Sunday, August 9, 2015

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae

 Got ahold of a demo code, very unexpectedly, for the latest Final Fantasy. I'M EXCITED. No idea what to expect (except that the four heroes are douchebags), so let's jump into this.

WTF? Is that Cloud Strife? No, it isn't Cloud Strife, it's some guy named Prompto. They made him look just like Cloud Strife as much as they possibly could. Is this a cynical ploy to get people interested via screenshots, similar to how Crisis Core's box hid the top of Zack's head so it looked like Cloud?

I wouldn't put it past them, since this game was in development way before FFVII R was. Doubt they'd do something like this with a newer game and leech on Cloud's heat like that.

The main character of FFXV is Noctis. He weighs about 90 pounds and runs like a little girl. He also seems really miserable for some reason. I don't know who this character is supposed to appeal to. I probably would have thought he was pretty cool when I was 13, but isn't Square's fanbase pretty much people in their 20's and 30's at this point?

The intro scene immediately rubs me the wrong way by having a cell phone alarm start ringing...and continue to ring...and continue to ring...while the four characters all slowly wake up in a tent over the course of an entire minute and a half. IS ANYONE GOING TO F*****ING TURN OFF THE RINGING ALARM OR WHAT

Here's Ignis, the most interesting of the four characters. He's either a flea market Citan or a flea market Methos, haven't decided yet. He sounds just like Methos, though, so that's pretty cool. He's also a level-headed badass. I like this guy, but the stupid Zell hair doesn't do him any favors. 

Rounding out the world's grossest foursome is Gladiolus, a big dude who looks like a wrestler. I'm guessing he's based on a Japanese wrestler, but the closest comparison I can draw from guys I'm familiar with is probably Roman Reigns.

So from left to right, we've got Prompto, Gladiolus, Noctis, and Ignis. Interesting names, probably the best set of names in an FF game since FFVI... but do the characters live up to them? So far I doubt it. Rather than add to their mystique, the names almost make them seem like a pretentious boy band.

Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere (so far, this game has cars and smartphones...does it take place in a world with the exact same technology level as ours?) and it'll cost them $24000 to fix said car. Holy hell, and I thought car fixes were expensive in the real world.

The good news is that they spot this shady Craigslist ad for someone to kill a Behemoth. Reminds me of the Hunts in FFXII and FFXIII, which were probably my favorite parts of both games. If they're returning for this game then that's awesome.

Killing the Behemoth will get them a cool $25000, which is enough to both fix their car AND have $250 left over each to spend on hookers and cocaine.

They decide to look for the Behemoth, following huge footprints. This is a cool shot, one of the few moments where I really felt like I was looking at a visually cutting-edge game.

Most of the game looks like a slightly-upscaled PS3 game, though, probably because this game has been in development hell for so long that it WAS a PS3 game for a while. It was also yet another FFXIII sequel. They were planning something like five FFXIII universe games even after the audience roundly rejected the first one. Weird.

I liked FFXIII, for the record, but it was definitely way too linear. 

A ship lands nearby, and our characters note that it's a "Magitek personnel carrier". Not going to lie, I got psyched-up to see the word Magitek. It's like Final Fantasy VI all over again. A bunch of "Imperial troops" dropped out of it and I had the option to go fight them, but there was absolutely no reason to so I just continued on my way. I still know nothing about this world. Are these guys part of a rebel faction, or are they just cool guys roaming around and battling fanservice-y references to other games for no real reason? I'm not sure yet.

I wander up to a hilltop in the woods and look out through the trees as the day begins to draw to a close. I'm starting to get into this. Seems like it's more or less open-world. It hasn't forced me into anything yet aside from important story developments, which is how I like it. I've had freedom to roam around so far, and as I mentioned a minute ago, I don't actually have to fight things if I don't want to. Instead I can choose to just go climb a hill and collect loot off the ground if I want to, and the game fully allows it. Not bad at all. I was just playing some Fallout: New Vegas and I'm a huge fan of the freedom-based RPG. I don't expect this game to have dialogue or story that are one-tenth as intelligent or stimulating as FONV, but I'll take the open gameplay. 

As it gets dark, I abandon my plans to track down the Behemoth. Going to see about finding an inn, or a campground. The game seems a little bit dark thusfar and I haven't seen any sliders to adjust brightness. 

During my exploration, I stumble upon a Chocobo Post. Gimme a chocobo! 

 Unfortunately, I found this place earlier than I was supposed to, and chocobos aren't available yet. File this away to return later.

Ignis and Gladiolus are much higher-level than Noctus and Prompto for some reason. They look it, too, because at least Ignis and Gladio don't look like teenage heroin addicts like these two goofs. Noctis has goofy, arm-flaily running animations that just make me despise this main character more and more as I play. Why does he look like a heroin addict? Why can't he stand up straight? Why does he seem all sad? I'm not saying he's the worst character I've ever seen, but he's definitely a huuuuge pussy.

 The battles are sheer chaos. You control your character movement within the battle square and can dodge/strike at will. It's essentially a button-mash fest. So far I like it less than the last several Final Fantasy games. People complained incessantly about the battle systems of FFXII and FFXIII for taking control away from the player and generally automating the combat, but they still had you using strategy to determine what roles your characters would be taking. This game has you controlling one character with the others acting completely independently, and that one character seems to have very little variety in terms of what they can do. You run up to the enemy and slash, using special attacks when your MP meter regenerates from slashing. That's great for an action game but it doesn't feel like Final Fantasy.

In short, we got full control of our character back, but the automated battle systems of the previous games were that way for a reason. It's also very hard to see what exactly is going on in these battles due to the sheer volume of real-time strikes and numbers going off, which was fine in FFXIII when you were just entering commands but isn't so great here where you're constantly in control and moving around.

Gladiolus gives the Rock Palm to the sickly whelp known as Noctis. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS! 

Well, we found the Behemoth. Or more accurately, it found us. This is one of those games where I can't tell where the cutscene ends and the gameplay begins, which is pretty cool. They seamlessly transition everything. 

 After sneaking past the Behemoth, our heroes end up in the woods. really atmospheric. There's a lot I don't like about this game, but I'm constantly finding vistas where I'm just enjoying the freedom to walk around and look at things.

The downside? Music seems to be largely absent from the game. There's some BGM, but it's usually so low-volume that it's unnoticeable...if it's there at all. This forest scene, in particular, is in DIRE need of that Phantom Forest tune from Final Fantasy VI. Or something like it. It's the difference between a visually pleasant scene in the moment and a just flat-out memorable scene that'll stick with you.

Our "heroes" now ambush the Behemoth in his lair. Why? What did the Behemoth do? If he was ravaging the Chocobos that'd be one thing, but as far as I can tell he's up here in the mountains not bothering anyone. So basically I'm playing as a bunch of hit-men. How noble. Just give me some justifications for the things that are happening, that's all I ask.

The Behemoth proceeds to whoop the living hell out of the party, so I have Noctis limp for the hills. With zero HP, he's even more sickly than usual!

(You can still move around at 0 HP, but if you get hit much more at that point without a heal, it's game over)

Our heroes retreat into the woods, in sad shape. That...isn't how I was expecting the fight to go at all. Not sure if I was supposed to lose it or if I just failed at a challenge. I just hope someone turns the lights back on soon.

At this point I took a break and looked up what the deal is with the Behemoth. Turns out I need Ramuh to defeat it. Let's see if we can track the thunder-god down.

When you camp, you can fix meals with ingredients earned from fights. I don't know, this looks WAY too delicious to be made from random battle loot.

In other news... caution, this game will make you hungry.

Camping out also results in whatever experience you've earned that day being added to the party. I kinda like this system of getting all of your exp at once rather than slowly and fight-by-fight.

Exploring more, I find a sword in a rock. Turns out it's a key item that lets me go into temporary "super-mode" when I'm at full MP. It's good for crowd-clearing.

Seems like a lot of treasures look like this embedded sword. Like it's the default treasure chest appearance. That's a bit lame, because it'd be cool if this were the unique appearance for weapons only. Instead I stopped getting excited about seeing them pretty quick when they'd turn out to be a Rat Tooth or something. Matter of fact, this game does the same thing FFXIII did where you're constantly getting loot to sell (MMO-style) and most of it is gross. Like "Large Blob of Goo", which is the upgrade to "Small Blob of Goo".

I find Black Chocobos wandering around. I don't think I can catch them at this point, but at least they're in the game. For the most part Black Chocobos have been missing since Final Fantasy IV, which was a long time ago. Insert joke about Black Chocobos mattering here.

I also tried attacking them to see if that'd initiate a way to tame them... but it's impossible to engage them in battle. That's probably for the best, they might be ass-kicking machines like in FF Tactics. On the other hand, they might drop something awesome like "Wad of Spit" that I can sell.

Continuing on, the next thing I need to do is traverse a cave full of goblins. This place is horrible, and if it's representative of the dungeons in the main game, then yikes. It's dark, super-linear, and only has one enemy type: Creepy Goblins. They look just like the 2D Imps/Goblins from the original game, at least.

The other problem is that they have a huge aggro radius. As you fight them, more and more keep charging into the fight, and it gets ridiculous. I think I chain-aggro'd the entire dungeon, which I haven't seen happen in a game since the original incarnation of Everquest.

At one point I had TWENTY-TWO goblins attacking the party at once. Yeah, I paused and counted down the target list. Are you seeing this? It's ridiculous! The only way this would be acceptable is if "One Winged Angel" were playing while the goblins were all giggling insanely and foaming at the mouth.



"One Winged Angel" fades out as I outrun the enemies and find a peaceful area. At the end of the a nicer cave. It's well-lit, clean, and has candles and stuff. This must be where the female goblins live.



I continue to run for my life, and at the end of the dungeon I find a mysterious green tree. Can't interact with it until I'm out of battle mode, though, and that won't happen until I somehow defeat the remaining 13 goblins by myself.

What follows is a tedious process that would have had me turning the game off when I was younger. Enemies don't go into the tree room (though they sometimes launch projectiles in). You regenerate HP and MP over time.

So what I did was regenerate HP, go out and activate Armiger (the super-mode I mentioned earlier), mash through the goblins and do as much damage as possible, retreat back into the tree room and regenerate for a while, repeat.

After finally defeating the goblin horde (and collecting all of their rabies foam), our hero interacts with the tree...and gets zapped with awesome purple lightning. Now he has the power of Ramuh. The lightning god will show up when Noctis is at 0 HP and bail him out.

I return to the Chocobo Post to sell stuff. Place looks oddly low-res on my TV, like a building from a PS3 game, but it looks okay in this shot. Still, there are a lot of jagged edges in this game, but only in certain places like this. It's odd for a modern game that isn't also getting a PS3 release. Again though, it might be because this was a PS3 game for most of the development cycle.

The merchant stand here is definitely low-res regardless of image size. Can't even read anything on the various bags. I like the old radio, at least. Samoa Joe is here to buy up all of my Rat Teeth and Imp Pee.

 "They Come to Snuff the Rooster" plays as Noctis walks down a lonely street, accompanied by what I can only figure are the ghosts of his dead companions since the goblins murdered them all. That or he's hallucinating their life meters.



Man, this game seems awesome with the right music. If you turn your imagination off and embrace the deafening silence, it'd probably get real boring real fast. Great work there. I remember when the soundtracks of Final Fantasy games were powerful and memorable. And...present. I think FFX was the last one with a truly great OST.

Time to go back for a rematch with the Behemoth.


The party is much stronger now from fighting four hundred goblins in that cave, so you'd think they'd have a better chance of defeating the big boss. Alas, it still pretty much runs them over. It isn't a pretty scene.

But wait! Ramuh appears with Noctis at 0 HP and proceeds to unleash lightning hell on the Behemoth, doing around 400,000 damage and instantly winning the fight for me.

I lose and a Deus Ex Machina swoops in to auto-win for me? What is this, WoW?

The really cool part is that after the summon-attack, the surrounding area is still burning and the sky is still darkened. This effect only lasts for about ten seconds, but it's cool to see lasting effects from an attack at all.

Yeahhh, here comes the rooster! OH YEAHHHH!!! YOU KNOW HE AIN'T GONNA DIE-IEEE!

Selling the Behemoth Horn means that I now have enough money to get the car fixed. Awesome. It's pretty believable that convertible parts cost $24000, especially if this takes place a few years from now and we're adjusting for inflation.

Speaking of the convertible... chicka-chicka. Bao-bao. Ohhh yeahhhh.

Chicka-chickaaah. Bao-bao. Ooooh yeahhhhh.

 Bao-bao. Oooooh yeahhhh. Chicka-chickaaa.

Bao-bao. Oooh bao-bao.

Okay, snapping out of that for a moment... the first female character in the entire game is the mechanic. Aside from spending all of her time getting into various blatant sex positions, she wears very little. This caused some controversy.

Personally, I am totally down with this. Hey, Gladiolus has his shirt open all the time, and it's been scientifically proven that ripped male abs are for women what boobs are for men. Everyone wins here.

Here's what I'm not so down with: She talks with a twang and vocabulary that can only be described as "uneducated". I'm also not really kosher with her being the only female character in this entire demo. If there were some other woman of note (or even several!) before this who was/were a bit more modest and intelligent, the game wouldn't come across like a complete jerk.

 On the other hand...

Chicka-chickaaaa. Bao-bao.

Oooooh Yeahhhh. Chicka-chickaaa. Bao-bao. Oooooh yeahhhhh.

Alright dude, whatever.

All would be forgiven if she were a party member with her own story arc (which would make her important as a character AND we'd get to look at her for the entire game!) but it looks like that won't be the case. Much like Lebreau in FFXIII, she exists only to be super-hot at the beginning and then disappear forever. Oh well.

Faux-Cloud and his friends start up the car and "flirt" shamelessly with the mechanic before heading out. I say "flirt" because the communication skills of both sides are bumbling at best and nonsensical at worst.

::sigh:: I need to go back to playing Fallout: New Vegas and get some good dialogue and intelligent storytelling.

After that comedic demo, we cut to a seriously dark painting of an injured woman stumbling through a street. What is this impossible-to-buy dramatic tonal shift?

Turns out the nation is AT WAR and bad tidings are afoot. Well, this is instantly a lot more interesting than the playable demo was, even if it's weirdass as hell as far as transitions go.

I think this might be Noctis' home city. This is a "vision of things yet to happen", so it looks like this game will revolve around Imperial destruction the same way FFXII and FFVI did. Those games were quite good, so maybe this bodes well.

All in all, the demo was okay. I had a lot of issues with it for sure, but it was still enjoyable. Except maybe the goblin cave, and I really hope that isn't representative of all dungeons in the game. They need to put some kind of a limit on the aggro ranges of enemies, or at least the amount of enemies that can aggro you at a time. Wasn't into the battle system either.

The characters didn't interest me at all. The main dude is a sickly wimp with no personality, and the others all seem like posers. I hope the actual cast of the game is a bit more diverse.

All of that said, the game shows promise, especially that last scene. I like the open-world nature of things and I think it'll be a good game.

That's it for now.

Chicka-chickaaah. Bao-bao. Ooooh yeahhhhh.


  1. Black Chocobos were also in FF7. Other than that, good stuff here. Hope you do more with the full game when it comes out.

  2. Well, I don't really agree about the names, but I think we can all agree that they definitely have the worst hair ever.

    While I have almost no hope for this game I'm actually totally on board with having a car and having to hunt monsters to fund the darn thing. It's a relief compared to dealing with car issues in real life.

    Well, if nothing else the music issue could be from the demo-ness of this. It seems like they're still changing the game too so the demo may not even much resemble the final game.

    Unfortunately, all reports say the four characters in the demo are the only four you have in the entire game... so there's that.

  3. Did they really make you watch some guys slowly wake up to stop a cell phone alarm? I bet the point was to surprise you with how this isn't your Dad's Final Fantasy but it's also a hilarious way to annoy people.

    Hopefully they're hearing the feedback from this demo and making a better game. I really like all the feedback you gave and would love to see you mail this post to Square if they have a contact window.

    I'll be on your side in liking the names, albeit they should go with better characters. Pretty disappointed to see a Poster Cloud and agree with you about Ignis seeming to be the most promising.

    If you have a 4-dude party the whole time you can do a lot of character development about their brotherhood..hopefully that happens, and it's not just scenes like with that car mechanic that are retrograde.

    I agree the game environment is pretty good. I shouldn't get mad about the car really, since FF7 had those too. Nice to finally see a hint of game besides Roadtrip.

    I'll be on your side in saying we haven't really seen black chocobos since FF4. In FF7 you could totally do without them and most players never saw them.

    Your characters can cook huh? Well that is pretty impressive at least.