Bimpy's Brutal Review: Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae

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King Bimpy

Clan Centurio Member
Jul 11, 2014
127
46
28
#1
By Odin’s Beard, This Franchise Finally Went Back To Its Roots!
For the past fourteen years, I noticed something missing from Final Fantasy; a component that once made all Final Fantasies up to X a bit more expansive. Can you guess the absent feature?

Overworld

Ding! Ding! Ding! Spot on.

My experience with Episode Duscae proves the interviews and trailers both directors gave were indeed bona fide. Final Fantasy XV sure is fighting for title of largest Final Fantasy in existence. I cannot deny Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn stands out as its only competition right now. The sheer amount of detail put into various character/monster models, animations, and environments tell me those extra developers, who recently joined Division 1, are not wasting any production value. A level of interactivity seen better off in actionized open sandbox games hooks my attention faster than fired chicken. I can hop upon rocks, freerun over guard rails, squeeze through tight spaces, hide behind trees, teleport onto tall structures, avoid assaults via backhand handspring, sprint until fatigue kicks in, and yes Noctis does have other movements though they're left reserved for the final game. For example, arched shaped mountains scattered around require an unspecified platforming mechanic, while the lake is definitely there to swim in or at least simulate such an exercise. Traversing across Duscae never feels monotonous because Tabata illustrates enough expression in Noc’s physicality to capture the athleticism of a professional athlete. That flip, flop, flip, flop routine hardly applies to Noctis and his friends. Movement becomes diversified. The bait feels good, supported by ambiances that belong on a nature CD.


If anything, Tabata must increase immersion. We are Noctis. Let us experience everything he can achieve. The prince uses his legs a lot, but never forget the right and left arm is just as useful beyond wielding weapons. There was no pull-up mechanic during my playthrough. Less collision detection. Different gamers, on the other hand, managed to bypass things I thought were impossible.

Duscae is an alpine-steppe where humans happen to populate areas near the interstate highway.








Tabata did a great job of adapting nature’s mundane side with the higher fantastical elements. The region is very clean as if guardian angels protect it from mankind’s poisonous machines. Panning the camera, I found no pollution in sight. Persevered and pristine. Despite this fact, people don’t bother to roam on the outskirts due to how hazardous the local creatures act; NPCs complain about thieving goblins and Deadeye the Behemoth causes trouble for Wiz Chocobo Post. Until the final game, these creatures make Duscae unsafe. Noc’s gang, being the only warriors here, can handle their own.

Shacks here and there are empty though Tabata said players can enter specific ones. Dogs, cats, and fish do not exist in the demo. Birds do. I discovered a wild chocobo.

The domesticated ones dwell at Wiz Chocobo Post, which is set up like a tourist attraction.
Its theme, yellow, highlights pretty much everything. Merchandise is chocobo related.
Two funny moments!

Prompto: I’m toootally into chocobos. Don’t take that the wrong way.

Noctis: There’s no wrong way to love a chocobo.

The ranch gives off a petting zoo vibe. Its owner, Wiz, built one goddamn homey atmosphere; butterflies wouldn't leave my stomach alone. The scenery and interactions with it initiated those warm and fuzzy emotions deep inside me.

Sometimes NPCs get the munchies.


Chocobo wings? Oh dear...


It is rare to find an NPC’s design this fleshed out in the JRPG genre. NPCs from previous Final Fantasies blur past my memory. Give them a voice and bam!

Although content was pushed aside, it took me three days to explore every nook and cranny. Glitches allow players to break free from the constraints. Traveling all the way down to Titan is possible.

I tried to go further towards what seemed like Lestallum, but game over threatened me.

Exploration is seamless. I could wonder upon something before I was supposed to. I didn't need the map to discover eye-catching spots thanks to a system called point of interest. If something stood out then I traveled toward it, which often triggered dialogue during gameplay. Characters conversed about what they saw. A lot were connected to the main questline. The most important thing was that none of them felt isolated, out of place, or randomly shoehorned in for diversity's sake; poi’s went hand and hand with the biome.

Overall exploration was enjoyable. I forgot about the world outside the edges of my TV screen. I give Tabata credit for emulating the experience of venturing through actual ecosystems.

Gameplay… is foremost an experience that players should not watch clips of. No one will know how it truly feels until they get their hands on the demo. Command menus are thrown out the window, and better yet, fights occur on whatever environment the party is at in real time. Turn-based moves and attack resolution aren't disguised among real-time-esque mechanics nor is there any minute long cool-down system.


Hold the attack button commences auto attack, so the computer generations a bunch of strikes for you as long as it’s held. I am a strong advocate against taking control away from the player, however, Tabata set up combat to punish both button mashers and lazy people severely. Auto attack is not similar to its MMO counterpart, which is when the computer performs all action without manual input from the player. He or she can instead pan the camera, switch targets, and possibly more. Because the computer dishes out slash after slash, Noc’s movement becomes restricted. The player cannot change direction; this is important to know when placement on the battlefield plays a vital role in strategy. Enemies attack from all direction and the camera currently does not keep up with all of them. Gangbangs aren't a rare occurrence. Standing between Garulas is not smart if they push to the side. Then suicidal magitek soldiers force Noctis to hustle out their way. Sabertusks tend to leap at weird angles. With these and a dozen other opponents, only idiots would stand in place, spamming auto attack. Pay attention. Tunnel vision will kill you.

Auto guard differs from auto attack. Players can freely move during defense. Holding the button sends Noctis into an assertive stance. His elbows kept high up, protecting facial features. He skids out the opponent’s way rather than blocking their hits. It’s almost as if he’s impersonating a ninja. Having that much control over him is amazing. I can feel it through the duel shock and visual ques.

Pretty much everything I wrote about defend on my recap turned out true in Episode Duscae: MP depletes upon guarding, so abusing its button will punish players who love to mash. Not all attacks are avoidable though technical moves do exist to help cancel out damage from them; depending on the right context, envision animations happen and those require precise timing.

The entire point of an automated guard is to give players enough time to think what their next action will be while enemies gangbang. There’s more leniency for gamers who aren't experienced with or dislike the nitty–gritty of timing split second blocks, especially when so many other things are going on at the same time. Also take into account the entire 3D environment. An evading player can circle around enemies. They should look out for openings. Then there’s objects players can use for cover. It’s smart to guard towards them if surrounded because normal movement or dash has no invincibility.

Armiger swords offer a whole new outlook on defense. Weapon one, Aqesior, grants warp strike and warp doge. The former is slashing while in the middle of a warp. The latter is manually defending. Players are allowed to choose where Noctis lands. Its description reads sword that slices through space and time, allowing its wielder to warp at will. Weapon two, grants knightsguard; a black flip maneuver that recovers Noctis from falling (note: at the same time he regains HP). Its description reads Gallant, cuts through thin air to find its mark. Calls forth the protective power of the Knightshield.

During Nomura's time, there was a warp bounce. Not sure if that still exist.

I have a problem with the prince's jump. It's clunky, feeling like he is hitting an invisible brick wall.
Air combos are limited in Episode Duscae.

The concept of commitment from turn based systems decreases the overreliance on twitch reflexes. Players must commit to their selected action. Once committed there's no throwing in the towel. If you attack, the animation locks, disabling any chance to cancel out of it though letting
go does end whatever motion Noctis was doing. Just have to wait till he's finished. Either defend or attack. Sorry can't do both simultaneously, so suck it up and choose wisely when to execute them. Players are bound to get hit soon or later because between swings Noctis is vulnerable. Knowing which enemy is attacking, the type of attack, and where Noctis is positioned at force the player to have concerns over the damage received to them.

Combat is slowed down enough to analyze each windup, delivery, and recovery period. Noctis has very precise animations. Understanding his body movement makes fighting easier. These details are here for strategic reasons. For example, Zweihander in the descend slot results in Noctis to lean downward headfirst before rising back up. That's his vulnerable moment.

The prince's limit breaker is textbook badass. Yes it is manually operated.

Summoning Ramuh is ten times more badass. Ramuh's power level would put Goku to shame. He inflects so much damage that the player is unable to receive EXP. Okay the truth is he lets us know how a tamed summon behaves because nearly everyone else must be fought with beforehand. Also he's a cheap-shot at Dead Eye if the player struggles. Look up epic in a dictionary and you will get a picture of every Final Fantasy XV summon. If summons could talk I think Ramuh should say BEHOLD THY POWWWWWAAA!!! (explosions - kaaaaaboom - explosions).


Lock-on isn't sticky enough because enemies can exit it. Please fix this broken mechanic. Tabata seems to have the same trouble with lock-on /camera problems he had with Type 0. For a console game, it should work coherently. This isn't as big of a problem as the enemy AI; its erratic, which creates an untamed effect for various creatures. I found their behavior not predictable enough to keep up the first few days. Fighting them is a double edge sword; their animations are diverse as Noc's and although they're fictional each movement they do is something I would except from a four legged carnivore with the frame of a wolf. I can always tell the difference between a sabertusk and a garula without catching glimpse of them based on their distinct vocal patterns. When I do meet them face to face, I'm surprised to see they have natural tendencies. Older garulas, marked by their large size, do not graze near walking paths and can almost always be found with young-lings if up close by the highway. Otherwise they are near the watering hole because their AI script treats them like herbivorous herd animals. Goblins are nocturnal, so they appear anywhere at night. In caves you can see holes, showing they live deep within the earth similar to underground folk. I wish Noctis can take pictures of different creatures because when their aggro is not not triggered, it's like watching a wildlife video. When a creature dies there is a dramatic expression.

Okay the downside... sometimes creatures are a little too alive. I had no idea the garula's run animation would damage me. Sure if a cow bumped into you at half speed I guess it would hurt. Tabata should at least make such a movement clear as an attack. This is when it attacks and this is when I defend. Sometimes it was hard for me to judge though the more I played the more I got the hang of it. Takes time. Perhaps range attacks would work better on faster foes. Nomura did say Noctis has access to all weapons, including firearms. I wonder if that's still true. Oh yeah the tanks.

Okay I am going back to lock-on. If the camera, which is sluggish, points toward a warpable structure it automatically locks-on. Problem is this version of lock-on works less efficient than its enemy counterpart despite the automatic part. Trying to position the camera toward a target point was frustrating as enemies kept on attacking me. I shouldn't have to rotate the camera around over and over. Lastly, lock-on ruins picture quality. The screen becomes blurry. Come on, what the heck.


Unlike the last generations of Final Fantasies, Episode Duscae engages me into combat for combat sake. Not because of the EXP or item drops. I wanted to fight just to get the emotional torque. It's satisfying to pull off these moves and learn new ones (increase skill level).
Weapon arrangement is something else that takes time getting use to. Once I learned how it works there was not much to complain about. Instead of me telling you how it works just experience it for yourself. My recap wasn't far off. Tabata must add a quick option menu for weapons, so navigation becomes simpler.

I would imagine magic works similar to fire in Bloodborne.

Is the physics engine this insane? If not then hop on it Tabata.


Overall combat is satisfying. There is always something new to encounter.

Noc's animation shocked me with delight.
Hell don't get me started on the others!

Combat does require thought. Some fans are saying it's the Dark Souls of Final Fantasy. Honestly, Final Fantasy XV's combat makes Final Fantasy Type 0, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Kingdom Hearts, Tales of, Star Ocean, Nier, Drakengard, Dragon's Dogma, and other actionized JRPGs look like senseless button mashers. See, the higher-end action games have programmed my mind to react more on twitch reflexes and quick attack executions regardless of the situation. Final Fantasy XV is the exact opposite, so it was hard for me to re-frame my way of thinking. I guess playing the game the way it was meant to decreases punishment and heightens all entertainment. See, hitboxs work well, not being too big, too small, disjointed, or broken. Remember my post about garulas? What I first thought was bullshit collision damage turned out untrue. When they run, it's really a full-frontal attack, during which I happened to stand in front of. Stupid, huh? Hey, I had no clue. Not my fault these animations aren't mechanical; they appear so naturally that I'm forced to examine the finer details. Combine this fact with no recovery attack, I struggled. Understanding an enemy's weakness the second you engage one isn't how active cross battle operates. Resist the anxiousness to attack, attack, attack! Final Fantasy XV requires patience. The room for experimentation is huge. Players must plan before jumping into combat as long as the rate at which Noctis can throw out another action is delayed by his own animation in contrast to mashing between offense and defense on the fly. Who knows if Noc will gain a recovery attack. Dissidia Final Fantasy made them obtainable at level thirty-two. Should Tabata enable players to cancel the current action? Sure it would make combat easier, however I just want a better camera and lock-on.

Apart from combat, side missions were integral with both the main questline and setting. They had a sense of belonging. I ran into no go fetch doggy quest from generic NPCs. There's material randomly placed about to pick up. Mini games and treasure boxes are for the final game. If there's hardly any treasure boxes I will get pissed off because material is tedious to pick up, which in turn makes exploring every nook and cranny less fun.
 
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King Bimpy

Clan Centurio Member
Jul 11, 2014
127
46
28
#2
Most importantly exploration does justify road trip! Real time dialogue further expands everyone's characterization. I learned Gladiolus is so self centered he would want to be reborn as himself. Prompto has no sense of personal space. Ingis is a comical cross between the Kirk and the Spock. I love the opening cutscene because it demonstrates although they are friends, there's also enough room between them for tension. Their vices and flaws create a single personality that conflicts against each other. Iggy, for example, fancies so much about his devotion to Noc that it almost sounds like he hardly cares for Gladio and Prompto every now and then.

Nomura was inspired by his school days when he hung out with friends. This experience reflects through the character dynamic. Shouldn't take a genius to realize they're homies. The best representation of the homie concept seen thus far in Final Fantasy.

I noticed Hazmer's culture approach. NPCs in this region dress as if they came from the 60s, cars contain the 40s era design, cellular telecommunications and modern forms of media, ranging from radio to newspaper to television, stick out like a sore thumb, and convenience stores in the middle of nowhere remind me of horror movies. Then on the battlefield there's magitek and fantasy beast. Even titan is the friendly neighborhood summon. No surprise there. It meshes naturally similar to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I would argue a hell of a lot more.

Graphically Final Fantasy never looked better. CGI-esque. Smooth. Expressive. Ambitious. The design for different aesthetics is down to earth. Everyone looks as human as a human can be. No super deformities, blocky, and low-resolution sprites. The main cast, of course, shows off bishonen in all its glory. Their black attire signifies the connection to Lucis, a nation run by people with the appearance of old school mobsters. Noc's gang is younger, sticking to modern street fashion except Iggy; he's the sharp-dressed man. I think those tattoos mixed with scars create a thuggish effect for Gladio. Based on image alone, he is raw.
Magitek soldiers are covered in castle punk armor. The primitive state Niflheim is in justifies it. I am thankful that Episode Duscae's tutorial recognizes them as cannon fodder because their calamitous attack methods and lack of individualization offer no other roles for them. At least they play disposable combatants well. Weak armor falls apart from contact with Noc's blades. Heads, arms, and torsos cover the earthly soil as if its raining metal. These magitek soldiers best resemble storm troopers; both die en masses and wear white gear. In Final Fantasy's XV context, the antagonist's whiteness contrast against the protagonist's blackness. White is bad. Black is good. I would also like to note the color scheme on Nifelheim's flag indeed mirrors the original white mages.
Lastly, NPCs match Hazmer's culture approach.

My biggest worry is real time dialogue. When it happens for something genius it's amazing. I want all conversations to increase and give context behind them, so they aren't exposition filler. One red flag here is that the characters are recapping what the player already knows. There should be a reason for their own talk. Otherwise dialogue becomes an unfocused mess. Episode Duscae limited what the party could say, but in the full game have many to keep the pace going similar to Red Dead Redemption. I rather have these than yelling out the name of attacks or pure silence.

Second concern is the lighting. It looks like an example of god shining his Holiness upon my line of sight. Overly bright to the point where I can't even see Noc's head sometimes.

Third concern, we should be able to sell in bunks at shops.

Fourth concern, the flashlight should get an increase in brightness.

Fifth concern, extend Noc's stamina for dash (though jumping between it does grant infinite dash). I like the idea he gets tired. With all that traveling I would too. From a reality prescriptive, it makes more sense than leaving dash as a skill players can learn (Star Ocean 4: Last Hope). From a gameplay perspective, it is more beneficial to prolong dash's duration.

Aah the stinger. Episode Duscae's ending!!! Wow Final Fantasy was never this dark. The game's going to be more human than the science-fiction caricature... and will focus around current world events - in that sense it's darker - Nomura, is his statement true? The main thrust of this stinger reveled Noctis is not adventuring towards the four winds to defeat Idola right off the back, but surviving and trying to claw some kind of victory out of the ruins of his old life. The most he can do is decrease the fallout from Niflheim. Hope Idola wouldn't cause too much chaos with the Lucian crystal. First time I played a Final Fantasy where the bad guy wins a few hours after I put in the disc. His devastation shows no mercy. Lunafreya, a young woman, roams astray in the midst of Niflheim's invasion. Her raiment from previous trailers now looks absolutely soiled, ripped apart, and undone that it barely qualifies as clothing anymore.

Even her shoes look ready to slip off at any moment. As she walks, what I first thought was snow drifts down. No. It's ash. The still-flaming megalopolis might as well been dead. Towering silhouettes of twisted metal, also known as the skeletons of skyscrapers, stood beside broken glass, stone, and plastic material that was too damaged to piece together for its original structure. Lucis' state appears beyond salvage, yet last year's E3 trailer reveled Idola was restoring order to the capital city. Indoctrination? Even after hell breaks loose, life goes on, at least for most. If Idola is in the grey area then he believes the crystal is better off in his hands and violence is the only option. He goes far enough to commit genocide against the Caelum family. Thanks to Tabata continuing Nomura's narrative, Final Fantasy XV brings the hellish reality of war to life more so than Tabata's Final Fantasy Type 0. The only way it could be anymore pronounced is a pile of dead babies. I have no idea what type of victory the party will receive out of this near total disaster. What's the repercussions and consequences?

Secondly, the stringer implied Final Fantasy XV's inhabitants believe in a religion that turns out true. How true is something I will wait for.

Note: Demo left out

Guest party members (mainly Cor)


Magic

Weather

Equipment

RHS-113

Trains

Puzzles

Chocobos

Bosses

Magitek Armor

Mini games

Story related details

Character arcs

AI menu

New skills

Weapon customization

Different recipes

Different maps

Different towns

Different shops

Different hotels

Different summons

Different dungeons

Tons of loot

Tons of quest

Tons of NPCs

Tons of destoryable and interactive objects

Zelda-esque mazes

Huge variety of enemies

A full submerged lake

The entire Ducasse region

Difficulty settings

Another limit breaker

Luminous Engine 2.0

etc...

It's not fair to rate an incomplete product (Episode Duscae clearly has defective scripts, frame rate drops, not enough collision detection, and a half-made level design), so the most I can say based on my experience is fantastic job Tabata. You did more good than bad.

I loved what I played and want more NOW. Interactive storytelling at its finest. Up there with the top conditioners: Mass Effect, Witcher, Batman Arkham, Grand Theft Auto, and etc...

Yes I am saying it now. Final Fantasy XV is a revolution to the Final Fantasy franchise and JRPG genre.

 
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