Final Fantasy XV
At PAX West 2016, I hopped in my sweet ride with Noctis and the gang from Final Fantasy XV and played for almost two hours, from the start of the adventure to some off-road exploration. While I won’t get into story aspects here as there are some that could spoil your upcoming adventure, I’ll talk about combat, collecting, and some of the other systems that come into play. I will say one thing, though. If you’re interested in the story of Final Fantasy XV, do yourself a favor and make sure you check out Kingsglaive before you dive in – it will help things make a lot more sense and provide invaluable perspective on the events of the first few hours of gameplay.
Your main crew consists of Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto. While I appreciated the banter between members of the gang as we took on the first few challenges and quests, Prompto’s character is likely to make me cringe over and over when the title fully releases. Prompto is a true product of Instagram and Snapchat insanity, featuring obsessive photo-taking and mind-shattering quips like “totes adorbs” that hurt me inside. With that notable exception, the rest of the characters offer reasonable input as you drive around or set up camp.
Setting up camp is actually pretty fun. Learning new cooking recipes and then using food to give your team significant buffs before a boss encounter is a nice diversion from zipping from battle to battle. You have to go around the map collecting berries and other essential foodstuffs if you want to keep your larder flush with available food options, but you can weave those collecting nodes in seamlessly to standard exploration around the map.
The world is mostly open, with quests guiding you to important areas, but with enough freedom to roam off the beaten path in search of resources, enemies, or hidden caches of treasure. In some ways they remind me of the structure of zones in Final Fantasy XII.
Combat itself takes some getting used to. The standard attacks are easy enough and intuitive, but calling upon your other team members to execute powerful attacks and exploit vulnerability windows feels a little unwieldy in the thick of combat, as you are already concentrating on dodging, blocking, hot-swapping conjured weapons, and using Noctis’s warp to fly around the field, setting up lethal blows. The first hour using the call-in system felt unintuitive, but after that it became second nature. So if you find yourself slightly intimidated by all the inputs and command-weaving at first, don’t fret too much as it does come together rather quickly.
Your characters acquire experience points which are obvious enough to understand, and also AP. AP all flows into a single pool from which points can be spent on any of the characters to give them new abilities or strengthen new ones, sort of an unlockable web grid. While obviously you may wish to focus throwing your AP points on Noctis as he’s the main character, there are some invaluable support skills and assists available on your other characters that shouldn’t be ignored.
One interesting thing I noticed as I hacked through the various denizens of the starting areas was that in addition to standard loot and goods from killing enemies there are also “break offs” that you can shoot for to get additional and sometimes valuable monster pieces to be used in recipes or crafting. So if you see a monster with a horn, try and focus on it in the hopes that you can get some extra bonus loot.
Let’s talk about the car! The Regalia is available early in the game and can be piloted in manual mode for custom travel and transportation, or autopilot via Ignis to take you to essential quest locations. You probably want to use manual mode at least a few times to collect treasures on the map. During travel, you can select from a huge variety of Final Fantasy tunes to listen to, including a bunch of amazing tracks from the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy VII. I tried repeatedly to crash into other cars on the road, but sadly the game wouldn’t let me. As you travel, your ride consumes gas, so you have to stop at gas stations or rest stops to fill up for longer voyages.
Almost 2 hours of gameplay left me hungry for more, and I’m looking forward to a more extensive look at all there is to offer in Final Fantasy XV when it arrives in November. Totes looking forward to it, as Prompto would say. Check out more on Final Fantasy XV at our cover story hub!