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FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Ray tracing? Pah! That’s the past. Path tracing is where all the cool kids know it’s at. This ultra sophisticated version of the fancy lighting tech is still in its infancy, but a new demo powered by Final Fantasy’s 15 engine shows just how good it can look.

The above Back Stage demo is running on the same Luminous engine used in Square-Enix’s epic boy band road trip. It’s clearly been spruced up since because the level of detail and the fidelity of lighting in that video are insane. I don’t think I’ve ever seen video game skin as porous as the woman who appears in the demo… which I guess is a good thing?

Though the Back Stage demo isn’t currently linked to any specific game, it does give us an idea of what upcoming PC titles may look like in a couple of years. In a statement, Luminous Studios’ new boss Takeshi Aramaki gives more details on how Nvidia’s latest GPUs are making path tracing possible.

“GeForce RTX graphics cards have power beyond our imagination, and with Nvidia’s technology even real-time path tracing has become a reality. Together with Luminous Engine and RTX technology, we have taken one more step forward towards the kind of beautiful and realistic game that we strive to create”, said Aramaki.

Back Stage is running on Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti, so clearly you’re going to need a seriously beefy rig when this tech is actually introduced in a proper game. 

In the meantime, let’s all get lost in those ludicrously detailed, slight skin blemishes. 

Cheers, RPS

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

With the launch of its prequel episode and final bit of DLC, Episode Ardyn, that's Final Fantasy 15 over as of today. You can show off as flamboyant bad guy Ardyn Lucis Caelum in events set before the main game. It was meant to be one of a series of one-shot, character-focused DLC episodes, but lamentably the rest were cancelled. 

Because this is Final Fantasy 15, you can't just play the DLC; you've got to watch some backstory, too. Luckily, the Episode Ardyn animated prologue isn't quite as long as the gorgeous and completely rubbish Kingsglaive. Take a gander below.

Though it was cut short, Final Fantasy 15 had a good run. It does feel a bit incomplete, though, and not just because we never got to see all of the planned DLC. There are so many gaps, despite the abundance of ancillary stuff. Still, it was a heck of a road trip, at least when we were allowed to drive the car.

Episode Ardyn is available now on Steam for £8/$10. 

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Each Final Fantasy may feature wildly different settings, stories, characters, and combat systems, but there are a few elements that keep the series consistent. Magic, summons, chocobos, moogles, stupidly large swords, costumes laden with belts, and, of course, towns. These cities, villages, and other settlements give you a break from your adventure; somewhere to regroup, heal, stock up on supplies, and learn more about the world. They're usually the most memorable locations in each game, and here are some of our favourites.

Lindblum — Final Fantasy IX

Andy K: After the relatively understated, almost contemporary world of Final Fantasy VIII, the ninth Final Fantasy saw a massive shift in tone and aesthetic. Final Fantasy IX is chunky, colourful, and more reminiscent of the earlier, medieval-influenced games; a change exemplified by the grand city of Lindblum. What I always remember about this place is how big it feels. Towns in this series often seem curiously small, considering how many people are supposed to live there, but this genuinely feels like a vast, bustling, lively metropolis. It has an impressive sense of verticality too; you'll often see the rest of the city in the background, reaching high into the clouds. 

Nibelheim — Final Fantasy VII

Andy K: This remote mountain village is the setting for some pretty dramatic moments in Final Fantasy VII, including that brilliant flashback sequence involving Sephiroth and a young Cloud. Or was it Zack? Visually it's a pretty standard RPG village, but when Cloud visits again as an adult, the place suddenly turns sinister. The place was supposed to have burned down, but Cloud finds it mysteriously rebuilt, actors pretending to be the villagers who died, and cloaked Sephiroth clones mumbling about some kind of reunion. It's brilliantly creepy, making Nibelheim one of VII's most memorable locations.

Balamb — Final Fantasy VIII

Andy K: This idyllic coastal village is one of the most peaceful places you visit in Final Fantasy VIII. As you explore the cobbled streets you hear the waves lapping on the beach, perfectly complemented by Nobuo Uematsu's lovely track Breezy. It captures the sleepy, relaxed feel of a small seaside town and I love spending time here. The hotel is a standout location, with its curiously organic, art deco-style architecture. And, of course, Balamb Garden is just up the road, which remains one of the coolest locations in the series.

Lestallum — Final Fantasy XV

Samuel: This is the only area in FFXV's open world that just about counts as a town. As well as having a lovely marketplace and an outdoor cafe, its architecture reminds me of my holidays to small towns in mainland Europe, and it overlooks the meteor held by Titan at the centre of the world. I've got some affection for the tiny settlements along the way, but Lestallum is the only stop in XV's vast landscape that actually feels like a populated place. Altissia, of course, is very nice too—but since it's not connected to the rest of the world, exploring it feels a little more rigid. 

Deling City — Final Fantasy VIII

Andy K: With its wide boulevards, opulent hotels, and grand arches, it's clear Deling City is inspired by Paris. What I love about the art in Final Fantasy VIII is how it's contemporary, but with a subtle fantasy edge. You've probably visited somewhere like Deling City before, but the organic architectural flourishes and weird typography quietly remind you that you're in another world. After the relatively small towns of Dollet and Balamb, visiting Deling City feels like stepping into a much bigger world; and the Galbadian soldiers on the streets reinforce the idea of being somewhere dangerous, behind enemy lines.

Costa del Sol — Final Fantasy VII

Andy K: This beach resort seems curiously normal in Final Fantasy VII's world of magic and monsters, but that's one of the reasons I love it. After defeating Jenova on the Shinra cargo ship, this is your reward: a sunny, pleasant town to stroll around, talking to surfers, listening to that super chill music, and enjoying some well-earned downtime. I also like how if you return after Sephiroth has summoned his world-ending meteor, you can talk to the sunbathers on the beach and they reveal that they've decided to spend their last days on the planet drinking cocktails on the beach. Man, that's how I wanna go.

Narshe — Final Fantasy VI

Samuel: I'm partly picking Narshe because it's the opening location of Final Fantasy 6 and it's been 14 years since I played it, meaning my memory is a little fuzzy. Compare this snowy town to the simple locations seen in FFIV, though, and you'll see just how advanced Squaresoft's 2D art became during the SNES generation—the detailed frontage on each building gives them a lot of character.

Timber — Final Fantasy VIII

Andy K: Timber is probably my favourite Final Fantasy town. I particularly love that beautiful blue/green colour palette and how it feels like an old European city retro-fitted with strange, exotic modern architecture. I love the atmosphere too. It's a city under martial law, with the oppressed citizens quietly rebelling against the Galbadian occupiers. Notable locations include the offices of Timber Maniacs, a revolutionist newspaper, and the Aphorora Pub, where the drinks are all named after the chocobo greens from Final Fantasy VII.

Cosmo Canyon — Final Fantasy VII

Andy K: In terms of layout, Cosmo Canyon is one of the more unique Final Fantasy towns. The city wraps around, and tunnels through, a towering desert mesa, culminating in an observatory at the peak. Inside you find cosy shops, homes, and communal areas carved into the rock, and at the top you get a panoramic view of the night sky and surrounding desert. It's a fittingly dramatic setting for some of Final Fantasy VII's biggest plot reveals. The backstory of party member Red XIII, which reveals his origins, is great too—and kinda heartbreaking. And, as is the case with every Final Fantasy town, Nobuo Uematsu's music really helps define the atmosphere of the place.

Besaid — Final Fantasy X

Andy K: None of the towns in Final Fantasy X really make me that nostalgic, although I do love Besaid. This tropical island is your introduction to the world of Spira and has a similar laid-back feel to Final Fantasy VII's Costa del Sol. I think it's the music I love more than anything else. While some fans were initially concerned that composers other than Uematsu would be contributing to the Final Fantasy X soundtrack, Besaid Island by Masashi Hamauzu is a beautiful piece of music, bringing a lot to the island's atmosphere.

Rabanastre — Final Fantasy XII

Samuel: FFXII's opening city is vast-feeling compared to the truncated locations in something like FFX, XV or XIII-2. It's sort of a collision of Star Wars' Mos Eisley and an ancient Middle Eastern city—it's got a nice tavern where you take on bounties (the Sandsea), a little marketplace, and even a populated indoor region. On PC, with the textures cleaned up a bit from the blurry PS2 release, Rabanastre makes a spectacular first impression. 

Midgar — Final Fantasy VII

Andy K: You spend a good chunk of time in Midgar before you're set free on Final Fantasy VII's world map. It's a city of two levels: the 'plate' above, where the wealthy and privileged live, and the ramshackle slums below it. But the slums are the heart of the city: particularly Wall Market, a shopping and entertainment district where you challenge a wrestler to a squat competition and get tangled up in the business of Don Corneo, a local crime boss. Midgar is a perfect microcosm of VII's divided, polluted, and corrupt world, and the perfect place to introduce the eco-warriors AVALANCHE. When the plate falls later in the game, crushing part of the slums, it's genuinely devastating.

Treno — Final Fantasy IX

Andy K: It's always night in Treno, making it one of the most atmospheric cities in Final Fantasy IX. The ambience suits the fiction too: this is a divided city, with nobles living by the waterfront and the poor crammed into slums. I remember the first time I visited Treno and how different it felt from the other towns. The city is surrounded by a circular stone wall and has canals running through it, separating the upper and lower classes. There are a few important locations here including the auction house and the card stadium, although I can't say I ever enjoyed Tetra Master as much as Triple Triad.

Icicle Inn — Final Fantasy VII

Andy K: This winter resort town is the polar opposite of the sun-soaked Costa del Sol. Nestled atop a freezing mountain, the settlement is made up of a series of Alpine-style log cabins. I've always loved the way the warm light coming from inside the cabins streams out of the windows, making them feel like inviting, cosy little escapes from the chilling wind. Icicle Inn isn't as dramatic as some of the other towns in Final Fantasy VII, but it has its own special atmosphere. As for the snowboarding minigame, well, the less said about that the better.

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Episode Ardyn, the last of the Final Fantasy 15 DLC packs, is out on March 26, Square Enix has confirmed with the longest trailer of all time. Well, technically, it's not a trailer, more an animated prologue attached to a trailer, but it still takes a while to get to the bloody point. Scroll ahead to the 13:40 mark if you just want to see the in-game action. You get to play as Ifrit in Episode Ardyn, and it's nice to see this fiery summon making an appearance outside the game's brief finale. 

This DLC, set before the events of the main story in FF15, is going to be the game's last expansion. Fans might remember that around the time director Hajime Tabata left Square Enix, three further DLC packs were mothballed, so that the team at developer Luminous Productions could instead focus on their next 'AAA title'. I'd love to see what was left on the cutting room floor.

This, then, is the last gasp of a game that originally released in late 2016. Considering we're now in 2019, that's not a bad run for a singleplayer RPG. There's no mention of price, but the previous episodes cost $5 each on consoles. 

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Nvidia's GeForce RTX graphics cards are supposed to usher in a new era of gaming highlighted by ray-traced rendering and DLSS (deep learning super sampling) for better visuals. Not many games support one or the other yet, though the latest 'Game Ready' 417.35 WHQL driver release finally lets RTX owners enable DLSS in Final Fantasy 15.

The feature is in beta, and we haven't had a chance to try it out ourselves. According to Nvidia, players who own a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card can hit 60 frame per second at 4K with the quality settings maxed out and DLSS turned on.

"To enable DLSS, download the Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition update once available on Steam, open the in-game options menu, set your resolution to 3840x2160 (4K) and enable DLSS under Graphics > Anti-aliasing setting.  Then let us know your feedback on the first DLSS beta so we can continue to train and refine the performance and image quality of the deep learning network via future Nvidia software updates," Nvidia says.

Nvidia posted video attempting to show the full performance benefits of running Final Fantasy 15 maxed out on a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. However, it's only compared to a GeForce RTX 1080 Ti. We'd be interested to see how performance compares on the same card when enabling DLSS, versus turning it off. Anyway, here's a look:

Nvidia also fixed a handful of issues with its latest driver release.

  • [SLI][Titan Xp]: SLI is disabled by default after installing the driver.
  • [Titan V][Nvidia Control Panel]: The Workstation->Manage GPU Utilization page appears when it shouldn’t.
  • [Rocket League]: The game launches to a white screen with audio in the background and then crashes.
  • [Battlefield V: Day0 97][Ansel]: After being moved all the way to the left, the Ansel field-of view (FoV) slider stops following the click-and-drag mouse movement.
  • [Hitman 2 Silent assassin]: There is flickering texture corruption in the game. [Notebook][3D games]: Frame rate of 3D games may drop to under 30 fps on notebooks.

You can download the 417.35 driver release through GeForce Experience, or go here to grab and install it manually.

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Final Fantasy XV game director Hajime Tabata has left the company, Square Enix announced today. The revelation came during a livestreamed Final Fantasy presentation, which outlined the company's plans for XV's forthcoming DLC packs and the newly standalone nature of XV's multiplayer mode.

The news on the DLC front is surprising: three of the four announced DLC packs scheduled for release in 2019 have been canceled. Episodes concerned with characters Aranea, Lunafreye and Noctis have all been ditched, though the Ardyn pack – which focuses on the game's main antagonist – will still come in March 2019. "The Final Fantasy XV development team wish to thank all players who have taken this journey with them and will celebrate the experience with fans to the end," the publisher said in a statement.

On the topic of why these DLC packs were canceled, global brand director Akio Ofuji says the team assigned to developing them have been moved on to another "AAA title".

"A new company called Luminous Productions was formed, centered around the staff who had previously been developing the main game as part of BD2, and they have continued to work on the project since," he said during the stream. "The main purpose of establishing Luminous Productions was to create a studio that can deliver a completely new AAA title to the global market. The desire is to deliver this new AAA experience to everyone even a day [sic] sooner, and due to this directional change, the company decided to focus our resources on the development of this AAA title."

While the previously announced modding tools and Steam Workshop support have already been added, it's unclear whether the level editor is also forthcoming.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Final Fantasy XV's multiplayer component Comrades will get standalone editions on Xbox One and PS4, though no specific mention was made of PC. Later, it was announced that Final Fantasy XIV will get a special event designed for XV owners, which features Noctis in a quest titled 'Adventurer From Another World'. More info on that is here, but you can see the trailer for Episode Ardyn below.

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Square Enix has announced that Final Fantasy 15 is collaborating with Tomb Raider and Terra Wars, a spin-off from the mobile RPG, Terra Battle, and currently in development by Mistwalker. This brings players a new questline, new comrades gear, as well as in-game music.

Final Fantasy 15 is no stranger to collaborations—we've seen the gang show up in Minecraft, and Noctis risked messing up his hair by joining the ranks of Tekken 7. Here's what they're up to this time.

The first crossover sees Noctis join Sarah from Terra Wars in a whole new questline. The trailer, above, shows them stranded together in a mysterious location—with neither having any idea of how they got there. The questline is available to play now in Chapter 5.

Next up is the collaboration with Tomb Raider, which will let you dress up—well, your character—as Lara Croft with new avatar parts added for use in Comrades. Additionally, Tomb Raider music tracks have been added to the music player in the main game.

You can check out the details here.

Far Cry® 5

We know why blockbuster series ultimately exist: if the games remain good enough to their audience, they'll generally keep selling big numbers. And hey, we love a whole bunch of them, but sometimes a cooling off period can't hurt. Take Assassin's Creed, which was flagging after the release of Unity and took a break after Syndicate, but came back last year with the far better Origins. 

This week, then, we ask the PC Gamer writers this: which game series should take a break? Guest contributor Fraser Brown also kindly takes part. As ever, we want to read your answers in the comments too. 

Joe Donnelly: Sonic the Hedgehog

I should probably say FIFA, Pro Evo or Football Manager here, given the fact each annual iteration could probably be reduced to a paid-for patch. But I actually enjoy the ritual of buying each new game—and drawing a line under the previous one—each year. Call me daft in the comments. 

Sonic, on the other hand, could do with a rest. If Sonic Mania taught us nothing else, it's that Sonic can still be relevant and, crucially, enjoyable in today's market when it sticks to what it knows. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, admittedly, but who really wants more Forces, Runners and Boom and the likes? Not me. Put your feet up for a wee while, Sonic. Chill out. Let's keep things simple moving forward.

Wes Fenlon: Total War

I write this while being fully excited for the next Total War game, Three Kingdoms, but: I wouldn't mind waiting a few years between big, majorly improved Total War installments. With the launch of the Warhammer series, the Total War dev team has obviously grown to support the simultaneous creation of new historical Total War games and the fantasy spin-off. Now that the two exist side-by-side, we can expect one or more new Total War releases every year, and these aren't games you just blast through in a sitting. They're deep and replayable for months on end, and the longer they have to gestate with the community, the better the mods for them end up being. I'm hopeful that Three Kingdoms brings with it some major changes to a formula that's been starting to get stale. I'd be totally fine with a new Total War game coming out every three years and being a major event. 

Fraser Brown: Assassin's Creed, maybe

I’m in two minds about Assassin's Creed. Origins ended up being one of my favourite games last year, but everything that connected it to the rest of the series was crap. The Order of the Ancients, First Civilisation and Abstergo stuff just didn’t matter. It was a game about a loveable Ptolemaic sheriff solving everyone’s problems. Odyssey looks like another step in a new direction, pushing the RPG stuff even more and throwing mythological monsters into the mix. I’m actually excited about the series again, but it’s entirely in spite of them being Assassin’s Creed games. 

So while Assassin’s Creed definitely needs a long break, I’m equally keen to see more open-world RPGs that blend history and mythology, but free from all the bloat and convoluted narrative that has developed over the last decade. 

Chris Livingston: Far Cry

Since 2012 a new Far Cry has come along almost every year (if you include Blood Dragon and Primal). I think they're generally good, fun, entertaining games, though they have sort of settled into a comfortable formula. Maybe it's time for a major re-think, rather than just a new map, new setting, and some tinkering with features. Far Cry 2 was vastly different than the original, and 3 was different than 2, so it would be great to see the next one, whenever it arrives, really step away from the mold, even if it takes an extra year or two. 

Jarred Walton: Final Fantasy

Okay, I admit I've never really been into the Final Fantasy games, but when 15 launched on PC I gave it a shot. And bounced off it so hard, I can't even imagine how people enjoy the series right now. The prologue was this lengthy teen-angst-meets-soap-opera and made me care about none of the characters. I hear it gets better, but it's going to take a lot to get me to consider wading back in. Maybe it's time to live up to the "final" part of the name and give it a rest.

Also, every yearly sports game. Madden 2018, NHL 2018, FIFA 2018, and so on. Working on those yearly installments must require some serious passion for the specific sport which I lack.

Samuel Roberts: Halo

Halo has already been on a break of sorts, if you don't count Halo Wars 2. Three years have passed since Halo 5 was released on a console I will probably never own (unless my 360 breaks, and I no longer have access to older Halos and Red Dead), and Halo Infinite made a splashy but detail-free appearance at E3. I think 343 has a lot of reverence for the lore of Halo, and clearly some of its multiplayer innovations (like Warzone) have gone down really well. But it's missing something for me: a big, sandbox-y campaign, and it has been since Halo 3. 

I'm predicting Halo Infinite will be in the 'living' looter shooter vein of Destiny and The Division, based simply on the name and the current shooter trends. I'm hoping that when Halo finally returns to PC, they put more of those classic larger-scale exciting encounters in the game, along the lines of Assault on the Control Room from Combat Evolved, or the double Scarab fight in Halo 3. This is what the series was always best at. 

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

With the arrival of Final Fantasy 15's mod tools last month, the Steam Workshop is already rife with reskins of the game's four nice car boys and their weapons. While you've got the obvious transfers of popular characters from other media and game series, you've also got a few that tap into different elements of the characters (hence Ignis's chef costume above).

Here are just ten highlights we've picked out, but it's worth scanning the Workshop page to see the full range of weapons and reskins that the community has created. Special shout out to creators Jazneo and Kyriya, whose creations pop up more than once in this list. 

Gladio as a lifeguard

For all those Final Fantasy fans who have dreamed of Gladio rescuing them from drowning off of the Dorset coast after a failed scuba expedition (like no one I know), user Kyriya has created this lifeguard outfit. "Look ready to run down a beach in slow motion...and look good while doing it," goes the description. Indeed. 

Kratos from God of War

This creation by Jazneo is based on the classic God of War 3 Kratos design, rather than the recent PS4 game that's generated so many insufferable dad memes. Since you do basically go to war with gods at the end of Final Fantasy 15 (well, one), this seems appropriate. 

Spider-Man

There are a few versions of the Spidey suit on Steam Workshop, all by user Snacks: a mask-on version, mask-off variant and a black suit version, the latter of which probably fits Noctis's aesthetic the best. Much like that scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming where Peter finds himself in the middle of a field unable to use his web shooters, I'm not sure how useful Spidey's powers would even be outside the city of Insomnia in FF15, but the costumes do look the part here. 

Chef Ignis

Ignis's cooking is one of the best parts of FF15, and this skin by Kyriya allows you to take that to its natural conclusion. It's a nice-looking outfit, and the best part is you can combo it with Hot Sauce and rolling pin weapons, also made by Kyriya.  

Solid Snake 

User AaronTheSnob has created this fully rigged Solid Snake costume mod, based on an original model rip by MrGameboy20XX. He looks far too happy on that Chocobo for my liking, but hey, maybe Snake's more into human companionship these days. Snake can be combined with his memorable SOCOM pistol and a CQC knife as part of this mod pack.

Squall from Final Fantasy 8

Squall and Noctis are both unmistakeably Tetsuya Nomura creations, and this mod by Jazneo lets you swap one for the other. Mods also exist for Final Fantasy characters like Lightning and Cloud, as well as their numerous weapons.

Dante from Devil May Cry

It's been over five years since the last Devil May Cry game, and next year we'll finally get to play a new one. In the meantime, this mod by Jazneo captures the Son of Sparta as he looked in DMC4, complete with working physics on his coat when he moves. You can swap him in for Noctis or Gladio. For a really deep cut, you can get Dante as he looked in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne when he appeared as a guest character. 

Bahamut

I could never work out if FF15's Bahamut was actually a dragon or just a large man dressed as a dragon. In the case of Kou153's mod, there's no ambiguity: Noctis is cosplaying as probably the most famous summon from the entire series. I think it's a bit garish to wear on a road trip, but what do I know.

Freddy Krueger 

There's something about swapping FF15's affable chef for Freddy Krueger that I find mildly disturbing, especially when he's following you around at night. A Michael Myers mod is also available for Gladio, if you want more horror icons (who have mostly been robbed of their scary powers after years of dreadful sequels) in your crew.

Ignis cosplays as Ifrit

HAL's Ifrit outfit gives the mild-mannered chef a fiery makeover. You never really get to see enough of Final Fantasy 15's gorgeous summon creatures throughout the game, which seems like a waste, so dressing them up as such seems like the next best thing.

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Final Fantasy XV boasts one of the most memorable casts in not only a Final Fantasy game, but any video game. Ignis, Gladiolus, Prompto and Noctis are all lovable, but are they as lovable as the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers? 

Actually, yes. Much more so, to be honest. But what I'm getting at is this: you can now play Final Fantasy XV as the bloody Power Rangers, thanks to this incredible package of mods by modder Jazneo.

In addition to all four Power Rangers (you know, the blue one, the red one, the black one and the green one), each of their weapons are available, so you can cruise around Eos taking out foes with a power lance, a power sword, power daggers and more. Notice how all their weapons have "power" added to the beginning? Nice touch.

Cheers DSO Gaming

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