E3 2016: Final Fantasy XV Preview

When Final Fantasy XV finally launches in September, it will have spent the better part of a decade in development from its first announcement as a PlayStation exclusive Final Fantasy Vs XIII to its decent into vaporware and its rebirth as Final Fantasy XV, we’ve always looked on with middling interest. Following the big Final Fantasy XV Uncovered event in March and another strong showing at E3 2016, our scepticism of the title after Final Fantasy XIII and its pair of sequels (which were great JRPGs, just not great Final Fantasy games) has started to turn around and we’re now cautiously optimistic that it’s going to be great.

Taking to heart criticism about Final Fantasy XIII’s incredibly linear opening 20 hours or so and the lack of customisation or freedom in character development to that point, Final Fantasy XV is a departure of sorts. Gone is the linear progression and in its place a large open world filled with things to keep players busy. Featuring dozens of vast environments to explore, day and night cycles, dynamic weather, towns to visit, numerous side-quests from NPCs and the presence of job boards to give you some challenging tasks to undertake. With an estimated completion time for all of the content of around 200 hours, there is plenty of it. How said content ties into the story about a group of four ripped dudes on a road trip in a fancy car to save the planet (or something like that) we’ll just have to wait to find out.

As well as the relatively fresh setting and transition to an open world, the game’s combat system has undergone an overhaul. Rather than the menu-heavy Final Fantasy of yore, Final Fantasy XV is a lot more action oriented with combat more reminiscent to the more recent Final Fantasy Type-0 and Kingdom Hearts allowing for a lot more fast-paced action and less down time. Prior to combat players are encouraged to choose and equip specific items/moves to the face buttons so that when a fight starts they’ll be able to utilise the face buttons to execute mapped attacks rather than swimming through menus, keeping the action flowing from start to finish. Similarly to Final Fantasy XII, enemies will be visible in the world and the combat takes place in real time in the world itself, rather than transitioning to a roped-off arena area like the series has been so fond of. The other cool addition is ‘Wait Mode’ which will allow players to slow down or freeze gameplay temporarily to target specific enemies or weak spots and allow more tactical attacking.

Final Fantasy XV is the first game to be built using Square-Enix’s new in-house Luminous Studio engine. The character models, enemies, effects and environments all looked phenomenal and the latest trailer offering a sneak peek at the Venice-inspired town of Attissia shows that there has been a lot of time and effort sunk into the designs, scope and detail of the game’s cities as well.

In addition to the main game itself, the developers have developed a series of tie-ins in alternate media to fill in back story and to give the entire game an expanded universe of sorts and more substance. These include:

  • Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae – Packaged with Final Fantasy: Type 0 HD. This eneables players a small slice of the open world action you’ll encounter in the main game.
  • Platinum Demo – Available to free for everyone since March. Downloading and completing this will unlock Carbuncle, a summonable creature for use during the main game.
  • Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive – a CG feature film tie in starring Lena Headey, Sean Bean (the walking spoiler) and Aaron Paul.
  • Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV – A five part anime series detailing each of the main characters.
  • Justice Monsters Five – A pinball mini-game for mobiles/smartphones based on an in-game mini-game.
  • A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV – a beat ‘em up arcade-style game that will be included with pre-orders of certain versions of the game.

After the slight let down that was Final Fantasy XIII and its follow-ons, Final Fantasy XV looks to be addressing the shortcomings of the previous titles. The enormous world filled with content, gorgeous visuals and an interesting new battle system all seem to be pointing towards an excellent game. With the game exciting us more every time we see it and an end of September release on the horizon it’s truly going to be a long three months to wait.

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