I didn’t think the day would ever come for Final Fantasy XV to be released. We’ve been waiting approximately nine years to see Prince Noctis in action, and I for one am glad that something has finally come of all the teaser trailers and leaked gameplay videos. I have been a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series since I was a child, and I spent a lot of my days playing Final Fantasy X, arguably one of the best Final Fantasy games to be released out of the entire series. As I’ve grown up, my tastes and expectations of these games have changed, and for the most part, they have impressed me – at least somewhat.
Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae felt like a breath of fresh air as I started it up. The download was around 6GB and it was worth waiting for. You are greeted with a gorgeous expanse as you hop right into the game, after you meet all of the characters, of course. The characters so far consist of Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus.
It’s nice to finally see characters that aren’t dressed up in girly and colourful outfits. I feel like Square Enix wanted to communicate a more masculine feel through their characters, and it works. In terms of atmosphere, it seems to be extending beyond where FFXIII left off, but toning down the outfits a little.
For this demo, the storyline is very simple, and you’re not hit with a ton of information. Noctis, Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus are stranded with a broken down car, so they take to the wilderness. Their goal is given to them almost immediately as you hop onto the world. Your task is to defeat a Behemoth monster and receive the 25,000 gil needed in order to pay for repairs. Unfortunately, not much is explained in terms of storyline, and it is recommended that you visit a Wiki page if you are after the complete backstory of how people were blessed with powers, how the land is divided into four regions. I believe that all of the specifics will be expanded upon once the game comes out into full release later on.
For those of you who are familiar with FFXII (PS2 release), the real-time battle system might appeal to you. The battle system is not focused around strategizing your attacks between turns, or waiting for an enemy to attack so you can defend in response at the correct time. The gameplay is very free-flowing and comfortable, and I welcome this change. Throwing this game into a turn-based system would really slow it down, as the game is supposed to be fast-paced.
While this familiar way of fighting is definitely welcomed, I feel like you are also put at a disadvantage in this demo. The targeting system doesn’t seem to be very accurate, and I found myself fumbling around in the world just trying to attack a single enemy, as they move much faster than Noctis, who is currently the only playable character. For some reason, the camera is a much tougher enemy than any of those that you face. It’s not as if the camera controls are controlled by the screen on the PS4 controller, it just feels overly sensitive and wonky.
When it comes to actually fighting enemies, everything seems to be pretty well balanced and I haven’t felt like I’ve been overwhelmed and put into an unfair fight, however, the enemies operate based on a ‘pack mentality’, meaning that when you attack one, all the others come after you. It is virtually impossible to lure one enemy out into the open and attack it without being swarmed by five others. This is where it can actually get to be a little frustrating, especially when you happen to run out of potions and the AI doesn’t react fast enough to heal you. The way healing is done by the AI is different to how you conduct healing yourself (and others). You must use a potion from your inventory, and thankfully this does not retract from the way the game flows, however, an AI must be able to be by your side for a few seconds in order to ‘perk you up’, so it seems. The healing ability can easily be interrupted by enemy attacks that completely cancel out the action, so when there are multiple enemies on screen you might find yourself struggling to keep up enough max HP to advance to the next stage in the demo.
One more negative thing I have to say about this demo is that the max HP you can have can easily be depleted, spelling game over when your max HP is completely reduced to 0. This effect reminds me of the ‘Wound’ ability present in FFXIII, where you could deplete an enemy’s max HP so if they healed themselves they wouldn’t be able to heal anywhere near as much. A swarm of enemies can make quick work of you if Noctis is on his own and his companions haven’t caught up to him in battle, or they cannot react fast enough due to so much going on at once. I thought that by buying 40 potions I would remain safe, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Noctis wasn’t quick enough to heal himself when surrounded by a multitude of enemies. Be careful when venturing into the dark cave present on the first area’s map, as you will find yourself in a spot of trouble inside.
Now that I’ve talked about the game mechanics that frustrate me, I believe it’s time to touch on what this game does right. The graphics in this game are phenomenal, it pushes the PS4 to its limits, and you can’t really witness the true detail that Square Enix has put into this game unless you play it on a larger television. For this demo I had to actually sit up close to the TV as my eyesight isn’t good enough to see small text from a few meters away, but upon standing back I could marvel at the hard work and love that was put into this.
This might seem like I’m overreacting, but when Noctis brushes past bushes and shrubbery, his hands move to push them away. It’s tiny details like that that really show just how much care went into creating something that is closer to today’s modern world than say, FFXIII, where environments were nothing but a flat image that you weren’t really able to interact with. It’s really good to see how SE has been able to see what they do well, and then they improved on this, thus making for a fantastic game – and this is only the beginning. The game has such strong immersion and it draws you in with those beautiful visuals, but it does not fall short of anything else. I’d post a screenshot to prove to you that the graphics are impressive, but no screenshot is in a high enough resolution to communicate just how beautiful it is. You have to see it for yourself!
With this demo, I decided to stick with the original Japanese voices. If I’m given a choice, I will often just stick with the original voices, whatever language they happen to be in. I decided to have the original Japanese voices because I am somewhat sick of listening to the generic Troy Baker voices that we are so used to hearing today. I don’t want to be able to recognize who the voices belong to, as it kind of takes away from the immersion of the video game, at least for me, anyway.
The music present in the demo is quite fitting, and of course, Square Enix does not ever disappoint when it comes to creating beautiful orchestral tracks and battle music. The music does not overwhelm the game at all, but it is present in the background and makes sure that it’s heard without it being an annoying distraction. At the moment, there are no tracks that have really stuck with me for long periods of time, but I’m looking forward to hearing what the rest of the game has in store for us.
Although this is not the finished product and final release of the game, I will be giving the demo scores in the fields of Gameplay, Sound, Graphics and Storyline, in case anyone is interested in picking it up.