So now, almost a full decade since its initial announcement, the long awaited Final Fantasy XV is almost here with us. I know, it seemed like it was never going to happen, but here we are. Final Fantasy XV is scheduled for a September 30, 2016 release, but for those of us who can't wait that long you can download the 'Platinum Demo', a tiny little look into the massive world of FFXV on PS4 and Xbox One.
The Platinum Demo takes us through a crystal-collecting, giant-infested dreamscape of main character Noctis Lucis Caelum, the young Crown Prince of Lucis who is forced to go on the run when his nation is invaded by their enemy of Niflheim.
The Platinum Demo was designed to give us just enough of a sneak peek to really get the excitement going in the months ahead of Square Enix's release date. So what did we learn from it?
Straight off the bat you can tell that they haven't been messing around when it comes to the visuals, as the demo looks amazing. The colors and lighting are gorgeous, all fitting well with the dreamlike quality of the landscape exploration, and there's very little graphical quality loss when you transition from cutscene to gameplay.
I don't even want to imagine how long they spent animating each strand of Noctis' hair, which moves incredibly realistically as he runs.
As you might expect from a game like this, the frame rate is a little jarring, at times dropping below 30fps as the visuals struggle to perform on screen. It's not a major issue, but noticeable enough to be a little distracting.
The anachronistic feel of Final Fantasy XV is carried on in the demo too, as your fox-like spirit guide Carbuncle, who can be used as a Summons in the main game and looks like something straight out of a fantasy movie, shows up and drops a smartphone at your feet right off the bat.
We saw this blending of modern icons with traditional fantasy elements in the gameplay trailer, which put a huge focus on cars zipping up and down in amongst monsters and magic. The focus on cars is continued here, and the driving mechanics are surprisingly fun and smooth (even if the whole 'Noctis transforming into a truck' thing is a bit weird).
The slightly different, more grounded feel of the world fits with FFXV technically being a spin-off, forming part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series rather than the main franchise narrative.
Throughout the demo you collect floating yellow gems, which allow you to interface with interactive floor panels to alter the surrounding environment. One of the things you can do is alter the weather, and day will turn to night naturally as you play through the game.
Again this fits with what we've seen in the trailers, which showcased an impressive looking day - night cycle system, keeping in turn with the more grounded and realistic approach Final Fantasy XV is aiming for here. When night begins to fall in the main game you're prompted to get your party back to camp before darkness falls entirely, as fighting becomes more difficult at night.
A lot of fans have pointed out that Final Fantasy XV feels a bit more Kingdom Hearts -esque than some of the earlier games, and this is felt in the combat system too. FFXV breaks away from the typical turn-based battle system, following in the footsteps of more recent games in the franchise like Lighting Returns with a more restricted, 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, and we were able to play around with quite a few of these weapons and magics in the demo. The warp ability is a hell of a lot of fun, and makes dodging those big enemies much easier.
Futhermore there's some changes been 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.