Ever since its announcement at the 2013 E3, fans of the decades spanning RPG franchise have been long awaiting any news that may shed some light on it’s forthcoming iteration. On January 30, Square Enix launched its second Active Time Report (ATR) to give fans an update of how the game is progressing. Here’s the full video:
In short: The game has entered the beta phase of development. It has been mostly completed on PC, and they are porting it over to console and working on debugging and polishing. But of course, that’s just the short version.
As for the long version….
We’ll begin with the obvious: This is the second update that Square Enix has given us discussing the progress of the game. (The first ATR from the 2015 Tokyo Games Show, can be found here.) The video opens up with the viewers being greeted by Hajime Tabata, Director, and Akio Ofuji, Manager of Marketing. They engage in some friendly banter about how this is actually a prerecorded stream so that they would be able to overlay the English subtitles for us (Thanks, guys!) and they give a brief summary of what is to come.
This is followed by a series of tech demo shots to show what progress has been made in the various aspects of design and polish. A few of these include path finding as a character hurdles over some basic obstacles, floating around in a simulated wave pool, pushing a car with your companions, synching up a rolling bite attack, and a close up of the weapon swapping animation. These are mainly technical updates which give the game a polished look and smooth feel. While they may not directly impact actual gameplay, we all know that these types of things will be among the first to be criticized if they are not done properly!
The Mechanics of Magic
During a brief display of combat, we see Noctis cast out a Fire spell:
This image went on to launch an overview of magic and how it will function in Final Fantasy XV. The first thing to know is that there are two types of magic to be found in the world, with the first being magic that is derived from Nature. In this instance, we are harnessing the destructive power of Fire. Additionally, there are two other types of this kind of nature magic, the franchise’s traditional Blizzard and Thunder, and each has their own associated application in combat.
With the above display of Fire, you may have noticed a few things. First off, it acts as an Area Effect spell, rather than targeting a specific enemy. This makes the spell more of a “Fireball” rather than a “Fire Strike.” Additionally, when you watch the video you will see that Noctis actually covers his face and backs away from the flames as he gets too close. As the fire burns in the affected area, it will damage both enemies and friendlies alike. This feeds into the chaotic nature of fire as it consumes everything. Therefore, as you are able to cast progressively more powerful versions of Fire, be aware that the bigger explosions will pose as a threat to you and your companions as well.
Rather than “Casting a Fireball from your fingertips,” it is discussed that what is actually happening is that Noctis throws a physical item at the displayed shack. When a “spell” is “cast,” the player is actually using a consumable item. These items can only be crafted from gathered materials found in the world, not purchased from a shop. It was not specified in the video whether you will be able to purchase the CRAFTING components from a shop, but it was confirmed that you will not be able to purchase the full item itself.
As the game has taken on an action-based combat style, Magic usage has also been updated accordingly. Magic now is effected by the environment as well as the current weather! As shown in the example, the grass and shack where the Fireball was cast remains on fire after the completion of the spell. If left to burn, the fire will continue to spread to any other flammable element, including the remaining wood of the structure. If left long enough, the entire shack will eventually be consumed! However, if the combat takes place outdoors and it is currently raining, the fire will actually be contained and eventually extinguished. Likewise, Blizzard will have additional slowing or freezing effects on enemies, and Thunder will actually disperse through any conductive material.
The second type of magic was discussed only briefly, which was referred to as “Ring Magic.” This type of magic is only derived from the Royal Ring of Lucis, which is passed down the Royal line. (Read: YOU!) While Fire magic is readily available at the beginning of the game, additional types of Ring Magic will become unlocked later in the story.
If left to burn, the fire will continue to spread to any other flammable element, including the remaining wood of the structure.
One final note on Magic: It was also discussed in the stream that these items used to cast spells will be treated as an equip-able item. This means that you’ll be able to add “Fire” to your array of weaponry that is used during combat. With the emphasis on combos and forming attack chains, I am quite anxious to see how attack spells will fit in!
The Nilfheim Empire
In Final Fantasy XV, the main and nebulous antagonist will be the (Evil) Nilfheim Empire. At the beginning of the story, the current political struggle set as such: The Nilfheim Empire has been engaging in Imperialistic conquering, rolling over all opposition with extraordinary militaristic strength. The land of Lucis, where you belong to the ruling family, are the last vestige of independence. Nilfheim is banging at the door, and it wants your country’s Crystal!
What sets Nilfheim apart from other countries, including Lucis, is that Nilfheim derives its power from High Technology and Mechanizations. Lucis, conversely, derives its power from Magic that is derived from its Crystal. Thus, the main struggle will be centered upon the conflict between Technology and Magic.
The above image outlines the general hierarchy of the Niflheim Leadership. Starting at the top:
- Iedolas: Ruthless Supremacist. Formally retired, but apparently still pulls the strings of politics.
- Ardyn: Chancellor of Nilfheim. Described as “Slightly humorous,” he’s probably more of a figurehead than actual ruler since Iedolas seems to retain control from the background.
- Verstael: Lead Researcher for the development of Magitek Armor. If every Political Drama is to be used as evidence, chances are this guy is being forced to perform unspeakable experiments for the advancement of the empire.
- Glauca: General of the Military. Sporting a menacing helmet, he over sees the Magitek troops and Human officers.
Although not listed here, the next character introduced is Aranea Highwind:
Being highly skilled in aerial combat, she is to be known as “The Dragoon.” Officially, she is the Captain of the Third Army Corps 87th Airborne Unit. Unofficially, she is the leader of a mercenary group. We were given just a small taste of what she looks like in combat during this presentation, and she looks quite formidable!
Thus, the main struggle will be centered upon the conflict between Technology and Magic.
As previously stated and seen in previous demos, the combat gameplay for Final Fantasy XV will be action based. There will, however, be certain instances where the player will be required to engage in a bit of stealth action, particularly when attempting to infiltrate a Nilfheim Base.
As shown in the screen capture above, Noctis is currently in cover as he his hiding from a detachment of troops and an AT-ST-esque Walker. While traversing in the shadows, we see a new mechanic in operation, called the “Warp Blade.” While this mechanic was actually shown in the announcement trailer, it is discussed in more detail here. How this (Ring Magic?) ability works is like this: Noctis throws his weapon at a target, be it an enemy or location, and he then “warps” to his thrown weapon. This allows him to span large distance very quickly, and silently. In addition to physically moving, Noctis may also use this ability to perform a stealth assassination:
The above screen shot was captured just before Noctis strikes. In it, you can plainly see a marker on the enemy about to get struck. That marker will also snap to designated location where this ability may be used for snap movements.
Additionally on this screenshot, we can also begin to see a few other elements of the current UI. to the lower right, we see the names of our companions and their current health. Noctis’ health is shown at the bottom of the list along with his current MP. Notice that none of our companions have MP listed. Is this because of the Royal Ring? To the lower Left, we can see an assortment of four weapon icons. This is later discussed as the list of weapons that Noctis has equipped that you can access using the Directional Pad. To the upper Right we can see the enemy radar with directional North arrow and what appears to be a crescent moon icon, possibly indicating that it is nighttime. The final bit of feedback is the segmented blue bar located just above the weapon grid. This bar increases in size with each hit, both in Stealth and active combat, although its purpose is not discussed in this video.
Action sequences abound in Final Fantasy XV, and combat sessions will be saturated with them. For the most part, the combos seen will be initiated by the player button mashes with varying levels of finesse to perform different combinations of attacks with his array of arsenal. As you develop your relationships with your traveling companions, new combos will become unlocked and you’ll be able to generate devastation in a wider variation of ways.
Noctis throws his weapon at a target, be it an enemy or location, and he then “warps” to his thrown weapon.
During the course of the broadcast the latest combo type was displayed, rounding out the four different types. The combos types present in Final Fantasy XV are as follows:
1 – Initiated after a parry, or otherwise triggered by the player. This will be your general hack’n, slash’n, chop’n that meat.
2 – Initiated by an Ally. This would be when Ignis was seen calling Noctis’ attention then marking an enemy with a Warp Point. Noctis can then use that Warp Point to initiate a Warp Strike on that enemy, and initiate a new combo there.
3 – Initiated when Close to an Ally. This was shown when Noctis was close to Ignis and they were both doling out the harshness. Then, at some point, we see the text “X-STRIKE” appear on the screen. Both Noctis and Ignis then dash across a common enemy, leaving a blurred streak behind them to form an X on top of that poor nameless soldier.
4 – Command an Ally. This was shown when Pompto sent a flare up in the middle of the battle. In this case, the flare distracted and staggered the enemies in combat, allowing everyone to get in a few free hits. It is later discussed in the broadcast that this technique will work well against “Nocturnal” enemies and those susceptible to “Blinding” attacks.
Next Up: “The March Event”
After going into more detail regarding the combat, the topic of the broadcast was in regards to the “March Event:”
As stated, “UNCOVERED: FINAL FANTASY XV” will be streamed live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA on March 3th, 2016 at 7 PM PST. As for what will be shown, our two hosts went back and forth stating that there will be “much more” and other non-descript phrases that boil down to “we’re keeping this secret” and “tune in to find out!”
I have been playing the Final Fantasy series since it was “new” on the original NES. While I did jump to the Xbox after the PlayStation, thus having limited exposure to the series after that, I had been able to play the majority of the releases. Sadly, FFXIII was a personal disappointment to me and I ceased playing the series altogether. The shift to the action based combat style does tear at my nostalgic heart, but not nearly enough for me to not jump aboard the hype train for this release! I must give credit to the team at Square Enix for continuously reinventing the game mechanics and daring to be incorporate different ideas and rebuilding the game mechanics, rather than recycling the old with minor tweaks (cough, Assassin’s Creed, cough). Throughout the entire franchise, gamers have been gifted with the most stunning visuals and symphonic scores, even the entries that I personally did not enjoy.
Truth be told, this would have been the game to make me jump ship from Xbox to the PlayStation 4 had I not heard that this game was coming out on both consoles. Yes, I was that hyped when it was announced! Thankfully, I didn’t have to restart my Gamerscore 🙂
Final Fantasy XV is due out sometime in 2016 on PC, PS4, and XB1.
See you all at the “UNCOVERED: FINAL FANTASY XV” stream!