TNP tech review: Final Fantasy XV
A huge release for a huge game. This is what to expect from the day-absorbing, wildly engrossing 15th edition of the classic series.
One moment you're leaping from cover to cover as you evade a fire-breathing demon.
The next, you are pushing a broken down car along a desert road as the soul standard Stand By Me floats through the air.
Moments later, you are deemed bankrupt and sent to take out clusters of scorpion-like monsters in order to repay a debt.
Welcome to Final Fantasy XV - or FFXV for short.
Yes, that's 15 Finals, which could cause trading standards to raise an eyebrow.
And this has been a highly-anticipated instalment, one decade in the making.
Finally, Square Enix's latest sprawling brainchild is finally hitting stores today (Nov 29).
This reporter (and for full disclosure, an ardent fan of the series) visited the Sony Interactive Entertainment office last week to try out the game on the Playstation 4.
Now this is the part that can lose the casual observer, but bear with it.
FFXV is set in the fictional world of Eos, where you control Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum, heir to the Kingdom of Lucis, as you travel with three companions - Gladiolus Amicitia, Ignis Scientia and Prompto Argentum. They should give a prize to anyone able to pronounce those name perfectly on first go - or at all.
You and your trio of unpronouncables journey to meet your bride-to-be. A classic case of get the girl, kill the baddies?
Well, things go hideously wrong during the journey as Noctis learns that his father - the king - is killed, sending the world into turmoil.
So Noctis and his friends have to travel through war-torn Eos, allowing you, the player, to experience an stunning open-world environment where you can play at your own pace.
The is the game equivalent of a free-and-easy holiday. Choose to either blitz through the main storyline or take your time by indulging in the side quests. Or even go sightseeing in the majestically vast world where monsters roam.
Either way, the pain of travelling from one end to another is made smoother and simpler by Noctis' car, The Regalia.
You can drive the car yourself or get Ignis to do it - allowing you (the player not the character) to take a much-needed toilet or snack break.
Just be careful about wandering during the night as daemons can suddenly spawn and are ridiculously powerful. (This refers to you the character, not real life).
Unlike its previous editions, FFXV's battles - using its Active Cross Battle system - will be real time, and you enter battles instantaneously without transition screens.
Combat now resembles closer to hack-and-slash games such as Devil May Cry. However, charging into battle furiously mashing your controller buttons will not get you far.
There's a degree of strategy to be employed.
For example, take advantage of Noctis' special ability - the warp strike - which allows him to teleport short distances and strike your foe.
This means that in battle, you could teleport to higher ground before warping behind an enemy to inflict more damage.
While you only control Noctis during most of the game, in battle, you can combine with his teammates to execute special combos.
You will be ranked for your offence, defence and stealth performances after each fight.
The higher the grade, the more ability points (AP) you earn to level up. Speaking of which...
This is done via an ability tree - Something fans of FFXIII will be familiar with - using AP accumulated from battles, conversations and actions.
While each character has his own skill tree, all of your team's AP is stored collectively, but be sure to even out the distribution.
Final Fantasy isn't complete without the magical elements.
This time, magic has to be harvested and stored in a flask before it can be equipped on a character as a spell.
Spell-crafting can be quite interesting as you mix different elements, and even add items, to make them more powerful.
FFXV also features a plethora of side quests that allow you to spend even more time in this unreal world, rather than the real one where you have to get up in the morning.
And there are plenty of opportunities, not always sign-posted. Just a casual stroll around the first chapter opened up various monster hunts and even fishing (yes, literally fishing).
It can be as easy as talking to various non-player characters. So it can pay to be sociable.
The Final Fantasy series is renowned for its throwbacks to previous editions, appealing to its long-time fans.
Familiar names, such as Cid, and the giant chicken-like Chocobos are part of FFXV.
Taking a cue from the Grand Theft Auto series, each station on your car's stereo allows you to hear a different FF soundtrack.
On this excursion through Eos, the track J-E-N-O-V-A from FFVII was on heavy repeat.
The game starts slowly, or at least I did. It took almost three hours to complete the first of 15 chapters. But it gets better as you go on.
While initially sceptical of the characters, with their gladiator-like names and K-pop boyband looks, I soon appreciated the team's dynamic.
The revamped battle system will have you thinking on your feet - and then thinking again. It requires you to always have a plan because you can forget about getting by with mindless button mashing here.
Most importantly, it's impossible not to be amazed by the scale of Eos and what lies beyond the horizon for Noctis and gang.
A game to lose yourself in and book time off work for.
AVAILABLE ON: Playstation 4, Xbox One
PRICE: $84.90 on the Playstation Store
PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT