Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) (PlayStation 4) Preview

By Drew Hurley 27.04.2015 2

Review for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) on PlayStation 4

Purchasers of Final Fantasy Type-0 were treated to a demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XV, and indeed some fans bought Type-0 just to get their hands on this demo. The game was originally known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, part of Square Enix's Fabula Nova Crystallis series, and was announced in 2006 to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Since then, it has been kept very much under wraps, with little information being released around it. That is until 2013, when the platform jump to the next generation was announced, along with a rebranding to a numbered title. Cubed3 goes hands-on with the first demo to taste the upcoming goodness…

It's hard to establish much about the overall story from the Final Fantasy XV demo. Instead it is a case of getting a brief look at the world the cast is travelling through and the bonds between the members of the group. The snippet of story is that the team has damaged its car and needs to round up the cash to have it repaired, and the team soon stumbles on a Wanted Poster for a Behemoth on the plains. There are also the signature side-quests, of course, and random encounters along the way. The party is made up of the protagonist, Noctis, and his entourage of friends and bodyguards. Noctis is a Crown Prince and is forced to flee his home with this party. The interactions between the members of Noctis' group are one of the best aspects of the demo and the translations are superbly done for these, taking the colloquial and slang that would be heard between groups of young guys in modern Japan and perfectly adapting them to their English counterparts. It's something that is often overlooked and really improves the overall production. In addition to this, the voice actors in both English and Japanese truly bring their 'A' game. There are some very recognisable voices here, although, thus far, they have not been officially announced.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) on PlayStation 4

The combat is so stylishly fluid that it's a real joy once mastered, and fans of the game this demo comes with will find it familiar. It's very similar to the Final Fantasy Type-0 combat system and feels also very much like Kingdom Hearts, but it also adds new unique elements. Noctis is the only playable character but, thankfully, he has a vast range of abilities to ensure combat doesn't grow tiresome. Noctis is able to summon a variety of weapons out of thin air and use them in a myriad of ways. One of the most interesting is the ability to throw a weapon and then teleport to it, which can be used to dash at enemies, teleport over scenery, or stick it into towers and hang off the side. Even though only Noctis is playable, the game implements a number of team-based abilities to the combat, too, which are again stylishly done, with some great choreographed and smooth moves that really enhance the experience.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) on PlayStation 4

It's not just the choreography and the combat that look good, though, as graphically Final Fantasy XV is beautiful. Everything from Noctis' ability to summon weapons out of the air, the enemy gunships and the military forces that come from them, the superbly designed creatures of the plains, and the gorgeous environments - it all looks fantastic. There is an overall theme and style to this title that promises so much more within the full game.

One of the best aspects, both graphically and gameplay-wise, is the big elements of the demo. The aforementioned Behemoth acts as the boss to end things here, and it is a fight that is certainly well done and shows promise for other such encounters when getting into the main adventure. The best way to fight something big is to use something big, and the demo gives an opportunity to do just that, showing off one of the series' most popular mainstays: a Summon. This time Ramuh, the old Thunder God, shows off in a style that is absolutely mind blowing. The way it works reveals so much promise for other Summons and will get players desperate to see what other classics will return, along with if there are any brand new characters, too.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) on PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy XV has an interesting approach to experience gained and levelling-up, as well. The party is able to make camp at night and settle in with a meal from ingredients collected. Using the signature "Tent" from the series not only recovers the party, but all the experience banked through the days played are then applied to the characters as well. It works very well in the demo but it has to be wondered how well this will work in the final release for those trying to max stats and invest a great deal of time into grinding, since this will break up the process. Although, whether it feels it ends up adding or detracting from the overall experience is hard to see yet.

Despite offering a great deal of promise, there are some issues evident in the demo, but there's still plenty of time to work on them before the game's eventual release. Possibly the biggest is the targeting system. The combat system itself is great, yet admittedly it takes some getting used to as the targeting system for it is very flaky and can cause some very frustrating moments, especially evident when surrounded by large groups. Thankfully, the game's dodge/counter system is not based on the targeted enemy, so the issue is a little offset already.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (Hands-On) on PlayStation 4

Final Thoughts

If the first playable demo of Final Fantasy XV is an accurate preview of what's to come, then Square Enix's latest is going to be spectacular. Every aspect shines and hopefully the full release will manage to live up to the standards set here. The very best stories are built on the cast; interesting character development, motivations, encounters, and interactions can make or break a story. The merry band of this already shows they could be ideal subjects. On top of a solid group, enjoyable combat mechanics, a vibrant and seemingly expansive world, there are also the superb designs and numerous nods for long-time supporters of the Final Fantasy in general. Its release cannot come soon enough!

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's been a little while since I played the demo, but I was not very impressed. The combat (in the demo, at least) seems very shallow, as it lacks RPG elements. While in previous FFs you could choose to master a certain 'job', or even combine two jobs with each character, it seems like this is not possible in this game. Noctis only has, what, four attacks? It feels as though these attacks are meant to serve as jobs, but in the demo it just feels very shallow considering you can only do one attack with each of the four weapons. Not to mention that there is no way to use magic. While magic is obviously part of the gameplay of the final product, I wonder if players will ever be allowed to truly role-play. Will the player be able to use magic exclusively, or specialize in certain types of attacks, or will the game force you to be a shallow kind of jack-of-all-trades like the demo does?
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has deeper combat than the demo of XV, considering that not only can you choose your abilities and equipment, but you can also do a different basic attack based on the directional button you're holding. Aside from that, the weather effects can affect your characters negatively or positively, but XV doesn't have that so far. Even Final Fantasy XIII seems deeper than this game will be, as it's got the 'stagger' bar, synthesis abilities, weapon customization, and paradigms shifting. FF XV so far doesn't ask you to coordinate your attack types and weapon types with the rest of your team, while XIII did.

Sure, the warping towards enemies and onto landmarks is alright, but there don't seem to be that many opportunities for it. It's also not that interesting, it's basically just a 'heal' button, which makes me wonder why healing magic or potions are not included in the demo.

I thought the acting was mediocre, honestly. Most of the actors way overdid it, and as a result didn't sound all that natural. The actors of Ignis and Cindy were awful, and Ignis sounds like an American who tries his hand at a Queen's English accent despite not ever having heard a British person speak. So far we don't know anything about the characters, or whether or not they're even fun to be around; all we know is that one of them is 'serious', the other is pretty much 'the tough bro', another I would guess is the funny man or the klutz, and Noctis himself... well, I don't know the angle they're going for with him. Yes, I'm kind of scared this will be too similar to XIII's annoying and shallow characters, only this time they're visually less interesting.

I don't mean to be such a downer, but the demo felt like gameplay-wise, we're taking two steps back, to something that resembles Final Fantasy VIII only open-world. Now, I loved FF VIII, but I can also see the old FFs' flaws. What VIII did really well was the presentation: the soundtrack, dialogue, and graphics. This game's soundtrack is fine so far, but it doesn't do much more for me than XIII's soundtrack.
With all that said, the side-quests are okay, and it looks like there'll at least be plenty to do on the map. The game's story might very well be better than XII and XIII's, and we'll have to see about the combat. Graphics on the PS4 are good, but not amazing, but maybe that's because my TV needs to use game mode. I don't know, it feels like there's a lot missing. Maybe it's too much to expect it to be as good as old FFs like VI and VII were at the time. I guess we'll see.

( Edited 17.08.2015 16:26 by Enigma )

I always love playing Final Fantisies game

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