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Final Fantasy XV Hands-On – 20 minutes of paradise

I finally got to get my hands on the recent build of Final Fantasy XV that’s been going around, and my heart is sufficiently prepared for this game to be stellar and beyond.

At just 20 minutes, though, my demo barely felt like it got off the ground. I was greeted with the stunning opening cinematic that lasted for a full 10 of those minutes, but I just couldn’t look away. King Regis has to be the most articulate and expressive character model ever rendered in a video game, soaring miles above Noctis and his friends. He sets the younglings off on their quest with the classic Final Fantasy arpeggio playing in the background, and they wind up broken down on the side of the road, stranded to hitchhike and push their car into a garage.

And yes, Stand By Me does play during this scene, just like in the trailer.

From there, I found myself at the mercy of Cindy, the garage worker’s daughter. She says she’ll fix the broken down car for a discount if I clear the scorpions harassing her business. After a string of battles, which feel far more natural and intuitive than they did a year ago, I was on my way with the whole world ahead of me.

I rumbled with a behemoth, found a magic draw point similar to those in Final Fantasy VIII, set up camp, and that was it. 20 minutes!? No way! Not yet! I need to climb that mountain. There’s a cave over there that might have goodies. I never found the beast responsible for the broken power lines. It can’t be finished so soon!

But it was, sadly. And I have to wait until Nov. 29 to play more, just like the rest of you. However, I now have far more faith in Final Fantasy XV than I’ve had over the last year. The performance and battle controls show a great deal of improvement since we last saw it, and both the technical side of the graphics and the art directing backing it up are flawless.

There are a few issues with renderings in some places, but the overall feeling is solid.

I wish I could properly describe combat, but I’m still wrapping my own brain around it. It feels more like Dragon Age: Inquisition than anything, holding buttons to attack, timing dodges, judging distances for ranged abilities. This is in no way a hack ‘n slash game despite it looking like one in the trailers. You need to play it to really understand.

Given more time, controlling Noctis with feel like smooth flowing water. My problem is I did not have enough time to practice!

Best of all, though, I didn’t feel the exhaustion of touring the open world, and I really wanted to dig everywhere. But of course, my demo was just 20 minutes. There’s plenty of time for this to get old, but given the lore and beauty of this world, my guess is it will last a lot longer than most open world RPGs.

In this year of letdowns, Square Enix looks to deliver big. Final Fantasy XV has addressed many of the issues players had with it over the last year, and I think Square Enix has another potential classic on its hands.

Final Fantasy XV will be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Nov. 29.


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Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...