Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Impressions – Next-Gen Fantasy

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I’ll admit it, I bought Final Fantasy Type-0 HD mainly to get my mitts on the demo for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae. Can you blame me? I’m a Final Fantasy fan and any offline numbered entry in the series will get me worked up more than a chocobo who stumbled into a field of Gysald Greens. I played this demo twice so that I could fully grasp what the upcoming game will be like. Let’s dive right in and dissect this baby.

In the demo you play as Noctis, who is stranded in the wilderness with his entourage after their fancy car broke down. They need to raise money for spare parts and have to hunt down and kill a Behemoth to get their reward. This is easier said than done of course, since there are plenty of perils along the way and the Behemoth (called Deadeye) is no easy prey.

As you make your way toward the Behemoth, you are introduced to the game’s fighting mechanic. Unlike previous entries in the series, the combat in this game is completely in real-time. This fact had me a bit worried that the game would devolve into a Dynasty Warriors style button mashing mess. Thankfully that isn’t the case, and despite being in real-time, the game retains the series’ strategic elements.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae

Holding down the square button launches basic attacks. What’s cool here, is that each strike generates a different weapon in your hand. Each of these weapons can be assigned to a different Technique, which are the special moves in the game. Techniques are useful for dealing massive damage to one enemy or to disperse a crowd around you. Later in the demo, you get a sort of super attack that makes Noctis teleport from enemy to enemy, hitting them with a barrage of attacks until his MP runs out.

Speaking of teleporting, this is a key mechanic that Noctis has at his disposal. This can be used to teleport to enemies or away from them. If there is an elevated structure in the area, Noctis can teleport to it and regain his health and MP. MP drains fast when you’re teleporting and using Techniques so high tailing it (pun intended) is necessary at times. Noctis can also hide behind cover to regain HP and MP but I found that teleporting to higher ground was more effective.

Dodging and counter attacking are also great ways of defending yourself. Simply holding down the L1 button will make Noctis go into a defensive state and automatically dodge all attacks. Noctis can also counter attacks by holding dodge whenever a prompt is seen on screen. Both of these techniques have to be used wisely since they drain MP. You also can’t hold down the dodge button while attacking so you have to time things just right in order to avoid getting hit.

Final Fantasy XV Behemoth Episode Duscae

You can lock on to enemies to focus your attacks. This works great against a single opponent but when you’re mobbed by countless foes–something that happens quite frequently–things fall apart fast. I missed many attacks since most enemies are faster than Noctis. Staying locked onto an enemy also makes the camera go wild and tended to disorientate me. Disengaging the lock-on to avoid camera issues would in turn lead to me swinging wildly at thin air as enemies ran around me. I did NOT feel like a bad-ass when this happened.

Leveling up is a bit different from previous installments; While you do acquire experience points from defeating enemies and completing quests, you don’t level up until you rest at camp. It’s only then that all of the XP you’ve accumulated gets added to your level progression. As a bonus, whenever you camp, you eat meals which give you bonus perks like extra damage or immunity to status ailments. The meals you eat seem to be random, but they sure do look nice! The Japanese and their obsession with food never ceases to amaze me.

Before we wrap this up, I want to talk about the presentation. This is a Final Fantasy game so you already know the visuals and audio are of the highest quality. What’s striking about the game’s art design is how it juxtaposes fantastical elements with real-world ones. The same world that has a truck stop filled with people on smart phones also has gigantic monsters, robots, and castles with impossible architecture. The voice actors are on point as well, though Noctis’ gravely voice seemed off for his character model.

Final Fantasy XV - Cindy

Though the lock-on mechanic made me want to throw an Ultima attack, the overall demo was great. The game introduces many new elements to the series but it still fundamentally feels like Final Fantasy. The demo’s mission had a great deal of variety which I hope the rest of the game has as well. Also, the summon in this game is insane and makes me want to see how over-the-top some of the others will be.

Just from the demo alone, it’s clear to see that Square-Enix wants to seriously revitalize their most popular series. If the promise that this demo has materializes in the final product, then I have no doubt that Final Fantasy will once again be the gold standard for Japanese RPGs.

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