*All images are taken from share button tweets from my PS4 – my USB slots are screwing up lately so I didn’t bother taking them off the console directly, these are not the full resolution and are very much compressed.*
I’ve already written an impressions post for the “main” demo, Episode Duscae, and while I wasn’t planning on doing the same for this – after playing it I realized I kind of have a good amount I’d really like to talk about with this. Surprising, given this is only about 30 minutes to an hour long of an experience. This takes place, based on the very first part of it, during the time Noct was almost killed (and presumably his mother was?) by this serpent thing that appears in the Brotherhood FFXV anime.
The biggest complaints I could see coming (and have seen) are in regards to the combat in this being overly simple/mashy (why are you mashing?) and not fun at all. Well, the combat is dumbed down significantly for this demo – you can tell the main game (and Duscae even with it’s updates) hasn’t changed for the worse at all. Not to mention almost all FF games are “spam X” anyway. However here the combat was made very simple as this “demo” is more like a look at the world and some of the tech behind the game. It’s odd they not only labelled this a game demo but also released it as the final and only fully-open-to-anyone demo of the game when…really it’s more of a tech demo. It serves not to show off story, characters, or even the combat – but as a method of showing the graphics, various settings, weather effects, and lighting effects. Those last two are an important thing to keep in mind because it’s just further proof that this is a demo of the TECH behind the game rather than of the ACTUAL GAME because there’s no other reason they’d have big buttons all over to change the lighting and weather on the fly aside to show the engine and world off.
It does a great job of that at least – the game looks fucking stunning and the areas we get to see shown off to us are beautiful and, even though it’s basically only 4 locations, pretty diverse. Honestly, this is another situation where I feel Duscae does a better job though, in fact a FAR better job. This shows off some really nice mountainy region, a fun look at a room in Noct’s mansion as a miniature person (even smaller than Carbuncle), and then a look at a city from a big rooftop area thing and finally the really cool and very Roman-esque front entrance to the palace(?). Thing is…you don’t really get so much of that thing about this game’s aesthetic I think sets it far above the aesthetic of any other game, or really fictional location in any medium, at all here. It all looks very fantasy with some technology mixed in, and that misses the point of what makes this such a wonderful world that I want to see more of. That is to say it lacks that unbelievably perfect mix of fantasy, fantasy-tech, and modern real world stuff. They have the first two, but not that most-important third one. There’s no Coleman camping gear that you can buy at Walmart right now, there’s none of those plastic white lawn chairs, there’s no 60s gas station with a modern day convenience store inside or any trailer’s around to sleep in. It does, however, show off some of the other types of architecture influences we’ll be seeing instead of just the “Americana”, such as the Roman style of the capital.
This demo also lacks one of my favorite things about Episode Duscae – that sense of camaraderie with the guys and the banter between them showing you clearly the bonds and the types of relationships going on there. Here it’s much more of a solitary experience aside Carbuncle who, while adorable and nonstop texting you and sending you Line stickers, just doesn’t get that same feeling across. There’s definitely something there and that much is done well, Carbuncle feels like a pet or a quickly made friend leading you through a strange place, but it’s just not the same as seeing those wholly real feeling friends interact throughout a few days and nights.
How’s this fair as a “demo” given that stuff? Not that great if you have no other experience with this game so far and can’t figure out what this is quickly. If this was my personal first real step into this game I think I’d still love it and be excited for the main title, but I can see a lot of people being turned off by this because of a misunderstanding both on their part and on Square Enix’s side of things (releasing a tech demo as their big game demo). I seriously hope they consider releasing Episode Duscae to the public completely free of charge a couple weeks or so before release or something. That way people may be reinvigorated and re-interested especially if this makes them get the wrong idea of the quality of the game mechanics themselves and the narrative quality. It’s really weird to me that THIS is the one they released to everybody instead of Duscae.
However, I really enjoyed this. It was a lot of fun, very cute, fucking beautiful, and it made me happy to be back in this world again. Even doing something as simple as running around chasing Carbuncle at the very beginning was a really positive enjoyable experience because it was shown in such a lively way and took place in such a gorgeous and truly fantastically built world. Being back in this game’s universe felt right, it felt good, and it felt exciting – all of which signal an incredible game to come, or at least the potential for it to be one. I recommend checking this out, just keep in mind what it is, I think you also get Carbuncle in the main game for doing this so it’s worth the 45 minutes or so.