Final Fantasy XV, a game first announced nine freaking years ago, is finally available in an actual, playable format.  The demo, subtitled Episode Duscae, comes with the recently-released Final Fantasy Type-0.  I’ve played through the roughly three hours of content, so what does nine years and a complete rebranding from Final Fantasy Versus XIII equate to?

Most of it will be spent hunting and fighting this thing.
Most of it will be spent hunting and fighting this thing.

It’s a Final Fantasy game, but not one you’re used to

Final Fantasy games may not share a story, but you know a few things are going to be true.  There will be a group of scrappy fighters, wonderful orchestral music, gil, chocobos, summon abilities, and incredible hair physics.  All of these things can be found in Final Fantasy XV.

Episode Duscae is primarily a combat primer and that combat is certainly different than the turn-based Final Fantasys of old.  Noctis, the main character, can summon weapons out of thin air.  You assign five weapons to five different slots: initial attack, continual attacks, death blow, counter/parry, and descending attacks.  These weapons will materialize in Noctis’s hands as you need them.  Each weapon has modifiers on them, like HP regeneration or enemy defense negation, so I’m assuming there will be a large number of weapons in the main game to mix and match between slots.  Weapons come with a skill as well, like the greatsword’s swinging slash or the spear’s dragoon jump.

Two of the most important techniques are parrying and warping.  Enemy attacks that light up a little notification near Noctis can be parried and countered for heavy damage.  Like, severely heavy damage.  It looks like you should be doing this whenever possible.  Noctis can also warp directly to enemies for a strike or warp to high ground to heal and get a birds-eye view.

Not your typical fight/magic/defend/run setup.
Not your typical fight/magic/defend/run setup.

 

Speed is the name of the game

Final Fantasy XV is really, really fast.  Enemies move and attack quickly.  The camera is panning around all the time, regardless of if you’ve locked on an enemy or not, and warping adds a dash of Devil May Cry to the mix.  I hope they tone it down a bit because it get’s difficult to keep track of enemies at this pace when you’re fighting 10+ at a time.

 

MP is king

When you think of MP, you probably think of skills, right?  While MP does fuel skills, which are selected by a simple left-to-right menu during combat, it’s also used for warping, defense, and limit breaks.  There is no defend/guard option in Final Fantasy XV, but rather you can hold L1 to auto-dodge incoming attacks at the cost of MP.  If your MP is full, you can trigger an “armiger” (read: limit break).  The one I found in my playthrough did damage over time to a small area around me and made my attacks at least seem faster.

You don’t want to run out of MP, though, as that will put Noctis into stasis.  Stasis means Noctis can’t use MP and won’t regenerate it for a bit.  Warping is key to escaping if you can’t a dodge off, so keeping some MP in reserve at all times is important.

 

Your teammates are bros, plain and simple

I really can’t say it any simpler than that — your teammates in Final Fantasy XV are straight up bros.  Kotaku went as far as to call them a boy band.  You have Ignis, the brains, Prompto, the childish/awkward one, and Gladiolus, the brawler.  Noctis and company have great chemistry and really do seem like long-time friends rather than the usual trope of a collection of mercenaries out to save the world.

The guys can be pretty stupid, though.  I don’t know how many times I heard one of them say, “Noct, look at this!” or, “what do you think of this, Noct?” when referring to something like a bird feather or a road sign.  Also, you can’t control your teammates or give them direction, which is unfortunate.

Bump it, brah.
Bump it, brah.

 

Where are my classes?

Each of the four party members in Episode Duscae are fighters.  The only inkling of non-melee combat is Prompto and his pistols.  There is no magic or healing to speak of.  I’m holding out hope that this was because there were no skills to unlock.  But, if Final Fantasy XV follows in the Final Fantasy XIII vein, and it probably will since it started off it’s life that way, we probably will have mainly brawlers with some magic tossed in.

 

No HP?  No problem … yet

When a party member drops to zero health, it’s not the end of the line.  They’ll start to stumble around, unable to act until another party member comes over to give them a pep talk which heals them.  While stumbling around, any damage taken will knock off that character’s max health.  I really like this idea, as it doesn’t push the difficulty too far with such a fast-paced game.

 

Camping is a vital part of the game

As day turns to night, you’ll be forced to find a campsite and set up for the night.  Whatever you chef up will give you different stat boosts for the next day.  I’m not sure if it will be important to go for certain boosts if you know you are doing a particular type of mission, but it’s a cool idea nonetheless.

Camping is also when all of your experience is applied.  Any experience earned while fighting is pooled up but not actually put into effect until you camp out.  I found this out the hard way when I went through a difficult area and thought I was severely underleveled.  Turns out I just hadn’t camped out for a while.

Who's got the acoustic guitar?
Who’s got the acoustic guitar?

Final Fantasy XV is a real, tangible thing.  It’s happening, people.  Who know’s how many iterations and reworks it’s gone through in it’s nine year life, but Episode Duscae gets a thumbs up from me.  It’s a little rough around the control and graphical edges, sure, but the base systems are sound which is what you want from a demo.  Color me optimistic for the full release of Final Fantasy XV, which will hopefully be this decade.

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