Final Fantasy XV looks to completely shake up the FF formula, and from what I’ve played so far that is definitely a good thing. At PAX East 2015 I sat down to try out the upcoming demo, Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae. The demo will come with early copies of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, giving players a quick look at the world and gameplay of the upcoming JRPG sequel. FFXV is the first main game in the franchise to hit the new generation of consoles, making it both highly anticipated, and very important for the future of the series. On otp of the gorgeous graphics, a lot has been changed for this entry, and it all seems to be for the better. Although longtime fans might need some time to adjust, of course.
Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae starts out with Noctis and his crew of adventurers stuck with a broken down car. To fix it up they’ll need money, which sets them off on a mission to take down a Behemoth that has been terrorizing the area. Before taking on the beast, players can explore the vast and open area that is offered in the demo.
The world of Final Fantasy XV offers a unique take on the usual fantasy world of the series. Taking elements from the modern world, such as cars, clothes, and trailers, and mixing them with the more out-of-this-world elements of the series, like monsters, magic, and frizzy hair. It all makes for a surreal experience, and one that will please those looking for a change, or just wanting something different in their games. While wandering through a vast forest filled with giant creatures, one doesn’t usually expect to find a rusted out trailer next to a Chocobo farm. That’s the kind of thing you’ll find in Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae though, and it certainly makes for a fresh experience.
Combat is the other area where Final Fantasy XV shakes up the formula. Turn-based combat is completely gone from this game, instead subbing in the very first direct combat mechanics for a main Final Fantasy game. Even entering combat is different from previous titles, now relying on enemy’s awareness of your actions and the surroundings. You won’t get attacked randomly like in older titles, or get to run right into combat whenever you feel like it, as in some of the more recent ones. Instead, when you come upon an enemy they will react to your presence, snarling and facing toward you, for example. Back away properly and you might avoid a fight, or take the first action and jump right in.
Weapons actually take on a new role here as players are able to set individual weapons for different segments of their attack
Once combat has started you have to balance between your attacking and defending stances. By holding the defense button you will dodge all incoming attacks, barring ones that hit you particularly well. There is also a robust parry and counter mechanic, allowing you to turn the battle to your favor. During normal combat you simply press and hold the attack button to begin hitting the enemy closest to you. Weapons actually take on a new role here as players are able to set individual weapons for different segments of their attack. The weapons you pick will be conjured upon each strike from Noctis. This four step attack gives players more control over their hits, while keeping things simple for newcomers.
Normal attacks can be used infinitely and without any concern for timing or turns, but this is a Final Fantasy game, so you know there’s more to it. Noctis has a very helpful “warp” ability. He can use this to traverse the landscape if there are appropriate areas for it, but it really takes on a life of its own during battles. One issue with a real time combat system like this is that it allows enemies to run away and dodge your hits. This could become frustrating as they run literal circles around you, keeping you from finishing them off. By pressing the Warp button though, you will perform a warp attack, jumping right next to the enemy and hitting them with your sword.
Warping uses some of your MP though, meaning you’ll need to keep an eye on that meter if you want to manage the combat properly. Another attack that uses MP is the “Technique” which are selectable special attacks. These attacks vary in effectiveness and purpose, some in the demo had a large area of effect, while others dealt heavy damage to a single enemy. Eventually you’ll run out of MP though, and here is yet another vast departure for Final Fantasy XV.
Usually, when you or your teammates run out of HP or MP, you start sifting through your inventory for the proper potion. Potions are still in the game, but you can actually just wait and gain all your stats back. It will climb even faster if you hide behind an object and “take cover”, and you can always warp to a high point to get out of the fray for a moment. If your teammates do fall in combat, it’s not as big of a deal as before. Now you can help them recover with a simple button press.
The changes don’t stop there though as Final Fantasy XV features a day/night cycle, which is actually used as a level up and bonus opportunity. Once night sets in your teammates will urge you to stop and camp for the night, this lets you use the XP you’ve earned throughout the day to upgrade your character. It also lets you eat some dinner that has been prepared with items you purchased or found before. This will give you a nice boost in some stat or ability for the next day.
This is still a Final Fantasy game though, and the experience still rings true for the series. During my time with the game I stumbled across tons of side missions that felt like classic Final Fantasy fare. Items and terms are all carried over from past games, though some are used in new and interesting ways. The creatures in the game are all classic Final Fantasy, looking gorgeous in both quality and design. Massive monsters walk about in the background, looking both tempting and daunting at the same time. Chocobos, Summons, magic, and all the other Final Fantasy favorites are there, they just might get used in different ways than before. Fans who enter with an open mind should find a much more modern and enjoyable take on the JRPG genre.