Is Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae Worth Playing?

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Nine years after it was first announced, Final Fantasy XV was finally put in player's hands this week in the form of a demo, Episode Duscae. There's a lot of content in Duscae, and for Final Fantasy fans like me who have been waiting nearly a decade to play Noctis' story, it's a no-brainer that we'll play. However, the only way to access Duscae is by purchasing Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a $60 purchase that less die-hard FF fans may be hesitant to make. So is that price tag worth it for XV's demo? Should you play?

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Final Fantasy Type-0 is a great game if you're willing to look past its garbled story. The combat system is excellent, with a lot of variety in customizing combatants and mission layout. It's also Final Fantasy XV's precursor. The games share a director, Hajime Tabata, who also led development on PSP title Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy XV's combat feels like a refined version of Type-0's, which is already fast-paced and allows you to blend physical and magic attacks in real-time. Type-0 is also a game about a war; gore and blood aren't off the table, and the narrative explores the cost of treating human life as a resource rather than something to protect. Final Fantasy XV looks like it won't be shying away from these themes either, and a special something waiting for those who complete Episode Duscae hints at similar dark matters.

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So far, we don't know if anything you earn in Episode Duscae will transfer over to Final Fantasy XV once the game is complete. But the reward in completing Duscae is learning more about the way of XV's world.

The demo is a set of missions boxed into a small area of XV's world, the Duscae region. Within this piece of gameplay, which will take you a few hours to complete all content if you're diligent, you can hunt down a Behemoth for cash to repair your car, call upon a powerful summon to help you defeat a mystical creature, and cook meals together around a campfire. Episode Duscae gives us our first look at the personalities of Prince Noctis and his retinue: the prince's friend Prompto, the royal strategist Ignis, and the bodyguard Gladiolus. These four men have been together since childhood, and the closeness of their relationship is evident in the way they interact as they go about their tasks. Without considering the demo's introduction to XV's combat system, that's still a hefty amount of stuff to cram into a demo. It also lets you save your progress; how often is a demo so complex that it allows you to save your progress?

In this not-too-tiny taste of Final Fantasy XV, we get our first hands-on with combat. It's difficult to watch a gameplay trailer and determine for yourself how good fighting feels; that you can only get from picking up a controller. And after watching all the trailers and livestreams of Episode Duscae, I am glad I've had time to play it myself, as seeing and doing are very different in this circumstance. Fighting isn't overcomplicated and getting into battles with multiple enemies begins to feel comfortable once you land those first few hits. Pulling out your giant sword, warping across the battlefield, whipping out a second larger sword and draining your enemy's health is immensely satisfying. Noctis is a powerful character to control and that sentiment transfers to the player.

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You also get a look at what XV's mission structure will presumably be like. In Duscae, your car has broken down and the repairs come at an extravagant cost. In order to make the money quickly, you decide to answer a bounty placed on a rogue Behemoth, which will net you enough cash to fix your car and buy some much-needed supplies. Episode Duscae, rather than give you one self-contained mission, offers a handful of objectives for you to complete. You can have multiple quests go on at once; for example, you can hunt for a wild chocobo while stalking the Behemoth's trail. It's a very clear-cut way of doing things, but it also prevents you from muddling up objectives.

Episode Duscae is a wonderful little package featuring a little bit of everything you need to get a sense of a RPG: combat, weapon and experience handling, sidequests, character introduction and development, music, UI. For those who have been waiting for XV's release it's the perfect way to to whet your appetite and get excited again.

So is it worth playing Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae? Yes. Give Type-0 a chance if you're really committed to getting your hands on Duscae, because the demo itself is a fun, self-contained little slice of XV's world. No matter how far out Final Fantasy XV's final release is, you'll at least know a bit about what you're waiting for. It's an ideal moment to go hands-on with something and make your own informed opinion about what's to come.

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