If you were looking forward to some concrete info about Final Fantasy XV during today's Gamescom presentation, you were likely disappointed. In many respects Final Fantasy XV feels every bit as far away as it did last year.
In Square Enix's live conference, which was streamed over Twitch, we were given a new story trailer, a glimpse of a battle with a Malboro, and comparatively little else. We were told Lunafreya, the game's heroine, will be a "strong character." We were told that the battle system will be updated, that there will be another demo, and that the main villain will be male. Compared to what was shown even at TGS 2014, the new info was insignificant.
As expected, the fans are unhappy. The presentation has spawned a 44-page thread over on NeoGAF that has mainly consisted of dire predictions of a Holiday 2017 release. Kotaku ran with the headline, "We'll Be Lucky to See Final Fantasy XV Next Year." After close to a decade of empty promises, fans are treating anything less than hard information about a release date with deep skepticism.
And who can blame them? For all intents and purposes, Final Fantasy XV has been vaporware up to this point. Even the demo, released earlier this year, is being treated with skepticism, with some speculating that it is all Square Enix has built thus far. The fact that the gameplay shown at Gamescom looked quite rough hasn't helped matters any.
It was with much fanfare that Hajime Tabata took over the project in 2014. That news was followed almost immediately with a new trailer containing real gameplay, and a few months later, a playable demo. Tabata said that Final Fantasy XV was approximately 55 percent complete. A late 2015 release date began to seem possible, though some were pegging it for early 2016.
Then it missed E3 2015.
From the outside looking in, it seems as if Tabata and company may have bitten more than they can chew. In an interview last year, Tabata promised a western-style open-world RPG, and a few months later claimed that the entire game would consist of one seamless landmass. Such a game constitutes an enormous undertaking - Bethesda has been working on Fallout 4 since at least 2008 - and is fraught with technical hurdles. The ever-evolving demo and battle system offers some hint of the revisions that appear to be happening behind the scenes. Even airships appear to be on their way to being DLC.
On the flipside, Square Enix is following a script that isn't totally unique in Japan. It's not unheard of for a large publisher to release info about a big project in drips to publications like Famitsu. It may be that this "Active Time Report" was supposed to hype the story, and that more information will be forthcoming at PAX, culminating in a release date reveal at TGS. Yes, this is an optimistic view on things, but Tabata showed that he is capable of getting projects done in a timely fashion with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.
Given their track record, though, Square Enix is going to have to accept that fans are going to be skeptical about assurances that the project is on track. After a decade of waiting, fans have reached the limit of their optimism. For Square Enix's sake, here's hoping they'll have a release date - or at least a firm window - sooner rather than later.
Interested in more RPG coverage? Check out our weekly RPG podcast, Axe of the Blood God, updated every Friday.