Square Enix presented a hands-on experience with Final Fantasy XV at New York Comic Con 2016. This 45-minute demo was actually the start of the full game, due for November 29 this year. The Square Enix booth featured 10 stations lined up on one side for Xbox One and the next for PlayStation 4.
There are many aspects that set Final Fantasy XV apart from traditional Final Fantasy titles in that this action RPG has real-time combat (as opposed to turn-based), similar to Final Fantasy XII or Square Enix’s other popular title, Kingdom Hearts. For the first time, players can drive a sleek and modern car as the primary mode of transportation; though not so much in the demo as the car breaks down, but throughout this game, players will be expected to be able to drive the royal car, the Regalia, and have it throughout the game, even while using other modes of transportation.
This demo begins with a brief battle scene with no combat capabilities on your end. It’s unclear what is going on, as shortly after, viewers are taken to a talk with the king, your father. You play as Noctis and will be departing your kingdom to get married to Luna, from Altissa.
The story begins en route with your party and closest friends, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto. Players can control the cinematic camera angles with the left and right joysticks. Along the way, the Regalia, breaks down and is pushed for the rest of the way in a rather anti-climactic, but light-hearted beginning until you stop in a town for repairs. This town bears a diner, a convenience store, gas station and repair shop, featuring a realistic atmosphere instead of what fans are used to with the Final Fantasy series. Although Final Fantasy XV gives the impression of an open world environment, this demo followed the main story quest where there is always an arrow pointing to where your immediate objective.
The car repairs will be done by, as you might’ve guessed, the mechanic Cid, a character pervasive to the series, and Cindy, Cid’s “grease-monkey granddaughter.” Cindy is hard to forget as she has a southern accent and dons a unique wardrobe. Being a prince, who’s never seen gil, or the Final Fantasy currency, in his life, you’ll have to earn your keep and take on quests, many of which will involve monster hunting, a great way to introduce players into this new combat system.
As mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy XV steers away from the traditional turn-based models with action based combat, which might be a reflection on the title being less of an RPG and more of an adventure. It is worth noting that you only control Noctis, and although you can affect or influence your teammates, they generally attack on their own.
There are basic melee attacks, the option to lock onto an opponent, and the option to block. A successful block or dodge will allow a quick-time event to parry. Weapons can be changed with ease using the d-pad instead of having to open the menu. Finally, if there is some distance between you and your opponent, you can use teleport and attack, or warp strike. Additionally, another tactical strategy includes warping to a tower or high point unseen by the opponent, then warp strike the enemy from the tower and increase the damage normally dealt. You do extra damage if your warp strike hits a blind/weak spot.
As you progress, the option to spend ability points opens up where players can decide what skills to improve on, based on their play style and preference. I did not spend much time in this menu as this option didn’t feel necessary for the purposes of completing this quick demo.
Final Fantasy XV featured the ability to camp and rest up in a way not typical in Final Fantasy. You were able to cook a meal of your choice and that meal would not only recover your health, but leave a temporary combat bonus. The cooking skill could also be improved on and thus bring on greater stat bonuses. During camp, you can view and save the photos that Prompto takes throughout the journey so far.
After hunting down some monsters for Cindy, she asks you to check into Dave, a hunter last seen around an empty shack. A pack of monsters ambushed the party in the first shack, and it was in the next shack where we met the hunter, injured while hunting, who requested that we take down the beast. We asked for payment in return for the service. Players can engage in decision making when responding to conversations and the choices they make aren’t necessarily wrong. These choices can affect player rewards, such as temporary stat boosts or bonuses, or items. While these decisions won’t necessarily affect the story, they may affect your relationship with other characters, and are ways to interact with characters differently. Options can range from taking on a quest for free or for a fee, or consulting with your teammates and friends about what the best choice is.
It becomes our new quest to go after this mini-boss of sorts. This fight involves some strategy in that you can’t attack him from the front. It definitely helps to warp at various points in the battle. Left with wanting to play more, but the demo ends after completing the quest.
What began as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006 transformed into Final Fantasy XV in 2012. Final Fantasy XV is a departure for the series in many ways, but it may be what it takes to revive the series, and attract both veteran players and newcomers alike. While waiting for game to launch on November 29, fans can learn more about the background story and playable characters through the animated film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, as what takes place during the movie are parallel to the game, mobile pinball app Justice Monsters Five, or the animated series, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV.