Faith Restored

Despite missing the tickets to play Final Fantasy XV at the beginning of my only day at PAX, I was fortunate enough to be set up with a demo unit in the Chocobo Racing section thanks to the incredible Square-Enix staff members running the booth. I was also hooked up with a sweet Final Fantasy XV lanyard.

lanyard

Square-Enix brought the Gamescom demo of Final Fantasy XV to PAX, packing up to two hours of content into the demo session. The opening cutscene was gorgeous. Running on an Xbox One, the pre-rendered cutscene was boasting some of the best human models I have seen in a game so far. From the clothes to the imperfections in the character’s skin, every detail had been crafted with care. As Noctis finishes arguing with his father, the players are fast-forwarded to the main cast pushing the broken down Regalia into Cid’s repair shop. There was a noticeable graphical glitch occurring with the hair of the characters from the scene where the texture would fray. It sounds like a small detail, but with everything else in the game looking pristine, a graphical error like that sticks out. Not sure if this was an issue with the version I was playing or the game itself, but it was a bit distracting during dialogue. As the conversation with Cindy moved on, a new feature came up not shown in the other demos – dialogue trees. It was not extremely deep as you would see in a Telltale Game, but it was nice to have control over Noctis’ choices.

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After a brief dialogue with Cindy, the group was off to complete a string of quests to raise money to purchase better weapons and help out the locals while the Regalia was repaired by Cid and Cindy. Before I get into the adjustments in combat and quests, I do want to point out an issue I came across. With the adjustments since the previous two demos, Square-Enix has now assigned the interact button to the jump button. This led to a couple of awkward, mood breaking moments where I would go to talk to Cindy, and Noctis would leap over her. I hope this is either changed or the option to customize controls is there in the final product.

Anyway, back to the combat. As shown in the Platinum Demo, attacking with Noctis has changed to where weapons are now assigned to directional buttons instead of a predetermined combo. While it is nice to have the weapons readily available, this does lead to some combat slowdowns as the player has to manage movement and the camera with the joystick as well as button inputs for attacks and directional buttons for appropriate swords/magic. Speaking of magic, magic spells are now based off of stock. This stock was shown to be replenishable by exploring the environment and finding deposits of the specified elements. This is a nice change of pace from the Final Fantasy norm and a call back to the magic system of Final Fantasy VIII, but having to pause movement to aim a magic spell seems a bit clunky as it did in the Platinum demo. I hope the magic is easier to cast in the final product or just has a bit of a learning curve that a brief time in the demo will not compensate.

After slaying a few enemies and gaining AP, I was prompted to add new abilities and skills to my party. Opening the pause menu treats the player to some stunning visuals of the team and their current items/clothing. Moving over to the abilities opens up a sphere shaped grid reminiscent of the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X. Here I was assigning a skill to Noctis and later other team members. AP is shared among the party and can be gained from completing quests, slaying enemies and camping to earn bonus experience and stat boosts.

Camping is still a visual treat, as food has a realistic look and elicits feelings of hunger almost as well as the hand drawn meals of Studio Ghibli films. There is also a ton of product placement for Coleman still present. With each meal, various bonuses are awarded to the group. These meals are created from recipes found throughout the game. Here is where XP and AP are awarded before the player awakens the next day to continue their quests. The quest chains seem to all be marked with waypoints removing some of the mystery from the world even though I can still go off of the beaten path to explore, fight more enemies and find more camp grounds. I was able to run through the chain of checkpoints pretty quickly thanks to the regenerating endurance bar that refills instantly with a well timed click of the sprint button. The quest line ends with slaying a boss-esque enemy called a Dual Horn. Here I was able to unleash a mass of attacks and seemingly new special moves from my teammates that was usable thanks to a bar refilling whenever I executed attacks. There were issues with timing dodges and holding blocks, as combos would be hard to interrupt, causing me to be a little hesitant to run in head first against the Dual Horn. Eventually, I was able to slay it and return back to Cindy and retrieve the Regalia where I was prompted to drive the car to the next town.

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Driving in Final Fantasy XV is… boring. I held down the right trigger and would only have to force the car to turn without worrying about the actual steering. This went on for about what felt like 10 minutes. I was treated to the Final Fantasy radio which featured what seemed to be the entire Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. I look forward to being the passenger most of the game and listening to my favorite tracks from the series. Upon arriving to the next town, I was asked to relinquish the demo as the Square-Enix rep informed me that the content beyond this was not meant for viewing yet.

With the recent delay of Final Fantasy XV, I was quite disappointed. Being one of the few who was lucky enough to get the Ultimate Edition, I was looking forward to having the game at the end of September. Thankfully, getting some time with the latest demo restored much of my hype for Final Fantasy XV. With gorgeous visuals and some tight combat, I eagerly await journeying with Noctis and his bros.

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Just please Square-Enix, do not delay it again…

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