Following the event Wednesday night, I joined many, many people in downloading and playing through the short new standalone demo for Final Fantasy XV.
My immediate impression: the game looks beautiful. But that's pretty much what I've come to expect from a mainline Final Fantasy title: great care is put into the look and, especially cinematic quality, of these titles.
The problem I run into is that I don't have a great time playing them these days.
Running around as young Noctis, you have essentially two combat options: attack and defend. Tapping versus holding the button changes how you perform each action and the d-pad lets you select which weapon or spell you want to use of the up to four you can equip.
The balance between quick sword attacks and slower hammer attacks felt off. The sword attacks did such little damage that I always opted for the hammer to kill the enemies quicker.
For a game that has built up so much of its marketing around the time the four characters spend in and around the car, the driving in this demo felt atrocious. Transforming into cars in the toy room section was a chore if the goal was anything other than driving in a straight line to get somewhere quicker. Maneuvering and reversing felt like I was controlling a tank. I hope the final game controls a lot better or at least has some kind of gameplay around it to explain why it controls so poorly (perhaps because there's more to the car than meets the eye - as show by the car turning into an airship at the end of the latest trailer).
For as beautiful as the game looks, I have serious concerns of how full of content it will be. Looking again at the toy room in this demo, there is so little to do in that enormous space. You could have cut the room in half and still had too much empty space to justify its scope. Final Fantasy XIII was much maligned for being so corridor-heavy that the open vistas shown off here seem a direct reaction to that complaint. But an open world without stuff to do in it is even worse.
If Final Fantasy XV is indeed about the journey these four characters are going on, I hope there's a focus on action and not the crazy long stretches of driving where nothing exciting happens. Because I've taken road trips from Phoenix to Michigan. I don't need that experience in video game form.
Unless there's an in-game Game Boy equivalent and I can play old Final Fantasy games while someone else drives.