We recently had the pleasure of playing a preview of Final Fantasy XV thanks to ACMI in Melbourne, here’s what we saw and what we now know.

The Hard Facts of Final Fantasy XV

  • Releases November 29th, 2016
  • Releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4
  • $79.22 AUD Regular Edition $89.22 AUD Deluxe Edition

Notables

  • Florence and the Machine did a cover of “Stand by Me” for the Final Fantasy XV theme song
  • The game was delayed (for good reason) for two months until November 29th rather than requiring people to download a Day One Patch
  • Combat rehashed and redone – entirely made over from prior systems

Our Preview of Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

Source: walldevil.com

Noctis Lucis CaelumNoct” appears to be a typical moody edgy teenager.  Except not.  Noct has the ability to foresee the impending death of those around him, which one hundred percent gives him the right to be an edgy emo, right?  His sullen moods, however, are generally offset by the three characters he’s surrounded himself with.  Our main protagonist now has the ability to be exceptionally…..other-worldly.  Noct can summon weapons from thin air and has the ability to jump through time-space to a target destination or enemy – doing extra damage the further he travels.

Final Fantasy XV

Source: gamecrate.com

Gladiolus, the walking bicep with a heart of gold – he’s the combat teacher on our little road trip and you can train with him whenever you want.  He laughs a lot and likes to hit things with big sticks – wait, no, swords – he likes to use big swords.  He’s also part of house Amicitia, and thus assigned to protecting the Royal family – however, it’s obvious that his accompaniment of Noct goes much deeper than a job.  Not only all this, but dang he has some sweet tattoos going on.

Final Fantasy XV

Source: coronajumper.com

Ignis, with the voice of an experienced and aged wise man, is surprisingly young and is the voice of reason (and also your chauffeur when you ask him to drive auto rather than manual) in your little adventure.  He has the future assigned duty of being adviser to Noct when he ascends to claim his position on the throne – but right now he’s also a fantastic cook (just wait til you try his heated toast – no, really).  Cooking in FFXV gives you, over time, added bonuses that increase with the harder meal recipes you discover.  Despite his educated upbringing, Ignis scraps with two dual daggers rather than a more refined weapon like a rapier or polearm.  Interesting.

 

Final Fantasy XV

Source: fanpop.com

Prompto, a mirror of Cloud from FFVII is the peppy chirpy joker of the group and, unlike our moody sullen hero, doesn’t let his cloudy (no pun, promise) past mess with his current attitude.  He’s also a master photographer (well, he takes photos a lot) and you can take photos of your surrounds by interacting with the points in the world.  We’re not sure what in-game benefit this entitled us too, while the other characters out-of-combat skills had some in-game benefit, photography didn’t seem to.

 

The allies of Noctis seem to be a hurricane of contention and doubt in the online forums for the game, with a lot of gamers wondering why the party is so characteristically cliche and tropey.  There are a number of people questioning the standard ‘Tank/Marksman/Support/Rogue’ look and feel of the party though the abilities in-game don’t match up to this doubt one hundred percent, so I guess we’ll see.

Gameplay

New, new, new.  After recently falling off the games radar a bit, Square Enix needed to bring about something that perked the attention of its old school loyal fan base.  New toys seem to be the thing that they’re relying on.  Combat is now a fluid, almost cinematic mixture of magic, combat and strategy.  With the ability to insta-switch weapons and abilities on the D-pad, you can at-range fire off some damage then warp into combat, chip away at an opponent, quickly switch to a polearm, dive bomb your foe, block an attack, parry another, then warp away to heal any damage you might have taken.  The addition of quick swap weapons in Final Fantasy XV seems to favour the direction of the whole game, very little stops, good flow, nice pace.

Final Fantasy XV

Source: fextralife.com

Noticeably absent from Final Fantasy XV is the ability to really control your allies and every combat you play as Noctis, though your friends are still present and fighting around you, you have no say in how they conduct their attacks.  That being said, they do contribute meaningfully which is evident as you warp away to heal up and continue to watch the battle from a safe space.  They seem to group target one individual (though it wasn’t clear if this was the strongest/weakest/most dangerous or just at random), however, they also stuck close enough by you to assist you should you need it.

Ignis, the stratagem maker of the group, will occasionally suggest certain things you can do to gain bonus damage on your attacks (and should you listen and follow his stratagems – bonus AP).  For example, in the preview we encountered two strategies – the first was to teleport up high, then warp in and attack foes at great length to do increased damage, the second was to attack the foe from behind in tandem with our allies.  Each time granting us bonus damage in combat and AP at combat end.

Attacking from the sides and rear grant you bonus damage (hence why some of Ignis’ tactics revolve around this movement) and you learn fast that you must use your warp to let your allies distract enemies while you close for a rear warp strike.  The entire combat feel is very cinematic and you’re often left holding the one button until you warp or change weapons, you only ever parry or guard when your warp is down – obviously an extremely dramatic departure from the usual fare of Final Fantasy combat.

Final Fantasy XV

Source: egmnow.com

Magic has now withdrawn a little to reflect Square’s desire to make it more situationally useful rather than all encompassing and you will notice that the environment plays a direct role on how magic works.  Fire being weaker if it’s raining and thunder magic being stronger and enhanced as a counterpoint.  Our play through saw us finding…. “Fonts”, perhaps, if that’s the right word.  Where we drew fire, ice and thunder from the world itself at these fountains of power.  Which was an extremely interesting way to make the magic function, we’re curious on the development of this.

Related: Avadon 3: The Warborn

Considering the whole game is based around a road trip, the method of travel in Final Fantasy XV really isn’t surprising.  You gain access to a gorgeous car, the “Regalia” and a whole bunch of customisation options from the exterior through to the interior as well as a few other nifty little additions.  You’ll also notice you gain access to the soundtracks of prior games to play as a radio station.  The hubcaps possess Chocobo claw motifs, as a tribute to the prior methods of transport used in the Final Fantasy Series.  The car can be set to “auto” where Ignis takes over and drives you to your destination, though don’t be fooled – it’s not fast travel, you still have to take the route that he decides on.  Walking is heavily inadvisable in Final Fantasy XV as the locations are extremely far apart, the car travels slow enough that you have the ability to stop for Points of Interest (POIs).

Final Fantasy XV

Source: gosunoob.com

The mini map you are granted seems unhelpful at first until you speak to the guides/information centres in each town and unlock all the nearby points of interest and known treasure caches.  The world around you is almost identical to real world earth, with your gas stations, motels, drive-in’s, garages, restaurants and other common-world type buildings and roadways. However, once you step outside the city limits it’s pretty clear juxtaposition as monsters and goblins and other foes leap out at you from the shrubbery.

Skills utilise the Astralsphere system where each character has a number of skills tied to Spheres, however, all skills are on the same page and all characters use the same AP pool to level up their skills.  So you could favour a character if you find them being more useful or level up everyone’s skills simultaneously.  Our immediate desire was to level up Noctis’ abilities since that’s the only control we had in combat.  The development on this in the full game will be extremely interesting.  You also have your out-of-combat skills (Combat Training, Cooking and Photography, as mentioned above) and these also provide benefits and buffs as you perform them more – especially so with cooking.

The only time you can level up your character is by sleeping, and where you sleep becomes extremely important as the more comfortable bed you sleep in, the more bonus experience you’re allocated.  Additionally, this functions as the only form of fast travel you can perform – you are able to port yourself back to the last place you made camp.  Be that a hotel or a fireside.

The Plot

Final Fantasy XV

Source: novacrystallis.com

Like every other Final Fantasy game, there’s no link, and Final Fantasy XV starts off with our protagonist speaking to his father, King Regis, regarding our upcoming road trip to meet Noctis’ bride to be; Lunafreya Nox Fleuret in Tenebrae.  To this end, we’re given King Regis’ car (which promptly breaks down only hours from our start off point) and told to be polite when we meet her.

Unfortunately, we arrived late to our preview and couldn’t actually reach the Titan that features as the main preview encounter as we also had a number of other games to cover whilst there.  We’re keen to see the final version and are avidly watching the online fan hate/love interactions.

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