Final Fantasy XV: Once more with feeling

This time. That’s what fans of Final Fantasy should be thinking when it comes to the next iteration of the maligned franchise, but honestly we'd understand completely if you weren't. Let’s face it, FFXIII wasn't exactly the return to form gamers wanted but missteps area necessary part of growth, and in that regard we can only assume Final Fantasy XV will be the best one in a long time. For one thing, it seems Square Enix is making a concerted effort to take on board criticism, whizz that straight back into the game it is making and remember what it is that made the series such a huge name in the first place.

Take, for example, the world that’s just waiting for you to explore. We’ve already seen the road trip nature of the storyline in action, but now it’s become clear just how free you are to hop out, set up camp and take on some beasties and these really are a tough set of monsters, They’re not just creatures that pop up randomly, either, you’ll see them wandering the wilderness, grazing or running or sleeping or, well, anything that these experience point piñatas might do before you come in and hack them to bits. These fiends might vary in size, but they certainly offer up a greater visual threat than any Final Fantasy game before whether it’s large, ox-like creatures charging you down, or towering titans with feet larger than the gang’s black, open-top ride. There have always been ‘big’ monsters to battle in Final Fantasy games, but never have we seen anything on a scale like this. And that’ssaying nothing of the summonable beasts, which Noctis the playable character alone can summon after defeating them; side-quests and hidden summons just like Final Fantasy VIII, anyone? Let’s hope so.

Of course there are extra things to do within the world too that, if you’re playing the demo included in Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, you really should try out. Hidden caves contain secret treasure, and a host of tougher monsters. With a world this large, knowing there are things to do off the beaten track will no doubt get players keen to search every nook and cranny. Hell, just look at FFXIII ; once you actually reached the expansive wilds of Gran Pulse and unlocked the intricacies of the combat system it became a pretty good game. That’s something Square Enix will need to remember with XV: don’t keep us waiting to get to the good stuff. Everyone knows an RPG is as much about the extras bundled in as it is about compelling battle systems and intricate stats-based levelling up, after all.
“That’s something Square Enix will need to remember: don't keep us waiting to get to the good stuff”
Just as well you'll have a heap of things to do, then. Fishing and cooking are just some of the diversions Square Enix has detailed so far, mini-games intended to give you something other than grind for experience when you’re out and about and the better Ignis’ cooking skill, the more benefits you’ll get from it. Exploring might seem like such a trivial thing to be excited for, too, but the town that Square Enix has now shown off already looks rich with distractions. This is going to be one of the core locations for the first half of the game, and it is even promised that NPCs are driven by their own AI. We’re hopeful it suggests there will be a greater depth to not only our four main heroes, but the rest of the characters. And, if nothing else, the reveal of that town shows a setting that more resembles that of the excellent Final Fantasy VIII , to give us even more hope. There are still (massive) question marks over this action-based, one-character combat and just how well it’ll work, or even how much that might appeal to series’ fans, but for now Square Enix is making all the right noises with this next iteration. Either we’ve fallen for the trap once more hell, we were as excited for Final Fantasy XIII as you were or this time it really will be the Final Fantasy game we’ve been hoping for.

LADS ON TOUR
MEET THE GROUP YOU’LL BE TRAVELLING WITH


NOCTIS LUCIS CAELUM
Hair colour: Black
Eye colour: Blue/red
Weapon of choice: All of them
Position in group: Boss

Noctis might seem like your typical moody Final Fantasy protagonist, but we’re told our sole playable character will be distinctive and strong. He can use any kind of weapon, has telekinesis and is the only one who can summon monsters. He’s also heir to the kingdom of Lucis, so you know don’t mess with him.

IGNIS STUPEO SCIENTIA
Hair colour: Light brown
Eye colour: Green
Weapon of choice: Katana
Position in group: Driver, chef

If you didn't gather by the ‘Scientia’ bit of his name, Ignis is the smart one of the group and as is befitting of bespectacled stereotypes is therefore serious and level-headed. He’s the strategist for the group, and will be the de facto driver if you as Noctis don’t fancy doing so yourself.

GLADIOLUS AMICITIA
Hair colour: Black
Eye colour: Amber
Weapon of choice: Greatsword/Fists
Position in group:  Bodyguard

Here’s your ‘cheerful big guy’, the sort of chap who despite his imposing physique is actually a lovable sort. Alongside his ability to wield the heaviest swords, however, he’s also fond of fist-fighting, and even has the ability to powerbomb his enemies. As a result, he’s automatically our favourite.

PROMPTO ARGENTUM
Hair colour: Blonde
Eye colour: Blue
Weapon of choice: Guns
Position in group:  Comic relief

Prompto is contrary; blonde where the others are dark-haired, maintains a jokey attitude toward their predicaments and isn’t actually part of the Royal Circle he’s an outsider of sorts. He also favours the use of firearms, despite their ban in Noctis’ kingdom of Lucis good to see the prince is picking his friends well.

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