So now, nearly a decade since it's initial announcement, we receive the news that the long awaited Final Fantasy XV has finally left the pre-beta stages and is starting to look more like a finished product, according to FFXV programmer Satoshi Kitade.
"We're at the point where we can play the game in its entirety from start to finish... The first half of the game is finished with the quality of a final product, and you get the sense you're playing it in its final form."
Hurrah! So what does this mean? Well according to Kitade the game just needs a little spit and polish now ahead of the as yet unspecified 2016 release date. So good news for Final Fantasy fans, it took ten years but we're nearly there. Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it yet.
But what else do we know so far about the game? Here's a quick rundown of the most important things you need to know...
A Darker, More Realistic Tone
It would be a lie to say that the Final Fantasy series have always been a cheery happy affair (we're still not over Aeris), but Final Fantasy 15 designer Tetsuya Nomura set out to create FFXV as a darker, more realistic take on the fantastical genre. "A fantasy based on reality" is how he describes it, with settings taken from real world locations like Tokyo and Venice.
This explains why FFXV is technically a spin-off (forming part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series rather than the main franchise narrative). And also why we see this anachronism in the trailer:
Which brings us to...
A Road Movie... Game?
The Road Movie has long been a staple of cinema but here it's making a breakthrough in the Final Fantasy world too. An exploration of growth and bonding as explored through the main character cast, a group of friends on a mission rather than a bunch of strangers brought together by fate:
Noctis Lucis Caelum: the player character/main protagonist, Noctis is the Crown Prince of Lucis, forced to go on the run when his nation is invaded by their enemy of Niflheim.
Gladiolus Amicitia: Noctis's best friend, Gladiolus is heir to the noble family who protects the Lucis Royalty Family.
Ignis Stupeo Scientia: Another childhood friend of Noctis, Ignis is a superior military tactician who places his faith in logic and reason above all.
Prompto Argentum: A school friend of Noctis, Prompto is a mischievous young man of a lower social class than this comrades, though he's eager to make up for this.
Note that the main cast are all dudes, which is kinda disappointing to see, especially given Final Fantasy's track record with awesome female characters.
There's is a central heroine floating around though in the form of Princess Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, childhood friend and bride to be of Noctis. She's set to take a central role in the narrative even though she isn’t part of the main party, so we'll have to wait and see what happens on that front.
Combat Shake Up
Final Fantasy XV breaks away from the typical turn-based battle system of the Final Fantasy games, following in the footsteps of more recent games in the franchise like Lighting Returns.
The combat system in Final Fantasy XV will take a more action focused approach; playing as Noctis you'll take real-time control during battles, manually dodging and attacking your enemies with weapons materialising in your hands as you strike. The magic system is still in place, but is now tied into each of Noctis' special moves in a more action meter based approach.
Futhermore there's some changes being made to the health bar; instead of "dying" when your HP reaches zero in FFXV depleting your health means that you enter a critical mode. In this mode each hit you take caps your maximum HP, and after the encounter your meter will stay capped until you rest up.
The Day/Night Camp System
Speaking of resting up there's a clear cut day/night system in FFXV, keeping in turn with the more realistic approach this game is aiming for. When night begins to fall you're prompted to get your party back to camp before darkness falls entirely as fighting becomes more difficult at night (mainly cause you can't see as well).
Setting up camp and having a meal also boosts the stats of each of your party members that continues onto the next day (think the "Well Rested" XP boost perk in Fallout 4).
For a closer look at Final Fantasy 15 you can check out some awesome gameplay footage here.