Final Fantasy 15 on PC looks good. Actually, that's a lie. Final Fantasy 15 on PC looks great.
And it's been a long time coming. In March last year, game director the "big call" he and his team faced regarding a potential PC port of their then console-exclusive Final Fantasy 15. A month ahead of its console debut, the Crisis Core mastermind then suggested it could take upwards of 12 months for his latest work to land on desktops—if it were to arrive at all. An impressive tech demo powered by Square Enix's Luminous Studio Pro engine and Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti aired this year, suggesting Noctis et al might debut on PC sooner rather than later—and as something that's definitely happening.
"This is not a tech demo. This is a proper game," said Tabata on stage, before showing off the following.
Having spent an hour wandering around a small section of the game's Lucis kingdom—a single, interconnected landmass you'll explore on foot, by car, or on the back of one of the series' iconic flightless Chocobos—I can confirm that Final Fantasy 15 on PC is a proper game. At this early stage, it's also a very pretty one, assuming you're being propped up by an i7 6700 processor, a GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, and 4K resolution, such were the specs of the top-end system I got to grips with shortly after Nvidia's stage showing.
This isn't to say Noctis and his ragtag bunch of monster-bashing, tune-whistling, recipe-crafting followers won't look nice on less powerful setups—for what it's worth, I'm nowhere near these lofty settings on my home PC—it's just that getting either Nvidia or Square Enix to pass comment on FF15's minimum and/or recommended PC specifications proved more difficult than I'd hoped.
"Gameplay-wise, it’s the same game," Raio Mitsuno, the game's global brand manager, tells me. "Obviously we’re using a lot of tech from Gameworks so from a visual standpoint and a technology standpoint it’s the highest end version of Final Fantasy 15, but the gameplay experience is no different from console versions.
"We can say now that FF15 on PC supports native 4K and also up to 8K, as well as HDR 10. But we haven’t really revealed anything like minimum specs yet because we’re developing at such a high end which means we can’t really define it with current standards now. At some point we will publish the recommended and minimum specs, but we can’t say exactly what they are at the moment."
Akio Ofuji, FF15's global brand director, adds (as translated by Mitsuno): "Obviously when developing for PC we have to keep in mind the demographic and players that play on PC and what they’re looking for. From from a technological standpoint, we’re trying to meet their standards and obviously when we think about PC gamers we put in a first-person camera mode in the PC version.
"We’re doing stuff to cater to the PC audience and we hope that by appealing to what they’re used to, that’ll bring them into the franchise and make them into fans of Final Fantasy."
It's worth noting that I myself am already a fan of Final Fantasy. Like many western players, I was first captured by 1997's Final Fantasy 7, and thereafter tackled its forerunners in retrospect. I've played every main series instalment since and, crucially, have sunk close to 80 hours into its fifteenth entry on PlayStation 4. Needless to say, I'm already sold on FF15 and while it's by no means perfect, it appears Square Enix has made a great job of the JRPG's much-anticipated PC port that's due at some stage in "early 2018."
As the footage above suggests, Lucis' vibrant pastoral landscapes look gorgeous, facial animations look incredibly sharp, and enemy run-ins sparkle as you tear your adversaries apart with a succession of timely blows, bursts of magic, and cooperative takedowns.
Against my wholesome console tally, it’s also worth noting that an hour-long demo, as you might expect, barely scratches the surface of what a game like this has to offer. My time today kicked off with protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum—the Crown Prince and heir to the realm’s throne—positioned at a hearty experience level 27, alongside his similarly vital chums Ignis, Prompto and Gladious. Foes in the surrounding area tended to plateau at level 15, which made for some exciting if one-sided showdowns, and on the off-chance we got caught on the back foot our off-roading Regalia Type D truck was at hand to whip us off to safety.
I may've been retracing old ground, but from the demo’s opening sun-kissed highway—that serves to underscore the scale of the game's overworld—to my trek to the far-flung Disc of Cauthess meteor impact site; from my trip to Wiz's Chocobo Farm, to getting lost in the wilderness and facing off against (and quickly hightailing it from) a level 30 Iron Giant and four level 25 Reapers—Final Fantasy 15 already feels well at home on PC. You'll of course create your own stories, however my short time today reflected everything that made my first FF15 experience so enjoyable.
Combine this with FF15's unabashed deference to nostalgia by way of familiar theme tunes, retro sprites when assigning newly purchased armour, and teammates singing the instantly recognisable 'victory' melody in the wake successful battles, and those keen on the Final Fantasy formula should already be excited. I may have spent 3.3 real life days touring its highways, traversing its mountain ranges and being driven near crazy by colleague Prompto’s unreasonably irritating quips and bursts of song, but I'm looking forward to doing it all again, hardware permitting.
That last part is crucial, so much so that Final Fantasy 15's Windows Edition will live or die by its performance on lower spec hardware. It's all very well dazzling on top of the range equipment, but the average PC player doesn't necessarily have access to a 4K screen, 1080 Ti, and i7 processor combined. I'll press game director Hajime Tabata on this point when I speak with him later this week. I'm certain the success of his latest venture depends on it.