter XV (well, it’s demo titled ‘Episode Duscae’)
The game originally began life in 2006 (yep, nine years ago) under the guidance of director Tetsuya Nomura but was shifted to the director of Type-0, Hajime Tabata later in production.
The demo begins with our four protagonists Noctis (a prince) and his protege Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto waking up in a tent needing to find work to raise gil (final fantasy cash money) to fix their car and continue on the road. These guys are very cool and are immediately likeable with funny banter and strong interactions.
Episode Duscoe from what I can gather looks like it takes place around 10 hours into the main game so we are left with a bit of mystery as to what exactly our bros are really upto and where they are headed.
I won’t go into spoilers but for a demo, E.D offers quite a lot to do in it’s massive open world playground, your main objective is to kill Behemoth and sell his horn for the gil you need, but in doing so you will venture around on quests and solve a few puzzles to boot.
XV has one hell of an epic moment when you get to summon the mighty Ramuh, except this he is enormous and unleashes the biggest fuck you of attacks from the heavens, it is a sight to behold and if XV is as epic as that I may wee my pants.
Graphically, Episode Duscoe is as you would expect. Jaw-dropping.
draw distance, character animation, textures are all absolutely gorgeous and easily one of the prettiest things you will see on consoles right now. I more often than not found myself hitting the L1 button to get a nice (intentional) camera-blur in the background as I walked. Just little touches that make this cinematic and beautiful world come to life, You want to explore it’s landscapes and Square are to be applauded for creating a Final fantasy world that has a fresh coat of paint (it’s modern day) but still feels very true to it’s old school roots.
However this beauty does come at a price, and quite a substantial one.
I more often than not had issues with framerate becoming incredibly choppy (especially during fights) I am sure that this is something to smoothed out before full release but it is an issue that affected this demo quite a lot. Xbox One users had it even worse from what I can gather as well.
While not a game-breaker, bugs like this can really take you out of the immersion, and for a game with this much riding on it- I was a little confused that the demo wasn’t as kink free as possible.
One of the biggest discussion areas for XV is it’s battle system, It is no lie that the days of old school turn based battle are over and we just need to accept this fact.
The good news is that the system in XV is pretty great.
Taking cues from it’s spiritual cousin Type-0, XV is fast and fluid and has a lot in common with the fighting styles in say, Devil May Cry or God of War.
All in real time, combat and dodging were keys to victory, being able to properly time evasive, counter and punishing attacks are what drives XV’s combat.
Weapon switching is easy and feels great on the fly as you zip about with Noctis while your AI bros do a very good job of fending for themselves.
One issue I did find was the target locking, one thing you will find yourself doing is using a warp ability to shoot up to higher ground (mainly tall power lines) to regain mana, However in some cases I had a lot of trouble in actually getting this warp point locked on in a fight.
I hope this is another thing Square will address in the final game as it was quite bothersome to be constantly fumbling around with something that should be snappy and simple.
The good old EXP grind is still here too obviously, however square have tweaked it a little in that the XP won’t be tallied after each fight but rather at the end of each in game day when you set up camp or rest (and cook amazing photo-realistic food to give stat buffs for the next day, better ingredients = better food)
Music is as always top notch, and the menus are tight and easy to navigate.
It’s an overall very polished experience.
I am very excited to play the full game when it is eventually launched in 2016, Episode Duscoe gives a very small glimpse overall as to what we can expect but enough to whet our appetites. Judging by the reveal trailers we are in for one huge adventure that spans vast locations, epic characters and a darker take on the Final Fantasy uinverse.
Reviewed on PS4.