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Final Fantasy XV Episode: Duscae (PS4) Impressions
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Final Fantasy XV Episode: Duscae (PS4) Impressions

Judging by this demo, fans could be looking at a classic – if Square Enix can smoothen out the rough edges.

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While Final Fantasy Type-Zero HD is certainly a great game in its own right, I can see a lot of people buying it for another reason entirely. That’s because it comes with a download code for Final Fantasy XV Episode: Duscae, a demo for one of the most anticipated JRPGs in recent memory. If you’re going to be picking up Final Fantasy Type-Zero HD anyway, well, you’ve got a nice little treat coming your way. Shall we get started?

The demo stars Noctis, the prince of the Kingdom of Lucis who’s accompanied by his friends Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto. The team’s car has broken down and they need to scrounge up the cash to get it fixed. What’s the easiest, quickest way to get money? Well, hunting monsters, of course! Fortunately, it turns out that our heroes are stuck in the Duscaen Plains, which are home to the lucrative and deadly behemoth Deadeye.

FFXV’s action-based gameplay is most easily compared to Square and Disney’s series Kingdom Hearts. Noctis’ basic attacks involve materializing a variety of weapons and smacking enemies about with them; he can also perform different special attacks via said weapons. Noctis is capable of teleporting to escape enemies or perform sudden dash attacks, which is a handy skill for reaching high places where you can’t be hit to recover HP and MP.

Defensively, you can hold down the Guard button to automatically dodge attacks at the cost of MP, then attack after a dodge for a powerful counter attack. Managing your MP is key to your success – dodging, teleporting and using special attacks all cost MP, and while that’s a regenerating resource running out will cause Noctis to stumble and leave him open to attack.

The customization available in the demo revolves around messing with Noctis’ extensive arsenal. Your attack combo can be modified by changing when Noctis uses different weapons; leading off with a lance is powerful but can be difficult to aim, for instance, while using it in a combo after you’ve already got your initial hit makes it easier to land hits but does less damage. You can even change what weapon is used when you counter after dodging an attack. There’s clearly a lot of potential in this system, but in the demo there’s not a huge need to fiddle with it unless you want to see all the available options.

Oh, and there’s a summon ability, which is amazing. There’s nothing left but dust afterwards. It might be worth your time to play Episode Duscae just to see it in action.

The game as it stands looks fantastic. FFXV is going with a contemporary modern setting that’s new to the series; the closest comparison might be FFVIII, which leaned a little more toward sci-fi than what we see here. Characters carry smartphones, NPCs dress reasonably, it’s a neat concept.

However, there’s some major framerate problems on display in this demo. Anything more intensive than, well, standing around causes the game to chug a bit, and action-packed battles will bring the engine to its knees. Hopefully these are addressed by the final release, as the modern art direction is great and the character design is memorable. The voice acting is another high point, and the traditional Final Fantasy music and sound effects are all present and accounted for.

It’s a little early to make any final decisions, but in my view, if Episode Duscae is any indication we’re in for a treat when Final Fantasy XV is ‘finally’ released. If Square Enix takes the time to smoothen out the game’s edges a bit, we could be looking at a classic. It’s certainly unlike anything we’ve seen yet from a main series game…and after the lackluster FFXIII sub-series, that might just be what Final Fantasy needs.

About the Author: Cory Galliher