Final Fantasy XV's Comrades Beta Is a Fun Little Multiplayer Experience with a Big Problem

Take this blindfold off me, Square-Enix. I can't see my friends.

Analysis by Nadia Oxford, .

Hands up: How many of you played Final Fantasy XV and thought, at any point, "Gosh, this would make a great multiplayer experience?"

Yeah, that's what I thought.

I'm not morally opposed to the idea of a multiplayer Final Fantasy experience outside of Final Fantasy XI and XIV. I think it's possible to retrofit satisfying multiplayer options into games that weren't initially designed for them; Stardew Valley's multiplayer feature looks like it's coming along nicely, for instance. But when I heard about the Final Fantasy XV "Comrades" expansion that lets up to four players tackle challenges together, my reaction was basically, "Huh. OK."

Now that I've played the Comrades beta with Kat, my reaction is holding steady at "Huh. OK" levels.

We'll handle this, Noct. You take five and get sloshed.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. There's not a lot wrong with Comrades (not that it's flawless; more on that in a bit), but it's not riveting, either. It's not nearly as deep as Final Fantasy XIV, and there's little exploration to be had. The million gil question is, "Who is DLC for, exactly?"

I believe it's for people like Kat and myself – people who are down with playing a frankly mindless multiplayer experience for an hour while chatting about irrelevant things. After all, the DLC is free, but it'll almost certainly have in-app purchases. I can see people becoming invested in Comrades long enough to make a cool avatar, do a few missions, and buy a funny shirt for 99 cents. Even if the novelty wears off quickly thereafter, Square-Enix still makes a few bucks off a new mode built with pre-existing assets.

That probably sounds more cynical than I'd like. I enjoyed my time with Comrades, and I don't begrudge its existence. It's odd to think of a triple-A multimillion dollar game as an underdog, but Final Fantasy XV's charming characters despite its troubled development cycle makes me instinctively root for it. Square-Enix needs to do what it can to recoup the game's losses. At any rate, Comrades is a better free-to-play experience than Final Fantasy XV's mobile Clash of Clans rip off. At least the former lets you dress up your avatar as a rest stop store clerk.

Beware the Clerk's ultimate power: "Washrooms Are For Paying Customers Only."

All that said, don't mistake Final Fantasy XV's Comrades DLC for anything on the level of World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Call of Duty, or any other online experience that's been built from the ground-up. The combat in Comrades is extremely hacky-slashy, and the beta provides little opportunity for strategical fighting. Put simply, you and up to four friends use Final Fantasy XV's weapon-summoning mechanic to bash at enemies with a variety of weapons, and / or skewer them with warp-strikes.

That's right; weapon-summoning. Even though Final Fantasy XV established weapon-summoning as a power exclusive to the Caelum bloodline, everyone can summon weapons in Comrades. You get weapon-summoning powers! And you get weapon-summoning powers! Everyone is Noctis in Comrades!

The dissolution of Final Fantasy XV's story canon in this instance doesn't bother me as much as the fact all your titular comrades possess the same set of abilities. Square-Enix may shake things up for the official release, but in the beta, there's not a lot of room for strategy. As things stand now, there's no way for one character to specialize in tanking while a swifter, more MP-capable character becomes the party's magic-user, and so on.

"OK, who brought the dogs?"

Consequently, Kat and I did very little planning when we took on each of the beta's three missions. We just executed Final Fantasy XV's commands while gabbing about hockey, soccer, and ham (you had to be there). It might not have hurt to do a little more planning, since we did indeed die a couple of times. Really, though, Comrades' fights don't offer a lot of opportunities for strategy. They're essentially boss-rushes sprinkled with direct commands from time to time ("Protect the pylon!" / "Protect the truck!"), and Kat and I couldn't have possibly saved each other from death except maybe to point out, "I dunno, I guess you should've done a warp-strike up on top of that big rock and recovered your MP there."

Final Fantasy XV's Comrades DLC doesn't try to be Final Fantasy XIV, and that's fine. It's just a cheap, easy way for you to get together with a few pals (or some AI-controlled puppets, if you're unpopular) and beat up some of the monsters indigenous to the Insomnia landscape. And I'd be happy to sign off on this examination with a definite "Sure, give it a try once it comes out" if not for one problem: The game's match-making sucks.

Yeah, just attack the butt-end of that giant monster. Nothing'll go wrong.

The Comrades beta has at least two servers. You and your friends can fight together if one of you makes a password-protected lobby (referred to as a "camp" in the game) – but everyone must be on the same server to play together. When you start up the game, however, there's no option to join a specific server. There's no way to pull in friends from your friend lists, either. Kat and I kept having to shut off and re-join the game in hopes of being united on the same server. If Square-Enix doesn't streamline lobbies and hook-ups for the final release, Bahamut help anyone who wants to play with four friends.

The beta for Final Fantasy XV: Comrades shows off the bones of an OK multiplayer experience. Yeah, it's as shallow as a mud-puddle, but sometimes puddles are fun to splosh through. If Square-Enix overhauls the match-making system and adds in lots of fun goodies for making cool avatars, I believe Final Fantasy XV's multiplayer feature will keep fans engaged for a couple of pleasant afternoons.

If you have PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold and a Season Pass for Final Fantasy XV, you can give the Comrades closed beta a try for yourself from today through August 8.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for riderkicker #1 riderkicker 6 months ago
    Cute feature but wow, GTA and FFXV are taking up a lot of space on my hard drive with their steady stream of updates that are otherwise superfluous to a majority of players.
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  • Avatar for marathedemon #2 marathedemon 6 months ago
    The problem is that this isn't FOR anybody. It's just a half-baked answer square Enix came up with in order to make a more "western" game. Because every triple-a western game needs poorly thought out multiplayer.
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  • Avatar for swamped #3 swamped 6 months ago
    Yeah how does that work? The Caelum royals can share their powers with a few chosen subjects but I'm pretty sure that doesn't extend to the Armiger. I thought that's how your party could use magic or whatever. Although I wouldn't put it past Noctis to go through the whole game just refusing to share his powers. LOL.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #4 AstroDemon 6 months ago
    I have at least one friend who I will try the Comrades DLC with. We're always wishing that more open world games that we play had this option.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 6 months ago
    If I still had the game and knew anyone else who liked it I would totally play this. Sadly neither of those hold.
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  • Avatar for erashetty1 #6 erashetty1 6 months ago
    In India all needs Govt Job. You too? Is it valid? yes! Yet, how would you land that Govt Position? Continuously land alarm of Govt Positions opening. ICSE Date Sheet 2018
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  • Avatar for Stickid #7 Stickid 6 months ago
    I have a few thoughts in response to this article, the main one being that I don't feel it gives comrades enough credit where credit is due (though it under explains things so one could be forgiven for oversimplifying the experience). This paired with the fact that no credit is given to what's been confirmed to be coming on the game (on FFXV's website) makes the article feel a bit misguided to me. Below are many of the things I felt this article missed in its examination of Comrades and it's more-than-meets-the-eye experience. And Btw, the "Everyone get's weapon summoning" thing does work from a lore perspective, but you've gotta watch Kingsglaive to know why/how so again, that's easily forgiven.
    Though the beta only lets the player mess around with four weapon types, there is still variety and strategy in the new sigil system, which allows your avatar to specialize in certain kinds of combat. It does this by altering not only stats but also the way the three new spell types manifest (these spell types being shield, heal, and attack). For example, the Sigil of the Tall prevents the player from healing themselves, but in exchange makes their attack and health stats go through the roof, and gives them an offensive buff spell in exchange for healing. Additionally, you could pick the Sigil of the Oracle, which decreases one's health and offensive abilities but in exchange allows the player to have more mp and have a more powerful heal over a wide area of the battle field, making them the perfect white mage class. These sigils help to expand on the player's ability to help one another (as well as equipped weapons which also let you alter your spells and abilities, such as being able to cast fira or thundara), but even without them the potential for strategic combat and teamwork still very much exists. The shield spell is a particularly unsung hero, as it allows not only you to be impervious to a frontal enemy assault, but also anyone standing behind the shield, meaning if an ally has particularly low hp, you can literally stand in front of them and shield them. Just as well, if your character possesses the ability to heal, you can heal not only yourself, but also people standing immediately near you, meaning you can heal your endangered allies. Not to mention we will have more unlocked weapon types and sigils in the final release, as well as more polished combat, so it seems to have the potential to be pretty strategic to me...Edited August 2017 by Stickid
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #8 MetManMas 6 months ago
    Well it is a beta. For all we know what starts off as some mission mode with crap matchmaking could end up becoming something more like Grand Theft Auto Online, assuming there's a big enough base of players supporting it.

    Don't get me wrong, I know there's plenty of people who aren't thrilled with GTA Online (particularly 'cuz it put the kibosh on single player DLC plans), but love it or hate it taking the big expensive sandbox and using that giant world as a setting for all kinds of crazy multiplayer modes was a smart (READ: LUCRATIVE) move on Rockstar's part.

    Given how much Final Fantasy XV cost to make, maybe Square Enix will do the same with it.Edited August 2017 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #9 Roto13 6 months ago
    @riderkicker I wanted to try the recent update, but I realized that the game isn't installed on my new PS4, and it will take ages to download all the updates, so I didn't bother.
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