When running through FFXV’s Platinum Demo you are given a tasteful sample of several traits to expect from the final version of the game, ranging from the magnificently realistic graphics to the broad open landscapes and areas.
You control the main character Noctis, or “Noct” as he’s playfully called, by the featured carbuncle summon who acts as your guide in the demo. The crown prince wakes up in a grassy field, apparently as a child, and is given what looks like a smartphone in which the carbuncle uses to communicate. Though I would have been content with the adorable squeaking noises he produces every other moment.
The demo’s setting itself is considered Noctis’ dreamscape, your guide explains before long, that you are completely conked out and that in order to wake up and join the others waiting for you, you needed to find a way out.
You navigate through the first area quickly while noticing the awing beauty of the natural space, the way the grass sways with the wind, the stunning blue sky. Even Noctis’s fluid movements with the slightest tilt of the left analog stick leave me marveled. His hair and clothes able to shift with him, his arms swaying this way and that as a real child’s would when either running or walking, or something in between. It’s clear Square intended to show off in the graphics department and they certainly succeed at least in this aspect, the visuals in FFXV demonstrate a new age for the the series, the best so far.
It’s easy to catch onto the basic controls thanks to a handy menu on the right side of the screen, aiding you from you moment you move Noctis for the first time. The demo uses scattered gold crystals as a motivation to explore the expansive areas, as well as circular switches on the ground that trigger various things when you stand over them. In some instances, they reveal teasers of astrals such as the image of Titan peeking down at you, or Leviathan swooping above for a few seconds before disintegrating.
When encountering your first enemies, Nightmares, your helpful Carbuncle guide provides you with a toy sword and squeaky hammer appropriate for Noctis’ age. It’s immediately clear, that the battle format is designed to utilize different weapons for different purposes, you’ll often find yourself switching them to accommodate the fight. The sword for instance, catches enemies and with repeated strikes keeps them guarding or trapped The hammer is difficult to use when pursuing retreating enemies, but does a load of damage once you have them close.
It’s extremely simple to attack, holding down the circle button enables you to approach an enemy without the analog stick, there’s no need for endless button mashing to attack in this game. However, it’s difficult to target specific opponents, since the closest is targeted automatically and the camera angle shifts to focus on that one. Leaving you open to assault by nearby enemies you can’t see, forcing you to randomly guard when concerned of being attacked from behind.
As you progress, gathering more crystals, you eventually find yourself inside a dining room that looks like it’s part of Noctis’ home. There are stacked books and toy blocks acting as evidence of a child living there, you appear to minimize while the carbuncle either enlarges or stays the same size in this area. There are different switches in this area that enable you to comically transform into different models of cars. No doubt practice for the final version’s main method of transport, going off the sleek black car that was featured in a past trailer of the game.
The car controls are slightly stiff, turning can be difficult and timely, and it would be irksome if there were enemies around that could actually harm you within it, but going with the realistic qualities, it’s not untrue that turning a real car can have some difficulties as well. It was still enjoyable nonetheless to cruise around the large room, seeking out stray crystals hidden in tight corners, or on the edge of enormous book spines.
Eventually you put the carbuncle out of it’s misery and follow it to the next area, following continuous prompting from the creature to hurry up. I felt rather rushed by the constant texts emphasized by shrill squeaks, particularly expressed when you stand still for too long.
The next to last stage featured a part of what we can assume to be Lucis, the main character’s hometown. You are given a breathtaking view of the buildings below the neighborhood sectioned off for you to explore, with the sky yet again in full view, this time with dark clouds and rain. It’s in this stage where the buttons allow you to change the weather or fast forward time, a clever method on the production team’s part to display the beautiful weather changes, and how the surroundings and characters respond.
The gray stone of the walls and bricks in the street turn dark and slick, Noctis’ hair becomes matted down as well as his clothes, the atmosphere is dark and thunderous. You’re also able to change from night to day, or vice versa, and there’s a distinct difference and feel when experiencing the city at night, rather than during the sunny daylight hours.
Not unlike the humor of turning into automobiles, you have the ability to turn into different creatures, an enormous buffalo like creature and a giraffe antelope hybrid. Like the car, it’s entertaining albeit inconvenient to use around enemies since you only have one move and it takes a considerable amount of time to perform it, giving the enemy enough time to dodge or have you freeze in place, making it awkward to angle or target.
If you have been good about collecting the crystals on your way, you’ll find yourself rewarded by some switches that gift you with upgrades for your weapons, which make it easier to combat the sudden hordes of goblin looking Nightmares that materialize randomly. You can expedite your journey of course just by finding the next prompt to progress, which in this stage happens to be carpeted hallway with a bright light at the end.
Not exactly a tunnel, but still.
The final stage is a familiar coliseum like arena that is identified as the citadel by carbuncle. It gives off a rightful ominous feeling when entering, and within seconds you find yourself up against the iron giant, that at one point acted as the only substantial gameplay demonstration for the title after years in silent production.
The final battle proves to feel and sound just as I’d hoped. With Yōko Shimomura’s glorious Omnis Lacrima in the background, building up the giddy energy you experience charging toward the enormous metal hulk of an enemy, as a determined adult Noctis .Rather than being truly difficult to defeat, the iron giant acts as a prime subject of a new player’s experimentation with the battle mechanics in the game. The airstrip sword is the highlight of the battle, used to teleport high up to different handles on the side of buildings or surrounding blue flagged street stands. It allows you to effectively flit away after each attack, but also beam quickly to the iron giant catching it off guard.
You also possess a broadsword two times the length of Noctis’ adult figure, and he swings it around with the same effect of the squeaky hammer his smaller version did earlier, slowly but powerfully.
You’ll continually switch from each weapon during the battle, in order to avoid being too exposed running around the iron giant on the ground. Which is surprisingly spry and able to keep up to your speed, even while you flit around as a blue mist.
It’s a satisfying end to the demo when you ultimately bring down the iron giant and are greeted by carbuncle’s congratulatory chirping cry, who you now earn as a summon, by completing the demo fully. You revert back to child Noctis, and from there exit in your father’s black sleek car, the place you discover intimately as Noctis’ safe zone, where he spends the most time with his father.
A tender realization, that connects with all the other tidbits you discover about FFXV’s main character throughout the demo, thanks to carbuncle’s occasional remarks about Noctis’ relationship with his father, and his personal tendencies overall. The Platinum Demo succeeded in piquing our interest even further, with the hinting of a deeper level to his background and nature as a character.
A familiar trait, among many we have come to expect from the long enduring beloved series, known among all to be the franchise that introduced, what nearly all common role-playing games today have reproduced.
The anticipation for the final release, only mounts at the conclusion of this demo, despite some inconveniences with navigating vehicles and targeting, the Platinum Demo displays the dedication the Square Enix team has in making FFXV both a tribute to the series’ earlier successful years, and a step toward the future with both new, and old fans.
The production team has one last note before the end of the demo, which translates to something specific for me. We’ll see you later friend, when you come back for the main event, now that you’ve had a taste.