Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae is a long awaited revival of what seemed to be a dead in development game by Square Enix. After almost 9 years of waiting we can get our hands on some form of the game with this Demo of one of the early stages in the game, following the 4 main characters and allowing use an early look into what the game has to offer. But has it been worth the wait?
The story behind the demo isn’t much to talk about, your retinue of boyband looking members tell Noctis to wake up and from that point we are told through a short cutscene that our Car has broken down and we need to work up the 24k Gil necessary to repair it, luckily a nearby poster tells us of just such a way to earn that cash. Your main goal in the demo is to get 24k Gil and to do that you can kill Deadeye, a behemoth, though it isn’t as simple as a one two stab.
Going across the large plains of Duscae you will find monsters, Chocobos and be ever hounded by empire ships that drop down mechanical beings to take you out. Through the demo you will unlock access to one of the Eidolons of the game, earlier called Summons or Guardian Forces in previous releases, Ramuh who calls down lightning to defeat your foes.
The battle system in FF15 has changed a lot, especially from the old call of turn based and even slightly free-flowing of 12 and 13. You now work in active time and can move around freely and attack without waiting on a charge meter. Movement is done with the left analogue stick, with sprinting by pushing it down or holding Square, and a dedicated jump button of Circle, your characters will automatically parkour over stomach high obstacles.
Besides movement you can now fight in a similar fashion to Kingdom Hearts, with holding Square for an attack chain based on position, enemy health and movement and techniques on the Triangle button for a thrust with a spear, drain blade for health, tempest slash with great sword and Dragoon jump with a lance. Holding down L1 will put Noctis into a dodging mode, where he expends MP to dodge any attack thrown at him, draining around 10mp per dodge. You can also parry certain attacks for a nice counterattack based on enemy type.
Summons and Limit Breaks seem to have changed in this release as well, with Ramuh being the only summon in the demo so far. Summoning works, at least in the demo, when you get down to 0hp you can hold X to summon Ramuh to kill the enemies you’re having trouble with and brings you back to full health, though gives no exp or items for the kills he gets. Limit breaks also seem to have been swapped for what is called Armiger, a set of skills and abilities tied to Noctis and are gained from relics of your family. Starting with the base teleportation skills you also get new blocking and healing abilities to an almost Omnislash type ability called Knightswords that continually drains your MP to 0 but summons a multitude of weapons to attack nearby enemies, while in this mode you can also use skills without MP cost and teleport to enemies for a high-damage combo.
At the end of battle you get a new reward screen, allowing you to continue on moving after a battle, detailing the time it took, damage taken and parries done that equate to a bonus exp in %, I saw a max of 298% at one point that gave me quite a big boost. All battles are entered and left smoothly, going for what seems like an Elder Scrolls approach, enemies only bother you if you get too close and when you are in combat you seamless pull out your weapons and go at it, with the ability to run at any point.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
While the plains did feel a bit empty at times, both music and enemies, I felt the overall experience of the game was rather amazing. The music fit well with the themes of the series and the aesthetic and the landscape gave me plenty to explore, with a few quips from allies every now and then to let me know I wasn’t alone. The game itself is hard, at least at lower levels, which is a welcome change to the series, even if past releases have been known to be quite difficult. You need to learn enemy attacks and parry chances on top of what your party can deal with, as there are no popups or pieces of Intel that let you know the level and strength of an adversary.
The addition of a Day/Night cycle really brings the world alive and improves the immersion you feel, as in the dead of night it can be quite hard to see much beyond your torchlight and getting jumped by Goblins or Wolves ups the tension a lot. Having the sleep to save, level up and make the time go by feels like a well-made decision in my mind as it adds to the feel of survival as well as the aspect of a roleplaying game.
Overall the Demo gave a good insight into what the full game will give us, and with some tweaking, I think this can be an amazing entry into the series; the franchise really needed a boost over the debatable 13 debacle.