What makes a good demo? Is it having content not found in the actual game no matter how inconsequential it may be? Perhaps slicing out the best piece of the game and having players experience that? Or maybe the simple approach of just having them play the beginning of the game and prompt a purchase after that is the best way? I’ve always found faults with all of these and as a result have generally stayed away from demos aside from writing pieces like these. Regardless of what the correct answer is, I’m convinced the Final Fantasy XV: Platinum Demo is not it.
I know it’s been several weeks since the demo’s release, but after some time reflecting on its content, I came away with these impressions:
1. To give you a bit of context, the demo focuses on a young Noctis and his journey through a dream world. He’s led through by the summon, Carbuncle, who communicates with him via text message (no joke). His adventure leads him through several landscapes, finally concluding with a final showdown with a large monster while Noctis is in adult form. Successful completion of the demo will net you Carbuncle for use in the final game.
2. As a standalone experience, it’s not bad, though it’s something that felt more like a Kingdom Hearts game than Final Fantasy. Both the worlds and monsters had a sort of cutesy vibe to them, and little diversions like changing into vehicles and monsters added to this whimsical attitude.
3. That being said, as a representation of what to expect from Final Fantasy XV, it sucks. They should’ve just made the patched version of Episode Duscae available for everyone to play. While I appreciate that I won’t be retreading the contents of this demo in the final game, it’s also not representative of what I should expect. The combat between kid Noctis (hold a button until things die) and adult Noctis (see: Episode Duscae) are so different, it’s a wonder what they were expecting people to take away from this experience. And that’s discounting the fact that you’d have computer controlled comrades watching your back in the actual game.
4. Speaking of combat, the camera/lock-on issue seems to have been addressed here, which is good. On the other hand, the limited skills and weaponry did little to make a case for what was possible with the mechanics. I learned later on after completing the demo that hidden additional weapons exist to improve the enjoyment of the final confrontation immensely, which while good, is also another reason why this isn’t a very good demo. There’s almost no explanation on how to utilize the mechanics and if you hide the fun items so well that most people will miss it the first time through, what’s even the point?
5. The game still looks damn good, as one might expect, but damn if the frame rate isn’t pitiful. My understanding is that, again, the final version of the game will be better. But the average fan is not going to know that, and you’ve just misrepresented your title even more.
6. The world within the demo is filled to the brim with buttons that trigger everything from weather effects to transformations. Many of these don’t really serve a purpose within the context of the experience other than to show the player what can be done (essentially making it more of a tech demo than anything).
7. It takes approximately twenty minutes to clear the demo, give or take depending on how much exploration you want to do. You can also increase the difficulty of the final battle if you want to get more out of the experience.
9. Turning into monsters at certain points was amusing, but the context of this wasn’t explained either. Will I be able to play as a monster in the final game? Or did you just program this capability specifically for the demo? And if so, what would be the point?
10. Why can’t my toy truck fly?
The Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo does more harm than good in terms of convincing people that the actual product is worth a damn. As someone who played through Episode Duscae, this was an entertaining experience only because it was so different. For anyone who didn’t know any better, it’s misleading and would probably have succeeded more as, I don’t know, pre-order DLC or something. Love it or hate it, it does little to actually showcase what the final game is about, so why does it exist as a demo? The fact that I have to ask that question is disconcerting, but I’m still looking forward to the final game all the same.
Final Fantasy XV releases September 30th for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One.