Final Fantasy XV: Real Time Combat - Games Weekly

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Final Fantasy XV: Real Time Combat

There’s a lot riding on Final Fantasy XV, the long gestating singleplayer follow up to the disappointing FFXIII. Depending on who you ask, it’s the game that will save or bury Square Enix’s reputation, it’s the last great hope for enormo budget JRPGs, a genre currently holed up in various smaller niches to weather the shrinking Japanese games industry, it’s a joke, it’s out of step, it’s the game that birthed the year’s second best car meme after the Luigi Death Stare. We don’t envy Square, nor director Hajime Tabata.

Every scrap of new information falls under the microscope, from the revelation that there would be no female party members, to the further revelation that we wouldn't be controlling anyone other than the game’s sullen hero, Noctis. Forums explode at every new development and now a recent livestream featuring Tabata has appeared in English to set the record straight.


For better or worse, the fate of Final Fantasy now rests on Tabata's shoulders, with former project lead Tetsuya Nomura being shifted full time to the similarly camera shy Kingdom Hearts III. Nomura’s fingerprints are still all over XV, but the Crisis Core and Type-0 director might be Square Enix’s best hope to steer the series in a more profitable and acclaimed direction, and away from the sublimely incomprehensible mess that was Nomura’s FFXIII.

So where does XV stand today, compared to the prototype revealed at last year’s E3? You’ve probably seen the recent videos: the open world, the sports car… the Zoolander esque dudes sitting in the backseat while a giant monster prowls by the side of the road. A later demo detailed the game’s crazy good hair physics, impressive weather effects and outfits plucked from Jean Paul Gaultier's 2015 ‘Spoony Bard’ collection.

Noctis one
The key thing to note is that it will be both gorgeous and massive (barring a Watch Dogs style visual downgrade at any rate). Square won’t be repeating the mistakes of lush corridor simulator FFXIII, and to that end we can expect the kind of open world roaming seen in XIII threequel Lightning Returns, only this time with a high powered vehicle and a bunch of handsome male models to keep us company. While you’ll only control Noctis, you can ask a chum to take the wheel while you chill in the backseat trying to decipher the plot of Kingdom Hearts 2.

We joke, but Final Fantasy’s unique mix of fantasy, sci-fi and near future fashion has been leading to this moment, and there’s something almost prophecy fulfilling to the cool guy road trip with giant beasties feel of the recent trailer. The combat, too, has finally done away with turn based battling, replacing it with an acrobatic pummelling system reminiscent of what else ? Kingdom Hearts. Noctis can stab, dodge and teleport himself around the environment, while his AI backup will go about its business beside him, carrying out your instructions. It’s been confirmed by Tabata, no less that FFXV will be the first mainline Final Fantasy to feature a dedicated jump button, along with a block/evade button that eats up MP when held down. There’s even a parry that rewards you a special co-op action if timed correctly Square Enix is going to great pains to reassure fans that battling isn’t as simple as it might first appear.

The road ahead
It’s going to great pains, full stop. Since Versus XIII was melted down and reworked into Final Fantasy XV, the normally fairly reticent developer has been surprisingly open about its development process. We’ve been told to expect more regular updates from now on. Frequent communication would be appreciated, as the game still has a long way to go: Square is still in the process of porting elements from last year’s prototype into the game proper. And yep, after eight years of development, that is a little startling.

What’s been shown this year is promising, however. The battling builds on Kingdom Hearts’ dynamic monster thwacking with greater visual fidelity, additional movement options and fewer semi naked, miserly Disney ducks. The story, meanwhile, is said to have fewer non interactive cutscenes so even if it’s bobbins, like FFXIII’s, we should be able to run and jump around to keep ourselves entertained.

It might be weighed down by expectation, baggage and a tonne of hair gel, but Final Fantasy XV finally seems to be heading down the right path. We’ll know for sure with next year’s demo, bundled with Type-0 HD.

Prince among men
Who is Noctis, and why’s he so mopey ?
There’s a reason we saved talk of the game’s story for this box out there isn't much to yak about yet. We know that you play as the moody Prince Noctis, caught in a war between his advanced kingdom of Lucis and the more medieval Niflheim. As usual, magic crystals, the goddess Etro (yep, from FFXIII) and giant swords are involved somehow. You’ll begin the game in search of Lucis’ all important crystal, which is nabbed just as a peace treaty is to be signed.

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