Announced during the Uncovered: Final Fantsy XV event, Platinum Demo: Final Fantasy XV is yet more evidence that Square Enix likes to come up with terrible names. It's also a rather interesting glimpse into the inner workings of Final Fantasy XV, and provides a pleasant little adventure to boot.
As far as free downloads go, you can't really complain about Platinum Demo's runtime. Set over four separate environments, it'll take most of you around 45 minutes to see through, but those interested in the upcoming role-playing release will more than likely find various ways to keep themselves entertained for longer.
In many ways, this is a big, glorified tech demo - the kind that developers show off during press conferences while continually reiterating that it doesn't represent the finished product. Square Enix will probably be keen to mention that here, too, but it's safe to say that Platinum Demo is actually quite well realised. It feels polished, and manages to stand as its own small, quirky experience.
You play as a young Noctis, trapped inside of his own dreams as he's guided by Carbuncle - a Final Fantasy regular that takes the form of a fox-like creature. There's no real plot to speak of, though - any sort of narrative is used purely to string together the aforementioned series of environments, but the fact that the developer's thrown some context into the mix is appreciated all the same.
Scattered throughout the demo's four areas are yellow crystals that you can collect, and hoarding enough of them gradually unlocks tiles that are also dotted around each location. When stepped upon, these tiles alter the experience in some way; one might change the weather, for example, while another may transform Noctis into an animal or even a car, allowing you to mess around with various assets.
Admittedly, it all seems a bit weird, especially when trying to explain it, but it makes sense when you consider what the demo's trying to achieve. Again, this is a glorified tech demo - stepping on a tile that changes the time of day allows you to see the game's day and night cycle in just a few seconds, and altering the weather lets you catch a glimpse of the engine's dynamic capabilities. For anyone who's into exploring the systems and technology behind a game, it's undoubtedly intriguing.
With that in mind, it's abundantly clear that Final Fantasy XV is going to be an impressive looking release. From the particle and lighting effects to the superb sense of scale, Platinum Demo is a visual feast - it's just a bit of a shame that the frame rate isn't quite as smooth as everything else. Here's hoping that's not an issue in the finished game.
The only core aspect of the demo that we haven't mentioned is combat - but it's difficult to go into much depth on the matter because of how limited Noctis' abilities are. The title's first playable demo, Episode Duscae, had many fans worried due to a battle system that didn't feel particularly refined. Thankfully, Platinum Demo's offering fares better - at least in terms of responsiveness.
Combat still revolves around attacking and defending by holding down different face buttons, but it doesn't feel quite as janky as it did previously. That said, it still takes some getting used to: even though you can attack, defend, and dodge on command, it's becoming more and more apparent that Final Fantasy XV isn't going to be an action game - when you stop and take a good look at it, the system's almost like a turn-based affair that you have control over in real-time, as automated actions take precedence over things like combos and reactions. In a way, we suppose that it's a kind of evolution of the franchise's trademark Action Time Battle system.
Again, however, we wouldn't like to jump to any conclusions when combat's as toned down as it is here. Without a party at Noctis' back and with only a few different attacks at his disposal, it's near impossible to make a judgement on how this system's going to play out in the full release. It's something a bit different, that's for sure.
All in all, Platinum Demo: Final Fantasy XV is well worth a download, even if you're not a series buff. Seeing the game's technical side play out as you explore some nicely crafted environments is a decent way to spend an hour or two, and you also get to nab Carbuncle as a summon in the finished release. Fun for all ages, this is an interesting glimpse into a title that we're more eager than ever to finally play.
Have you tried Platinum Demo? What did you think of it? Has playing it had an impact on your excitement for Final Fantasy XV? Give Carbuncle a really stupid name in the comments section below.