“Let’s go check out the Final Fantasy 15 demo” I said to Josh enthusiastically. “Sure thing! Gosh David, you’re full of great ideas!” — That’s exactly how the conversation went. Following this brief decision making, was a bit of bickering about which Final Fantasy is the best (it’s 12, I don’t care who knows it), and excitement. Both of us have been relatively in the dark throughout its production, so we were intrigued. Turns out, we (especially myself) left scared for the future of the franchise.
The PAX demo ran through a lot of the same content as the footage above; we were given a quest to kill a bunch of scorpions off in the desert. If you haven’t played the previous demos before, basically, you hold down one attack button (B or O), and use the D-Pad to switch to different weapons while continuously attacking. The point is to string along different combinations of weapon attacks (Light, Medium, Heavy etc), while blocking and rolling your way to victory.
What felt ‘wrong’ was that the movement runs counter to the combat system. Unless you hold the controller like a madman, dodging in the direction you want to, while trying to maintain a combo doesn’t ‘feel’ good. You need to stay locked onto a single target, focussing purely on switching weapons for a combo, whilst ignoring movement. I may be in the minority when I say this, but for me, the most interesting action-RPGs revolve around managing multiple enemies at once; switching targets and zipping in, about and around, which doesn’t seem possible. It was only a short demo, though, so maybe the control scheme becomes easier to use.
The ‘warp’ mechanic was also shown off in the demo. Specific anchors in the world appear as ‘warp points’ which the player can teleport to and dangle from. Annoyingly enough, because you can also freely warp anywhere, it was incredibly finicky to line up with the specific anchors. Most of the time the mechanic just resulted in missing the point several times, only to go into stasis mode (slow, can’t attack), which was very frustrating.
Aside from the rather lackluster gameplay experience, even the overall setting of the demo has me concerned. It’s the first time Square Enix has attempted to make a single player open world game, and what I saw was very boring. I mean come on, a fetch quest to kill a bunch of scorpions, and then a big lumbering bug? It didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Even worse, is that according to Josh, the Xbox One version had poor resolution, which made reading some of the dialogue options impossible.
It’s clear Square Enix are taking the title in a new direction, but judging from this demo, it may be too late. Gaming (especially open-world games), has evolved a lot over the years, and we’re already getting sick of the same old formula that crops up time and time again. Final Fantasy has been out of touch for a while, what are the chances they’ll make a truly engaging and fresh open-world experience? Not high if all they’ve got to show in a demo is a fetch-quest akin to an MMO.