Set to release on October 25th for the PlayStation 4 and Vita handheld, World of Final Fantasy saw its first playable demo on both consoles earlier today (EDIT: The Vita version doesn’t actually release until Friday. Sorry!). Without focusing on any form of storytelling, the “dungeon demo” instead walks the player through the game’s various particulars, like combat, stacking, Champions, and so forth.
I just spent about an hour or so with the PlayStation 4 version, so let me tell you a little bit about my adventure!
In a nutshell, World of Final Fantasy is a bit like Pokemon. It tasks you with capturing various iconic monsters from the Final Fantasy universe, called Mirages, in order to use them in battle. It also features a metric ton of Final Fantasy fanfare, with cameos from older heroes and the ability to summon some of them to battle; similar to the older Guardian Force or Esper systems in previous games.
The demo here lets you control Lann (the male) and Reynn (the female) as you make your way to the end of a linear overworld dungeon. You’ll meet up with the aforementioned Final Fantasy heroes along the way, like Lightning, Bartz, Yuna, Squall, Boko, Refia, Paris, and Cloud, though they offer little in the way of banter and mainly exist to hand over useful items or heal your party.
While wandering the dungeon, Lann and Reynn have the ability to change their size from Jiant (big) to Lilikin (small), and back again. This plays in to the game’s “stacking” mechanic.
Each of the two characters act as an independent entity, and each entity can consist of one small, medium, and large unit. Different captured monsters fall in to different size categories. For intance, a Chocochick or Moogle count as small, while bigger monsters like Behemoth and Arhiman are large.
How do you capture monsters?
They can be Imprismed during combat, though, unlike Pokemon, each monster can only be captured after certain criteria are met. Most simply need to be reduced to low health, but monsters like Moogle need to be healed with Cure, while Bomb needs to be attacked with a Fire spell, before the option becomes available. You can make things easier by using the Libra spell in combat to see each monster’s Imprism criteria.
So what does “stacking” even do?
When Lann or Reynn are in their Jiant (normal) state, they’re considered large units. This size allows you to “stack” one medium and one small monster atop their heads. Morphing them down to Lilikin drops them to medium size, which lets you stack a small unit on your head, while riding a larger unit, like Fenrir, Ahriman, or Behemoth, as a mount.
Stacking combines the battle statistics of all three units and gives you access to everyone’s abilities while in combat. For instance, I had Lann in Lilikin form (counting as medium) with a Tonberry as my small unit and the giant floating eyeball, Ahriman, as my large. This drastically increased my attack power and HP, while also giving me the ability to use their own personal attacks as well.
In addition to dealing damage, certain attacks (like Lunge and Cross Slash) have the added benefit of “toppling” stacked enemies. Unstacked enemies (and players, for that matter) attack as weaker, individual units and divvy up their Action Points (your resource used for abilities and spells), while also no longer benefiting from each other’s statistics. The idea is to topple stacked enemies and then pick them off one at a time.
The final encounter, for instance, is against the fire Esper Ifreeta, who is stacked with a Cockatrice and a Chocochick. I abused Lunge’s high Topple chance to unstack them, and then proceeded to pummel the Cockatrice and Chocochick before Ifreeta could restack them on her next turn. It was a fun mechanic to play around with.
Toppling isn’t very useful during a majority of the demo though, outside of the final boss encounter, but I imagine (and hope) it’ll be more detrimental in the actual game.
Combat is traditional ATB, so once a character’s turn arrives, you can select from a standard list of magic, attacks, items, and so forth. You can also summon Champions, similar to the way you could summon Espers like Ifrit or Shiva in previous games. You’re only given three “stars” during the demo, and each Champion requires a different amount of stars to summon. You also only have access to Tidus in the demo, who uses his Blitz Ace attack (complete with typical drawn-out animation sequence) to deal physical damage while negating the enemy’s defense.
Pre-ordering World of Final Fantasy will give you immediate access to the Sephiroth summon when the game officially launches on October 25th.
You can only have so many Imprismed Mirages on you at a time, with overflow being sent away to a storage unit accessible at save points. Even monsters not in your assigned Stacks will receive XP after combat, which was a welcome feature since most are captured at level 1 and the final boss is level 7.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that the demo is extremely easy and I never once had to grind for levels once I had a better understanding of the Stacking system.
According to a Famitsu article, World of Final Fantasy is meant to be more “carefree” and relatively easy throughout the first half of the full game. The main story is also estimated to be around 100 hours, not counting side-content or hunting down all 200+ Mirages. So it’s safe to assume World of Final Fantasy isn’t a simple spin-off, but being treated as a full-scale Final Fantasy experience.
I had a really great time with the demo, but I could tell from a graphical standpoint that it was made for the Vita and upscaled for the PS4. I’m fine with the look and feel of the game, given its light-hearted nature, but the environmental textures are extremely dull and I really wish I could have interacted more with the different Final Fantasy heroes. My excitement running in to favorites like Boko and Squall was immediately extinguished after being handed an item and told to go on my merry way.
I sincerely hope the full game has more memorable backdrops and makes better use of the heroes. At least World of Final Fantasy seems to have a great core in its Imprism and ATB combat systems, so that’s a plus. The functionality is there, but hopefully the narrative is given as much TLC.
Will you be picking up World of Final Fantasy next Tuesday?
Although I like what I’ve played, it feels like a game that I’d soak hours and hours in to on my Vita and not so much something that’d hold my attention on PS4. I think it feels so much like a more in-depth, story-driven Pokemon and I’m just used to having that type of experience on a handheld rather than my television screen. So if I do grab it next week it’ll probably be on Vita, but I’m still not 100% sure which version I’ll pick up.