If news that Final Fantasy XV has been delayed, has you desperately searching for alternatives to get your JRPG fix, then here’s something that should take up a good chunk of time: SquareEnix has released a full hour of gameplay footage taken from the gold master of the game, giving a more in-depth look at its systems, side quests and early plot than anything to date.
The game was delayed by two months to 29 November, apparently, because Hajime Tabata, its director, felt the contents of the planned day-one patch should ship with it, not be made available to download after the fact, hence the two-month delay to the “master version”.
If you’ve got the time, the video’s above. If you don’t, we watched it so you don’t have to. Here’s the gems we spotted.
Don’t be fooled by the real-time sheen; this is still very Final Fantasy
This won’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve played Episode Duscae, the short extract of the game that was released alongside Final Fantasy Type–0 HD in 2015, but until now, not much video footage has shown how the game’s battles work when they take on the intricacies of high-tier Final Fantasy combat.
Yes, when you’re attacking lower-tier mobs, the game looks more like Devil May Cry than it does turn-based RPGs of yore, but as the classic systems-piled-upon-systems approach of Final Fantasy games builds up, its clear that you’re not always going to be mashing the X button until the enemies are dead.
The game borrows from western RPGs, from Baldur’s Gate to Fallout 4, in letting players enter “wait mode” to enter more complex commands, and while the choice of four weapon styles and four magic types bound to Noctis at any one time means that even in real-time, there’s a good variety of options available.
Final Fantasy VIII fans will be particularly happy
FFVIII is often overshadowed by its older sibling, as Final Fantasy VII conclusively takes the crown of leading JRPG of its generation, and so the innovations it introduced to the franchise haven’t entered the general milieu of the Final Fantasy theme.
The biggest change that game introduced was treating spells as an exhaustible resource, rather than things that are simply learned once and then used with MP. They could be “drawn”, both from appropriate enemies and special points on the world stage. It was divisive, for sure: some players loved the variety, while others hated the broader junction system, which boosted stats by the number of spells linked to them (and so punished players for actually casting spells by making them weaker, even as the game in general encouraged players to use magic to take down enemies).
Some of that mechanic’s returned in XV. Players can now absorb magic from environmental sources, letting them find blizzard spells in a can of compressed air, or fire in glowing crystals. The spells aren’t junctioned, nor can they be drawn from enemies, but it bears enough of a similarity to VIII to be worth noting.
But lessons come from all through the series
Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid offered players the ability to choose how their characters progressed, with spheres dropped by individual enemies being slotted in to a wider grid and granting stat boosts and new abilities. That’s reflected, it seems, in FFXV’s ascension screen, in which players spend their level-ups on a very similar-looking grid.
The open-world aspect of the game, meanwhile, clearly owes a lot to Final Fantasy XII, the last game for the Playstation 2, but it also draws its inspiration from FFs XI and XIV, the two MMORPGs in the series. Players can go fishing, collect materials to cook meals, or (not shown in the video) take photos or … survive? It’s not clear what the survival skill is but you can do that. I’ve never actually enjoyed fishing in any previous game and even the two minutes of fishing shown in the video was enough for me but hey, fishing.
There are some vaguely unwelcome returns too. Final Fantasy has yet to really make stealth work – heck, no game that isn’t focused around stealth has ever made stealth work – but that hasn’t stopped the team from trying again, as the squad tiptoe around a giant bird to retrieve a rare gem. If you haven’t watched the video, it ends with a nice set-piece, so congrats for not being spoiled on it. If you have, sorry.
Chocobos. You can race them, ride them and even dress them up with medals and so on. I’m the sort of player who will skip through character creation screens in a second but if you give me a chocobo to customise you can bet I’ll be there for a while, ensuring that my giant horse-chicken-pigeon looks just right.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Friday 19th August 2016 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010