Despite its presence at many trade shows, hands-on time with World of Final Fantasy has been rare. RPGamer's Mystiana Rulean got a chance to try out the new take on Final Fantasy during the visit to PAX West.
Heading into PAX, I wasn't feeling it when it came to World of Final Fantasy. There have been a lot of games lately trying to create an experience that covers all the characters that the Final Fantasy series has to offer. The cute look that has been prominent in all the artwork gave me flashbacks to Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales. It was a beautiful game, but as far as any challenge, it came up short.
Unlike the demos shown at earlier shows, including the PAX floor, Square Enix gave me a chance to play an early version of the game, starting in the city that started all, Cornelia. Our amnesiac protagonists, Reyne and Lann, arrive just in time to be questioned about what country they support. Before they can answer, three dark minions from the Bahamutian region storm into the town While everyone panics, our heroes leap into battle.
At first the battle system seems straightforward. There's nothing complex to do, just Attack or Defend, as everything else is greyed out. My worst fears are coming true; another cut and dry Final Fantasy spin-off. As I weaken the last enemy, the helpful sprite assists with Imprisming the minion. The attempt fails and I finish off the minion instead. The sprite then explains that the minion was already owned by another, hence my failure. Not the easiest explanation of one of the major game elements.
After our mystery friend reveals herself as Princess Sarah and guides us to the castle, I find myself in amazement on how dumb Lann can be. There's a scene where he's arguing with the sprite companion, and after being told he’s dumb, shouts out "At least I’m dumber than you!" He feels this is a perfectly proper response and never catches himself. It makes me worry about the fate of our twins. I understand the light-humored approach, but I’m not sure I can believe that someone this uneducated actually has a chance to save the world, even in Final Fantasy.
After Princess Sarah sends the twins out on their next quest, I'm free to roam about town. The conversations with random NPCs are amusing, especially if in the large (Jiant) form instead of the smaller (Lilikin) form that everyone in the town is in. I finally start to appreciate the writing style for what it's trying to do.
Entering the dungeon is what sold this game for me. For an early dungeon, it's clear that just using the Attack button and no other mechanics is going to end up with a quick game over screen. The baddies hit hard and often. I capture (Imprism) a few monsters and explore the magic of stacking. Throughout the game, there will be two stacks of good guys, with each twin required to be a part of one of the stacks. As they can change sizes, the stacks can be built where they have some monster on their heads, or they can be in the middle of the stack. What I didn't know is that the monsters may also have various sizes as well, allowing for even more combinations. When in battle, each character in the stack has their own version of the menu, with their own special skills at the ready. If that gets to be too much, there's also Classic mode, allowing me to select from the usual menu system found in most Final Fantasy games. There are puzzles to solve in the dungeon as well. Certain combinations of monsters found in the dungeon have to be stacked on a platform in order to unlock the next area. These first ones were basic, of course, but I can see how this will get more complex and interesting in harder dungeons.
At the end of the dungeon, our team runs into three common summons from the Final Fantasy universe: Shiva, Ifrit, and Ramuh. They seem puzzled at the haplessness of the twins, explaining how they used to be mighty summoners before. Of course, the twins don't know anything about this, and it's eventually decided that they will challenge us to see if we are worthy, but only against one of them. The fight, even against one, is pretty brutal. Without exploring the monsters' abilities, and expanding our helper sprite to know Cure, I’m fairly certain I would have lost.
World of Final Fantasy comes out next month, on October 25, 2016, but that's too long of a wait for me. After getting a true taste of the game, I'm excited to try out this new IP from Square Enix.