A Fun But Flawed Brawler
Making its jump to Playstation 4 from PSP, this action-orientated 3D fighter lacks the charm inherent in the Final Fantasy titles of old, especially in comparison to its original handheld counterparts. With such an emphasis on online play and an abandonment of local multiplayer, Dissidia relies far too heavily on its online servers which are fragile at best. There’s around 8 hours of single player content here if you’re lucky that predominantly revolves around grinding the same set of enemies repeatedly which does get old quickly. The sheer lack of explanation for what’s happening outside the tutorial system is the most frustrating element of Dissidia though and it’s here that new players are likely to have to persevere through to get to the fun elements of this 3D fighter. Thankfully, the battles themselves are frantic and chaotically presented and it’s here that Dissidia shines.
The UI is confusing and cluttered
After a brief tutorial introducing the core elements of battling, players are thrust into the world of Dissidia with a menu system giving little guidance or explanation as to exactly where to start or what to do. Naturally, most players looking for single player content will be drawn to the Story Mode. Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a disjointed experience with all content locked behind crystals obtained through grinding the core offline mode – Gauntlet. Although you can unlock these crystals online too, the offline mode garners more points and easier levelling, encouraging players to repeat the offline modes to maximise the number of crystals and get through the story mode quicker. The gauntlet mode sees a chosen team of 3 characters going up against 6 back-to-back battles against 3 enemies of increasing difficulty in a beautifully rendered and familiar arena recreating various areas from different Final Fantasy titles. Whether it be the blue neon-soaked Midgar or sun-kissed beach of Besaid, there’s a great visual variety in the various locations you’ll battle in. The points obtained through this mode allow your offline rank to level up, your player level to level up and also the chosen character to level up. The latter allows for extra abilities and move sets to change up the play style of your character which does help give a bit of variety during fights.
The various arenas have a great variety of colour used and look great
What begins as a fun journey through the beautifully recreated arenas and seeing the gorgeous character models quickly devolves into a grind-fest as you battle it out against the same set of enemies with your chosen character. The move set is relatively simple too with one button dealing HP damage and the other lowering the player’s Bravery (defence) to allow for higher damage to be done through HP attacks. Getting the balance right and understanding when to use which attacks when you start playing does take some getting used to but after a few hours, the battle system becomes clearer albeit at the expense of the clumsy UI. Mixing up the gameplay are character specific abilities called EX skills that range from buffing your team mate’s stats to dealing poison and magic attacks that help to turn the tide of battle in your favour. On top of this, Summons can be obtained through destroying crystals that appear on the battlefield that encourage players to come together in a cluster and can easily be the decider in tough battles.
There is a fair amount of depth to the fighting too despite Dissidia presenting itself as a bare-bones brawler on the surface. This fighter is surprisingly easy to pick up and play and the longer you stick it out and the more battles you take part in, the more understanding you have through trial and error with the various characters and mechanics at play. Frustratingly, Dissidia’s UI is confusing at best and although you can search for extra information online and get a better understanding in how to play the game and how all these elements come together, in this day and age it’s inexcusable that Square Enix haven’t provided this kind of content in-game outside of the basic tutorial system.
The story mode revolves around collecting crystals to unlock cut scenes and special fights
Dissidia boasts a plethora of characters from the illustrious history of the Final Fantasy franchise and thankfully they all feel unique and different to play. During our time with the game we tried out a number of different characters and every single one had specific strengths and weaknesses in the battlefield, handling differently and equipped with unique abilities. Whether it be Terra blasting enemies with magical orbs from afar or Cloud getting up close and personal with hard hitting sword attacks, trying out all the different characters and becoming accustomed to their play style is incredibly rewarding. What Dissidia doesn’t tell you when you first start playing the various modes is just how important team composition is. Loading your trio up with too many similar characters is likely to spell trouble and highlight weaknesses in your team with the key being to balance your team with a good variety of play styles.
Dissidia is the sort of game that rewards patience and perseverance through some of the questionable design choices. The horrendously vague explanations for how to maximise efficiency in battle, the importance of team composition and bare-bones single player content is disappointing to say the least. Hearing the same set of phrases from characters and Moogles gets old quickly but thankfully the recreated battle themes are excellent and go some way to dissipate the repetitive phrases. With such an emphasis on online play, the multiplayer component of the game is fun depending on the servers which are fragile at best. Sometimes you’re able to get a match within seconds but during our play time there were moments of around 7 minutes where we sat in the lobby waiting for players to join. In a single 45 minute online session, around half of that time was spent waiting for a game and this occurred frequently throughout the week. It’s particularly frustrating too as the battles themselves are likely to last minutes at best with the frantic 3V3 system and gung-ho tactics and hard-hitting attack most online players adopt. Unfortunately there were also times games were plagued with lag but a recent patch has softened the blow of this a little.
Summons and EX skills can frequently turn the tide of battle
Dissidia Final Fantasy is simply a flawed 3D fighter and whilst it does have fun moments, they’re fleeting and continuously ruined by questionable design mechanics and a clumsy, confusing UI. Dissidia is a tough game for new players to get into too and with a lack of rich single player content, the game can get repetitive quickly. When the servers actually connect you to a game, the online play is fun, chaotic and frantic and it’s here you’re likely to spend most of your time. The lack of local multiplayer certainly hurts the longevity of this title but outside the lacklustre story mode and repetitive single player content there’s a fun and chaotic multiplayer stuck behind lacklustre servers. The lifespan of this brawler simply comes down to whether players will have the patience to persevere through the issues plaguing this game.