• Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review

    During Noctis and co.'s escape from Insomnia, the car breaks down and you're put into a sandboxed portion of the Duscae region with the quest of raising money to repair it. This is where our journey begins! You leave your vehicle in the capable hands of a mechanic known as Cindy, who, with her yellow coat and red cap, appears to be a scantily clad tribute to Cid from Final Fantasy VI.

    You have the option of finding little items here and there scattered across the land as well as selling enemy drops to raise your funds, but the big ticket winner is a Behemoth Horn which sells for a whopping 25,000 gil, which is what you need to repair your car. You're essentially left to explore and go wherever you want. So, how do you get the Behemoth Horn? By acquiring it from a live behemoth, of course!

    Quote Originally Posted by Episode Duscae Loading Screen
    When you've spent your entire life looking out at the serrated city skyline, it's easy to lose yourself in the sprawling Duscaen landscape. The prince and his retinue were halfway to Cauthess when their daydreams came to a sudden, screeching halt---, the Regalia's last gasp before giving out to the unpaved backroads.

    Now they were truly lost in the landscape: broken down by the side of the road with the Disc well out of walking distance. The Archaean, Titan, would have to wait. He'd been dormant for ages anyway. The first order of business was getting back on four wheels.
    The Duscae region is very large, and for the most part, it's pretty much an open field. You'll spend most of your time running around. That being said, it doesn't look barren whatsoever. There's flowers, weeds, bodies of water, and huge mountainous structures to fill the land. Ever last bit of it looks gorgeous and it really makes the land come to life. When it's time to rest for the night, you'll set up camp on top of large rock plateau-like areas. These glow luminescent at night, so you won't have a hard time finding them. It helps that you can put location markers on your world map.

    Camping is a big deal in Final Fantasy XV. The experience you get in battles doesn't reflect on your stats right away. Instead, it accumulates throughout the day and you get it all at once when you decide to call it a night. This means if you've had a long day of fighting, there are some characters who will go up 3 or 4 levels at once. Before you hit the hay, you will prepare a meal based on what's in your inventory. Depending on what you eat, you will get status boosting effects the following day, such as increased hit points or experience earned in battles. Don't try to pull an all nighter, as these effects wear off.

    In your quest looking for the behemoth, you go on a Lightning Returns style detective hunt for clues of its whereabouts, checking out everything from large footprints, to blood trails, to boulders with huge claw marks in them. You know when you get close to the Behemoth because it triggers scenes such as a flock of birds flying away and a couple trees falling, and it's genuinely tense.

    Aside from the behemoth, There are amazing monster throwbacks to classic Final Fantasy games. The goblins you run into at night are a great callback to some of the first monsters you run into in the first Final Fantasy. I also happened to see some razorhorse-like creatures that appeared to be similar to the mesmerize in Final Fantasy VIII. And, of course, where would Final Fantasy be without chocobos? You can find these in the wild and at a local chocobo stable, but you can't ride them. At least, not in the demo.

    The enemies truly have a life of their own and the transition into a battle is seamless. You're not taken to a different screen, you just pull out your weapons and your groups health bar shows up. Sometimes when you're fighting a soldier, you knock their helmet right off. When you attack a Garula (mammoth-like creature), bigger Garula's come running and pose as a more formidable foe, protecting their herd. Thanks to the battles happening in real time on the field, there's nothing from stopping nearby monsters from joining the fray.

    There's plenty of dialogue between the characters, as well. If you swing a sword close to someone in battle, they tell you to watch what you're doing. When you're leaving the mechanic shop, people who fall behind are told to keep up! Non player characters also interact with you. If you run into traffic, expect to have a car beep at you as they drive by. I intentionally did this several times.

    There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore in Duscae, the big standout being a creepy cave that really seems to be a character of its own. As soon as you walk in, bats start flying out of it. There are winding pathways and stalagmites all over the place! Some areas require you to crawl through holes or claustrophobically smoosh yourself through super tight crevices. Prompto even makes a note about hyperventilating. At the end of the cave is a mysterious glowing rock of sorts. When touched, Noctis has the power to summon Ramuh.

    You have all you need to best the behemoth at this point. Ramuh appears to be close the size of the Titan seen in the Final Fantasy XV trailer revealed at Jump Festa 2015. He is insanely huge, and in fact, one-shots the behemoth if you use him. Whether you chose to fight the behemoth the easy way or the hard way, you can talk to one of the local shopkeepers for your reward. It's interesting to note that sometimes the shopkeepers won't be at the counter, they may be talking to other people or mopping the floor, but they'll still buy and sell stuff to you. At this point, you're free to talk to Cindy for a cutscene, after which the group leaves in their newly repaired car and rides off into the sunset.

    For the most part, Episode Duscae has been universally enjoyed by new and old Final Fantasy fans alike. Some have said they would like to see improvements on the controls in battle, but I personally had no problem with them. If I did have one gripe, though, it's that I truly want to be able to control more than Noctis in battle.

    It's fun, and you can switch up the order in which you use your weapons to make fights feel personable to your interests, but I genuinely want to know what it's like to shoot Prompto's gun or feel the epic swing of Gladiolus. The ability to freely switch between characters in combat would be amazing, even if they had to put up a disclaimer saying "some features only available as Noctis". Square Enix has been very interactive with fans and have been taking feedback very seriously, so I'm still holding out the slightest hope they'll hear our cries on this particular point.

    What have you seen of Episode Duscae that you enjoyed? Is there something you'd like changed for the full release? If you haven't picked up Final Fantasy Type-0 HD yet, I'd implore you all to check it out while the Day One Edition is still available. This is a fantasy based on reality, and it was 100% worth the wait.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review started by Lone Wolf Leonhart View original post
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Sephex's Avatar
      Sephex -
      I don't have the means to play this (yet), but what you described in this review got me pretty pumped. I'm a sucker for the finer, subtle polish in video games (like all the quirky stuff you could do in MGS games), and this demo seems to have a lot of that. Might have to save some bones for a PS4 soon!
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      I just followed the main objectives when I played through the demo, but I'm interested in getting to explore a bit more when I have more time. It's exciting that we're finally able to play this game even if it's just in an early demo form.
    1. fat_moogle's Avatar
      fat_moogle -
      Another positive reaction. I'm really looking forward to playing this tomorrow now!

      Quote Originally Posted by Scotty_ffgamer View Post
      I just followed the main objectives when I played through the demo, but I'm interested in getting to explore a bit more when I have more time. It's exciting that we're finally able to play this game even if it's just in an early demo form.
      That's what I'm planning to do. Once I'm finished with Type-0 then I might go back to the XV demo and do a bit more exploring and experimenting.
    1. Freya's Avatar
      Freya -
      The world just sounds so.... Alive! That makes me happy.
    1. Colonel Angus's Avatar
      Colonel Angus -
      In a sense, I wish this game didn't seem so awesome, because it means I'd have to get a PS4.
    1. Spooniest's Avatar
      Spooniest -
      Ah, a fully explorable overworld!

      Nice nice

      I'm sold, where do I sign
    1. Tyson's Avatar
      Tyson -
      Just ran through the ending of the demo again, It's not fair! I was so ready to continue playing
    1. Aulayna's Avatar
      Aulayna -
      So after playing it all I have to say is 5 words:

      Square Enix, PC Release, Please.
    1. DanielCLFFF13's Avatar
      DanielCLFFF13 -
      The gameplay, the world, the animation is totally amazing from what I saw from walkthrough or playthrough
      Since they added the stealth system or cover system, maybe they create one or more stealth quest mission or something. Love to see one
      Hype...!!!Attachment 63643or well Hype from only watching its walkthrough
      Quote Originally Posted by Aulayna View Post
      So after playing it all I have to say is 5 words:

      Square Enix, PC Release, Please.
      Yes please!!
      I'll say this to you Square Enix if you make one!Attachment 63642

      But this is my opinion
    1. Lawr's Avatar
      Lawr -
      They totally missed the chance to name her Cidney. She's Shidoni in Japanese but just Cindy in English...another troutty name choice yet again! Since the localization team doesn't seem to realize that there's already a Cindy and she's a Magus Sister, I wonder if this means we can expect to see a Sol in this game too, cause there's already a Final Fantasy character named Sol but I know they can't wait to cleverly name the antagonist after the Sun.

      Combat still seems kind of clunky but otherwise everything else looks great and I'm actually feeling good about this game! Really!
    1. Fox's Avatar
      Fox -
      So I've played through it now, and first of all I will say it was really fun. The combat system is very well done, all it really needs is some variety which is all but certain to come with the full game - we know 'Magic' is going to be a thing which will mix things up plenty, and if you can utilise summons more tactically in the full thing (which, again, I fully expect) that will be very nice indeed. The hack-n-slash nature of a normal combo is quite satisfying, and it's enjoyable mixing it up with warp strikes, techniques and if you attack while jumping you use a different weapon to slam down hard on your opponents.

      It made me think a lot about what I expect from a major Final Fantasy game. Traditionally, combat has been some variant of a turn based system. Even XII and XIII were a real time, turn based hybrid. The key difference is that you have to think about battles in a different way. In previous games, it was all about the tactics. Do I want to use 'attack' or 'fira' or cast a buff? What's the turn order looking like, how can I use my turn to gain an advantage? That stuff is still present in XV, but it's dialled down a bit and replaced with more immediate concerns; 'what is my position like?' 'Do I need to parry an incoming attack?' 'Who am I locked on to?'

      Rather than pining for the turn-based mechanic, I found myself wondering if I was OK with this different way of thinking about combat in a Final Fantasy game. Something that focuses more on reactions and spatial awareness over pure tactics. I think I am. I think this system still finds a way to keep what is really important about Final Fantasy in a more action oriented setting. I still think turn based has its place, I'd like to see it back in the future. But just as there was a first game that forced players to think on their feet with the ATB system, this will be the first game that crosses that threshold into an action RPG. And I reckon it can pull it off.

      Minor gripes:

      • The camera. At times it's a bit slow to react and the lock on system isn't the best, it can make keeping track of enemies a bit tougher than it should be. And when you're being attacked from all angles it being so zoomed in can be a bit of a pain. Mostly though I think this is less an issue with the camera itself and more the fact that a lot of enemies attack in packs and run around you in circles. Works well in Kingdom Hearts but the pace is slower here, close to something like Dragon's Dogma, so it works better with the slower enemies like Magitek Soldiers.
      • Simomura's music is fantastic, so let's have more of it! There was no general 'walking around the map' music or 'cave music'. I like both of those things. If there was one thing that would have made walking across Duscae fell more Final Fantasy (it already looks the part) would have been something like 'Crossing That Hill' bleeping and blooping away as I did so.
      • Character designs. The characters themselves I like a lot. All of their voices are good. The writing is pretty good. The designs are fine, I don't mind the clothing style and I've made my peace with the fact that they're all dudes and Cindy is dressed like she is. But would it have killed them to have some of the party members wear something 'not black'?

      Overall, I had a great time in the 3 or 4 hours I spent completing Episode Duscae. It's Final Fantasy, but not as we know it. It's not going to be great quite like its predecessors were, but if the story holds up, I think it can definitely be great in its own way.
    1. Del Murder's Avatar
      Del Murder -
      I spent a couple hours in the demo. It wasn't bad. Pros: visually stunning as usual, using a bunch of different weapons was cool, I liked the other party members. Cons: Noctis seems flat and boring, the battles were awkward to control and a lacking variety, having to find a campsite to level up and save is stupid. Most modern RPGs, particularly open-world RPGs, allow you to save anywhere.

      This didn't feel like I was playing a Final Fantasy game but it did feel like I was playing a fun game so I look forward to the final product. I'm still hoping for a last minute change to allow you to play as more than Noctis. If not I really hope there is enough customization that you can play him in different styles and not just 'change which weapon you use first in combo'.
  • EoFF on Twitter

  • Square Enix on Twitter