It's been nearly a decade since the initial announcement of Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Almost 10 years. That's closing in on some Duke Nukem Forever shit. Nevertheless, I was going to pick up Final Fantasy Type-0 HD as the game never came west and was said to have played like Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core. I quite liked the gameplay of the latter (as mentioned here) and figured I'd give it a whirl.
It was a few weeks before the game launched that I heard that Type-0 would ship with a download code for a Final Fantasy XV (as it had been renamed from Versus XIII in 2013) demo. I picked the game up, came home, pulled the code out and immediately downloaded it. I didn't know what to expect going in as I haven't followed the game closely but what I found left me pleasantly surprised.
The demo starts out with a splash screen showing all four of our heroes standing outside of their car and explaining that your car has broken down and you need to raise the money to fix it. The boys, Noctis (the character you control), Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto all are waking up to an alarm and forming a game plan to raise the funds to fix their car.
Running up the road a ways, they find a sign that tells them there is a 25,000 Gil reward for proof of slaying "Deadeye", a one-eyed Behemoth causing problems in the Duscae area. After this, we are off to the races!
The game is nothing short of gorgeous. I don't really know what the big deal is with framerate, as some I saw complained about. The character models, the environments, the monsters, all of it is simply beautiful.
I can see why the game's director said that the car was going to be like a party member because traversing this world is SLOW AS SHIT! This is, yet another, open world environment for you to trudge through on foot at least for this section. Most of your time spent in the demo will be trekking from mile marker to mile marker to complete your next objective. All these open world games just have an MMO feel to them and I'm not sure I like RPGs going in that direction. Still, my experience wasn't as tedious as it was with Dragon Age Inquisition but it wasn't optimal in my eyes.
I felt that the combat was actually where the game really shined. Final Fantasy in more recent installments seems to be drifting away from the "hit-hit-potion" formula so many twitchy CoD players seems to hate in the west. The combat is much more free form and allows you to move on the field in a small area. It makes the combat feel much faster paced and fun.
Equipment works a bit differently as well as Noctis has three weapons that are assigned to five different slots for types of attacks. He has a short sword, a greatsword and a spear that can be assigned to categories for quick attacks, melee combinations, after dodge attacks and large hits. Hoo-doo in the game allows the party to conjure their weapons rather than just walk around with them all the time which adds to the combat's quickness. Each weapon also has a special ability that can be used in combat for use of your MP.
My one complaint about the combat is, as in most action oriented games from Japan, your biggest enemy in combat is the camera. Even on the highest speed, I had trouble spinning the camera around to face the enemy I was currently targeting. The targeting system needs a bit of work as well as I would be trying to run from an enemy and when I would go to attack I would spin around to face the enemy I was currently disengaging.
Since there wasn't much story in the demo aside from "fix the car" I can't say much on it. The characters were all likable (aside from Prompto who can be a bit grating) and the English voice acting wasn't total horse shit as it has been for quite some time.
As I said above, I was quite surprised by Episode Duscae. I am actually excited for the game to reach completion and I am hoping that as far as being a memorable experience that I keep forever that Final Fantasy XV is a return to form for Square-Enix. They have become quite comfortable in their mobile game bubble so this big-budget nearly decade long construction period HAS to pay some dividends for them. I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic...
Game - Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae
System - PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One
Developer - Square-Enix
Publisher - Square-Enix