Raccoon Reviews: Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae

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Summary

Episode Duscae is straightforward. Early on with the road trip, Prompto wrecks the Regalia, the four-seat convertible that's presumably owned by the Caelum family. The Regalia is at Hammer Head getting repaired by its head mechanic named Cindy. Unfortunately, the repairs cost 25,000 gil...Money which Noctis does not currently have.

Coincidentally, the Duscae region has a bounty on Deadeye, a half-blind Behemoth who's been causing havoc, and the locals have put a price of 25,000 gil on the beast's head.

So what's the purpose in defeating Deadeye?

Noctis knows what's up.
Noctis knows what's up.

Characters

Honestly, I haven't laughed so much while playing a demo before. It felt like I actually was venturing alongside Noctis and his entourage. Not only were the strong relationships evident in writing, but with its subtlety in facial expressions.

One of my favorite scenes in Episode Duscae would be with Cindy. Once she repairs the Regalia, Noctis and his entourage hop in, ready to leave. While sitting in the backseat, Gladiolus mentions to Cindy how the next time he returns to Hammer Head, it won't be about repairs. Cindy, oblivious to what Gladiolus is implying, says that she'd have no problem upgrading the vehicle instead.In the background, Prompto is laughing after Gladio basically gets shot down.

Then, Prompto asks Cindy if it would be alright to call her anytime. She exclaims that her grandfather would love having someone to speak with. Afterwards, Noctis laughs and Prompto slouches over in rejection.

Besides that scene, there's amusing banter between the main characters.

Prompto: Wide open fields make me wanna run around.

Gladio: How about a foot race?

Noctis: How about acting your age?

Gladio: Afraid you're gonna lose?

Prompto: So, what would you want to be reborn as?

Gladiolus: Easy, I'd want to be me.

Prompto: Wow, what a cool answer!

Gladiolus: Heh, yeah, I know.

How I feel about the main characters so far...

Noctis: I just love how lazy Noctis is. It seems all he looks forward to is sleeping. Even the other characters joke about it. I kinda wonder why he's always so tired...Could it relate to his powers that allow Noctis to foresee death?

Rise and shine, Highness!
Rise and shine, Highness!

Prompto: Besides Noctis, Prompto has always been my favorite because he's a happy-go-lucky skirt chaser with a chip on his shoulder. It's unclear about his past except that he's a fugitive on the run and wields a firearm that's banned from the Lucis kingdom.

Prompto and Noctis met sometime in their school days. I hope to see a flashback about their meeting since I'd like to know how old they were.

It's alive!
It's alive!

Ignis: So, up until recently, I loathed Ignis since he was first unveiled during the Versus days. First off, his full name is Ignis Stupeo Scientia which sounds like the Ignorant Stupid Scientist. I don't know about you, but I don't know any scientists who are stupid. That sounds like an oxymoron.

Because every fictional character who wears glasses owns a laboratory, am I right?
Because every fictional character who wears glasses owns a laboratory, am I right?

I also find it odd how Noctis, Gladio and Prompto all get along great, and then you have Ignis who is rather distant. It's known that Ignis' Japanese voice actor is Mamoru Miyano who's known for voice acting villains and anti-heroes in anime. During a Versus XIII trailer in 2011, we're shown a scene where Noctis speaks to Ignis about revenge and Ignis is clearly biting his tongue.

Do you see where I'm coming from? Why I have loathed this character so much? It doesn't help either that Ignis wears glasses and speaks in a British accent. I still personally say that he will betray Noctis given an artwork contained in Duscae's ending, but I will speak about that in awhile.

Reading this you may wonder, "Why do you suddenly like Ignis? It's rather odd you now like him considering you believe that he will betray his childhood friend."

Well, I like Ignis because it's evident that he's overlooked and unappreciated by his friends. Ignis acts as a chauffeur and a cook, but does anyone ever thank him? No, not in the demo at the very least. I sense that tension is build up inside Ignis, yet he tries to act cool, emulating everyone else's mannerism. It's something I'd expect a strategist to do.

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Not to mention, I find Ignis to be extremely attractive. Tall, dark haired and smart? Yes, please! I'd gladly offer Ignis some nice company. Even walking clichés need to be loved.

Gladiolus: Gladio has always been my least favorite character out of the entourage since the Versus days. For no particular reason, but so far, I just find him kinda boring. I mean, at the very least, he does seem somewhat egotistical and grumpy, but it's nothing to do with why I don't like him...Can't actually pinpoint on why I don't like him, honestly.

At least he has nice pecs.
At least he has nice pecs.

Voice Acting

This would probably be my biggest grip with Final Fantasy XV so far. Particularly with its English voiceover and Square Enix's localization approach.

For eight years, we've heard Noctis speak in Japanese. His voice sounds eloquent yet precise. How I'd imagine a young prince should speak. When we were introduced to Noctis' English counterpart during Jump Fiesta back in late December, I couldn't get into his voice. Noctis sounded like a Batman wannabe. Now, I like Batman just as much as everybody else, but really? Like we don't have enough deep, gravelly voices in video games? Not to mention how Noctis sounds similar to Gladiolus.

Anyways, after playing Episode Duscae, I now find Noctis to sound rather sexy...His voice makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. I'm not sure why, but Noctis sounds coherent and less Batman-like when bantering with his buddies. I'm not sure who his English voice actor is, but I think I have an idea on why Noctis has a deep voice. It could reflect his brash and cocky attitude...Something that I feel will backfire on him.

Then, we have Ignis who speaks in a fake English accent. Not even the Queen's stereotypical accent sounds anything like Ignis. Up until recently, I hated Ignis. For many reasons, but I will just say that his English accent just proves one of the many reasons why I disliked Ignis for years. He's a walking cliché. Granted, JRPGs are loaded with clichés, but Ignis definitely stands out compared to the other main characters.

Not to mention how the localization team has changed his dialogue. I only understand tibits of Japanese, but there is a big difference between "Are you okay, Noct?" in Japanese and "Careful, Highness!" in English. The Japanese dialogue seems more appropriate given how Ignis is Noctis' closest childhood friend. The English dialogue, on the other hand, portrays Ignis rather distant. Perhaps intentional since you should keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

The voice I like in both Japanese and English is coincidentally the one that everybody else finds annoying; Prompto. I personally don't find him annoying, but rather energetic and lively. His voice suits his personality and appearance. I actually wanna cuddle with Prompto given how adorable he is...And maybe even kiss him.

Gameplay

When Final Fantasy Versus XIII was renamed Final Fantasy XV, it was announced that it would be the first action role-playing-game in the series' numbered titles, leaving veteran fans enraged and perplexed about the game's direction. It didn't help either how Hajime Tabata (Final Fantasy XV's director) wanted to make the game more casual for newcomers and wanted to eliminate complex combos.

With Final Fantasy XV, I do want to make it more casual. Of course the depth of the game is going to be there, but I want to make it so players can easily experience the satisfaction of the depth of the game.

I myself am not getting any younger. I don’t want to be frantically pushing buttons. I also want to utilize the intelligence of the hardware spec, and not have to go through too much hassle or trouble in order to execute moves.

This led to numerous fans believing that Final Fantasy XV's gameplay would be press A for awesome. I can, however, confirm that this is not the case. From what I have played, XV is a reminisce of Kingdom Hearts and Dark Souls.

Like, Kingdom Hearts, Episode Duscae is about strategy. You need to think about what kind of weapon would be suited to take down an enemy and where exactly would you attack this said enemy since it might have a weak spot. When you defeat an enemy, you gain experience points and possibly a bonus depending on how long it takes for you to defeat a certain enemy.

However, you do not level up automatically. This is where Final Fantasy XV is similar to Dark Souls. The only way you level up is by sleeping. In Episode Duscae's case, you can either sleep in a campsite or in a caravan. The latter requires you to pay 200 gil, but in exchange a 1.5x multiplier is added to your gained experience points.

Personally, I like how the leveling system works. Especially since sleep is a heavy motif in Final Fantasy XV. Not only that, but it correlates with reality. In order to function, you need sleep. Now, I haven't tried it yet, but according to Hajime Tabata sleep deprivation can affect Noctis and his entourage's health.

The way it works is, if you don't sleep for long periods, you don't get a negative status – rather it's the opposite. "Buffs" are statuses with positive effects, and you stop getting those. Basically, things like increased spirits or feeling good or other added bonuses stop getting applied if you don't sleep for long periods of time. Camping is one of the base features of XV. It's a world where time passes from morning to night, so in order to have Noctis and the others who inhabit it be more than just puppets, but living characters players can feel empathy towards, if you have them remain awake all the time, I thought it would be more effective if that was a bad thing.

Final Fantasy XV may be similar to Kingdom Hearts and Dark Souls, but it stands out on its own. When your health hits zero, you do not automatically die. Instead, you can no longer attack because you are exhausted and wounded. To emphasis on your critical state, the life bar becomes red and if you continue taking damage until you’re at zero again, it's over. However, in that time, your buddies can revive your health which allows you to fight once more.

The closest thing I could find to demonstrate the critical state.

While, spells are not available in Episode Duscae, MP is still very important. When you're in a battle or about to enter one, Noctis can warp to a higher ground and even hang from a metal tower. It's very useful to warp since it saves time from walking, but it's rather disappointing how you cannot warp outside of conflict. I hope this will be fixed in Final Fantasy XV because I would love to warp my way across a region.

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Besides warping, Noctis can dodge. Something I'd suggest players to do when battling the gigantic Behemoth. But, just like warping, dodging requires MP. You can, however, jump without losing any MP. Though, it's nothing really special, in my opinion. You can jump on rocks and over parking poles, but you cannot jump on vehicles...I was hoping you could specifically jump into the bed of a truck just so I could hitch a ride.

Also, I do hope that the jump ability can be upgraded in the final product. Specifically to a high jump and maybe add aerial combos.

Though, I was quite pleased about an ability which was in Versus XIII. The ability is called Armiger. In order to use the said ability, you need to collect three Armiger Weapons that are scattered throughout the Duscae region. There's actually one more Armiger Weapon (making it four in total), but Noctis already has it (the Aqesior) equipped in the beginning of the demo.

To trigger Armiger with the PS4 controller, press L1 and R1. It should summon four swords that encircle Noctis to greatly enhance his battle capabilities...Does this ability sound awfully familiar to you?

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Compared to...

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Now besides Noctis, his buddies can execute special techniques. Prompto has Stasis Bullet where his bullet can freeze an enemy. Ignis has access to the Cure spell which he can use as many times to heal you and allies when damaged. Gladiolus has Brave Slash which greatly damages an enemy.

Graphics

Compared to the October's Active Time Report, Episode Duscae was definitely downgraded. Especially with the vegetation.

The demo is the bottom, the ATR is the top.

It should be noted that Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae is ran on Luminous Engine 1.5. Hajime Tabata already confirmed that the final product will be running on Luminous Engine 2.0, so the graphics will obviously improve.

So my question is, did the October walkthrough feature a different built? Aliasing is certainly an issue, in my opinion.

Also, I would like to point out another problem. It was confirmed that Episode Duscae is 30 FPS (Frames Per Second), yet the framrate tends to drop when you least expect it? I'll admit, I'm one of the people who can't tell the difference between 30 and 60 FPS, but I could certainly see the framerate drop with this demo. It's hard not to notice.

Camera

Naturally, when I first gained control of Noctis, I tried to zoom in on his booty...Unfortunately, you cannot do so. As a firm believer and follower of the Bootyism religion, I am very disappointed in this. If you are gonna have hot men as the only main party members in your game, then please, let us ladies appreciate the sight, let us savor the glorious booty. I'm even willing to pay for a DLC where Noctis and his buddies wear nothing but speedos. So, Hajime Tabata, if you are reading this, then please stop being such a tease. Thank you.

But, besides that complaint which breaks my heart, I do highly suggest that the camera should be fixed. The camera is too close behind Noctis, making it impossible to see enemies that are approaching you and enemies that you're already attacking. Turning the camera's sensitivity to five helps a bit, but it's still severely limited.

Soundtrack

With the main menu featuring the night sky along with the moon, and an instrumental version of Somnus Nemoris being played in the background, it truly felt like I was reliving the Versus XIII days.

Besides indulging in nostalgia, I also enjoyed Yoko Shimomura's Chocobo Theme.

Given how Wiz's Chocobo Post is set in the country, Yoko did a great job with the harmonica and the acoustic guitar. It suits the idyllic nature that Noctis is overcome with.

Unfortunately, there aren't many new songs in the demo, but I do have one complaint. There's no music when you venture across the Duscae region. I hope that the finalized game will have music for each area. Just like Xenoblade did. Without music, walking seems awfully boring. Especially since you're walking for kilometers in complete silence.

Summon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_0OCZC8TVY

Holy dynamite, Batman! Look at how enormous Ramuh is.

I really love this surprise. Can't wait to see Bahamut in action.

Not much to say here, but I wanted to at least share the glorious scene with everybody else.

Ending

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olQJhSE2lr4

Episode Duscae's ending is depicts religious artwork. Many people were rather disappointed that the ending didn't reveal any computer-generated imagery, but Duscae's minute long ending revealed a lot, in my opinion.

I would like to share everyone a screenshot along with captions that someone included.

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It illustrates summons that we will most likely stumble across in the final product. There is something that I would like to point out. Siren is usually perceived as a singing fairy in numerous Final Fantasy titles, but in Greek mythology, Siren is a mermaid who lures nearby sailors with her enchanting voice. Personally, I don't think this is farfetched. If anything, I would love to see this rendition of Siren. I could never understand why she was portrayed as a fairy for so long.

In the artwork, we see Etro blessing four men. Let's assume that these men are Noctis and his entourage. Noctis in the middle as a Jesus-like figure with Prompto and Gladiolus as his loyal disciples. Then, we see Ignis who's clearly in pain. Perhaps a Judas-like figure?

Anyways, I'm still confused about Final Fantasy XV's timeline, but it seems that Idola decimated Insomia during the peace treaty signing. With the Shakespeare influence, many fans, including myself, have speculated for years that Regis would die early on in the story...That seems very likely, unless if the radio was propaganda.

Personally, I believe Regis' death was foreshadowed since 2011's Versus XIII trailer.

Particularly with these two quotes

An act of love by the last king.

You're not fit to be king.

With the last quote, it was confirmed that Regis was not referring to Noctis. So who else could Regis be referring to? Well, in 2013's E3 trailer of Final Fantasy XV, we see a man who shares a striking similarity to Regis.

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And this lookalike even received his own screenshot in the trailer.

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Final Fantasy XV's Claudius?

Somewhat unrelated to the demo's ending, but since we're discussing Shakespeare, let's say Noctis and Stella/Luna are Hamlet and Ophelia. Granted, Romeo and Juliet is a more suitable comparison, but go along with it. We know Ophelia has a brother named Laertes.

Since 2008, we've seen Noctis' main rival (besides Stella/Luna, of course) to be a white-robed man. In 2013, we can clearly see that this white-robed man has blonde hair...Stella/Luna's brother, perhaps?

Which brings me to my next case. We have confirmation that Luna's full name is Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. With this, I almost accepted Lunafreya was Stella renamed, but I noticed something that would contradict previous information.

Last month, we were shown city concept art, one which depicts Noctis in his tuxedo from the Versus XIII days.

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During Versus XIII, Roen originally designed Stella a black cocktail dress for the peace treaty where she meets Noctis for the first time. The production team, however, changed Stella's dress to be completely white. For a valid reason, in my opinion.

Hiromu Takahara originally wanted her dress to be black, but the production team changed the color to create a greater contrast with the black suit Noctis wears in the same scene.

In Duscae's artwork, Luna dons a blue sparkly dress. But, blue and black don't contrast each other. It's the opposite, actually. If Stella was renamed Luna, then wouldn't the white dress seem more appropriate? You know, given how the moon is white and shines in the night sky.

When Luna was first unveiled during 2014's Tokyo Game Show, a ring was clearly seen on her left hand. We've never seen Stella wore a ring before, but I would like to share an interesting tidbit from Nomura himself.

The only and most important adornment Noctis will use is a ring on his right hand and it’ll play a central role in the story of the game.

People thought the ring was scrapped because we've never actually seen it. In the demo's artwork, we can clearly see Luna carrying a ring.

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This is probably what Luna wanted to give Noctis as inferred in the 2014's Tokyo Game Show trailer.

I believe Stella and Luna are sisters and that we will see both at the peace treaty. It seems Luna is clearly on Noctis' side and Stella is supposed to be his unfortunate enemy. Shortly after Luna gives Noctis the ring, she gets killed. Thus, Stella blames Noctis for her sister's death.

Also, there is something about the radio announcement that bothered me. Clearly, Noctis pronounced dead was a lie, but how come nobody at the Duscae region seemed to recognize the prince? I mean, the region is close to the Lucis Kingdom. Shouldn't someone have been able to recognize Noctis? It's not like he's incognito or anything.

Verdict

After nearly a decade, it's nice knowing that Final Fantasy XV is no longer vaporware. It's a game that actually exists. But, it's quite obvious that XV is not even close to completion with its development. Episode Duscae was released so Tabata could take fan input into consideration and implement changes into the final product.

I'm glad that Tabata cares about the Versus XIII fandom, but I do hope that he won't walk on pins and needles with the fans. It's one thing to change the camera and fix the framerate issues so fans can play Final Fantasy XV smoothly, but it's another thing when you rewrite the actual storyline just to please others, in my opinion.

Personally, I've had such a blast with Episode Duscae. It's only supposed to last fans three-four hours at most, yet I've already poured seventeen hours into the demo, and I'm still not even done. I intend to level up Noctis and his entourage to ninety-nine. Noctis is already at level fifty-two while his buddies are a level ahead, so it shouldn't take much longer.

I'm really excited to play Final Fantasy XV. Especially since I want to see if any scenes from Versus XIII are still intact. I've already decided that I'm gonna buy a PS4 collector's edition of Final Fantasy XV along with buying the inevitable PC version.

I already want to jump inside my television and join the boyband on a wild adventure. They seem like a really cool bunch, and I have a crush on almost everybody except Gladiolus...For a reason that's undetermined.

Overall, I'd rate Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae a 7/10. It's a fun demo, but it certainly has its flaws.

That said, expect my actual Final Fantasy XV review to come out at least one month/two months after the North America release. I intend on delving into a deeper analysis of the full game and thoroughly discuss specific spoilers.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully Final Fantasy XV will be released sometime in 2016.

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And remember, when Lightning strikes, don't let it Noct you down.

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