Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae Impressions

My history with the Final Fantasy franchise has been very spotty since I first played a game in it. It started out with Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo, moved on to Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX on the Playstation and played almost every release in some way. From searing hatred to undying love the franchise was able to evoke almost every emotion on my “good-or-bad” scale.

With the last three major releases, which I like to call the Final Fantasy XIII – Trilogy, Final Fantasy reached, in my personal opinion, arguably one of its lowest points in franchise’s history. I thought it would not able to recover from that but I might be wrong about that observation.

I had the opportunity to play Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae. It is the Demo that comes with the release of Final Fantasy Type-0 as pre-order bonus. And I actually kinda liked what I played.

The Demo starts out with the main character Noctis and his followers in a tent, their car broke down and they need cash to repair it. So they set out to hunt a gigantic monster that roams the nearby forest, but first Noctis (and the player) needs some training how the combat works in this iteration of the franchise.

There are some interesting mechanics in place for combat situations. The combat is real time and so you need to time your dodges and attacks. Dodging works in an interesting way in that it is automated but it also uses some of your magic points. A parry mechanic is also in place but I needed some time to get used to it. While most games want you to press attack button slightly before the enemy attack hits, FF XV goes its own route: it signals an incoming attack with a flashing indicator. You have to hit the dodge button and then wait for the dodge. After that the game slows down and you can just counter attack. Magic points are also consumed by special attacks and by warping and warp attacks. Special attacks should be obvious what they do: attacks that do more damage and have interesting side effects like knocking the enemy down or getting some health back. Now warping and warp attacks are not that obvious what they do. You can warp to different locations during combat. Either to pull yourself out of the action or to get a better viewpoint of what is going on. With a lot of enemies the combat can get quite chaotic since the camera is also kinda slow and you need to constantly rearrange it. A warp attack on the other hand warps you directly back to the enemy you are focused on, while doing some damage. This is meant to keep the combat flow alive and is actually a good idea.

If you come over across the unfortunate situation to spend all your magic points and the enemy is still alive, you are able to take cover behind rocks to regain your magic points faster. The idea sounds silly at first but it actually works. Your health points are also very slowly regenerating during combat. The enemies do quite a bit of damage and after four or five hits you could already bite the dust. However, the game is generously enough to give time so one of your team mates can “revive” you.

Overall I think the combat is fun. It looks flash, the attacks feel heavy and have impact. What still dislike is the somewhat automated nature of it all. I wished there was some skill involved and that you could also control your party members. It’s more about thinking ahead and planning your attacks and dodges.

Once you find the Monster, a Behemoth, you need to fight of course. Sadly it is a boss fight that is rather guided. Your teammates set up a trap and you have to bring the Behemoth their way. Watch the video below.

After that you go into a dungeon and fight some more monsters and get a summon at the end which let’s you “skip” fights. Once you are down you can summon a big entity that ends the fight in your favour. I chose this option when I fought Behemoth for the second time. However, from what I understood you are also able to fight it on your own without summon. Watch the video below.

What I also noticed is that, while you explore a big open map in persuing the main quest, the dungeon maps are fairly boring and linear and evoke memories of the hallway from FF XIII. And while you explore the open map there isn’t an awful lot to do so far. And that can never be good. I hope this changes later on with the finished product.

There were also some sidequests but they weren’t all that great either. It was your typical “find object x” fare. One of the sidequests in particular bordered on stupidity when I just had to go to a marker on my map to see a Chocobo and got 200 xp for that. Here is also room for improvement, which will hopefully come with the full product.

You finish the demo by walking back to the gas station to sell the Behemoth horn so you can get your car back. The characters drive off and the demo ends.

What I noticed here was that the design of the four main characters is just completely over the top and out of place. They look like cosplayers of a bad Japanese rock band on tour. And they are so standing out from the crowd, because other people look normal. This heavy contrast doesn’t play into the games favour at all.

The voice acting is also a mixed bag. While some of the characters are voiced decently, some of the others are bad. And I mean really bad. The dialouges were ok and nothing that really offended me. The graphics and soundtrack were of high production value of course.

To finally end my impression piece: I have a more positive than negative impression from the game so far. The main reason is because the combat is, despite its automated nature, actually fun. A lot of fun. Traversing the open world was also interesting despite the lack of happenings there. The potential is there, but Square Enix needs to capitalize on it. And I really hope they do because this could be one of the best iterations of the Final Fantasy franchise in years.