I think it’s fair to say that bundling a demo of Final Fantasy 15 with Type 0 is one of the best decisions Square have made in some time. With gamer’s eager to get their hands on a taste of the true next generation Final Fantasy experience, the question is how do both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One versions tack up, and what have Square Enix managed to show off in this demo?
FF15 uses Square’s Luminous Engine, which was originally seen to debut back in E3 2012, shown off by the tech demo known as Agni’s Philosophy, with the tech demo (as tech demos tend to do) pushing the visual boat out considerably, with up to 10 million polygons per scene and using a hefty 1.8GB’s of texture data. It’s important to note that the demo appears to be using version 1.5 of the Luminous Engine, but the full release is said to be shifting to version 2.0
Indeed, the games director has gone on record a few times and told everyone that this is a preview – a taste of what’s to come; we shouldn’t judge the final product based on purely on the demo. But for now, the demo is what we’ve got, particularly because the full game has so much time left in development – so what have Square Enix managed to achieve?
Neither the Playstation 4 or the Xbox One managed to achieve a native 1080P. The PS4 version is 900P, and the X1 is lower still (you’ll likely notice it on finer details, like hair, especially). Our counting puts it to around 1402x792P – which is far from ideal. Square Enix are targeting the finished product at a full 1080P, which will certainly help give the image a much smoother and detailed appearance.
The characters are certainly pushing less detail than the 2012 Luminous Engine demo, which gobbled up a lot of geometry processing – the characters were rendered using between 300,000 to 400,000 polygons alone. Final Fantasy XV uses ‘only’ 100,000 polygons, which is more like what we’ve seen in say Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886. To better put things into perspective, the still rather impressive looking FF13 used between 20-30K polygons total for its characters – the same number of polygons used in just the hair of a FF15 model. It’s not just the polygons that have seen a significant increase in detail, each model reaches up to 600 bones, 12 times that of the average previous generation titles.
Virtually every next generation graphical effect you’d expect to see is present, even up to and including dynamic day and night cycles. Coming back to an area at night and you’ll find various light sources such as sparks and explosions (or even the fire from your camp) helping properly illuminate the surrounding environment. It goes without saying that this means you’ll be seeing physically based lighting and shadow systems that do the job rather nicely. Weapons create beautiful particle effects, clothing sways and moves about correctly thanks to great cloth simulation – it’s all rather impressive, particularly some of the real-time cutscenes. Even hair moves and bobs about – though there are a few oddities here and there – most noticeable in the games opening. Your characters hair remains perfect, even when they’re lying on the floor. It’s a subtle nitpick – but one I feel is worth pointing out,
Speaking of dynamic lighting – there’s also some elements of dynamic weather too – the hunt for the Behemoth known as Deadeye will have you making your way into a canyon. After some time a light mist will start to appear, and you’ll find yourself battling various enemies as you try and search for your quest reward. It doesn’t take long for the mist to start to thicken, and eventually turn into the type of fog that wouldn’t have looked out of place in old London. The fog isn’t completely perfect – and doesn’t move about as your character runs in it (which is a little bit of a shame), but when combined with a rather impressive Depth of Field effect it creates a suitably murky area for you to prowl about in.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect, while the foliage is pretty impressive (and even moves some when you run through it) you’ll certainly notice it pop in in the extreme distance, especially in the denser areas; grass can also look rather flat until you get closer to it too. The Level of Detail is pretty good, particularly if you’re already in the middle of thick vegetation and thus can’t see too far ahead of yourself anyway, but if you’re standing on a high point and start running down into a valley, it’s hard to not notice the slight pop-in.
There are a few other concerns – including less than stellar anti-aliasing and texture filtering. On the subject of AA first, with Square Enix unable to get the demo at a full 1080P, no one would expect MSAAx4 – but the shader based Post Process AA is less than ideal. It seems to miss certain details on a rather frequent occurrence, and combined with the sub-1080P native frame buffers you’ll notice obvious stairing effects. An obvious example would be when you make camp – take a look at the rope running from the tent.
Switching to the subject of texture filtering… there’s very little. Textures aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. But sharp angles aren’t its friend, and really really bring down the beauty of the game several notches. It’s certainly a performance saving measure, but it’s lack of inclusion is sorely missed.
When we first started testing Final Fantasy 15 it was pretty obvious, just from eyeballing it, that the game was having difficulty hitting its target of 30FPS. Even the opening cutscenes seemed to pause and stall, especially on the Xbox One. Combat worsened this further and indeed, from our testing it would appear that Square Enix have quite some way to go to improve the frame rate.
The Xbox One combat can feel sluggish and awkward, leaving makes countering and general combat feel less precise than it should be. While the camera in the game (even on the PS4 version) certainly needs work, the lower frame rate makes things even more imprecise. The PS4 version of Final Fantasy XV regularly hits the mid 20FPS range, while the X1 hits the low 20’s several times… and both platforms have a tendency to put out their fair share of torn frames. Mercifully, tears typically happen at the top 10-ish percent of the screen, so if you’re focusing on the action, you’ll probably not spot them so easily.
While Episode Duscae has far to go, our ability to have an early preview of the game is a bonus, we’re effectively playing an Alpha version of the title. While there are performance issues (and resolution problems) in spades it wouldn’t be fair to judge this demo in the same critical manner as we’ve judged other titles which have had similar problems (we’re looking at you Assassin’s Creed Unity).
The title is an impressive taste of a next generation RPG that’s got a long time before its release to enjoy several more coats of polish. With that said, the PS4’s resolution puts out a total pixel count of 1,440,000, about 600,000 pixels shy of the native frame resolution of 1080P. The Xbox One is considerably further behind, and considering the frame rate issues plaguing both versions it’ll be intriguing if Square can hit their targets.
Until then, remember that if you bought Type 0 the demo was free and should be thought of as a taste of what’s to come, not the entire full course meal.