PAX West 2016 Impressions: Final Fantasy XV
Recently, Square Enix released a 52-minute gameplay video of the Master Version of Final Fantasy XV showcasing the game’s opening chapters. In all, the 60-minute features Chocobo racing, new monsters, side quests, equipment, ability and magic synthesis systems, and the Wait Mode. At PAX West, we were invited to participate in a 1-hour hands-on demo on PlayStation 4. From what I can say, the game has been improved, but for better or worse?
At the start of the demo the main protagonist Noctis and his friends: Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto are shown. The main quest shows them bringing their broken down car to Cindy. While her grandfather Cid repairs it, she sends the group on a series of quests ranging from killing a pack of smaller monsters, a search for a missing person and a mini-boss battle. I loved the different variety of question locations, so I was constantly engaged to see the quest line to its end. Upon finishing, I was given access to the car, with the ability to travel to different towns on the world map.
Visually the game is gorgeous. The details on all the characters are almost realistic. Being struck with spells like fire can actually damage your characters clothing. The overall environment is also very detailed from the massive landscapes. Throughout the demo, every building or scenery looked different from the next. The battle system of Final Fantasy XV uses the Active Cross Battle system (AXB) system, which is similar to the real-time battle systems from the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy Type 0. Combat is fast and fluid and many improvements have been spotted with the AXB, however, there is an option to slow down the battle tempo for those who prefer classic turn-based gameplay. During real-time, players can either tap or hold the attack button while watching for QTE’s showing when an enemy is about to attack. Evasive abilities range from dodging or parrying successfully for a counter or warping out of the area. At any time during battle, if the meter assigned to L1 is filled, Noctis can direct one of his party members to do a special ability. Some abilities can do critical damage or stun the enemy or turn them into warp points for Noctis to strike all at once.
Players can choose to switch between different types of weapons. In the demo, I had access to a sword, spear, and great sword. One of the interesting features about this game is the way magic is handled. The game uses a magic crafting system. Throughout the map, there are different elements that can be collected and converted into magic. On top of that, items can be added into the mix to give the spell special properties. Adding a potion to the fire spell will it the ability to heal party members while still damaging the enemy. As the demo progressed I got a chance to try out the car. Overall the manual driving has improved, however, the car is still limited to how far out of the lanes it can drive. I found it best just to stay on auto and play with the radio. While in the car there were many different tracks to listen to from Final Fantasy’s history, all the way from Final Fantasy I, VII, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and Lucian Cruisin.
Another element I enjoyed was Noctis’ relationship with all his friends. Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto all have a seem to have their own role or stereotype. Gladiolus will act all tough and mighty, Ignis is the intelligent one of the group and Prompto is your typical comic relief. I did enjoy how Ignis would easily discover a new cooking recipe when your cooking skill hit a certain level. Overall I did enjoy the banter between the four of them. On occasion during a conversation you are given a choice of different dialogue options. Noctis can even consult his friends for some of the more, tougher choices. Since it was early in the game the only choices were choosing to be kind to people or do your quest for a gil.
All in all, the game has seen many improvements since the Episode Duscae and Platinum demos. After playing for an hour I am more excited for its full release. Hopefully, the finished game will have more improvements than the demo at PAX. Final Fantasy XV is expected to be released on November 29th on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.