Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV

Boy Bands vs The Apoc­a­lypse, writes Heidi Kemps

Hyper - - EDITORIAL -

It’s been a long, rough road for Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV. When the game was an­nounced as part of a larger “Fab­ula Nova Crys­tallis” mythol­ogy span­ning three games – un­der its orig­i­nal name of Fi­nal Fan­tasy Ver­sus XIII – it was a PlayS­ta­tion 3 ex­clu­sive. But the spot­light soon shifted to Fi­nal Fan­tasy XIII proper, and as that game re­ceived the bulk of Square-Enix’s in­ter­na­tional public­ity push, Fi­nal Fan­tasy Ver­sus XIII fell by the way­side. As years went by with only brief staff as­sur­ances that “it’s still be­ing worked on”, fans as­sumed the game was vapour­ware.

Now, here we are, 10 years later, and Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV is a very real game. It’s been a long time com­ing, and in a few short months, we’re go­ing to be play­ing a game many peo­ple be­lieved might not even ex­ist. The strange jour­ney of this game through the an­nals of de­vel­op­ment hell, how­ever, may be noth­ing com­pared to the road-trip­ping, mon­ster-slay­ing, warp-jump­ing RPG trek we’ll soon be par­tak­ing in.


The hero of Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV is young Noc­tis, Prince of the king­dom of Lu­cis. Many years ago, all of the coun­tries in the world of Eos pos­sessed a crys­tal that granted them im­mense power. Of course, over the course of many con­flicts, most of the crys­tals were de­stroyed. The sole re­main­ing crys­tal is now in the hands of Lu­cis, which has made use of its en­er­gies to bol­ster its magic power. Be­cause of this, Lu­cis has been locked in fierce po­lit­i­cal strug­gles with the other na­tions of the world.

The em­pire of Ni­fl­heim has worked to ad­vance its tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess to match that of Lu­cis. Through its mil­i­tary might, the em­pire has

man­aged to sub­ju­gate most of the rest of the world. A peace treaty is pro­posed be­tween Ni­fl­heim and Lu­cis, but at the cer­e­mony where the pa­per is to be signed, Ni­fl­heim launches a bru­tal at­tack, and the en­tire royal fam­ily is reported to have per­ished in the strug­gle.

In truth, Prince Noc­tis, along with sev­eral faith­ful com­pan­ions, are far away from the car­nage in Lu­cis. Noc­tis be­gins a jour­ney to re­claim his king­dom and take re­venge on Ni­fl­heim, but he has one hell of a long road ahead of him.


Square-Enix is presenting Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV as a “lead­ing-edge” game. They’re seek­ing no less than for this ti­tle to be­come the sort of vaunted genre clas­sic pre­vi­ous Fi­nal Fan­tasies have as­cended to, and the past 10 years of de­vel­op­ment have been poured into mak­ing the game ex­em­plary in vi­su­als, world in­ter­ac­tion, and com­bat. At a stage event at this year’s E3, sev­eral staff mem­bers of the game came up to ex­plain just what makes FFXV so spe­cial.

One of these fac­tors is the theme of a “road-trip ad­ven­ture". The road­trip theme was cho­sen, ex­plained Di­rec­tor Ha­jime Ta­bata, be­cause it’s a re­lat­able sort of jour­ney for many peo­ple: driv­ing around the world in a car, see­ing the sights, and stop­ping at things that catch your fancy.

The road trip doesn’t be­gin par­tic­u­larly well, how­ever. When you be­gin the game, Noc­tis and his com­pan­ions are stuck push­ing a bro­ken-down car along the road. Not ex­actly a princely thing to be do­ing, but bet­ter than be­ing stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere. For­tu­nately, you man­age to get the car to the mechanic Cindy, and the game im­me­di­ately opens up to you. “We want to give you the free­dom to explore the world right away,” Ta­bata ex­plained.

In some ways, FFXV’s world feels fairly grounded – at least, at first. Your first few steps of free­dom will take you into a sprawl­ing out­back, lit­tered with shrubs, rocks, and mounds of dirt that stretch out as far as you can see. It’s not the pret­ti­est of sights, but there’s some­thing in­stantly re­lat­able about it if you’ve ever taken a lengthy road trip. It’s later that you’ll be en­coun­ter­ing the sort of mas­sive sum­mons and mon­sters that re­mind you that, yes, you’re play­ing a Fi­nal Fan­tasy game.

Of course, non­de­script wilder­ness won’t be the only thing you see in FFXV, as you both drive and walk around, you might catch a glimpse of cer­tain sights in the dis­tance – such a a South-East Asian-in­spired casino town. If it catches your eye, you can go there and check it out. The feel­ing of, “Hey, this looks cool - I want to in­ves­ti­gate it,” is some­thing the de­vel­op­ers are hop­ing you’ll re­ally en­joy about trav­el­ling in FFXV. (Thank­fully, if you’re the type that wants to just watch the world pass by rather than sit be­hind the wheel, you can have the game auto-steer to spe­cific lo­ca­tions.)

Noc­tis isn’t alone in his road jour­ney across Eos, how­ever. He’s ac­com­pa­nied by three faith­ful com­pan­ions: Gla­di­o­lus, Noc­tis’s loyal body­guard; Ig­nis, a brother-fig­ure and mas­ter tac­ti­cian; and Prompto, a dear friend of Noc­tis. While Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV is a sin­gle-player game, you’ll be spend­ing plenty of time with your team­mates, bond­ing across your jour­ney as both dear friends and com­rades-in-arms.

“Even though it’s a sin­gle-player game, it’s very much de­signed so that your com­pan­ions feel like liv­ing, breath­ing peo­ple,” said Ta­bata. One such ex­am­ple Ta­bata gave was dur­ing the game’s camp­ing scenes. Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV fea­tures an in-game day/night cy­cle, and when the team sets up camp for the night, they can do things like cook for each other, have con­ver­sa­tions, and build their in­di­vid­ual skills.


The other fac­tor that makes FFXV so “lead­ing-edge” is the game’s real-time bat­tles. As the Fi­nal Fan­tasy se­ries has evolved, there’s been a grad­ual shift away from the blue-backed menus of Fi­nal Fan­tasies past to more dy­namic, real-time com­bat that feels more akin to that of an ac­tion game. Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV moves it more solidly into the “ac­tion” part of “ac­tion-RPG".

“You feel a more vis­ceral, phys­i­cal in­volve­ment in the com­bat of FFXV,” says Ta­bata. “It re­ally feels great.”

The com­bat engine, this time around, is dubbed the 'Ac­tive Cross Bat­tle Sys­tem'. You’ll mostly be in di­rect con­trol of a sin­gle char­ac­ter, Noc­tis, and rather than pick­ing com­mands from a menu, you’ll be us­ing con­troller face but­tons to ac­cess them with ease in the heat of com­bat. Po­si­tion­ing is done in re­al­time with the ana­logue sticks, and there’s no tran­si­tion screen from map to bat­tle – where you go in the world is also where you fight. While your com­pan­ions are AI-con­trolled for the most part, you’ll be able to is­sue them spe­cial com­mands mid-bat­tle if you need their as­sis­tance. In some bat­tles – such as the demo shown at E3 with the mas­sive Ti­tan – you may also need to en­gage in QTE-style events dur­ing spe­cific mo­ments.

Don’t like real-time com­bat? You’re in luck – as per FF tra­di­tion, there’s also a 'wait mode' for folks who might pre­fer some­thing a lit­tle closer to tra­di­tional RPG com­bat. When wait mode is turned on, the player can mo­men­tar­ily pause the ac­tion, view their sur­round­ings, tar­get spe­cific en­e­mies, and choose their ac­tion be­fore things re­sume mo­tion again.

A key com­po­nent of com­bat will be wise use of mag­i­cal skills, and there will be sev­eral points in the game where you’ll need some more ef­fec­tive spells. In or­der to power up these at­tacks, you’ll need to find spe­cial ar­eas of the world where you can gather en­ergy. By us­ing this en­ergy, you can cus­tomise magic to have ad­di­tional ef­fects. We saw Noc­tis wield­ing a fire spell that had an HP-restor­ing ef­fect tacked onto it, mean­ing that the spell would heal its user while si­mul­ta­ne­ously deal­ing dam­age to foes. While we’re not yet sure just how many pos­si­bil­i­ties this magic-mak­ing sys­tem of­fers, it has the po­ten­tial to be in­cred­i­bly cool.


Within just a few short months, we’ll be hit­ting the road with Noc­tis and friends. While there’s still a bit of trep­i­da­tion to­wards FFXV from the fran­chise faith­ful af­ter re­cent se­ries mis­steps, Square Enix is hop­ing that the fast-paced com­bat, large ex­plorable world, and char­ac­ter dy­nam­ics will make FFXV as im­por­tant to the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of JRPGs as FFVII was 20 years ago. When the game re­leases on the 30th of Septem­ber, it’ll feel like the end of one long ad­ven­ture, and the start of an en­tirely new one.

Some­one call Tom Cruise. War of the Worlds just ar­rived

Could be a screen­shot from an­other game. Isn't. That's Fi­nal Fan­tasy!

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