I have played 10 hours of Final Fantasy XV, a video game about how One Direction spends their days off, and I’m pleased to report that so far, it’s good. Very good. Maybe even excellent.
This is an early build, and it only contains the five first chapters of the game, so I can’t yet assess the story or give you guys in-depth thoughts on how Final Fantasy XV succeeds and what it means for the franchise. But I can answer some of your questions, which I solicited on Twitter over the weekend. (Sorry in advance for not getting to all of them!)
Here we go:
Combat feels significantly better in the final game than it does in both demos, especially Platinum. (In retrospect, Platinum was a terrible way for Square to showcase Final Fantasy XV – playing as real Noctis feels nothing like playing Dream Child Noctis.) There’s a certain rhythm that you can’t really wrap your head around until you’ve played the game for a few hours. In the real FFXV, you can’t expect to defeat tough monsters just by mashing buttons; you have to dodge, switch weapons and warp to safe ground to recharge your MP. Noctis has access to an array of powerful weapons called the Royal Arms, each of which can do a great deal of damage but only at the cost of your health. There are a lot of moving pieces, in other words, which is very much unlike the two demos.
The demos also don’t give you access to Noctis’s car, the Regalia. Getting around the world requires you to use the Regalia quite a bit – cruising highways, bantering with your bros and listening to Aeris’s Theme on repeat – and adds flavour that was missing in both demos.
Does exploration feel rewarding or does it feel like your time is better spent just on the tasks at hand? – @mitchloidoit
Hmm. It’s hard to say. By exploring and taking my time during the first couple of chapters, I found a couple of cut-scenes and even an apparent high-level dungeon (that I immediately ran away from). There are random sidequests sprinkled all throughout the world that show up as yellow question marks on your map, but many of them are boring. I’ve found some interesting little mysteries that I’ll have to revisit later in the game to see what’s what.
Most of the sidequests I’ve found so far have been menial – go kill these beasts, go pick up frogs, go take a photo and so on – but there have been a few really good ones, including a new version of the Behemoth fight that we played in Duscae.
I sure hope so. Final Fantasy XV is full of other little references to other FF games, including a set of FFVI-style sprites who stand in for the main characters on menu screens. When you’re shopping for gear, the sprites will raise their arms up and down to signal they can equip something, just like in Final Fantasy VI. It’s great.
Yes. I didn’t think Noct and crew would grow on me as much as they have, but their endless banter has grown on me. There have been moments both big and small that have gradually made me care about Gladio and Ignis and Prompto – good old annoying Prompto – far more than I thought I would. At least one optional cut-scene has popped out of nowhere and surprised me with its raw emotion and intimacy. (Prompto!)
Not really. I haven’t watched Brotherhood. I’d recommend watching Kingsglaive so you see the other side of what happens during Chapter 1 of Final Fantasy XV, but it doesn’t seem essential.
On the other hand, it seems like you’ll miss a lot of important story and character development if you’re not poking around the world. A surprising amount of the story unfolds through dialogue while you’re driving and wandering around, which makes it A) easy to miss but B) far more interesting than it would be if you were subjected to dozens and dozens of cutscenes.
It feels very much like other open-world games in that you can explore pretty much anywhere but annoying little hurdles get in your way, like when you see a fence and think you should be able to jump it but you can’t, and so you have to spend five whole minutes looping around just to see what’s on the other side. But yes, exploration is very much encouraged.
It’s impossible to answer this question until I’ve played through the entire story, but I’m not an anime fan and I’m enjoying it so far.
Magic in Final Fantasy XV is interesting. You can’t just select from a menu of spells and cast them using MP the way you would in previous games. Instead, you have to find elemental material throughout the world, use it to craft spells and use those spells as if they’re weapons. To target enemies, you use a grenade-like reticle that ultimately feels more like a hurling a bomb than it does casting magic. It will hurt you and your party members if you’re in the area of effect, which makes magic very situational, especially in cramped indoor areas. I’m not a huge fan so far.
Wisely, Final Fantasy XV frontloads the bulk of its loading times, so you’ll usually only see them when you’re switching chapters or opening up a save file. When you’re out exploring the world, there are none.
I think it feels intuitive, but it’s also very difficult to master. After 10 hours I still feel like I’m just getting a hang of the rhythm.
Yes! It’s a remixed version of Prelude. All of the music has been fantastic so far.
I haven’t had any hard crashes, although I did have a soft-lock inside one of the dungeons where Noctis got trapped in mid-air and I couldn’t move him or do anything. Also, sometimes the menu screen will just hang and refuse to open properly, although that doesn’t crash the game – you just have to wait for it to fix itself. This is an early build, mind you. We’re still a month away from release.
There are no character classes or any real customisation options, no. There are two ways to adapt combat to your preferred play-style. The first is by using different weapons – playing with short swords feels drastically different than, say, primarily using a gun. The second is the Ascension system, which allows you to acquire new abilities on a big flowchart that resembles FFX’s sphere grid. You can put a heavy focus on collaborative skills, Noctis’s aerial abilities, Noctis’s recovery rate or whatever else you’d like. But there are no clean divisions that make it feel like you’re switching between classes.
Yeah, there are hitches everywhere, especially when you move the camera around a lot. The framerate is significantly more stable than Episode Duscae’s was, though. In that demo it was genuinely distracting. Here it is just mildly noticeable. This is also an early build; I imagine they will have a day-one patch with more optimisation tweaks.
Also, the camera likes to go nuts when you’re indoors, which is annoying if you happen to be facing a giant spider boss who just wants any opportunity to eat your face.
No, they never stop. No, it hasn’t gotten annoying for me yet. The dialogue is generally entertaining and well-written, outside of some awful puns. (“I see the sea!”)
Does it feel like any other Final Fantasy game, or have the burdens of 10 years of expectations altered its tone/mood? [email protected]
This is the big one. Does it feel like a Final Fantasy game? Or, more accurately, does it feel like I think a Final Fantasy game should feel? I don’t know yet. I think it does. But there’s so much left for me to do – so many drives to make, so many dumb bits of banter to watch and, presumably, so much of the story still to see – that it’s impossible for me to give you an answer right now. Stay tuned.