Prime your toasters, ‘cuz it’s time for another ASV Sandwich Review! Your Sandwich Artist today, however, will not be the indefatigable Brian Pham, but rather his younger brother of lesser power (<9000). Today’s menu features the long-awaited demo for the long-awaited FIFTEENTH installment of Final Fantasy. That’s right: developer Square Enix has, over nearly 28 years, made 15 main Final Fantasy titles–only ONE of which can be considered a stinking pile of moogle crap. (Of course, I won’t say which, at the risk of angering fans of the game in question. Let’s just say the number is more than 12 but less than 14.) Now, to the sandwich!
THE BOTTOM BUN (The often chewy, soggy part of the burger)
The aperture through which we glimpse the main cast of characters of Final Fantasy XV is frustratingly narrow, but despite this, the demo introduces the party quite well. Now, I’m one of those people who is very . . . iffy, about having an all-male party. It’s never been done before in the history of Final Fantasy. The developers have stated that a female presence within the core group would change the dynamic of the party, which is something that they did not want for this game. That’s understandable. That’s fair. But I hope that there is a strong female character that they get to interact with in the full game, so that the player can really see that “shift in dynamic” that the developers seem to be so afraid of. And I’m not talking about this:
ANYWAY. Compliment the game, compliment the game . . . oh yeah! The characters, although we only get glimpses of their back stories, seem to be pretty cool dudes. Going in, I expected to detest the loud-mouthed blond weirdo and be very “meh” about everyone else. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to relate to the “bro vibe” of the party. (Also, they all have really cool names.)
Noctis Lucis Caelum, the character you control, and the hero of the story, is a head-in-the-clouds prince of a splintering kingdom. Okay, so maybe the royalty part isn’t so relatable. But he’s a daydreamer, and I know what that’s like.
Gladiolus Amicitia is a muscular, shirts-are-stupid stoic-type whose primary job seems to be guarding Noctis. He and Prompto seem to butt heads a lot, if only because their personalities are so different. Who’s Prompto you ask?
Prompto Argentum is the (seemingly) carefree one of the group, and judging by the cutscene at the beginning of the demo, a then-and-again screw-up. Out of the four, he seems to smile the most, but is it just me, or does he seem somehow to be carrying a deeper sadness?
Ignis Stupeo Scientia is an inexplicably British (this is probably a TV Trope) strategics expert and monster encyclopedia. The demo didn’t have an option for you to speak with your party members (which is a shame, I might add) but hopefully the full game will, and if it does, this will be the guy to speak with to get your fill of lore.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is: the bottom bun is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a delicious circle of toasted white bread with slop seeping into it, making it not-so-great. The characters seem cool, but aren’t so memorable. BUT REMEMBER: it’s just a demo. This is just a small, small piece of the bigger picture. The number one most important thing to me here is that I don’t hate anyone. Yet.
THE STUFF INSIDE
Now for the insult-between-the-compliments. Let’s see. This is hard. Wait, no it isn’t. IT ISN’T TURN-BASED. JK. No but seriously. It isn’t turn-based, therefore, it’s garbage. I’m dead serious.
No no no no no. I jest. *laughs farcically* But I do have problems with the combat system. It’s kind of a mess. Although killing creatures is immensely satisfying in FFXV, it’s hard to get to that point where you’re standing above the mangled corpse of the creature you just killed and patting yourself on the back for a job well done. The targeting system is a mess; the monsters’ AI is all over the place, and the balance between aggression and defense is unresponsive.
There’s one button to dodge (X), and during my time with the demo, Noctis almost never heeded my command to do so. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Obviously you’re just a piece of trash gamer and shouldn’t even be alive.” Well yes, but a lot of people seem to be having the same problem and aren’t really jazzed about the one-button defense “option.”
Here’s a nifty video that analyzes the combat in FFXV:
Combat is done is real-time, without random encounters or a loading screen (*sob*) but is fluid and allows for the player to interact with his/her surroundings. For example, Noctis uses MP to dish out his badass moves, but in order to refill his MP bar, the player needs to retreat and either hide between rocks, trees, what-have-you, or warp away (yeah, he can do that). This is all well and good but I often found myself, after culling waves of these strange jackal-wolf hybrids, chasing one remaining monster, and having a hard time of it.
You see, in packs, the jackal-wolves’ movements make sense, but once there is just one, it just looks hilarious. The creature will just move from one side of the screen to the other, not attacking you, but moving so fast that it’s difficult for you or your allies to catch up and finish off.
I found myself in this situation many times throughout my playthrough of the demo and I was not happy in the least. I would chase the last remaining creature and even if I caught up to it, the lock-on would either dissipate or move my camera in such a way that skewed my vision of my prey. Also, the targeting system is really weird. You press R1 (I think) to look at something, but oh no, it’s not locked on. No, you must click the R3 button (again, I think–correct me if I’m wrong) to actually lock-on to your target and command your camera to face it at all times. The point is, locking on is needlessly complicated.
Also, I found it really really really stupid that Noctis doesn’t just move through the other party members, or that the party members don’t just get out of your goddamn way. Dragon Age: Inquisition (and COUNTLESS other video games, I might add) do it flawlessly, so I know it’s possible. Also, it’s kind of a no-brainer:
Not once did I cast a spell during the demo. Me no likey this. If I or my party members can’t cast Fire or Thunder or Blizzard or Cure then I don’t know if I can call this a Final Fantasy game.
Fie! Fie, fie, fie . . .
THE TOP BUN
The music is the shit. I’ve mentioned her work before, but Yoko Shimomura should be on top of the fucking world after composing this soundtrack. The menu music is appropriately piano/violin heavy, and the combat music is absolutely stirring. Shimomura is doing more than filling Nobuo Uematsu’s shoes–she’s taking his themes and imbuing them into her own, making FFXV feel simultaneously familiar and new. And that’s what each Final Fantasy actually is–a new game, a new world, but with enough familiar pieces to make the player feel right at home.
(Tell me you don’t hear the Kingdom Hearts in this piece!)
THE SESAME SEEDS ON TOP (that no one actually likes, but this sandwich analogy is hard and I couldn’t think of anything else)
- It’s gorgeous, although they may have gone a little overboard with the depth of field
- It’s definitely a fantasy world–seeing old-timey cars next to pink-and-blue dinosaurs is jarring, crazy, and oh-so-awesome
- Music is incredible
- Food looks almost real, edible
- Lots to do–Final Fantasy as a whole has always been criticized for being too linear. Well, that’s something that’s been changing since FFXII (minus FFXIII) and FFXV undoubtedly has A LOT of sidequests for you to engage in, even in the demo
- Characters are likeable, even if they’re not completely memorable
- Dat car
- So. Much. Walking. I know that in the full game you’ll be able to drive a car, but, here’s to hoping all the walking parts aren’t so much of a drag
- The one-button defense is “meh”
- Enemy AI is stupid
- Targeting is overly complex
- No female party members
- The frame rate drops at random times (although this is probably just an optimization issue that the full game will most likely fix)
ASV Rating: Just a demo; not gonna rate it
Sandwich Rating: SOON, FFXV, YOU AND I WILL BE TOGETHER
Again, remember that this is just a demo. A lot of these things can/will be fixed/changed for the better/worse and really all we can do as players is hope hope hope, support, and thank the developers for continuing to make games for us to play.
So, have you played the Final Fantasy XV demo? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments belllllllooowwwwwwww!