This past weekend, the open beta for the upcoming arcade-fighting game Dissidia Final Fantasy went live. Naturally, I dove into the beta and spent hours smacking around some of the most iconic figures in RPG history, and I’m happy to say that Dissidia is looking even better than when I gave it a shot at E3 last year, and will please shared fans of arcade fighters and Final Fantasy alike.
The Dissidia beta was done in an interesting way, one that I would be happy to see other games adopt for their own betas. The roster of playable characters would rotate after a set period of time, meaning players could try out a number of different characters at different times of the week. So while players in the first period got to try out Ramza (Tactics) and the Emperor (Final Fantasy II), players in the second period could try out Ace (Type-0) and Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII). Of course, you could be like me and play heavily during different periods to try everybody out, but for those without the time to do so, this was a nice way to let players try out exactly who they wanted.
Before we get to anything else, I want to talk about the once concern I had when I played the beta: the treasure system. After the controversy surrounding Battlefront 2 and Middle-Earth (which I didn’t find too troubling), the idea of Dissidia having a random box-esque unlock system was deeply concerning. I’ve since found out that treasures can only be bought with in-game currency, and that there are no plans for microtransactions to be included in the game. The treasure is simply a way to gamble on getting a costume or item you want for cheaper than it is in the game’s store (which again, is all purchased only through in-game currency received through playing the game). This is an enormous relief for myself and likely many others. While I don’t know how quickly currency can be gained to buy items (which will be a factor in how I view the treasure system in the full game), I’m incredibly happy to hear that Square Enix is using their own progression system that doesn’t rely on real money.
As a quick summary for the unaware, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT uses the rather original “Bravery System” as the main mechanic of its gameplay. Every character has two types of attacks: Bravery and HP. Bravery attacks increase your own Bravery (a number above your health that goes up or down depending on if you are attacking or taking hits), while HP attacks inflict damage onto your enemy’s health that is equal to the attacker’s Bravery. It’s somewhat difficult to explain, and it will take a few matches for newcomers to get a handle on, but I can’t emphasize enough that it’s a genuinely unique system that encourages a number of different playstyles in a way other fighting games do not.
The beta let players participate in online matches and the offline “Gauntlet” mode (single-player only), meaning you could try out the game with friends or on your own. I put a fair amount of time in both modes, and had a blast in both. While I preferred online battles (because they were quicker and more simple than going through Gauntlet mode), I had a blast both ways. Gauntlet is essentially a “ladder” mode where you fight a number of A.I. opponents of increasing difficulty levels, and I’ll admit that it got quite difficult in the final matches. Not being able to continue upon losing felt somewhat counter-productive, it was still a fun mode overall (and a faster way to level up characters).
Online is where things really heated up, as the 3v3 ranked matches were exciting, tense, and sometimes infuriating (when your teammates die repeatedly while you’re absolutely killin’ it). I primarily stuck to playing as Bartz (or “Butz” in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy V), and Cloud (Final Fantasy VII), but I managed to give the majority of the playable characters a shot. Cloud is definitely the easiest character to play as, which makes sense since he’s the first character a lot of people will try. Bartz was trickier, especially thanks to his wildly varied Bravery attacks. I liked that doing certain moves repeatedly raised Bartz’s “Job” level for that move, upgrading it to a faster or stronger version of the attack.
Each character played quite uniquely, as not a single character felt like a clone or a reskin. The Emperor’s moveset revolved around traps and ranged moves, while Cloud was more about getting close to smack opponents around. The movesets feel accurate to the characters and their stories/lore, so you really feel like you’re controlling the character you play as. No matter which Final Fantasy is your favorite, you’ll likely walk away quite pleased with how your chosen protagonist plays.
Online works quite well, as I only had a couple technical hiccups when it came to frame-rates and lag. Since this is a beta, I expect these sorts of bumps to be present, and I’m assuming this problem will be smoothed out. The majority of my matches were smooth though, allowing fast-paced and tense combat. Racing other players towards summon crystals is adrenaline-pumping, as a summon can change the tide of a battle when used correctly. While some summons seem to be better than others, (if I never see Leviathan again in my life it will be too soon), they aren’t game-breaking enough to decide a match’s outcome single-handedly.
My only real issue with the mode I played is that if members of your team get knocked out three times in total, you lose. There were a few matches where I didn’t die once, but another team member died repeatedly, sinking the match for the whole team. I’m assuming (and hoping) that the full game has strong matchmaking to ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen too often, as this system would allow less credulous players to throw matches rather easily. Otherwise, I had a blast in online mode, especially when spamming voice commands with my team on the loading screen.
Right now, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is shaping up to be a refreshingly unique arcade fighter that is filled to the brim with variety and content that longtime and new fans alike will adore. The character diversity means that there will be a main for any type of player, and the levelling system will keep players busy for hours upon hours to come. I’m incredibly excited to play Dissidia NT when it releases, and if you like Final Fantasy, you should be too.