Final Fantasy XV Impressions – EBGames Expo 2016

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This year at the EBGames Expo held in Sydney there was a playable build of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV video game from Square Enix held at the Namco Bandai booth. Final Fantasy XV follows the adventure of Noctis and his crew of guys as they road-trip it across the countryside for bromance reasons. Our demo took place in a desert area, where they are tasked by Cidney to kill some mobs just outside of the garage.

Exploration in Final Fantasy XV is a bit strange. Much like in classic Final Fantasy games, monsters are invisible in an explorable area, but what makes this strange is that the game feels like a third-person action game. The combat controls are locked down until you are actually in combat, which I find strange considering all of the weapons that you can use can be used for teleportation, but I can see why they designed it this way. It’s as though they wanted to retain a sense of the classic formula while merging into a newer formula.

It’s a little strange having invisible mobs when in Final Fantasy XIII, the previous main-line Final Fantasy game, you could see mobs on the linear corridor that was the game. However, in XV, where it is much more open and seeing enemies would be more beneficial, they are rendered invisible. It’s an odd choice.

The combat in FFXV, I felt, was a little clunky to use. Noctis himself can’t really do much without keeling over and panting for breath and some weapons felt a lot more effective than others. One of the hallmarks of the combat was this multiple weapon feature, but I felt that the really big sword, which I dubbed the Dark Knight class (no idea what it is actually called, I play DRK in FFXIV which uses similar swords), to be the most versatile of the lot. Lance felt useless unless you were in the air, which Noctis really isn’t built to be in, and the regular Short Sword felt too weak to be of any use. Of course, I imagine that over the course of the game, you’d have access to different weapons, but for this demo, it really didn’t do a good job of showcasing weapon versatility.

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Combat’s best part was probably the teleportation gimmick, but it was hard to utilise in a fun way. I envisioned a method of being able to chain teleport across multiple enemies, accruing damage on each before ending up at the furthest one and being able to kill it. Unfortunately, after a small number of teleports, Noctis keels over like a child and becomes vulnerable to being killed. This is actually a lot of my experience of playing as Noctis, he is just too unable to do anything to live up to his cool looks. Which sucks, because Noctis is a sexy beast.

It was a bit strange that such a fantastically visual designed Final Fantasy game had its demo set in such a bland desert level with no access to magic spells outside of the teleportation. One of Final Fantasy’s biggest draws since its switch to 3D has been its focus on being a spectacular visual feast. Unfortunately, sand and a lack of abilities makes this point a hard-sale. I know that there is potential for more beautiful scenery from this game, as both the movie and some of the marketing material tells us as much.

My gameplay demo ended slightly after following the kill monsters quest chain lead me to an abandoned shack where I killed more things. After playing Final Fantasy XIV, having the only quests available in a single player game in Final Fantasy XV seems a bit strange. However, this was only a demo build of the game, so there may be more variety in the full release.

For me, this demo was kind of a let-down when it came to showcasing just how good Final Fantasy XV could be. I feel like a lot of poor decisions were made by having the demo take place in an uninteresting environment without any kind of real tools to make this more enjoyable. I’d have picked a location later in the game, just to build that excitement a little bit. Not having much to do in a desert just isn’t all that interesting.

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