The fifteenth main game in the Final Fantasy franchise has in many ways been an experimental project for Square Enix and the development team at Business Division 2. Before its release in 2016, the lead director stated that if the game wasn't to be successful, the franchise might be done for good. As history has shown it managed to surpass expectations and deliver a solid experience. Many, however, felt it was lacking story content and there were weird design decisions such as having the car being nailed to the road and, at times, uneven pacing. Hajime Tabata and his team have subsequently been supporting the game for almost a year with extra updates along with the season pass, and it seems this continuous development isn't slowing down.
The two newest entries into the Final Fantasy XV universe - a universe consisting of several mobile games, anime shorts, a movie and more to come - are the multiplayer Comrades add-on, and the upcoming VR side story, Monster of the Deep. While visiting the Square Enix booth at Tokyo Game Show we got our hands on Comrades and saw how the team is creating a vibrant dystopian world to explore in groups.
Without diving into too much spoiler territory, Final Fantasy XV: Comrades takes place during the latter half of the game, where King Noctis Lucis Caelum is trapped inside a crystal for ten years and the world is enveloped in darkness. We play as a Kingsglaive soldier and work together to stop Eos' imminent destruction. These are the basic overarching story concepts and acts as the backdrop for the multiplayer expansion.
The hands-on demo didn't allow for us to create our own character and we were given one of several pre-made builds to play with. After choosing a character we were transported to an encampment which worked as a hub for meeting the other players until we could journey onward into the forgotten Eos wasteland. Fans of Final Fantasy VI, and those who wanted more of the World of Ruin from the base game, will adore the aesthetic and visual presentation of Comrades due to how it beautifully renders a decaying world. Whether it will be open-world or solely mission-based wasn't made clear, yet one ought to think Square Enix will go with the latter of those options.
Along with three other players we were tasked with clearing some enemies of a public road in the wasteland of the Duscae region; a classic and straightforward multiplayer activity. During our confrontations with enemy demons, the player-character will not control exactly as Noctis did in the base game, and Comrades, therefore, has a more class-based approach. To succeed the group has to carefully balance healing, defending, and attacking in order to aid each other as they work towards defeating the waves of enemies. As with Noctis, we had warp strikes and multiple weapon options at our disposal, yet magic had taken on another form and was more similar to classic Final Fantasy games.
Instead of using orbs and drawing from different rocks and stones, it will consume magic points and is spell based (rather than supernatural grenades, so to speak). The thunder spells are identical to those of Sean Bean's King Regis in Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive, and one can likewise use the same barrier defence. Blizzard looks formidable and being able to use cure as an independent spell instead of potions or enhanced attack spells was a welcome addition. Playing around with the different abilities and journeying through the wasteland with other companions was a fun addition to Final Fantasy XV and will hopefully keep us coming back for more, especially if they manage to keep it fresh and up-to-date with content.
Another piece of universe content was provided in the form of Monster in the Deep: Final Fantasy XV, a fishing game for the PSVR. As expected you join the four heroes of light from the base game: Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladio respectively. Prompto will of course still run around and take pictures, Noctis continues to be a huge fishing fanatic, and Ignis cooks up his seafood dishes. The player interacts with the crew by creating their own unique avatar, yet whether the avatar created in Monsters of the Deep will carry into Comrades and vice-versa was not made clear.
The gameplay is rather simplistic and has you imitating a simplified fishing trip with the move controllers. It feels like the natural extension of the mini-game found in Final Fantasy XV, instead here controlled with your actual gestures and not just a joypad. No huge gameplay improvements or leaps in VR-technology are featured as far as we can tell, but it works adequately for a simple side dish for those people invested in the fishing adventures of the "Chocobros".
Monster of the Deep is definitely one of, if not the, best-looking title currently announced for the PlayStation VR platform, which is something. The jaw-dropping environments from Eos look beautiful and being able to turn around and simply gaze at the detail with VR is amazing.
The universe of Eos and ever-expanding story of Final Fantasy XV is a curious project more aligned with that of MMO-development than a classic single-player JRPG, and Comrades and Monsters of the Deep seem to be decent entries in an already packed bundle of visual media.