The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same
Final Fantasy XV and its more modern fantasy setting and main cast of friends within a darker action-driven RPG story might not seem quite like the Final Fantasy we’re all familiar with. After playing through a roughly hour-long demo of the game, as the old saying goes - the more things change, the more they stay the same. If you’ve seen the trailer for the game, you may have met the main characters Noctis, the prince of Lucis, and his friends, the warrior Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis driving in a car on an adventure. In the demo, the car has broken down on the roadside, forcing the guys to camp out and send the car off for repair. Only one problem - they need to find a way to pay the repair bill so they can be on their way again. Until they do so, they’re walking, and it seems like big game, in the name of a Behemoth with a price on its head of just over what the car repair will cost.
The group sets out to track this creature and claim the reward that will get them back on their way, but it won’t be as simple as this, of course. You’ll pick up more quests along the way, and the action-RPG combat is fast paced and fun once you get used to it. It’s all happening as active combat in real time, so there’s no waiting. It fits the setting and overall feel of the game to have these combat powers like the ability to warp, dodge, parry, counter, and utilize a series of learned techniques. These techniques are special abilities that you can execute at a certain mana cost. All of this action combat comes at a price though. If you use up all of your MP via techniques, dodging, or any other method, you’ll be placed in Stasis, during which you can do little more than take cover. Warping takes on multiple purposes, as it not only moves you around the field, but lets you regenerate HP and MP if you warp to a high place. Warping from a high place onto an enemy enables powerful strikes for extra damage, while locking on and performing warp strikes at enemies is an effective way to hit and get out of danger.
In the demo I took control of Noctis. When you press a button, the weapons will materialize in his hand. Weapon attributes vary by type and each weapon can be loaded into your slots to affect how the attacks you perform will happen. We pushed forward toward the goal of the Behemoth, during which the quest took on multiple parts. We tracked it, examined other clues. until finally arriving at some obvious commotion. You’ll pick up other quests along the way and it seems you’ll have to judge how you complete them accordingly. Since the game has a day-night cycle that changes the level of danger, night brings all sorts of new dangers. The guys will need to go hit camps to rest up, level up, eat for the next day’s status effect bonuses, and stay in top fighting shape. A warning flashed on screen that incomplete sidequests would be abandoned when we initiated camping, to these might truly be lost. The night brought not one, not two, but three sets of enemies at me during my trek to my first campsite, so this isn’t a joke. Luckily the game’s map may be marked with destinations, with a special section for campsites.
Aside from the world, which felt as intended as a mix of Final Fantasy and something a bit more modern and a bit desolate, one of the best things about the demo was the banter between the friends and accompanying cutscenes. The writing does a good job making these characters feel like jovial buddies, and having conversations start up between them, including jokes, teasing, and stories, added a sense of realism.
The setting, characters, and combat definitely represent a departure from previous core Final Fantasy titles, but things were fun. The game’s open world is beautiful and feels vast. There won’t be any loading screens except for entering cities, so this road trip (once that car is repaired, of course, promises to enhance that feeling) It takes some getting used to the controls at first, and while my demo was roughly an hour long, I took on the combat tutorial, which ate into the demo time, but it was worth it. Those who feel the influence of a Kingdom Hearts style combat system are right to a degree, but this system feels more than that. I wasn’t able to experience driving or even finish the Behemoth battle due to the time constraints, but I would’ve been lost or left blindly mashing buttons without the combat tutorial. Noctis will also be able to utilize summons in game, and one would normally feature in this demo. This isn’t a problem per se, since once the full game is out, there will be opportunity to complete the whole scenario, but it would’ve been nice to experience the boss fight after accumulating those skills and taking on lesser creatures.