Is the Final Fantasy 15 Demo Update Worth Playing?

In a move uncommon to anything we’ve seen in the world of game demos, Square Enix released an update today for Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae, the playable slice of Final Fantasy XV that first launched in March. This latest version–released to address fan feedback from the original demo–feels like a full-on patch, adding a handful of new content to the roughly four-hour (if you explore everything) demo.

Last month, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata discussed fan feedback from the original demo, noting that the updated demo would address fans’ concerns. Players had problems with the targeting system and slow-moving camera, which hindered fluidity in battle. But after completing the updated Episode Duscae, I can comfortably say that Tabata made good on his promise and then some; in addition to the bevy of fixes, there are a few new missions providing new ways for Noctis to interact with his friends.

After installing the patch, the first thing you may notice about Episode Duscae are changes to the camera. In the previous demo, it ran sluggishly, making it hard to track quick-moving enemies as they darted on and off the screen. The update has rectified this; the camera moves more quickly and is much smoother, allowing you to whip it around in any direction to keep up with the flow of battle.

One element not present in the original demo was Cross Chains, the ability for Noctis to team up with one of his friends and execute joint attacks. In Episode Duscae, these attacks are introduced while Noctis is “On Tour” with one of his companions–which essentially means Noctis and a friend are off on a two-person side mission that will temporarily pause the main quest. In the first tour with beefcake Gladiolus, Noctis learns to use Cross Chains while slicing up some Garulas for their late-night sirloin dinners.

Cross Chains are essentially a small chain of quick-time events and are easy to master once you get the hang of the timing. Noctis’ companion will summon a gold circle, which he must enter in order to instigate the Cross Chain. After the companion lands a hit, it’s Noctis turn, and a successful Cross Chain occurs when Noctis and his partner take turns landing hits three times in a row, for six hits total. If you manage the seesaw-like execution and all six hits successfully land, the pair gets one final, powerful dual attack that will usually bring down enemies in an instant.

According to a message screen in the demo, when all four companions are on the field at once, they will all participate in the final attack of a Cross Chain, allowing them to kill larger, harder enemies like the giant pale blue Catoblepas roaming the watering holes of Duscae region (you know, those massive long-necked creatures you couldn’t engage with in the first demo).

There are three “On Tour” missions in Episode Duscae, one for each of Noctis’ companions. With Gladiolus, you learn how to use Cross Chains. Prompto takes you searching for mushrooms, and Ignis just wants some bro time stargazing. All three friends have their own Cross Chain attacks, making for some fun variation on the battlefield. When you first notice an enemy and the red detection bar appears at the top of the screen, one of Noctis’ friends may approach him to talk–for example, Ignis may come up and ask, “Want to hear more of my plan?”; these interactions will indicate which teammate will want to team up for Cross Chain attacks in that battle, so look out for his prompts.

But my favorite change is the overhaul of the targeting system. Originally, when locking onto an enemy, the camera would not follow them or keep the target in focus in the center of the screen. This has been completely changed, and now you can lock onto an enemy and expect it to stay in the center of your field of vision. It’s now easier to chase enemies as they dart around and move between targets

How you lock onto a target has also changed. Clicking R3 centers the camera in the direction you are looking at, but pressing and briefly holding R1 allows you to hard lock on to the target. A quick tap of R1 will also briefly target an enemy and bring them into focus in the center of the screen. It’s a much more comfortable way of targeting than the previous scheme, which mostly used only R3.

Noctis now has a dodge-roll ability, which can quickly get him out of harm’s way. The parry system has also been tweaked slightly; parry symbols appear above enemies as they charge you, and holding down L1 allows you to dodge and then parry with a strong attack. Previously it didn’t feel like you were given enough time to successfully execute a parry, but now you are given enough warning time to prepare the move. These two changes, coupled with the addition of more in-battle warp points–the top of rocks, mostly–have granted players more freedom of movement, opening up the battlefield for Noctis and allowing for some pretty sweet attack combos.

Other small changes to Episode Duscae include brief scenes of the boys playing around together. Controlling Noctis, I approached camp just as Gladiolus tackled Prompto into our tent and began beating him up. Ignis regaled us with tales of shooting stars while the company drank from mugs around a campfire. After slapping a robotic soldier away from me in combat, Prompto reached out for an ecstatic high five. These brief interactions between the four make their relationships feel stronger; I feel like I’m watching four old friends pal around, and I believe how deeply they care about each other. Each subtle fist-bump and shoulder-punch and pat on the back make Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus feel more real, more interesting, and I can’t wait to see what adventures they get into in the main game.

Also, at the end of each solo mission, you’re shown a cell phone selfie of Noctis and his companion. It’s sweet.

Does the second version of Episode Duscae live up to the promises Square Enix has made? I think so. We’ve got huge improvements to the camera and targeting as well as significant additions to the battle system, and with combat making up such a big part of Final Fantasy games, it’s exciting to see these cool systems play out. And with four main characters as visibly invested in each other as XV’s heroes, I’m optimistic for a promising story.

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Author: Alexa Ray Corriea

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Universal Music Group denies it colluded with Apple as antitrust investigation continues

Last month, The Verge reported that Apple had been putting pressure on music labels to get rid of Spotify and YouTube’s free music tiers ahead of the release of Apple Music, and that those tactics had garnered scrutiny of the FTC and the European Commission, among others. Today — in response to a subpoena — Universal Music Group has addressed the antitrust investigation for the first time in a letter to the New York Attorney General’s Office.

In the letter sent by UMG’s attorneys, the company admits that a joint investigation by the Attorney Generals of New York and Connecticut into whether collusion within the music streaming industry against free ad-supported music services has been taking place.

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Author: Micah Singleton

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After Halo Collection Issues, All Future Halo Games Will Have Betas

Halo’s debut on Xbox One was plagued with issues, as the Master Chief Collection players were subjected to problems that lasted for months after launch. Having gone through that, 343 Industries has vowed never again to launch a Halo game without first running a beta.

Speaking with Game Informer as part of its cover story on Halo 5, 343 head Bonnie Ross discussed the problems MCC experienced. She said that “the original pitch that we wanted to do was sort of a war chest. Ship all four games separately. Package them up.” But then the idea was broached to put them all together with a single user interface, something that the studio felt was “a magical experience when you can pull it all together and seamlessly move across games.” Ross added, however, that it was “very ambitious.”

Noting the challenge of MCC being 343’s first game for Xbox One, Ross said offering that kind of experience “definitely created huge challenges. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to ship the four games separately. And I think that fans would’ve loved that. We wanted to do more. We wanted it to be this gift to the fans.”

One lesson 343 took away from all of this is the importance of offering a beta.

“There is so much we learned with the Halo 5 beta,” she said. “There is actually stuff we took from our Master Chief Collection–learnings that we were able to put into the beta.

“Going forward, you will never see a Halo game coming out without a beta. It was obviously painful for our fans and for us. But it won’t happen again. There are things we put in place to make sure that we know everything, how it stands up outside and in the wild.”

Aside from releasing numerous patches in the hopes of resolving MCC’s issues, 343 recently released a remastered version of Halo 3: ODST‘s campaign as DLC. This was given away for free to those who bought MCC at launch.

We learned some new details about the upcoming Halo 5 today, including the fact that you’ll have AI (or co-op) companions throughout the campaign, and that the multiplayer mode will be supported with free maps.

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Author: Chris Pereira

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Snapchat makes logging in more secure with two-factor authentication

Snapchat’s making it a bit easier to keep your account (and all the snaps contained within) secure. The app’s most recent update on Android and iOS adds the ability to enable two-factor authentication. Once switched on inside the settings menu, login verification requires that you enter a 6-digit code upon signing in from any device you haven’t used before. Snapchat will text this temporary code to the phone number linked with your account, a popular security move that should substantially lessen the odds of someone hijacking or otherwise gaining unauthorized access to your account.

Once you’ve set up the feature, you can also create a recovery code to keep someplace safe in the event that you lose or somehow break your phone. The…

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Author: Chris Welch

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Destiny Gets the Trials of Osiris Game Mode as Standard Playlist

Those who have played Destiny‘s Trials of Osiris multiplayer mode in the House of Wolves expansion know how tense that game type can be. However, it does not have teammate matchmaking, and so players must enter with two friends.

In response, developer Bungie has made Elimination a standard playlist with teammate matchmaking enabled in Destiny’s Crucible player vs. player arena. This allows players to get the same game type as Trials of Osiris even if they don’t have anyone to play with or own the House of Wolves expansion.

As detailed on Bungie’s website, Elimination is a 3 vs. 3 mode in which two teams square off, each player with only one life. The goal is to eliminate the other team. Games are the best of nine rounds. Unfortunately, this game type will not have the same special rewards as Trials of Osiris, and instead loot will drop like other standard Crucible playlists. Level advantages, enabled in Trials of Osiris, will be disabled in this mode. Additionally, Elimination will cycle through all of the Crucible maps.

Recently, Destiny’s next expansion was reportedly leaked, titled The Taken King. According to the leaked details, it will contain a new raid, new strikes, and a new subclass for each Guardian class. The expansion is rumored to launch in September.

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Author: Alex Newhouse

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Witcher 3: New Gwent Cards and Pig Quest Coming This Week

CD Projekt Red, the developer of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, has announced the new free DLC coming to its game this week across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The open-world RPG will get a new quest and a modifier for the card game Gwent, which players can play in-game.

In the quest, players will take the main character Geralt into a town whose citizens disappeared. As the description states, “Geralt and a village idiot team up to learn the secret of an abandoned village inhabited entirely by pigs.” It sounds like a humorous take on an often bleak world. Players will start this quest by talking to NPCs who invite Geralt for food in the Lurtch village in No Man’s Land.

The other piece of DLC features an addition to the popular card game, Gwent. The DLC adds another card set to the game, neutral cards called “Ballad Heroes.” When a player starts a game of Gwent, the new cards will appear. The collectible card game has been popular among players, and recently the creators talked about the development of the game for the Witcher 3.

This is the latest in a series of sixteen free content packs planned by CDPR for the game. Last week’s DLC brought players an armor set and a crossbow set. The rest of the content will be released weekly through June and July.

The developer has also announced plans for more substantial expansions, the first of which is called Hearts of Stone. This pack will launch in October.

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Author: Alex Newhouse

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The entire music industry is just another feature of the iPhone

Apple spent a lot of time at WWDC heaping praise on developers — the middle point of the keynote featured a video celebrating all of the apps and experiences enabled by the iPhone and the App Store in the seven years of its existence. Neil deGrasse Tyson called the combination of apps and handheld devices “a watershed moment in civilization.” When Tim Cook announced that watchOS 2 would allow developers to make native apps for the Apple Watch, he told the crowd they would “change people’s lives.” Heady stuff, to be sure, but deserved — there’s no doubting the impact of mobile and apps on our lives.

Cook also said that Apple has now paid developers over $30 billion dollars since the App Store opened in 2008, which sounds like a lot until…

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Author: Nilay Patel

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