After nearly a decade of teases, tedium, and vaporware theories, the first definitive verses regarding Square Enix’s long awaited Final Fantasy XV have been declaimed. XV made its first appearance at E3 2006 when it was still slated to become Final Fantasy Versus XIII for the PS3, only to virtually vanish from the public eye soon after. It wasn’t until E3 2013 that the title resurfaced, this time destined for next-gen consoles and with the new branding of Final Fantasy XV. Finally, March 2015 saw the release of Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae – a playable demo packaged with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD – which gave fans of the series a glimpse at what to expect from this upcoming single-player, action-RPG for the PS4 and Xbox One. While SE has yet to announce an official release date, some speculations estimate launch for winter 2016.
A Contemporary Kingdom
An early game trailer features Noctis Lucis Caelum, prince of the Kingdom of Lucis and the title’s protagonist, and his party of vassals flaunting contemporary fashions and traversing rolling countrysides in a sleek, modern convertible – a nigh anachronistic sight for a Fantasy universe and the first sign of departure from the franchise’s conventions. Utilizing a magic crystal, Noctis’ home nation of Lucis has developed into an electric, skyscraper city, technologically dwarfing neighboring kingdoms. The story begins when the medieval-like nation Niflheim successfully steals the crystal through a surprise invasion, driving the prince to flee the city. Noctis and his followers must organize a resistance to retake the crystal and kingdom.
Fantasy in Real-Time
XV will feature a third-person, real-time combat system. Fast-action gameplay will have players striking enemies, dodging attacks, and casting spells and summons on the fly, a veritable shift from the turn-based combat of previous installments. Players can utilize a sword-throw-teleportation skill to strike enemies from all angles and navigate the environment horizontally and vertically with parkour-like fluidity. Entering and escaping encounters will be seamless as monsters and wildlife will be visible to players outside of engagements. Provoking or approaching enemies will simply cause a circular arena to surround the characters and battle to commence without the interruption of a load screen.
As with all Fantasy titles, players will join a colorful cast of eccentrically attired allies, each armed with unique spells and abilities. Player control will be restricted to Noctis; however, ally combat behaviors will be customizable and manageable amid battles via controller-mapped commands – a party system reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts and Type-0. Players will also be able to perform paired combos alongside any of four fielded AI party members.
Players will be faced with all manner of enormous bosses and monsters in a rather Souls-like pitting of proportions. Bosses like the behemoth Deadeye, who’s featured in the Final Fantasy XV: Episode Doscae demo, tower over players and can quickly take down entire parties. Luckily, when on the verge of defeat, Noctis can call upon powerful creatures to his aid. The demo allows players to summon the literally mountain-sized thunder god Ramuh to strike down foes as he cradles Noctis in his palm – a tease at how big XV is willing to go.
Waiting on the Word
Final Fantasy XV is a visually stunning, big-budget RPG built by some of the industry’s most meticulous designers, writers, and artists. Episode Duscae, while affected by occasional performance and polishing issues, demonstrated the title’s potential and showed us that Square Enix is unafraid to subject a rough helping of its product to public scrutiny. However, it will be a while before we’re able to delve into the finished title and truly assess the universe of XV. Stay posted as we await a formal release date.