PAX East 2015: Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae hands-on

Dude, where's my car?

In a few weeks, owners of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will be able to play a fairly lengthy demo of Final Fantasy XV. But at PAX East 2015, we were treated to an hour-long sneak peek of the highly anticipated game.

As you’ve already seen in the trailers, Final Fantasy XV follows a group of bros as they travel to Cauthess. The demo begins with the entourage stranded, their car broken down for reasons not revealed in the demo. Needing 25,000 Gil to repair the car, Noctis and crew set out to make a quick buck.

The first thing I noticed was the breathtaking landscape. Lush plains, sprawling mountains, and dense forests could be seen in the distance, provide nice backdrops in which the game is played – it looks absolutely fantastic on PlayStation 4. Final Fantasy games have always had some of the best-looking cinematics, in my opinion, and the same holds true for Final Fantasy XV. There was some cheesy dialogue moments, of course, and I’m still not entirely sold on this dude-bro cast, but we’ll have to see where the story takes us.

Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae

As far as gameplay is concerned, this is probably where Final Fantasy XV is most different. Looking to liven-up the combat, Final Fantasy XV is “the first Final Fantasy flagship title” to give players direct control over combat in real-time. And it totally works. The combat is fast, fluid, and fun. It’s very similar to that of the Kingdom Hearts series or Final Fantasy Type-0. Rather than breaking the flow of gameplay by having your course through a menu interface, commands have been directly mapped to buttons on the controller, and you must react to enemy moves in real-time. So if an enemy swings at you, you better hold the dodge or parry button. If you successfully parry, you counter-attack with another button. As for your party members, they are pretty competent in battle requiring very little babysitting.

When not in combat, you’re free to explore this gorgeous open-world. Admittedly, with only an hour to play, I wasn’t able to explore the area in full, but I did get a nice feel for how quests are presented, including the main story one in which I had to hunt a Behemoth by tracking it. While killing the Behemoth was my main goal in the demo, I also picked up a few side quests on the way. These were easily managed through a main menu interface in which I could select which quest I wanted to track. Although I did progress the story enough to actually encounter the Behemoth, we were unable to kill it (by design, I’m sure), and so we proceeded onward. That’s about where my playthrough ended, but I eagerly look forward to continuing when the demo releases later this month.

Final Fantasy XV - Behemoth

Admittedly, I’m not a hardcore fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, so I can’t say how longtime fans of the series will react to it. Thankfully, you'll get a chance to see for yourself in just over a week. I can say, however, that I enjoyed my time with the game. I’ve played a few of the Final Fantasy flagship titles in the past, but the combat system has typically been my biggest turn off. With a new active combat system that mimics and slightly builds upon that of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, Final Fantasy XV will certainly appeal to newcomers.