PAX West IMPRESSIONS: Final Fantasy XV

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

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Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV is a game that’s been in development for a long time, and something that we’ve had the chance to play at a couple different points along its development between Episode Duscae and Platinum Demo. However, we’re getting close to the release date, and I was able to play a version of it that’s close to the final version at PAX West this year. The PAX West demo is the same one that was used for Gamescom; I played for an hour from the very start of the game, playing the Xbox One version, although I imagine the Xbox One and PS4 versions would be more or less identical.

My biggest thing to note is that the entire package seems somewhat unpolished, specifically the graphics. Textures are blurry, vegetation appears cheaply designed, lots of aliasing (when the edges of models appear jagged, without any kind of pixel blending to make them look smoother) and the game runs at 30 FPS while more demanding games glide smoothly along on the system at 60. It’s worth pointing out that both Episode Duscae and Platinum Demo didn’t have these technical issues, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that the game will have a level of visual polish on par with these demos. It just strikes me as odd that a game as big as Final Fantasy XV would have such an obvious unfinished look to it so close to release, but I imagine that’s probably part of why it got delayed.

Final Fantasy XV | Dialogue choices

Gameplay-wise, not much has changed from the demos. Combat is fast and fluid, requiring quick reflexes and keeping an eye on all the enemies around you. Switching weapons is done seamlessly on the fly. Skill progression is like a hybrid of the systems from Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII with a traditional leveling system, where AP are gained gradually through combat and used to purchase new active and passive skills for the party members, while stat progression comes through leveling up normally. The weirdest  thing here is that all four characters share an AP pool, so spend it wisely. Magic is crafted using materials acquired from certain points around the map, although I didn’t have a chance to really figure out how it works.

Final Fantasy XV | Scorpion fighting

After some monster-hunting missions ending in a boss-like encounter, the game unlocked use of the Regalia and told us to hit the road, as it were. Driving can be done either manually or automatically, where you choose a destination and the game drives you there on its own. It doesn’t skip this drive, and from what I’ve seen there wasn’t a way to fast-forward time, so unless the final version will add some mechanic along these lines it could get somewhat tedious for longer drives. Manual driving consists of holding down the accelerate button and waiting, as the car follows the road on its own, and will right itself in the proper lane if you take steering into your own hands. “Manual”, in this case, seems like a bit of an overly optimistic interpretation, although it is a way to prevent players from driving like maniacs down the highway when they’re supposed to be playing as a somewhat refined prince. At least the drive isn’t totally boring, since at least in the demo there was a wide assortment of soundtracks from earlier Final Fantasy games to listen to as driving music. It was fun to drive through the virtual desert while listening to “J-E-N-O-V-A” or “Aerith’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VII, or the world map theme from the first Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy XV | Menu screen

With some more polish, Final Fantasy XV looks like it’s shaping up to be something really deserving of its prestigious name. It may be different in its setting and gameplay, but it’s no less a Final Fantasy game than any others in the venerable series when it releases on November 29.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.