Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood

A whole lot of Final Fantasy goodness

Recently, Square Enix came to Toronto to showcase their entire Holiday 2017 and Early 2018 lineup. It was an amazing opportunity to go hands-on with some of the biggest games releasing in the coming months. Included in the media showcase was Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.1 content, Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT, Monster of the Deep, and more.

Looking back over the last year, I have to say, Square Enix has been on quite a roll. Final Fantasy XV kicked things off with its excellent story and massive open-world featuring real-time combat. This past summer we also got Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, a fantastic remastered version of this classic adventure. Looking ahead, the high bar set by those games continues, at least from what I played during this preview event. Let’s take a closer look at Square Enix’s upcoming offerings!

Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood hairstyles

Final Fantasy XIV

This past summer, Square Enix released Stormblood, the third expansion to critically acclaimed MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV. This meaty expansion added new jobs, a new storyline, a revamped battle system, underwater exploration, PvP updates, and more. In addition to these paid expansions, Square Enix also releases regular free updates that add more content. I got to see what’s new in Patch 4.1: The Legend Returns.

The biggest update, at least in my view, is the addition of an all-new story arc and Alliance Raid. This raid will send you deep into the ruins of the Royal City of Rabanastre to uncover secrets about the Majestic Imperial Theatre Company. As someone who just spent his summer playing FFXII, returning to the region of Ivalice was quite a treat. While I played a demo of this raid in offline single-player, online supports up to 24-players. Perhaps coolest of all, the scenario was written by Yasumi Matsuno from FFXII and Final Fantasy Tactics fame.

Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Ivalice

New jobs available

I also got to spend some time with the two new jobs introduced in Stormblood: the Red Mage and Samurai. Each of them have their own unique mechanics to master, such as the Red Mage’s Balance Gauge. To balance this gauge you’ll need to carefully use your White and Black spells to achieve an equilibrium. Doing so will enable you to deal out a substantial amount of damage to your adversaries.

Next, I tried the Samurai who possesses a unique Sen Gauge. It can unleash three different effects that amplify your combos. These, in turn, will unlock three different weapon skills that are reach maximum effectiveness when used in a specific rotation. Both new jobs were fun and very interesting, and seem to have quite a lot of depth to them.

That was all I had time for during my demo, but was told of many more updates in Patch 4.1. These include new Scenario Quests, a new High-Level Dungeon, new Side Quests, and a new residential area to visit. There’s also a new PvP mode called Rival Wings, featuring 24-v-24 player combat with a completely new set of rules. It’s amazing to see such frequent updates to Final Fantasy XIV and the ever-increasing player count is also encouraging. If you’ve yet to experience this content-rich online Final Fantasy game, now’s the perfect time to come onboard!

Dissidia Final Fantasy XIV Noctis

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The next game I got to try was Square Enix’s much-anticipated upcoming fighting game, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. This fast-action fighting game features characters from throughout the Final Fantasy mainline series. This includes famous protagonists like Cloud Strife (FFVII), Cecil Harvey (FFIV), Terra Branford (FFVI), and Lightning (FFXIII). If villains are more your thing, the antagonists Sephiroth (FFVII), Kefka Palazzo (FFVI), and Garland (FF) are also included.

Combat in Dissidia is quite unique, pitting two teams of three against each other. Unusual for a fighting game, there are only two attack buttons used to deal damage. While this might sound limited, in practice I found the combat was satisfying and complex.

Your first goal in each match is to deplete your opponents’ Bravery, which acts like their protective shield. After you’ve emptied their Bravery meter then you’re able to dole out some serious damage. All this can be accomplished with attack combos and special moves—most of which doesn’t require complex controller motions. This makes the game very accessible, but at the same time mastering combat still takes a ton of practice.

Bravery attacks and classes

Looking at the types of moves you can unleash, they range from long-distance projectiles to up-close melee strikes. All characters possess Bravery attacks that you can switch between by pressing specific directions. The true test is knowing the range and power of your attacks versus your opponent’s, and deciding when to strike.

One other important I noticed as well: playable characters divided in different classes. These are Vanguard, Assassin, Marksman, and Specialist. These classes affect the characters’ play style, as well as their strength and weaknesses. Vanguards, as an example, are the tanks and possess the highest defense. On the other hand, Assassins are nimble and are able to execute the fastest combos. Marksman—as you’d expect—excel at long-range combat, and Specialists are entirely unique. Since Specialist don’t fit into any category they’re the most difficult to learn, but this unpredictability makes them challenging for your enemies to counter.

I spent a solid two hours with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and walked away very impressed. It’s certainly unlike other fighters on the market today, and the recognizable cast will surely appeal to Final Fantasy faithfuls. If you’re thinking about pre-ordering this exciting new game, Best Buy has a Steelbook version you might want to consider.

Dissidia Final Fantasy XIV Cloud

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV

Another game I got to try was Monster of the Deep, the latest expansion for Final Fantasy XV. This new PlayStation VR title expands on the fishing mechanic and lets you hunt monsters in full 360-degree VR. While I wasn’t sure what to expect with this game, the overall experience was very fun.

Monster of the Deep is, literally, exactly what it says it is: a Final Fantasy VR fishing game. As Noctis, the protagonist of FFXV, you’ll need to bait your hook and reel some in fish. Sea life ranges from your everyday trout all the way up to massive aquatic bosses you “attack” by aggressively reeling them in. All this is done in immerse virtual reality that puts you in the centre of the action.

In all, the demo lasted about 20 minutes so it’s hard to gauge what’s included in the final game. I can say it was a blast and I’m looking forward to seeing other monster you can do battle with. It’s also good to see Square Enix releasing what I believe is their very first VR title!

Monster of the Deep Final Fantasy XV

Secret of Mana

A great showcase overall

One thing is certain after attending the games showcase: the future looks bright for Square Enix fans. While there I also got a chance to try out Lost Sphear, a follow-up to 2016’s I Am Setsuna. Additionally, I played Secret of Mana, an HD remake of the SNES game featured in this fall’s Super NES Classic. Both games are coming along great and are expected to release early next year. Kingdom Hearts 3 wasn’t at the media event, but that’s another huge title we should be hearing more about soon. All in all, a great time, and lots of great Square Enix gaming to look forward to!

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