Final Fantasy XV has been in development for nearly a decade; and as a result, has undergone a multitude of changes. But among these changes, what has transformed the most is the game’s combat system. First available to us via Episode Duscae in 2014, combat has changed in a myriad of ways throughout the various playable builds. Below you can find the major ways combat has evolved since its first public playable build.
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Episode Duscae gave us our first taste of FFXV’s combat, offering a glimpse at Noctis’ multi-blade fighting style. This early iteration focused on equipping weapons to particular instances of a combo. For example, you could assign a spear to the opening blow of Noctis’ combo, and then assign a sword to the flurry of attacks that followed.
Depending on the weapons you assigned to these particular instances in a combo, you could change Noctis’ fighting style in interesting ways. You could assign a Greatsword to your primary attack flurry, but open up your combo with a swift strike from your sword; or you could even equip Noctis with light weapons but use a heavy weapon for his air attack. This system emphasized experimentation, allowing you to mix and match different weapons to create a customized combo tailored to how you wanted to fight.
While this combat system was subtly altered with some minor balance adjustments via the Episode Duscae 2.0 patch, it was completely overhauled in the Platinum Demo. In that build, Noctis brandished multiple weapons, each with their own particular set of attacks and animations, and he manually switched between them mid-combo. Warp strike was also given a randomized damage bonus multiplier. The combat system in this build is the same as the final preview build of the game, albeit with small changes, such as a switching the lock-on button and altering the Armiger’s attack animations.
Weapons function similarly across all builds with each type retaining its overall feel and attack animations. However, slight alterations were made as the builds went on. Episode Duscae’s 2.0 patch added the ability to perform variations to a weapon’s attacks depending on the direction you were holding. For example, if you held forward, you could perform lunge attacks with your sword; or if you held back with the greatsword, you could do a charge strike. The Platinum Demo added more weapon types, allowing for more variety to the arsenal than swords and spears.
The final preview build implements these changes, while adding in enemy resistances that makes foes invulnerable against certain weapon types but weak against others. However, a major feature that didn’t make it to later builds was the Techniques from Episode Duscae, which were powerful special attacks tied to weapons in your arsenal that consumed MP.
Magic wasn’t implemented in Episode Duscae, but we did see it in the Platinum Demo, where it was showcased as a limited supply of items you could equip and cast against enemies.
While this has been retained in the final preview build, magic has been made more complex thanks to the spell crafting system, which allows it to be given special effects depending on the items you combine it with in the crafting process. For example, you can craft a lightning spell with a curse status effect that diminishes enemy attack power.
MP (Mana Points)
In each FFXV build, MP (Mana Points) are tied directly to Noctis’ warp blade abilities and evasive maneuvers. In Episode Duscae, evasive maneuvers, special techniques, and Armiger consumed MP. However, when the 2.0 patch was released, the game was updated to exclude guarding right before an enemy attack from consuming MP. These changes were mostly retained in both Platinum Demo and the final preview build with the exception of Armiger, which was given its own separate meter.
Using too much MP renders Noctis into a weakened state called Stasis; the only way to recover from this is by taking cover or warping to safe space. This constraint has been kept consistent across all builds, though, small changes have been made to balance it. Initially in Episode Duscae, you could attack in Stasis and you even recovered MP for an unlimited amount of time when hanging onto a point warp. However, you can no longer do either in both the Platinum Demo and the final preview build.
In the initial version of Episode Duscae, you could only defend yourself by getting into a stance that allowed you to phase through oncoming enemy attacks at the cost of MP. A much requested dodge roll was later added in the 2.0 patch, while slight adjustments were made to how much MP was consumed when phasing through attacks in the defensive stance.
As you fight enemies in battle, your attacks inevitably stagger them. In Episode Duscae, this weakened state was referred to as “Off-Guard,” however; it has been renamed to “Vulnerable” in the final preview build. This mechanic persists across all iterations; it’s an ideal opening for you and your party to deal a ton of damage.
A backstab mechanic called Blindsight has also been added to the final preview build; this gives you the ability to deal more damage to enemies when you hit them from the rear.
When Episode Duscae first launched, Noctis’ party would only support him with standard attacks. However, once the 2.0 update rolled around, you could perform Cross Chains, special cooperative attacks that could be performed when an enemy was staggered. Activating these attacks allowed Noctis and one of his party members to deliver a barrage of “link attacks” that led into a powerful finishing move.
Cooperative attacks have been updated in the final preview build to allow Noctis to trigger them manually. Each move can be leveled up the more you use it, increasing it’s overall effectiveness in battle; and there’s plenty more to unlock for each member in your party the further along you get. Your party’s initial attacks include the following: Ignis’ Mark ability sinks throwing knives into enemies, allowing Noctis to rapidly warp strike between those marked in one swoop; Prompto’s Marksman attack has him focus on a target for a powerful shot from his gun; and Gladiolus’ Tempest initiates a quick-time event that leads to him and Noctis landing a devastating blow.
The final preview build also adds in Link Strike and Blindside Link. These are special cooperative attacks that occur under specific conditions when you’re near an ally: Link Strike occurs just after a parry, while Blindside Link occurs when you’re behind an enemy.