By Sam Greer
We'll get to the title in a moment, I swear, but first a little context. Among the many huge changes that Final Fantasy XV makes to the classic Final Fantasy formula is a complete overhaul of the nature and range of weapons at the player's disposal. Traditional RPGs tend to box the player characters into defined classes, restricting the weapons available to them, but FFXV’s main man Noctis has access to a genuinely vast arsenal of weaponry - and boy does he know how to use it.
Going hand-in-hand with FFXV’s wider reinvention of combat, Noctis' arsenal offers an enormous amount of possibilities, and is designed around letting players experiment to find their own style. Swords of all sizes are available of course, each with their own movesets, but then there are pole-arms, firearms and even machine equipment like the Circular Saw. Even more await but what matters is the meaningful differences between weapons. The swipes and slashes of smaller swords lack the reach of something like a lance, which lets you strike crushing downward blows from the air, and neither compares to the crowd-smashing sweeps of the great-swords. The real magic comes when these characteristics are combined with Noctis’s other skills: warping in close with a flurry of daggers then zipping out, or dodging blows mid-air and slamming down with a lance.
Alongside this is a set of special weapons known as the Royal Arms, scattered throughout the world and collected from the tombs of past kings. And while they're powerful, the Royal Arms eat into Noctis' health, so over using them COULD end you up in a sticky situation, so use very carefully! Square hasn't revealed too much about them (hey, we’re not going to spoil everything) but each of these weapons possesses a distinct quality to set them apart.
What really matters is that, alongside this range, you’re not restricted to using just one weapon at a time. Four weapons at once can be mapped to the d-pad and switched between mid-combat or even mid-combo. A flurry of slashes at an enemy's feet with the Airstep sword might provoke an attack, which Noctis dodges by jumping high, switching to the Wyvern Lance, and landing with a powerful counter-attack. Intertwining these abilities makes for some dazzling visuals, and also gives players a chance to experiment without fear, able to equip and use new skills and weapons without putting the current favourites in storage. More than anything else, though, it gives FFXV’s battle system endless possibilities - the room to experiment and continue to find new combinations.
Finally, there is the cherry on the cake: Noctis's Armiger Arsenal. This is the young prince’s special ability, available at full MP, that allows him to summon a set of spinning crystal swords around him. The swords summoned are those found around the world (like the Royal Arms) and whizz around Noctis to make his mere presence deadly, while also boosting his damage and speed. The more swords you find, the deadlier this ability gets, and triggering it in the middle of a pile-on is the kind of sweet, visceral relief that only FFXV delivers.
If this rapid new pace of action sounds like a daunting progression from turn-based battling, then Square Enix has you covered. Not only are there standard difficulty options but, if the sheer range of Noctis’ abilities is initially overwhelming, the player can switch between ‘active’ and ‘wait’ mode in battle. Whilst active is completely real time, wait mode allows the player to freeze time between attacks and consider their options - letting you plan out the combination attacks and weapon switches, rather than running on adrenaline and instinct.
The new battle system is the framework of FFXV's ambition to put player agency at the centre of its RPG experience - but Notcis' arsenal is the literal embodiment of it. So much more than just a wide range of weapons and skills, it's an invitation to experiment and create your own fighting style in the world of Eos. Come November 29th, it’s on.