Hitting the Road with Final Fantasy XV

If you picked up the Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Day One Edition this week, you also received a demo for the next installment in Square Enix’s long-running role-playing game series, Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae.

The demo starts with our four protagonists waking up in a tent in the wilderness. Their car has broken down and the group needs to find money to pay for repairs. You play as Noctis, the prince of someplace called “The Disc” – and you’re accompanied by your friends/servants Gradoius, Ignis, and Prompto. As a fashionable group of studly dudes with awesome hair, a lot of leather, and some badass weapons, you’ve got to track down a massive beast known as the Behemoth and get his horns… and thus earn enough scratch to fix your sweet ride and get on with your mission.

As the four make their way through the hilly plains and marshland, they encounter both local fauna and some robotic enemy soldiers. In the demo, we were only able to control Noctis, while the rest of the party attacked on their own, lending support to the prince.

The demo aims to teach the mechanics of battle – a combination of defensive moves and attack chains. Noctis is a pretty unique protagonist, with the ability to warp away from enemies in order to regain his health and mana. Instead of equipping a single weapon, Noctis uses a variety which materialize automatically in his hand, depending on the type of attack he’s using: small blades for up-close combat, a larger trident for lunging attacks, and a sword for mid-range combat. It all happens automatically, and it makes for an interesting system with a lot of customization potential.

Final Fantasy XV
also features a day/night cycle; as it becomes dark, your party urges you to find a camp spot on the map. Camping for the night is how you level up: The experience you earn is tallied up at this point, and any new moves you learn become available the next day. In addition, Ignis cooks a meal each night, which gives the party some combat bonuses for the next day – things like experience boosts, or raised accuracy. These buffs seem randomly chosen, but they add a cool element that encourages you to rest up on a regular basis.

Anyway, tracking down the Behemoth brings the party to some small crevices in region’s canyons. Crawling through them leads to a few scripted events – interactive cut-scenes that lead to an up-close encounter with the big, purple-mohawk-sporting Behemoth. The boss battle itself throws an interesting twist into the mix: Instead of fighting him outright, the team lays out a plan of attack to lure the beast into a trap. Serving as bait, Noctis draws the Behemoth closer, so that his team can launch a surprise attack… which then leads into a battle. And then it throws another curve ball, and tasks you with
fleeing from the boss battle.

Perhaps this is just some cinematic flair for the demo/tutorial boss battle, but the trap and fleeing elements add a level of realism to the battle. If things like this are any indication,
Final Fantasy XV seems to be borrowing some narrative elements from other modern RPGs – and it definitely makes the world feel more alive.

All in all, the demo offers a great glimpse into
Final Fantasy XV’s world, its battle mechanics, and the personalities of its main characters (all of whom – in true RPG fashion – are far more emotive and gregarious than the protagonist).  We can’t wait to see more.