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'Final Fantasy XV' at E3, Hands On

The Tom's Community Team had an opportunity to experience Final Fantasy XV during E3 this week. For as ardently as we've enjoyed the Final Fantasy franchise--we may or may not have engaged in incoherent squealing and excited gesticulations at being able to get our pictures taken astride a giant life-size fat Chocobo, and we can discuss the finer points of Kefka vs. Golbez vs. Sephiroth in terms of villainy--we were underwhelmed by what was presented in the long-awaited sequel to the beloved franchise, Final Fantasy XV.

There's nothing in particular about the story that stands out as novel or game-changing. The main character is Noctis, a cookie-cutter protaganist that seems an amalgam of all the previous heroes along the lines of Tidus, albeit bedecked in the shiny black leather that slathered the Final Fantasy bad guys in Advent Children. The vague goal is to "Retake the World" from the evil forces who have threatened the capital city.

We spoke to several developers with Square Enix and learned that the length of the campaign is roughly a (disappointing) 50 hours. Contrast this to previous Final Fantasy titles that clocked in at an average of 70+ hours without considering completionist 120+ hour games.

Going into our demo, we expressed concern (shared by our readers) that this installment might suffer from the same "long hallway of monsters" syndrome of previous sequels, wherein games were drawn out, linear and with considerable filler. A Square Enix representative told us, "We heard those concerns, and FFXV will not have that problem. That was a consideration during development, and this game is as close to an apology for that as you'll get from Square Enix."

Though reassuring, our demo of Final Fantasy XV revealed other concerns. Richly detailed environments are marred by jerky camera angles and jarring shifts in perspective. The clumpy combat mechanics evoke a Devil May Cry style of movement and attack. Both Community Team members who played the game had immense trouble with the controls, with new mechanics introduced suddenly, easily confusing attacking and parry/block button mashing, and everyone's favorite: quick-time events. Half of the time, you don't know where you are in relation to the monsters and enemies.

Attack on FF Titan

The boss battle we experienced was a titan monster that attacked the city. Our characters, equipped with swords in a squad, were tasked with attacking the titan through quick-time events and a morass of somewhat choreographed tactical maneuvers that were more confusing and convoluted than impressive. The combat was reminiscent of Devil May Cry, and the literal Attack on Titan attack on a titan gave the impression of a derivative work rather than a deserved new installment for a long-beloved franchise.

The gameplay was disheartening, but with a release date scheduled for September 30, we're hopeful there's still time for refinements based on feedback. We did ask if the game was slated for eventual release on PC as well as console, but we have not heard back as of press time.

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Joe Pishgar
Joe Pishgar is the Community Director of Tom's Hardware US. He oversees the number one tech enthusiast forum in the world.