Monday, 30 March 2015

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Preview

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Preview

Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS4

I'll admit it - I've never been a player of the Final Fantasy series.

So it's perhaps fair to say that this makes me the target demo for Final Fantasy XV in some weird way because its legion of fans will already buy the game, but its success will lie in a wider audience embracing it.

With the game being in development since 2006, it's fair to say there's nearly a decade's worth of expectation hanging on this title and plenty of speculation over what may be ahead. As ever, with a demo (which is essentially what Episode Duscae is) it's hard to gauge where exactly this comes in the story point and at what stage of the game your character is.

It's possibly fair to surmise that it's early on, given how much combat training you're exposed to in the early stages of the demo before you head off to explore the open-world around you.

You control Noctis along with his friends Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus - and as the game begins, you're waking up having been in need of getting your car serviced (for reasons unknown). But this work doesn't come for free and you need to find a fairly high amount of cash to ensure the work's done. So the group decides to hunt a bounty on a Behemoth to get rich quick.

Essentially, Episode Duscae feels like an open world ready to explore with these boyband look-alikes.

A lot of the demo is spent with Noctis fighting against Gladiolus, getting trained ostensibly for what lies ahead. It's all about reacting and working to the fight as well, harnessing the right moment to attack or to hang back and defend. Warping to points and warping to attack enemies gives you the boost of XP but saps your MP, and too much fighting leaves Noctis struggling for breath, wandering woozily around and prone to attacks without any ability to get back in the game.

Unlike previous Final Fantasies which have been turn-based, this combat is continual, with pressing down the square button, using a combination of L1 to defend being the best way to take on those opposed to you.

Once the basics of combat are unleashed and your training's complete, it's out into the real world (well, sort of) in Duscae's open world terrain, which is exceptional in many ways.

Graphically, thanks to the creatures littered around, it feels like you're taking a walk through Jurassic Park in the foliage, flanked by relatively harmless animals. But walk too close to them, and a red bar starts to stretch across your screen indicating combat is imminent. Fighting the creatures is relatively easy (simply hold square down to achieve continual kills) but a horde of too many can be difficult to match. My first encounter was with Sabretusks who were relatively tame and offered little resistance; the same cannot be said for robotic knights of the Imperial order who appeared from a drop ship to make my life somewhat chaotic thanks to their inability to die easily.

Setting up camp to rest after the melee of completed combat brought a relative respite to it all and a chance to see a series of side quests being offered for amusement within the open world. I'm hoping for a little more on the characterisation as the early interaction of the group feels a little forced and false with some terribly cliched and average dialogue peppering it all.

Final Fantasy XV offers some hope of something a little different; early word is that FF purists may have a few issues with what's ahead but it could also be a sign of something different for the franchise - either way we'll know when it releases very soon.


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