'Final Fantasy XV' changes combat to attract new players

Chocobos, away!!

Square Enix wants to take a popular game franchise and re-introduce it to new fans while evolving it for a fan base that is always clamoring for more.

“Final Fantasy XV” is ready to change how combat is done in their games. Typically, “Final Fantasy” games are designed in what could be considered a traditional Japanese role-playing game format (JRPG) where opponents take turns during battles, constantly stopping and starting.

With XV, developers are making the combat more fluid, more Westernized, with attacks that merge from one to another in real time and dependent on the skills of the player. The revamped system hopes to draw in non-JPRG players and maintaining the great “Final Fantasy” world and lore with which many are familiar.

At a Square Enix event in New York, I was able to get hands-on with a demo of “Final Fantasy XV.” I admitted out loud that I wasn’t a fan of JRPG combat and, by extension, not a devoted follower of the “Final Fantasy” franchise.

However, a quick tutorial and rather lengthy prologue cut scene set me up to take on the world. My very first task? Pushing a car that had broken down on a desert highway.

In the demo, I played as Prince Noctis, heir to the kingdom of Lucis and betrothed of Luna, a princess of a neighboring land. On the way, the car breaks down and has to be taken to a service station.

Without enough money to pay for repairs, Noctis and his three companions, Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto, are given a series of tasks to perform for compensation. Chief in those tasks is the elimination of creatures surrounding the way station in the desert.

Noctis works well with his party, combining attacks in real time for devastating impact. There are short battle cut scenes that showcase the teamwork, and it feels very much like a “Dragon Age” or “Mass Effect” type battle.

Fighting does tend to get a little visually frantic in tight spaces. Combat inside a shed left me wondering where the enemy was after each swing of my sword. But I felt like this was something that had always been missing from my attempt at enjoyment for a “Final Fantasy” game.

The creatures didn’t seem too tough when battled with a little forethought. I’m sure there will be more difficult monsters and dungeons along the way.

The world is expected to be an open one, full of exploration and adventure. During the short demo, I was able to complete a few missions and make camp, which opened up some other minor events, such as choosing the best photos of the day and making dinner with ingredients obtained from inside the game.

The storyline is laid out as one of four men who stick together through anything, including the pending nuptials. But it is the new combat system that is the most intriguing aspect of “Final Fantasy XV.”

Is it enough of a change to get people like me, who had always shied away from JRPG titles because of the combat layout, to give XV a try and potentially get hooked? Or will the change alienate longtime fans because nobody ever wants change?

“Final Fantasy XV” is scheduled for release on Nov. 29 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.