It’s been quite the month of hype for us Final Fantasy fans, what with the Los Angeles FFXV promo event, the announcement of a five-episode anime series and the feature film Kingsglaive. Not to mention the fact that preordering has just opened up for FFXV. To conincide with all this, Square Enix have released this special demo, titled simply Platinum Demo.

The storyline is simple, and cleverly chosen as it reveals little of the final game’s plot. You play as a younger version of main character Noctis, trapped in a dream world, and you must befriend Carbuncle, a popular summon creature in the series, in order to escape the dream. Your cute, furry companion takes you through various scenes, where you encounter monsters and fantastical beasts.

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The purpose of the Platinum Demo is twofold: it’s a way to show off Square Enix’s engine, Luminous Studio, and a way to get fans to preorder the game.

So let’s start with the game engine. (Although there isn’t exactly much story to spoil, some spoilers may follow. The demo takes under an hour to complete so we’ll wait) Having Carbuncle lead you through different dreamscapes allows us to see how the engine handles outdoor nature scenes, city scenes, and interior building scenes. There’s also this neat little mechanic that has you jumping on massive buttons on the floor, each of which perform a different action, like changing the weather, or speeding up the day/night cycle. The storm cycle was particularly sweet, and I liked the way they dispersed their fog effects. Early on you encounter a deep lake, and it was nice to see that their water opacity changed depending on the viewer’s angle of incidence (although this led to an interesting glitch with drawing reflections of rocks etc at a further distance).

The quality is superb, and I was particularly stunned by the way the character models’ skin appeared under moonlight – it was very natural and showed an immense amount of attention to detail. To show just how far things have come, the polygon count for the hair of each character alone is comparable to the entire bodily polygon count for characters in FFVIII. That’s to be expected – the Final Fantasy series is known for its devotion to fashion.

My favourite area was the dining room, mainly because of its similarity to Kingdom Hearts’ Alice in Wonderland level. Noctis is magically minified, and has to traverse staircases of books and magazines to reach the dining table to leave the level. In order to get us primed for the fact that FFXV’s main method of transportation is a car (Final Fantasy: Road Trip being the popular fan name for the game), some floor buttons transform Noctis into a toy car, others into a truck, which you can skid around on the laminate flooring.

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There was plenty of opportunity in each area to experience battle mechanics too, and with its realtime action-based battles, I definitely feel that this game is a grown-up Kingdom Hearts. At the very end you get the chance to defeat an Iron Giant (another staple of Final Fantasy monster lore) as grown-up Noctis. This is a small taster of how battles will work in the final game, and gives you access to the grown-up weapons and warp abilities Noctis will have (unlike the toy sword and hammer young Noctis makes do with for the majority of the demo).

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Once you’ve had a chance to experience the gameplay and some of the pretty sights, the demo takes you to an optional preordering page. As a reward for completing the demo, you’re allowed to carry over your Carbuncle summon to the final game. This is a particularly cute touch.

Final Fantasy XV will be hitting the shelves this September, so why not try the demo in the months to come, and see what you think? It’s available from both PS4 and Xbox One stores, and for free, so there’s really no reason to delay!

 

all images © Square Enix, screenshots by H. Ferrie

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