PAX West 2016: Final Fantasy XV Hands-On
Without a doubt, Final Fantasy XV brought some serious A-game to PAX. We caught up with Square Enix who were kind enough to give us an hour to sink our teeth into the next iteration of the beloved RPG. Some noticeable changes include the slick new ride and the combat system which has been completely overhauled. If you’re wondering if you should be excited, you should be, you absolutely should be.
Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places
I’m going to avoid spoilers on this one but I will say that two characters from previous games make an appearance in just the first ten minutes of play. The story is about a prince named Noctis who sets course for the city of Altissa to marry his fiancé Lady Lunafreya. The king entrusts three friends, Gladus, Ignis and Pronto to ensure he arrives in one piece. The lore is a lot more fleshed out in XV. You can tell Square Enix really put the gears in motion to create a visceral world that carves its own style from the previous titles and that’s not even mentioning the CGI movie, anime and separate demo for further enrichment.
Travelling Made Easy
Typically, Final Fantasy games start with you off on foot until you eventually earn a sparkly new airship. Final Fantasy XV grants you a car right off the hop called a Regalia; a top-down convertible so you can see all your friends as you take a road trip down the countryside. I found driving mechanics to be rigid and frustrating to navigate and while the game is open world, the car is restricted to the boundaries of the road. Fair enough. What is good is that you can choose to drive or point to a spot on the map and the car will self-drive to the destination. There are some fantastic tunes on the radio that include full soundtracks from all the previous Final Fantasy games including FFI, FFII, FF7, FFX, FFXII and FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. It makes it less monotonous to travel about because you always get that taste of nostalgia.
The biggest change here is how you approach combat. Noctis has three weapons at his disposal; a spear to keep distance, a small sword for quicker but weaker strikes and a two-handed sword that’s slow but brings the pain. You also have the ability to use “technics” which are abilities that can heal or deliver damage. Combat is free movement and plays more like a third-person hack n’ slash but it’s not necessarily a bad thing given there’s still the element of strategy by being able to switch to other characters to perform their technics. Another new feature is the added focal points that are designated spots where you can warp to. These warp points appear in areas like a cliff ledge or up on a windmill that gives you a height advantage over your enemies, from here you can warp strike to deliver a savage blow.
Working Together To Survive
The most interesting addition in Final Fantasy XV is the specialized abilities of each character. They are unique and can be levelled up for added effect which serves as a survival mechanism. Here’s the breakdown:
- Noctis – Fishing
- Gladius – Exploring the wild
- Ignis – Cooking
- Pronto – Photography
So to put this into context, I was battling some wild beasts until my health dwindled low. I high-tailed to the nearest campsite where Gladius set up a campfire, after I had Ignis choose from a range of meal options that provide different benefits such as increased attack speed. As Ignis’ skill levels up you access more stat boosting cuisine. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to see how Pronto’s photography comes into play but it will involve snapping photos of surroundings and beasts. Abilities are improved with AP that’s gained from completing quests or impressing your friends — which brings me to another new feature and that’s dialogue options. Sometimes you can choose your response to a character and depending on what you say might impress one of your teammates which will grant you AP. It helps to learn the characters personalities so you can best tailor your responses.
The Sum Up
Final Fantasy XV cosmetically looks like how a Final Fantasy should look in terms of art direction but that’s about where it ends. Combat is fast-paced and exciting while the story reels you in with top notch voice acting and a stellar soundtrack. Even banter between the characters offer some comic relief, there are four men so it’s interesting to see testosterone fuelled bravado add to the story. There’s every reason you should play Final Fantasy XV, it reimagines the franchise and paves the way for the next generation.