What should a prince do when his home is attacked? Flee of course, but not without planning ice cold revenge. In the demo of Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscea, you are prince Noctis, heir of the kingdom of Lucis, who’s riding towards Cauthess. When their carriage falls apart, the team must find supplies to pay Cindy, the local mechanic.
The very first demo for Final Fantasy XV, named Episode Duscea, is free to play for everyone who bought Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, and gives you a first look at the completed version of the game.
Bring out the bro
The fellowship of prince Notis in the Demo consists entirely of men. When the news came out months ago, Square Enix received massive critique. Square Enix tried to reply to this by saying it’s more logical and adding a woman to the group would change the feel completely. Many people didn’t buy this excuse, but they of course haven’t even played the demo.
Imagine, you and your friends are stranded in a beautiful landscape and you have to get money as quickly as possible. You wander around what seems endlessly searching for loot, when one of your friends spots a sign in the distance. “Hey! Nocto! Come have a look!” On the sign, there is an ugly picture of a Behemoth with a big bounty on its head. The bounty is still relatively low considering how dangerous of a task it would be to slay this gigantic titan, but it is just enough to pay for repairing the carriage. You could of course search for saver options to get money, but when all your friends advise you to slay the beast, what other choice do you really have? Perfect fantasy logic for an all guy gang if you ask me. And this is what director Hajime Tabata also stated. When a player would play this, it would feel more logical in this scenario to be an all-boys team. How we feel about this statement is not important at this moment. Writers and Directors have their own ways of portraying stories and all we can do is sit back and wait for the end results. They have more experience with writing stories than we do anyway.
Four friends, four personalities
The team you ride with through valleys and woods has a strong bond and will make you feel part of it. The Demo is playable in two languages, Japanese and English. And as expected, the language changes the feel of how the group reacts to each other, even if it’s slightly. In English, they group refers to Noctis as “Highness”, while in the Japanese version they call him “Nocto”. The most notable differences are when you look at the subtle animations during fights.
An example of this would be “saving” one of your team mates. When the HP of a team mate reaches 0 and he gets in the “danger” state, the others have time to save him to avoid him getting killed for real. Ignis, who most certainly must have gotten a butler training when he was younger and is able to cook the most delicious dishes, is not only the cleverest one of the team, but also the most protective one. Whoever falls during a fight can count on being saved by Ignis 9 out of 10 times. He will also protect your back from enemies a lot. But Ignis is not the only protective person in the group. “The muscle” of the team, Gladiolus, will gladly put his might sword between you and the enemy if needed. He will also try and stop you whenever he senses there is danger. Most of the times because he wants to check it out himself though.
Prompto is more of a free spirit in the team. He is without a doubt your friend and will gladly help you out, but he doesn’t always know how to stop fighting when he starts. You will commonly hear people call out to him, trying to get his feet back on the ground. Prompto his lose focus also makes him notice more unexpected fun things. This to Noctis his delight. Throughout the demo you notice that this loose feel causes Noctis to favour Prompto over the other two. Where Ignis and Gladiolus will get a formal form of thanks, Prompto gets a softer, more heartfelt thank you from Noctis. All these small details that create moments and dynamics between the character, really give live to the group and make them feel real.
A Behemoth of a beast
Episode Duscae is complete focussed on defeating “Deadeye” a half blind Behemoth who terrorizes the Duscae region. After searching for clues and carefully following the beast to his hiding spot, you must find a way to slay it once and for all. The setup of the quest, even though it’s a little vague (which is even worse because of some camera glitches when going a different way than the game would’ve wanted you to go), is laid out beautifully. While you sneak up to Deadeye through the mist, the tension goes up and when game decides to play with your feet it makes it feel complete. Even the way the fight starts feel natural. Soon it becomes clear that no one feels like pulling a Leroy Jenkins, so Ignis comes up with the clever plan to weaken the beast first. This doesn’t end as well like most good plans do, and soon after you’ll have to come up with something else to tame the monster. Now I’m wondering… what was it again that the guy at the Chocobo-outpost said?
The fights in Episode Duscae happen in the real world where you are. Various animals and enemies, like the robots from Niflheim, will keep a close eye on you if you come too close. When this is the case, a red bar will appear on top of the screen that grows when you are closing in on a danger zone. When the bar fills the screen, a fight will start. You can either take the fights heads on, or try and run. One of the first thing that caught my eyes the most when a fight started was the feel it had. The feel was similar to that of Kingdom Hearts and even the music seems to be that way. But even still the fights, even if they are more realistic than Kingdom Hearts, have the same smoothness to them. Combine that with the way your weapons appear out of nowhere and the likeliness is astonishing.
In Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, you will also come across many dodge-, warp-, weapon- and parry abilities. Noctis has magical powers that allow him shot distance teleportation. Dodging is literally teleporting outside the attack range of the enemy, while warping is teleporting above the fight stage itself, giving the player time to heal before falling back into the fight. Both abilities use MP, which serves as a way of indicating endurance. If you dodge too much and your MP reaches 0, your character will get into “stasis” and walk as if exhausted till the MP has been replenished. Even Weapon abilities, strong attacks linked to various weapon types Noctis can summon, ask for plenty of MP.
Parrying, the ability to stop powerful attacks against you, also has a vital part in the demo and ask the player to pay close attention to the enemy. You could go through the entire episode without using parry once, but then you would miss out on a lot of experience points and possible combos with your companions. Carrying out a good parry is not always that easy to do, and especially not when you are being attacked from different angles. But this add up to the pure satisfaction when you finally get a hang of it.
Summons work entirely different however. In Episode Duscae, if you search well enough, you get the opportunity to get Ramuh as your personal Eidolon. But summoning him is a last resort option as you are only able to do it once your HP hits 0.
Napping for experience
In the Duscae region lots of big boulders with shiny motives are spread over the landscape where you can setup your camp. Camping is important is this world not only because it’s the only way to save the game, but also the only way to get your gained Experience Points. Camping after a few fights is there for highly recommended if you want to level up fast.
The place of camping influences the extra’s you’ll get out of it. Camping in a small tent will make Ignis cook for the group. What he makes depends on the ingredients the group has on them and each dish gives different bonuses, like immunity for the next day.
Camping in a caravan however, will replace status-bonuses for Experience-bonuses. So for every type of gamer something!
Outlook to the future
The world as shown in Episode Duscae is so pretty that is will easily entertain you for hours without you even noticing any time has passed. It’s clear that Square Enix have a jewel in hands with this one, if they build on the gameplay they created in this demo. Of course, some things might and could change. The receiving of Experience points when camping feels a little counter-intuitive, and the bugs you get when you stray off the path rises questions whether they really worked on the open world feel they intended, or are actually misleading the player into thinking it is an open world but constantly steering the player to where the game wants them to go. Next to that it does take a long time for the map to load in the demo. Luckily is Episode Duscea just representing 60% of the actual game. And with this we look longingly forward to what Square Enix is planning for the other 40%.
Final Fantasy XV demo: Episode Duscae is available for PS4 and Xbox One since March 20th when purchasing Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, as long as it’s in stock.
Title: Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae
Genre: JRPG – Demo
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix