FINAL FANTASY XV: FOR FANS AND FIRST TIMERS

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A Final Fantasy For fans and first timers is the message that greets you when you boot up the newest addition to the famous Final Fantasy series. And after a ten-year wait since the announcement of this game, it definitely needs to impress both groups.

But how has the game actually fared. Well it depends on what you look for in a game.

I’ll start with the story, it’s interesting but feels very disconnected from the world that you are playing in there never seems to be a threat significant enough to pull you through the story. This is especially true if you haven’t seen the prequel movie Kingsglaive.

Noctis Lucis Caelum crown prince of Lucis, who with his three retainers and friends is travelling to meet his wife to be Lunafreya or Luna Nox Fleuret. Noctis is the chosen King of Light who is destined to rid the world of darkness. It is when Noctis learns of the death of his father during peace talks with the Empire of Niflheim that he must set out to gain the approval of his ancestors. And with Luna’s help the support of Eos’s six gods Titan, Ramuh, Leviathan, Shiva, Ifrit and Bahamut. So he can take back the Crystal stolen by Nifelheim and fulfil his destiny.

Theproblem for me is that I never feel pressured to move the story forward, demons only appear at night or in dungeons, and unless you have a mission to assault a Niflheim base, you only see enemies from Niflheim when occasionally drop ships appear out in the world. For me this is where the story and the world are disconnected.

Because they appear only under very specific circumstances neither the Demons nor Niflheim feel like a threat that you should be hurrying to destroy. Even though according to the games NPCs both are supposed to be apocalyptic threats.

Although the first two-thirds of XV is open and free for you to explore, as soon as you decide to proceed to Altissia to finally meet Lunafreya the game becomes very linear. Altissia as a small city has a small number of side quests. But once you decide to gain Leviathans blessing the rest of the games has you running down a hallway. Fortunately around the same time you also gain access at rest points to Umbra a dog of Luna’s to travel back to past Lucis, or Altissia so you can continue side quests.

There has been a lot of talk about Noctis and his friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto and how great their relationship is in-game. Unfortunately the story missions make some odd choices with these important characters that ruin them for me.

Each of them has a short absence from the party over the course of the game, and when they return they have had major changes that are not explained. I believe this is where each supporting character gets some DLC in which I assume these stories are told. It is very disconnecting when these characters that you have spent hours with suddenly change with no explanation.

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Story completion is only the beginning.

Luckily however the moment to moment gameplay is amazing.

As has been typical of Square Enix Action RPGs you are given a myriad of options in combat. You only ever control Noctis but he is able to wield any weapon in the game, which could be anything from a great sword to a revolver. Each of which has strengths and weaknesses in a given situation allowing you to play as you like. I spent most of the game with a long sword and a lance for example.

The depth of this system is extended when Noctis is able to slot four weapons or magic at a time that can be quick switched with the tap of a the d-pad, which is useful when every enemy, has its own strengths and weaknesses that you can take advantage of. Even enemies in the same family have different weaknesses which keeps you switching weapon sets to be as effective as possible.

Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto each have abilities that you can employ at will with a tech gauge that should remind a Final Fantasy fan of the active time battle system. These abilities range from a regroup command from Ignis that heals the party, to a gravity well from Prompto that can drag enemies together, or a colossal smash from Gladiolus with his great sword.

These abilities break up combat and can be combined with other effects to unleash devastating attacks. For example try Ingis’ Overwhelm ability while Noctis is using the Bow of the Clever, the rain of energy bolts will tear almost any enemy apart.

Noctis has exclusive access to thirteen of his ancestors weapons, some of which are the only weapon of that type in the game, such as the crossbow Bow of the Clever or the shuriken Star of the Rogue. Once Noctis has collected a few of these he gains the ability to unleash them as a type of Limit Break super attack once a gauge has charged.

Magic is also available in FFXV but as a crafted bomb of sorts that Noctis can craft after absorbing elemental energy from deposits around the world. On their own they can be useful when enemies are weak to a certain element, but they can be combined with other items to be given powerful effects.

These can be potions and the like which will heal you when that spell is used, or meal ingredients that can make spells poisonous. Some powerful items can even make spells Limit Break above the 9999 damage cap.

You can even combine Rare Coins that you pick up with your spells so that they give you massive chunks of experience. Which is helpful when you take advantage of FFXVs unique experience system.

Experience is gained as you would expect through killing monsters and completing quests, however it is only applied to your party when you rest at a campground, motel or hotel. If you have the money a hotel at Galdin Quay will double all experience, and the Royal Suit in Altissia will triple experience if you have the 30,000 Gil.

Campgrounds allow Ignis to cook for the group which will give you buffs for the following day. Ignis will learn recipes as you collect cookbooks or ingredients from monsters or vegetables found in the world. He will even copy a recipe when you eat at a restaurant so he can cook it later. These buffs can give you increased exp gain, increased attack, magic, and health as well as other supporting effects to help you out.

XV even has an end game for when you have beaten the main story, this consists of completing side quests, difficult monster hunts or dungeon challenges which open up once you complete every dungeon once. There is even a secret dungeon that is all about puzzles and platforming rather than combat. These dungeons give you powerful weapons and accessories so you can tackle the next challenge.

Essentially FFXV is two games to me, one which has a largely forgettable story and one which I have so much fun playing and keeps me interested in completing the next dungeon or monster hunting challenge.

I am sure fans will enjoy the familiar systems and game-play that is unique to the Final Fantasy series.

First Timers will have no trouble in picking up this game, it is not at all difficult to understand the core systems to be able to enjoy playing. Perhaps if you enjoy it enough you can then choose to go deep and complete the many challenges that Final Fantasy XV has to offer.

Final Fantasy XV: Excitement

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Though I have only finished a few of the Final Fantasy games I love what they do. If I had to choose a favourite Final Fantasy IV would be it, followed closely by the much-loved Final Fantasy VII. I’m also one of those crazy people who finished Final Fantasy XIII and I have to say I didn’t hate the time I spent playing it.

And as most should know Final Fantasy XIII is where Final Fantasy XV’s journey begins. When Square-Enix announced XIII they also announced two other games in their Fabula Nova Crystalis series, which was supposed to be a shared universe that connected all three of these games together.

The initial announcement was Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and Xbox, a PSP game called of Agito-XIII, and another Xbox/PS3 game called FF Versus-XII. Then in famous Square-Enix fashion we heard almost to nothing about Agito-XIII and Versus-XIII for the next few years, even though it was one of the games that the makers of Final Fantasy would always be asked about in interviews

Personally I was more exited for the PSP game of the series, as I had played a number of RPGs on my PSP already and I was exited to have a new one to play. I also didn’t have a PS3 or Xbox 360 at the time so those parts of the series weren’t even on my radar, but I have a friend who was loosing his mind over XIII and especially Versus-XIII and couldn’t wait for them to come out.

When Agito-XIII next appeared it was as Final Fantasy Type-0, which was still a PSP game, though it was only released on PSP in Japan. It wasn’t until early 2015 that the west got access to Type-0 as a next generation HD port to Xbox One and PS4. Type-0 HD also brought with it the publics first taste of what Versus XIII had become.

In 2013 it was announced that Versus-XII had grown to become the next numbered installment, as Final Fantasy XV. With Type-0’s release Square-Enix included a demo titled Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, which was designed to give the fans a taste of what the final version of XV would be. The setting of the demo was a valley somewhere in the world of XV where the main character Noctis’ car breaks down and he and his friends have to hunt down a behemoth to earn the repair money for their car. Duscae gave people a look at the game’s systems and let them spend a couple of hours fighting and running around this new world.

I was super exited to finally get my hands on Type-0 as it was the game from the Fabula Nova Crystalis series that I had been looking forward to the most. So for me it was a bonus that Type-0’s HD release was going to come with a little something extra, even if at the time that part of the series wasn’t really on my radar.

When I had the chance to play through this demo I played it on my Xbox One as that was the only one of the new consoles that I owned at the time and therefore the console that I had bought Type-0 for.

My first impressions with this demo weren’t very good, I didn’t think that the game looked good enough or ran good enough for a game that had been in development for almost 10 years. It also didn’t help that the combat system felt punishing to me. This is because it felt like all your special abilities depleted your MP gauge which when empty would stun your character for a short period, and it felt like I was being stunned constantly. As such I began to avoid using any special abilities and simply beat monsters down with basic attacks, as you can imagine this takes a great deal of the fun out of the gameplay, as you are supposed to be warping to a monster killing it then immediately warping to the next monster that shows up. So for me Episode Duscae managed to make me even less interested in Final Fantasy XV than I already was.

However in the recent Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, which was hosted by Greg Miller and Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny. Square-Enix has announced a number of properties that have succeeded in finally making me exited for the release of FFXV. In fact it was the Platinum demo which showcases the updated combat system that has made me the most excited, but we will get to that later.

Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV announced the release date of September 30 2016 for the game, but alongside this Square-Enix announced Kingsglaive a fully CG animated film set parallel to the events of FFXV, and a 6 part anime called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV that leads up to the events of the main game, the first five episodes of which will be free to watch on YouTube and other streaming sites, while the sixth episode is included with the limited edition version of the game.

Announced alongside Kingsglaive was the inclusion of three big name actors, Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) as King Regis, Lena Headey, (Game of Thrones, Dredd) as Lunafreya, and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as Nyx.

Although Square-Enix doesn’t have a great history when it comes to releasing animated films, as Final Fantasy Spirits Within almost bankrupted the company. I am excited to see that Square-Enix is willing to put this much money and effort into Final Fantasy XV. Hopefully this means they are confident that Final Fantasy XV is going to be a good enough game to warrant such spending, especially as the only other Final Fantasy game to be given a similar treatment was Final Fantasy VII, which many fans see as the best game in the series

Though as I mentioned before the thing that has me excited for FFXV was the Platinum Demo that was made available shortly after the reveal event. It is a short demo but it fulfils the purpose of showing people how the game will work when it releases later this year. In fact it is almost more of a tech demo, as in the demo you have the opportunity to play with the weather and time of day to see how the game will look at release.

The thing makes me happiest is the new combat system, it reminds me of the fast paced combat of Kingdom Hearts, which is another Square-Enix series that I love. The best thing for me to see is that the combat from Episode Duscae that I hated has been altered so it works well now. You can still warp around which uses MP, your special abilities still use MP, and you still get stunned if you use it all up, but the numbers have been adjusted enough so that it doesn’t feel like you are being punished all the time.

They have also adjusted weapon selection and made it far more user-friendly. In Episode Duscae you could tell the game when to use certain weapons, and which order weapons would be used in a combo, such as starting with a fast dagger strike, following up with a medium speed spear thrust and finishing with a slow smash with a two-handed sword, and you could adjust this order to suit your play style.

However the new system in the Platinum demo allows you to set weapons and magic to the directional buttons on a controllers D-pad, which allows you to switch between different weapons and magic at will. For example you can start of with a series of fast sword strikes that take half a monsters health and slightly staggers them, then finish the monster of with a powerful hammer smash. Or cast a massive meteor spell that kills all monsters in the area, in the demo this looks gorgeous as it is a rain of orange orbs that damage anything they touch as they bounce around the map.

Above everything, it is this new demo that has sold me on Final Fantasy XV. I love how the game plays now; it feels fast and fluid, while not losing the quirks that make it a final fantasy game. It stays true to the trailers and visuals that we have seen over the years since FFXV was announced as Versus-XIII. All in all I now can’t wait for this game to finally come out. I hope that this iteration will be the game that brings the Final Fantasy series back into the limelight.