Square Enix knows that they make video games and not cologne, right? Someone should tell the guy coming up with the sequel titles. Nobody at the Tokyo Game Show knew what the twee “Duodecim” is supposed to mean. OK, it means “twelve” in Latin, but it’s not clear what relation that has to the second entry in Square Enix’s RPG-fighter hybrid series. Are the developers trying to convince us that the new Dissidia is so new and different that it’s the equivalent of 11 sequels? Probably not, judging by the stay-the-course attitude I saw during a hands-on demo.
The most notable addition that I got to see in the Dissidia Duodecim build at TGS was an optional “RPG Mode” that has players select menu commands to make their characters fight—a contrast to the direct, brawler-style controls of the first game. Dissidia reinvented Final Fantasy combat by taking its control scheme out of the traditional command-based structure; RPG Mode goes part of the way toward putting those controls back in the box.
Think of the new mode as training wheels. Dissidia has a steep learning curve, as it asks players to participate in fast-paced one-on-one combat while also keeping tabs on an interlocking system of HP, Bravery, XP, and other stats. In RPG Mode, the game automatically takes care of moving your character around and executing physical maneuvers, so you can concentrate on strategy. The action does still play out in real-time, though, so RPG Mode doesn’t strip away all the excitement.
This nod to beginners is probably a wise one on Square Enix’s part, but the heart of Dissidia’s fun still lies in its frantic marriage of stat-heavy RPG wonkiness with slick, arena-based fighting. During my demo, Duodecim played much the same as the first game, with one noticeable frill: a tag-team option that allowed you to call in another character for a brief attack.
There are, of course, new characters. Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII and Kain of Final Fantasy IV fame were playable on the TGS floor. And Square Enix strongly hinted in a trailer that Tifa would be joining the Duodecim cast, as well. There will almost surely be more. The game’s incorporation of Lightning is especially clever—the Paradigm Shift system from FF13 has been adapted for the Dissidia world, allowing players to shift the character between roles like Blaster and Healer on the fly.
Otherwise, the demo felt less like Dissidia 12 and more like Dissidia 1.5, but that’s not terrible news. The original game’s battle system was so fresh and unusual that it surely alienated a number of players who weren’t willing to put in the work (and it was work) to learn the thing. It seems that Square Enix’s plan with RPG Mode is to get more of their fans up to speed before developing the formula any further.