Can the Battleborn Open Beta be Called a Success?

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After ten days of intensive multiplayer madness, the Battleborn Open Beta rode off into the sunset last week, leaving a feeling of wistfulness behind for the gamers who poured hours into unlocking all twenty-five badasses and tempering them in the fires of bombastic combat. In terms of giving gamers something truly awesome at no cost whatsoever, Gearbox Software has does something really exceptional. But I wonder if this beta was maybe too good for its own good.     

Battleborn launches on May 4th, and to be fair I wasn’t even looking at it as a potential buy before the beta showed me the error of my ways. So if nothing else, the beta put a game back on my radar that I had been inexplicably overlooking despite my adoration of Gearbox’s previous series, Borderlands. That’s got be a win, yeah?

battleborn actionMaybe, but here’s the thing: I played this game for ten days straight, unlocked all twenty five characters, tried them all out in story missions and multiplayer, and generally logged in more time with Battleborn than I do with a lot of games that I actually pay for. Now release date is coming and….well…I’m kind of tired of it.

Tired of a game before it’s even released. That is a new sensation for me. Gearbox put forth such an amazing and complete beta experience that I literally burned myself out playing it. I feel a bit bad about that, like I’ve robbed them or something. Sure there are many more story missions and multiplayer modes in the finished product, but Battleborn strikes me as a Destiny-esque experience where it’s less about the actual story or level design and more about grinding to unlock and upgrade your chosen heroes. And I’ve already done that. A lot. I’m not really up for doing it all over again just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, Battleborn is a fantastic game and if you missed the beta or only dabbled in it there is a lot to recommend it, particularly if you’re a fan of Borderlands. I love that you can play the same missions and hear different dialogue almost every time, I adore the massive amount of personality each character has, and the sheer diversity of the cast is something that should be celebrated in addition to the gameplay just being really fun.

Everything from generic space marine (for the less imaginative among battleborn character selectus) to flirty penguin mech-pilot to hillbilly hawkman with a rocket launcher to senior citizen in the galaxy’s most advanced (and deadly) wheelchair is present and accounted for. Archetypes you needed in your life but never existed until now. This massive of a cast inevitably leads to balancing problems in PvP (Galilea and Ambra, I’m looking at you), but gauging issues like that before release is what the beta is for.

Any way you look at it, the game is a blast. And yet, having been given such a massive chunk of game to play for a week and a half I can’t bring myself to pre-order. At some point in time, this game and I are going to meet again without a doubt, but it’s probably going to be down the line and at a lower price point. I have very positive feelings about Battleborn thanks to the beta, but I don’t feel like buying it right away. Does that count as a success?

battleborn beta results score

I seriously wonder how this scoring system works.

On one hand, at some point I’m definitely going to be getting a game I wasn’t paying much attention to beforehand. But then again, the beta had so much content and went on for so long that I’m already burnt out on it prior to release day and I just don’t feel like re-unlocking all of my characters, skins, taunts, etc. again. I’m not sure what to call that, but I do know that I’ll have fond memories of this beta for years to come in spite of the fact that a single griefer/AFKer can stop you from advancing in story missions (seriously, Gearbox, a player booting system should be first on the agenda) and the scoring system is inscrutable at times.
As it was, it was a free preview of an awesome game that functioned like a springtime Christmas gift to gamers everywhere, possibly at its own expense. There are several things Gearbox could have done differently to make their open beta a bigger success for themselves. I feel like if they had limited the beta to five days and/or greatly diminished the available characters, or at least let your beta progress carry over into the main game I’d be foaming at the mouth to play the retail release. That or the beta should have been a few months prior to release instead of a few weeks to give us time to miss the world of
 Battleborn.

As it is, it puts some of us in a weird place where we’re asked to shell out sixty bucks for a game we just played tirelessly for free for the better part of two weeks. With the rapid-fire release schedules of modern gaming, I find it really hard to play any one game for an extended period of time because every week brings new indie titles to check out, each month brings free PS+/XBL Gold games, there’s always another AAA title around the corner, and always another sale on Steam, XBL, and PSN to catch up on games we missed out on but still want to play. We’re overstuffed.

The beta definitely made me love the game, which is kind of the whole point (along with testing the multiplayer servers and the like), but it also made me feel like I’m being asked to go buy a game I’ve already played the hell out of. Previous betas for franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and Destiny gave me just a taste of the game to whet my appetite and I couldn’t wait for the full release. The Battleborn Open Beta felt more like a mythic Roman feast and now I need to use the vomitorium.

All I can say is that if you love you some Borderlands and ever thought about what it would be like if you didn’t spend half of your time trying to decide which guns to sell, which to discard, and which to shoot stuff with or wanted to spend more time destroying other players with a trash-talking playable cast of dozens at your fingertips then this here is a game for you. If you missed out on the beta, there’s no reason at all not to snap this up, but as for me, I can’t get the call of Dark Souls out of my head right now. Thanks for the good times and an awesome beta, Battleborn. I will be seeing you around.

    

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No Game No Life and Gamer Empowerment Theory

nogame

In 2014, the anime/manga series No Game No Life did a rare thing. It envisioned a world where power didn’t come in the form of violence, wealth, or social privilege but from cleverness, intelligence, dedication, and skill. I know, right? Madness. I mean, who could rule over such a world? Where is there a class of people who can dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to overcoming challenges, finding exploits, and generally bending the rules and intricacies of any system to their will in order to overcome any disadvantage and triumph over any odds? Well, there’s gamers. But life isn’t a video game. Or is it?

No Game No Life stars a pair of sibling gamers, Sora and Shiro, who have dedicated their lives to one thing and one thing only: winning at games. As proper shut-ins with almost no IRL contact with anybody but each other, they have few social skills to speak of, but when it comes to contests of skill and strategy, the two of them never lose. After beating a mysterious opponent in an online chess match, they suddenly find themselves transported into a fantasy world where wars have destroyed every other social class, the meek have inherited the “Earth”, and all conflicts are now settled exclusively by games under the laws enforced by a literal god. Wouldn’t that be nice?

no game no life geek gaming

Gamer facts: any light that doesn’t come from a monitor is bad.

As hardcore gamers, it’s normal for us to feel like we were born into the wrong world sometimes. A disproportionate amount of us suffer from learning disabilities and other psychological issues that make us off-putting to others, anxious and self-conscious in our own skin, or otherwise unfit to thrive in a civilization that stresses the importance of social ritual, attractiveness, and status above almost all else. On the flip-side, these same “disorders” often give us exceptional abilities in abstract and logical reasoning, which ironically only increases suspicions. Can’t have folk going around doing things logically. It scares people.

That is to say that society on the whole makes little sense to us. But games? Games operate on rules and principles that can’t be broken by normal means. When two people face off in a video game, they’ve each had equal opportunity to learn the rules, build their characters, work on their skills, etc. The player with either the most skill at it or the most knowledge to use to their advantage is most likely to come out the victor. For the most part, any worthwhile video game world is fair; they treat everybody the same, unlike real life. As Shiro points out in the very first episode, “this world is just a crappy game”.

The idea of NEET gamers given an opportunity to thrive in a world where games are law is an interesting premise and No Game No Life plays it to the hilt, illustrating the nature of human neurosis with a classic fantasy escapism setting. The initial reaction to this brand of nerd wish fulfillment seems to be that it’s preposterous, but the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Gamer Empowerment Theory (as I’ve dubbed it) states that we have within us the ability to utilize the same abilities we use to bend virtual worlds to our will in the real world, but simply don’t.

no game no life playing games quote

has anybody ever written a song about growing up being better than…anything?

Just consider for a moment the dedication it takes to master the upper echelon of a game like Street Fighter. The training muscle memory, the memorization, the counting of animation frames that go by in fractions of seconds, analysing the psychology of an unseen opponent based on their avatar’s visible patterns, and the flawless execution of all of these elements under the pressure of a worthy rival attempting to impose themselves on you all culminating in extremely brief contests of virtual skill; if you can master that, you can master almost anything given the same level of commitment.

But that’s the thing about gamers/geeks/otaku. We don’t commit to anything that isn’t awesome. Other things are boring and filled with other people who like things that are lame and are obsessed with the personal lives of people they’ve never even met. I, for one, don’t have time for that shit. We work because we have to (IF we have to) in order to put food in our bellies, a roof over our head, and to indulge in entertainment that lets us forget how screwed up everything is and be who we want to be, even if just for a little while. Everything else is just a waste of time and energy, right?

More than anything else, dedication to our hobbies is what makes us geeks, but what if our hobby was world domination? What if we studied and practiced group psychology, politics, mechanics, economics, social etiquette, and other practical arts with the same vigor we do with video games and applied our capabilities to things other than beating Dark Souls using a Rock Band guitar controller? Considering the incompetence of the people currently in charge, it’d be too easy. Not even worth the challenge. Very Easy Mode.

But that won’t happen, of course, because real life sucks and Dark Souls is awesome. That’s how we are. But back to the anime. In the alternate reality of No Game No Life there are myriad races in contention with one another and each of them has magical powers that they can draw upon to use to their advantage in the contests. All except humans, who are at the bottom of the barrel, bordering on being nonentities.

no game no life wisdom weak quote

Then they get eaten…

But being put at a colossal disadvantage against overwhelming odds is what old school games were all about. People still beat Battletoads and Ghouls and Ghosts and found a way to put a whuppin’ on an insanely overpowered Mike Tyson back in the day. Like everything else in life, you’ve just got to learn to spot and recognize the patterns and then exploit them.

One of the show’s themes is strength in weakness. Power and natural ability will give you a heady lead, but can quickly become a crutch when it comes to the long game. Those who earn their capabilities through untold hours of experimentation, research, and paying attention to the smallest details rather than just coasting on what they were born with are capable of a level of focus that the strong and gifted aren’t. According to Sora, “humans are stupid and lowly creatures”, but within that simple fact and the fact that we are capable of recognizing this lies a nearly infinite potential to get better and to keep getting better. Nerds get this on some subconscious level and as a result we don’t take any success for granted. We go all in.

In one of my favorite scenes from No Game No Life, the protagonists are challenged to a virtual reality game in the alternate universe that very closely resembles modern Tokyo from our universe. Upon arriving in what appears to be the real world, the two go full hikikomori and break down immediately, paralyzed by anxiety.

They were supremely confident in a fantasy world where they felt like life was just a game, effortlessly multi-tasking and running their kingdom like it was a game of Civilization, but as soon as they were put back into realistic surroundings, they melted into pitiful wretches incapable of doing anything with themselves. They have to remind themselves that it’s just a game with a setting that resembles real life like Persona, Stein’s Gate, or Akiba’s Trip (a scene complete with character cameos) to even be able to function again.  

no game no life shiro cry

The face when gaming starts reminding you of real life.

And that’s the paradox of gamer empowerment: even though we are fully capable of incredible feats of mental concentration and hand-eye coordination when it comes to fantasy fun, there’s something in our heads that simply will not allow us to apply this potential to real life. The uncontrolled chaos of human interaction is our kryptonite. Being surrounded by people whose actions routinely have no discernible rhyme or reason is too much for us to ply our trade as it triggers our innate anxiety, the annoying little brother of fear, the mind-killer. The best we can do is eke out a living faking it just long enough to get back to what we really want to be doing.

That’s not to say that lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of gaming aren’t applicable to real life. There’s this new time clock at my work that was placed right next to the old one. The old one has good old-fashioned buttons and the new one is a touch screen that doesn’t seem to work well so everybody avoids it and the frustration that comes with it. So every day at shift changes there’s a line at the old time clock while the new one sits by itself like a giant mousetrap waiting to ensnare the fingers (and time) of any fools who dare touch it.

A normal person sees the mousetrap and avoids it, but a gamer just sees free cheese and a challenge. If what we’re trying isn’t working, we try something else until we’ve mastered the problem. After a minute or so of playing around, I found that if I use only the tip of my fingernail rather than my fingertip on the touch screen, the new time clock works just fine, and now this gamer gets a free pass to the front of the line every day while everybody looks on, baffled. A little experimentation goes a long way, and looking at the big picture I may have just taken the first of many steps in bringing No Game No Life’s theory of gamer empowerment to fruition in the real world. Soon I shall rule this realm. See you in the White House, n00bs.

Time to Put the “Keep Your Politics Out of My Games” Fallacy To Bed

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Another week, another childish gaming controversy so silly it would have been taken as satire ten years ago. Right on the heels of Blizzard changing a female character’s victory pose in Overwatch from a classic over-the-shoulder gun pose that tends to show one’s backside as a matter of course to a reproduction of a classic pin-up pose in profile (which also has booty, go figure) as a response to complaints about sexualization and the usual over-the-top reactions to those complaints came the Baldur’s Gate expansion, Siege of Dragonspear, which traumatized some gamers with an extremely brief optional exchange in which a non-player character mentions being transgender.

I know, right? A transgender person in popular media in 2016? Simply terrifying. The real world suddenly seems so big and scary now that a video game world filled with monsters and bizarre non-humanoid sentient races also has stuff from real life. I, for one, am simply mortified. Oh, wait. No. I actually can’t imagine a single thing in the world that would bother me less. Why is it people care again?

baldurs gate transgender mizhena

Good job, Mizhena, you just ruined an entire game with four sentences. The industry will never recover from this travesty of writing.

Oh, right. The infamous “SJW shit” being shoehorned in. And written by an honest-to-goodness female, no less. NOW I’m pissed! Who are these female creatures to create and contribute to MY video games? Do they not realize how hard it is for me to get out my bed to play the game they worked to make and have to see people representative of the the world I live in who aren’t me? Some people just have no empathy.

In all seriousness, though, the primary complaint among the sayers of nay is an objection to the writer, Amber Scott, daring to put her own thoughts, feelings, and political leanings into her art. Or as they so clichely put it, “keep your politics out of my games”, as though the thought of politics in entertainment is some new thing just now gaining traction among radical thinkers.

Well, that’s a load of bullshit. I probably don’t have to point out that any statement that begins with “I have nothing against [race/gender/sexual preference/etc.] but….” is an inevitable cringe factory and has no purpose being in anything claiming to be an objective review, but just in case, humor me while I put this ridiculousness in a shallow grave, relieve myself upon it, and be done with it. You know, just in case you aren’t aware of how ridiculous this idea is.

Let’s just assume that the very existence of an individual of any given minority class in a work of fiction even qualifies as a political statement. Even if that extremely flimsy assumption were universally accepted truth (and if we’re accepting that then we’re also accepting the pseudo-feminist assertions that Donkey Kong is a celebration of patriarchal oppression since all things are now apparently political statements), it’s entirely beside the point. The harsh, inescapable truth is that personal politics always have and always will be an integral ingredient of any and every form of art. If you can’t divorce from your own biases enough to get over that fact, then you are divorcing yourself from a genuine appreciation of the finer things in entertainment. This is as true of Gamergaters as it is of Anita Sarkeesian.

greenwood baldurs gate transgender

White Knight alert! Turns out the entire fantasy gaming genre was just a subterfuge for the SJW revolution from the get-go. #GGTruth

A Christmas Carol? Anti-capitalist tripe. Portal? A post-feminist parable. Freebird? Faux-sentimental ode to male non-commitment. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Vegetarian propaganda. Bioshock? Totally jealous of Ayn Rand. Call of Cthulhu? Born of xenophobia. X-Men? Minority oppression much? Layla? Muh sanctity of marriage. Popular art and fiction of every type are fueled by human thoughts, feelings, and values. In other words: politics.

Not a lot of great works ever come into being without their creators putting their own heart and soul into them. Bob Dylan? George Orwell? Stanley Kubrick? Alan Moore? Joss Whedon? Johnny Cash? Would we know any of these people’s names if they didn’t create the things they wanted to see created from their own point of view, off-kilter political values and all?

I believe that some day, gaming developers will earn their place in popular culture among the legends of cinema, literature, television, and music, but only if we let them. It’s time for gamers of all stripes to recognize that whether or not you agree with the thoughts being expressed has no relevance to the value of the work itself. These expressions themselves are a vital part of what separates true art from the chaotic scribblings of toddlers.

So don’t go telling people with a straight face that artists shouldn’t be able to put the things they want to see into their creations. It’s a bad look for an adult. And gods help you if you can say something like that out of one side of your mouth while the other side claims to be anti-censorship. Point is: if an artist can put a shot of a girl’s ass into a video game, the same rights are afforded to a writer who wants to create a transgender character. You can’t have freedom for what you like AND freedom from what everybody else likes at the same time. It’s a two-way street.

When Ms. Scott was asked about her reasoning for putting a transgender character in the game, her response included the following statement: “I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s “forced” or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.”

steam review transgender baldurs gate

Remember all of those bad reviews for Skyrim carrying on about guards blatantly screaming disabled veteran rhetoric about how they used to be an adventurer ruining the entire game? Me neither.

As hard as it is to take anybody who uses the term “Social Justice” unironically (and as a proper noun, no less) completely seriously, you can at least admire the honesty there. If you’re going to create or contribute, do it unapologetically and openly or don’t do it at all. Honesty equals integrity.

On the other hand, if you’re saying you don’t have anything against LGBT people, but you express offense when a single one shows up in a video game you are playing, then there’s not a person alive who isn’t going to know you’re full of shit. Ditto if you claim to respect women and yet the only people in the gaming industry you feel the need to criticize this excessively happen to all be women in spite of the fact that they make up less than a quarter of the developer workforce.

So sorry, guys: no safe space for you. Reality is a thing and you can’t keep it out forever. Video games are increasing in both sophistication and diversity and no amount of poorly thought out Steam and Metacritic “reviews” that are nothing but semi-coherent off-topic rants barely fit for a message board are going to hold back that tide. Maybe if you speak honestly instead of making up fictional reasons why you’re offended, they’ll put trigger warnings in so your delicate sensibilities can remain unoffended. Probably not, though.

If we want games to continue to progress the worlds of interactive fiction and art to match and exceed other mediums, we need to give the developers the freedom to put themselves into their work without fear, and to do that we need to treat the medium and its creators with the same respect we want for ourselves and learn to tell the difference between our own problems and somebody else’s.

Criticism is fine, but it needs to be warranted and “keep your politics out of my game” is not a valid criticism or request any more than “stop liking things I don’t like” is. We all have our own preferences and the right and ability to indulge them, but we have neither the right nor ability to alter anybody else’s preferences and we need to recognize that and learn the difference between actually saying something and just making noise. And lately, gamers haven’t been saying much but they’ve been making a lot of noise.

dark souls boss

ACTUALLY, IT’S ABOUT TRANGENDERISM IN GAMES JOURNALISM!

Video games are fun for everyone, all sorts of people like to play them, and it’s a natural progression that as the means to create deeper worlds and characters would bring, you know, more depth. That means more nuanced ideas, more diverse characters, and more stretching of boundaries of all sorts.

If you’re going to let a little thing like traditional gender roles from the 1950’s hold back your enjoyment of gaming, then I wonder what kind of gamer you are. Getting past obstacles is our stock and trade, and as far as dilemmas go getting over fictional representations of transgenderism in fantasy worlds in order to enjoy a video game is no Dark Souls or Battletoads. When one approach doesn’t work, we try another and another until we find one that does, and this nonsense simply is not working. So let’s get past this level and move on to the next, yeah?  

Five Things That Make the Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo Worth Exploring

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Last week brought the final demo for Final Fantasy XV and with it came a lot of surprises. Instead of the standard chunk of gameplay, Square Enix used the game engine to craft a stand-alone story that would give gamers a feel of how the game would play and even give them a little something extra for when the game finally releases.  

This all-out approach at setting the latest triple-A JRPG apart  from the crowd makes sense because Square is truly going all out this time. Not only is FFXV going to be a video game, but they are producing a CG film and anime series, they brought in star vocalist Florence Welch for the soundtrack, and are generally making a big, big noise, claiming that the game needs to sell upwards of ten million copies to make its budget back.

That’s a lot of pressure and probably a bad gamble, considering only one game in the franchise’s history has ever hit that benchmark and the gaming world agrees nearly unanimously that the Final Fantasy brand ain’t what it used to be. Even a lifelong fanatic of the series like myself has very low expectations from this latest entry. But on the other hand: hey, free demo!

I went into the Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo having no clue what awaited me there. Honestly, I stopped paying attention to a franchise I once followed with a passionate dedication normally reserved to people who show up at Star Wars premieres in cosplay around the time they announced Lighting Returns (a game I have yet to play). By the time I was finished with the demo, I wasn’t ready to preorder just yet, but I was a little hopeful. If nothing else, this game is going to be….interesting. Here are five things that were showcased in the demo that caught me by surprise and made it worth my while.

The Sceneryfinal fantasy xv platinum demo landscape

I remember the first time I fired up Final Fantasy XIII on my Xbox 360 after a full generation away from the series. The beauty of it felt like it was going to melt my eyes. Since the 16-bit era Final Fantasy has always been the gold standard for RPG graphics, always a step or two ahead of everybody else. That may no longer be true as stunning graphics are now the norm, but FFXV is not slouching either.

What Square couldn’t do in graphical superiority this time, they made up for with creativity. The demo takes place as a dream of the main character, Noctis, where he appears as a child exploring various landscapes including a city, wilderness, and -most interestingly- a home in which you are reduced to miniscule proportions. You’re given mysterious switches to hit, crystals to collects, secrets to find, and plenty of room to run (or drive) around.Message from Square: his won’t be a linear corridor fest like most of FFXIII was.

There are some moments of awe near the beginning, such as when you step on a switch and trigger the appearance of a massive flying dragon which dwarfs the very landscape itself. Other switches alter the weather, give you items, summon foes, or even transform you, but most of my time was spent exploring nooks and crannies just looking at everything. In the giant home I found a book fort to my delight, took a few moments to enjoy the art and architecture of the city, and just had a genuinely good time taking it all in. By the end of the journey, I was well on my way to being sold on this “FFXV Universe” Square is hyping so much.

final fantasy xv platinum demo blocksThe Physics

If I nerded out maybe a bit too much while exploring the book fort, I went full toddler when I discovered the destructible environments. This was demonstrated in the demo when I jumped into what I assumed was an immovable structure of blocks and collapsed it. The gigantic home featured many such structures and it occurred to me that I must lay waste to all of it.

I knocked blocks off of tables, I rolled them into other block structures, and I generally toppled every topplable thing for twenty minutes. I took screenshots of myself amidst the ruins. I found more crystals within them; the bastards had been holding out on me. I’ve never played an RPG featuring this amount of interaction with the environment, and I can only hope that the full game utilizes this to its fullest extent, because I can see all sorts of fun, Angry Birds-esque possibilities for this mechanic.

It appears that the destructible environment physics will make its way into battle at least, as the demo’s boss is capable of laying waste to city structures with its massive sword and you are also able to use them to your advantage. More on that later..

The Weirdnessfinal fantasy xv platinum demo creature morph

One of the most underutilized and fascinating places for a story to take place is in dreams because literally anything can happen. Japan gets this in ways the West doesn’t seem to grasp (compare the lush metaphoric insanity of Paprika to the sterile land literalness of Inception) and this demo shows us that by embracing the weird and using it to demonstrate what I assume are going to be mechanics in the final game using things that could only happen in dreams (or video games).

So are we not going to talk about the fact that I turned into a car? ‘Kay. It’s cool. Nah, I’m not leaving this alone. I assume that this was just to quickly show off the driving mechanics that are going to factor into the main game, but at a few points in the house level you can step on a switch and turn into a car and just…you know…drive around as a car version of you. I was disappointed that I couldn’t roadkill the enemies, but it served as a faster way to explore the area, at least. It was definitely not the sort of thing I was expecting when I launched this demo, though.

In the city I was able to take the form of ox and antelope-like creatures and battle foes with hoof and antler too. Why? Why not? That’s why. Not sure what this is going to represent in the actual game, whether there will be playable animals or actual shape-shifting, but consider me intrigued.

I was a little disappointed that the story wasn’t more refined and complete with context, but I have a feeling that this standalone dream sequence will fit into the main narrative in an interesting way and make more sense when we finally get to play FFXV. But for the time being it was a very unusual way to showcase a game and I appreciate that. It made it nothing if not memorable.

final fantasy xv platinum demo boss iron giantThe Combat

This was shockingly the deepest and most interesting part of the demo, and perhaps the smallest. Most of your time is spent wandering and exploring (or perhaps toppling toy block structures), and the enemies you meet don’t really fight back, which is no fun. They’re pretty much there for target practice for the new magic system, where you hurl area-of-effect attacks at baddies like grenades. It’s not my favorite thing in the world, but it’s a different approach at least.

Combat is 100% real time, but lest anybody considers referring to it as “button-mashing”, you continuously attack by holding down the button, so joke’s on them. You can defend similarly and I can see timing and reading your opponents’ moves being very important to success. You don’t really get a taste of a real fight until the boss appears at the end, and then with a little experimentation, you can find that there is a lot going on in FFXV’s combat.

There is a switch that lets you spawn the towering, Dark Souls-esque Iron Giant boss as many times as you like, and I suggest you do so because there’s a lot to play with here. I did a lot of things and I’m not even sure how I did them all since the demo offers little instruction and the Giant isn’t messing around. My experience was pretty much “push a button and watch something awesome happen”.

There was a button that let me warp through the air to a structure so I could get above the boss and then fly back at him to deliver a mid-air combo and dodge (although he was capable of knocking the structures I warped to down, which was cool), I’m pretty sure I threw a kunai at him at some point, and there was even a badass limit break attack. And the different weapons had different abilities as well. For instance, the massive broadsword gave me the ability to actually block, parry, and knock back the gigantic knight’s attack. This may shape up to be the most exciting real time combat system in a RPG ever.

Carbunclefinal fantasy xv platinum demo carbuncle

A magical fox/unicorn creature whose squeaks manifest themselves as texts on your cellphone, complete with emoji? Didn’t I already cover the whole “dream weirdness” thing? Yeah, but Carby is an old friend -practically the only thing linking this story to the rest of the series- and deserves her (his?) own section here for two reasons. First, that thing is goddamn adorable and looks amazing. Second, they’re saying the only way to get her in the final game is to play the FFXV Platinum Demo.

That’s right, your guide through this dreamscape will be available as a summon when the game launches should you take the time to check out this fairly brief demo. And who wouldn’t want that? Look at that face! I don’t think there’s any visual image that sells the quality of these graphics like this little guy. If you want some Ruby Light on your side in September, make sure you get this sucker played by then.

At the end of the demo, you have the option to rename Carbuncle, which is a nice little bit of customization that may likely backfire if somebody gets a little creative with their crass humor without realizing this will be transferred to the final game, but that’s part of the fun.

Afterwards, Square goes all pushy car salesmen on us and asked you if you want to order the game RIGHT NOW! No, Square. Not half a year ahead of release with no incentives to speak of, thank you. They then let you know that you can go back into the demo and order it from there any time you want, hence the prominent “Order Final Fantasy XV” option on the main menu. Or you know, there are actual retailers and PlayStation Network and Xbox Live too. I don’t think I’ll have trouble figuring out how to order the game when and if I decide to buy it, Square, but I appreciate the thought. I don’t know that I’m 100% sold on returning to the Final Fantasy fold after years of disappointment, but if nothing else this demo was an encouraging sign that a great JRPG could potentially greet us in September. I’ll be waiting.