Final Fantasy XVs’ release is just around the corner now (exactly a week from today), and as part of the pre-launch affair I was invited by PlayStation Asia for a three hour playthrough of Square Enix’s flagship epic. This playable build is based on the gold copy, so it’s as final as it can get.
My playthrough would start from where the movie Kingsglaive: FFXV ended and covers the game’s first three chapters. The big problem, albeit a good one, is that Final Fantasy XV presents itself as a very BIG and expansive game from the get go. It’s impossible to enjoy the game, much less being able to take in both the good and the bad, by attempting to complete three chapters within the allocated time.
By the time’s up, my PlayStation minder had to politely (and a little forcefully) pry the DualShock controller off from me and I had only just barely started Chapter 2 of the game. But three hours is sufficient for me to catch and experience more than just glimpses of Final Fantasy XV. So here are my highlights of the game. All 50 of them.
1. The English voice-over is very good. In fact, I highly recommend playing the game with the English dub even if you are a stickler for Japanese voice-overs in JRPGs.
2. You will also appreciate the tonality of the banters between Noctis and his merry friends much better in English. Unless you can understand Japanese, then this point is moot.
3. Florence + The Machine’s rendition of “Stand By Me” has plenty of feels, especially at the beginning of the game. What could be the reason for Square Enix to choose this song?
4. The original “Stand By Me” film was about four boys on an adventure and touches on themes about growing up and brotherhood. Its theme song was, of course, ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King
5. Final Fantasy XV is about four boys on an adventure (albeit with the burden of a world crisis on their shoulders) and touches on themes about growing up and brotherhood. Its theme song is, of course, ‘Stand By Me’.
6. XV is a Final Fantasy game for both fans and new gamers alike. Its gameplay will be deep enough to please core fans, but not with a learning curve steep enough to turn off new JRPG players.
7. At its core, FFXV is still a JRPG. So, expect a lot of grinding to do.
8. But FFXV shakes things up and make grinding a lot less mundane and painful by peppering the game’s world with missions and quests that players can perform to earn Gils (the in-game currency) and experience points.
9. Not unlike MMORPGs, these missions can range from the simplified “Kill or Fetch” types to bizarre ones like “Catch a certain type of fish to feed a cat”.
10. Loading the game upon the initial boot up takes pretty long. But it gets seamless after, and even the sporadic loading isn’t slow to the point it becomes disruptive.
11. The graphics is amazing and is easily one of the best-looking RPGs on this generation of consoles yet. I can’t wait to see how much better the game will look like on the PS4 Pro and a 4K television when Square Enix release a visual patch for it.
12. To say the world is huge is a big understatement. Final Fantasy XV has one of the biggest game world for a video game. For comparison sake, the game is nearly 10 times bigger than The Witcher 3’s world.
13. We know Cindy, your first friend that you come upon and your mechanic, is also Cid’s granddaughter. They both run the Hammer Head, a Full Service Station, that you go to repair and refuel your flying car, the Regalia.
14. Cindy is also my new girl crush now.
15. Speaking of refueling, the Regalia doesn’t run on unlimited fuel. So you have to look out for petrol kiosks to top up its tank.
16. Some conversations with NPCs will open three different answers to choose from. But no matter which you choose, the result will be the same. The answer chosen however, will determine which of your party member gets the XP earned.
17. FFXV’s OST, apart from its theme song “Stand By Me”, is awesome (at least for the first 3 hours) and harks back to the days of FFVI, FFVII and even FFX. Just listening to “Prelude” in the game’s option page has a soothing…jazzy feel.
18. Here’s a good news: the game’s control has improved by leaps and bounds as compared to the Platinum Demo. Control is a lot tighter and crisp now.
19. But here’s the bad news: Camera, at least in tight enclosed areas, is rather bad as it has a habit of rotating your controlled character out of view. Needlessly to say, this can be quite disastrous when you are fighting in a vicious close quarter combat.
20. HP and MP bars can be refilled over time after a battle. During battles, you can also hide Noctis behind rocks or cover to regenerate your health bar.
21. There will be a lot of walking/running in the game’s vast open world. But the game’s world and environment are wonderful to behold, so that might not be a bad thing.
22. You will do a lot of walking/running because the Regalia can only be driven on roads. If you’re expecting the sort of “GTA” driving freedom, be prepared to be sorely disappointed. Driving in FFXV is like an on-rail experience, with limited directional controls.
23. Camping (at designated points on the map) and eating will give you a status boost to either your health or an advantage in combat. Different food have different effects, and you will need to scour for rare ingredients for more effective food.
24. Your band of brothers, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto will propose strategies to Noctis. Following them will earn Ability Points.
25. FFXV’s skill tree, known as the Ascension system, can be tailored to player-specific play styles. By accruing Ability Points, or AP, you can unlock several skills for use in the game. Each character has their own skill tree with the pool of AP to be split between them.
26. Each member of the party has a unique skillset: Fishing for Noctis, Survival for Gladiolus, Cooking for Ignis, and Photography for Prompto.
27. To craft and cast magical spells, you will first need to farm the various elements (of Fire, Ice and Lightning) found around the world. That means the number of times you can cast a spell is dependent on the number of elements you have in your inventory. For example, a Fire spell costs three fire elements but the more powerful Fira will cost more.
28. Weather will also play a part in the effectiveness of a spell. Rain will obviously diminish the effectiveness of a Fire-based spell, but will boost a Lightning-based spell instead.
29. The game also features a day and night cycle. Night is when powerful demons will appear alongside tougher monsters. Noctis’s pals will warn and advise you to find a safe place to rest for the night.
30. During combats, mini missions might pop up at random. Completing these missions will earn you additional AP.
31. Noctis and gang can get noticeably dirty and worse for wear after a combat.
32. If you don’t feel like driving Regalia manually as Noctis, you can also have Ignis take over the wheels to leave you free to listen to the group’s banters, enjoy the scenery…or go for a much needed toilet break.
33. One of my favorite part of being in Regalia is listening to the in-game radio, which features music from past Final Fantasy games, including Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII (yes, listen to One Winged Angel in all its original BGM glory) and Final Fantasy XIII.
34. Occasionally, Umbra the dog will show up to deliver message to or from Luna, Noctis’ love interest. Weird, I know. But hey, this is a JRPG after all.
35. Talking to NPCs can be worth your while, as sometimes they will unlock new locations on your maps, such as rest points, carparks (yes, for Regalia) and even locations for exploration.
36. You can complete ‘Hunts’ to earn stars and in turn, increase your Hunter Rank. Higher ranks will open more challenging hunts that will also give better rewards. I have a hunch that the final reward could be somebody’s ultimate weapon or gear.
37. Speaking of gears, you can choose various outfits for each of Noctis and his party. These aren’t just for aesthetics, as each outfit comes with its own boost or buff effects.
38. Arms or weapons that have a ‘+’ sign to it means that they can be upgraded or remodeled by Cindy.
39. In Noctis’s case, he gets access to unique ‘Royal Arms’ weapons. These are incredibly powerful weapons that can only be wielded by Noctis.
40. There are 13 known Royal Arms scattered around the world of Final Fantasy XV, although it was also hinted that there are a few more hidden and waiting to be discovered.
41. Interestingly, the distribution of Experience Points and Leveling up only happen after resting at camp sites (or rest points) or after an important scene. Not after battles.
42. Oh yes, Noctis’ fishing ability will allow him to catch fishes (and there are quite a few different variety of them) that might be required for part of Ignis’ cooking ingredient. Some quest will also require Noctis’ ability to fish too.
43. Somewhat redundant is Prompto’s photography ability. He will capture photographs at certain checkpoints, and earns AP out of it. Looking out for these checkpoints can be quite a hair-pulling experience for completionists. You can also save and share this images onto your PS4 gallery.
44. I have no idea what Gladiolus’ Survival ability means or do during my playthrough. I thought harvesting elements or cooking ingredients might have something to do with it. We will know when the full game is out.
45. To add to #32, there is no instant or fast travel, and no skipping or fast-forwarding when Ignis is driving. You can, however, be transported immediately back to the Regalia or a previous Rest/Camp point on the world map.
46. You can choose to head into combat in real-time, or via the old-school FF turn-base style.
47. Certain battles will allow you to choose to either sneak around and hit enemies from the rear or fight them head on.
48. At the beginning of Chapter 2, I even got the chance to get Noctis to man a turret to mow down a group of enemies.
49. The game, at least in my playthrough, still suffers from some random glitches. One common occurrence was encountering ‘floating’ bodies of enemies that I have defeated. Hopefully the Day 1 patch that Square Enix has announced will fix many of these.
50. Noctis will get a little emo from Chapter 2 onwards (and I was told, until Chapter 3). So he might not be your most favorite FF protagonist during these parts of the game, yet I’m also curious to see how his character development will be fleshed out over the course of the game.
Final Fantasy will be out on 29th November on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.