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Braving a New World: Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Impressions

Ben Franchi ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Final_Fantasy_XV_Duscae

During the release of Final Fantasy Type-0, anyone pre-ordering the game received a demo download for Final Fantasy XV, the much-awaited continuation of the popular mainstream franchise, titled “Episode Duscae.” Clocking in at about four to five hours, the demo shows a lot of promise for the game, as well as a variety of refreshing aspects that will once again breathe fresh life into the franchise.

The demo takes place as a prequel story to the main game. The hero, Noctis, and his trio of friends accidentally total their car halfway to their destination, and the main objective is to scrape up enough cash for the repair bill. They choose to do so by hunting down a massive beast known as “Deadeye,” and from there, they must track down Deadeye’s lair and find a way to kill the monster. The characters are very unique, breaking out of established stereotypes. For instance, the heavy brawler guy, Gladiolus, is also the wisest; the smart British guy, Ignis, is very friendly instead of standoffish; and the eager newcomer, Prompto, is hesitant towards fighting rather than hot-blooded and pugnacious. Noctis himself is also an interesting new character, mixing a gruff, cool voice with sleepy tendencies. The quartet’s interactions are fun to watch, even during the non-scripted stuff, and they are all very well voice acted.

The gameplay is a mix of real-time action role play and open world exploration. Fans of Final Fantasy XIII and Xenoblade Chronicles will find a happy medium here. You control Noctis throughout the whole demo, and as such are limited to certain abilities and a lack of spells. Noctis can wield five weapons at once. During his attacks, he accesses different weapons at different stages. For instance, he uses one weapon when opening an attack, another during the combos, and another still when finishing an enemy, as well as a weapon locked to countering and another for mid-air combat. Each weapon comes with its own abilities for wielding (MP regeneration, defense breaks, etc.), and most come with a special attack that Noctis can use at any time through a Xenoblade-esque ability bar, provided he has enough MP. Speaking of which, MP is now used for physical abilities, such as dodging attacks, special moves, parrying attacks, and warping – a move by which, through targeting an enemy or zone and pressing X, Noctis is able to teleport, closing the distance to an enemy or getting out of harm’s way. By getting high ground or hiding behind cover, Noctis can also regenerate health and MP more swiftly. This new system is fun to watch and play, and mixing weapons to different combat rolls is fun and engaging. The combat camera can be a little wonky, and targeting isn’t too accurate, but hopefully that will be smoothed out in the final game.

Exploring the area of Duscae is a joy in and of itself. The land is huge and has plenty of landmarks, wildlife, and hidden items scattered about it, including some legendary gear that will help make your adventure much more manageable. It also has a day/night system. The new graphics engine for the game, Luminous, renders everything with pointed, clear detail, and the characters look as good as players have come to expect from Square Enix. This Final Fantasy is also the closest to real life that we’ve gotten so far. Greasy gas stations, laid back trailer parks, modern cars, and serious Monday syndrome are all a part of what you will encounter, even if you don’t try to look around for them. Indeed, a big part of the demo is exploration. During your time in Episode Duscae, you will venture through dark and dangerous caves, sneak past massive beasts in the fog, bait the deadly Deadeye in person, and save Prompto from a horde of angry goblins. But downtime is also a big part of the game. By resting at camps or in trailers (yes, really), you can level up characters and eat food for stat boosts and abilities for the day ahead. If you don’t rest often, you could suffer from stat reductions. It’s all a part of making a realistic yet fun experience.

If you didn’t pre-order Type-0 but you are interested in Final Fantasy XV, try to find a friend who has it and give it a try. While the combat isn’t as smooth as it could be, the final game will be much smoother, and it will definitely get you excited for what’s to come. Just make sure to complete the “Prince is a Pauper” sidequest before taking on Deadeye. No spoilers, but if what it gives you for the final fight is what we can expect throughout the final game, then Final Fantasy XV might just end up being one of the grandest adventures in the series.

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