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Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is for fans with no time

A spoiler-free review

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I’ve owned the first three generations of the PlayStation, having only skipped the PS4 knowing that most of its games are also available on Windows. Well, emphasis on most since there were some great titles I missed out on that weren’t ported to PC.

For a while, one of those AAA games was Final Fantasy XV. Only recently had it been brought over to Windows — more than a year after the original release on consoles. This drought left me without my once consistent dose of Final Fantasy. (My last one was Final Fantasy XIII way back in 2009!)

But even with FFXV now installed on my beloved gaming rig, there’s another obstacle I have to deal with: finding time to actually play it. This installment in the series is an open-world role-playing game, meaning you get to play at your own pace by going on side quests and exploring vast plains outside of the main story, which also means this takes dozens of hours to complete.

So, how can I enjoy the rich story while still finding time for everything else in my life? There’s Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition for that.

If it isn’t obvious, this is the mobile version of the game, available on both Android and iOS. But don’t think for a second that this is some spin-off with mild references to the full-fledged title. You’re getting the full story on your smartphone — without all the extra fluff.

You could call this the abridged tale of FFXV. The main storyline — from main hero Noctis and his all-male crew riding in a fancy car to saving the world — is intact. You can finish the game and get the entire story like I did. You lose out on a lot of the fun side quests and open-world exploration of the original, but the developers managed to squeeze in as many mini-quests as they could to keep things interesting.

Playing the abridged version before the full game felt like a throwback to high school when I would read up on summaries of novels to save time for actually writing the book reports. It felt wrong during my entire playthrough, but it was either play the pocket edition or wait another ten years for the next FF to release.

FFXV: PE (let this be its name from here on) is divided into ten chapters; each one takes about an hour to finish. Since you’re stuck within the realm of the main plot progression, you’re at the mercy of the game’s own pace. Done with this area? Move on with the story. Want to check out another town? Tough luck.

The game still gives you access to maps, menus for equipping your characters with new gear, items to consume, and a grid for unlocking character-specific skills using Ability Points. All these, however, are parts of an illusion that make you think there’s more depth than there actually is.

You see, because you’re bound to a linear path, there aren’t many ways to play FFXV: PE (this abbreviation still feels too long). The items and equipment I end up with at the end of the game are likely to be near-identical to what you or a random friend of mine would have. Still, it’s nice to have some control than none at all. Acquiring a new weapon and seeing your stats go up is still as satisfying as on the original game.

The controls themselves are as simple as can be: tap or hold the spot you want to run to, swipe during battle to roll around, and choose from a selection of special attacks to end fights in style. The standard attacks are done automatically and your party members are on auto mode the whole time, so the play style here is to relax most of the time and enjoy the scenery.

Hold on… scenery? For a mobile game, the graphics are splendid. Having grown up with Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX on the first PlayStation, seeing this style of visuals is a welcome change of pace from the non-stop hyper-realism we’re forced to endure on practically all new AAA titles. With the exception of facial expressions being frozen in place, not once did I feel the graphics were unsatisfying.

You’re going to need a powerful handset, though. I tried FFXV: PE on a range of smartphones and it wasn’t smooth sailing for all. It was only on the Snapdragon 835- and 845-powered devices that I could max out graphics settings. To be specific, I could run the game on the highest settings with the Essential Phone, Samsung Galaxy S9, and Google Pixel 2. The game itself is well-optimized for all aspect ratios, no matter how wide or tall the screen happens to be.

In case you’re wondering: Yes, the original music and voice acting are all there, making this by far the best audio experience you can get out of a mobile title. Your merry crew will banter while running around fields, commands will be shouted during intense battles, and the beautiful musical score will play during cutscenes, inside menus, and while cruising around in their car, the Regalia.

It’s this audio-visual combination that makes FFXV: PE such a joy to play while alone and with headphones on. Even with the tiny screen of a smartphone, you’ll easily get lost in the world of Eos and all the lively characters that inhabit it. It’s only when the plot forces you into tight corridors and bland environments that you gradually lose interest. There were times when neither the new area nor story could sustain my attention.

Being an abridged version of a grand storyline, cuts had to be made. Even though I didn’t finish the original game on Windows yet, I could easily tell when conversations were cut short in order to progress the plot and transitions were hastened to maintain the mobile pace. Some were appreciated; others were not. A lot of drama and twists fell flat because there simply wasn’t enough build-up. When the credits started rolling, I kept wondering, What was the point of that character? and Did I accidentally miss a major plot point?

Asking those questions are ultimately my fault. FFXV: PE is meant to be played after completing the console or PC version first. It’s designed to retell the story of Noctis and his friends in a more casual manner, free from the grips of a couch or office chair. The only way everyone will be happy is if it launches for the Nintendo Switch. (Please?)

Unfortunately, for a mobile game, it’s quite expensive. Although the first chapter is free to play, you have to cough up US$ 20 for all ten chapters. Spending a little more during a sale can nab you the full game on Windows, Xbox One, or PS4 — and that would be loads better if you had the time to play it.

I’m now on the second chapter of Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition (FFXV: WE LOL) and I feel like I cheated on my book report. The progress so far follows what I already know, except the graphics are prettier and options are far more confusing. There are moments when I fondly look back at the simplicity of the mobile edition and wish I could go back to that.

Sometimes, cutting straight to the chase feels more rewarding.

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Toyota makes $1 billion investment in Grab

The ride-sharing company hopes to expand operations through the partnership

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Japanese car company Toyota Motor Corporation announced its US$ 1 billion investment plan for the ride-sharing app Grab last Wednesday. Toyota’s investment aims to improve Grab’s operations in Southeast Asia, particularly towards the app’s new features in GrabFood, GrabExpress, and GrabPay.

Grab officials stated that the investment improves their relationship with Toyota and provides better business solutions, as well. Both companies will look into new strategies towards vehicular mobility in Southeast Asia and better “online-to-offline services.” The investment also ensures that an executive from Toyota will be appointed in Grab’s board of directors, and a team member will be an executive officer in Grab.

The investment will also allow Toyota to integrate its services for driver insurance and maintenance. This means that Grab will provide incentives for its drivers to drive safely and to know when to have their vehicles checked. The two companies are also looking into the possibility of autonomous driving, although no plans have been made yet.

This is not the first time Toyota has provided financial support for the Singapore-based ride-sharing company. A year ago, Toyota funded Grab through its Next Technology Fund — an investment fund for artificial intelligence-based startups. The fund gave Toyota an opportunity to optimize the use of their cars for Grab’s services.

Source: TechCrunch

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Uber Lite app unveiled for entry-level phones with slow internet speeds

Launching first in India

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The list of Lite apps are slowly growing and the latest to get released is from the popular ride-hailing service Uber. The service serves both developed and developing countries, each with their own hurdles in getting the perfect experience. In the developing world, there are a number of users that still use entry-levels phones with slow internet connections. Uber wishes to address that with Uber Lite.

Uber Lite is the company’s way of reaching more people. It’s a minimal version of the main app that saves space in the phone’s storage, works on any (or most) network speeds, and, of course, runs great even on basic smartphones like Android Go-powered handsets.

The app is less than 5MB to download, which is significantly less than the regular app’s 181MB size. To achieve this, Uber had to cut some of the main features and leave only the necessities. Gone is the map that welcomes riders, but it’s still there as an option. Instead, the app immediately suggests nearby possible pickup locations based on the user’s GPS. There’s minimal searching on Uber Lite since it uses cache information before the phone went offline to know where you want to go.

The app is already available in India, which is one of Uber’s remaining markets in Asia after they sold their Southeast Asia business to Grab.

SEE ALSO: Uber sells their Southeast Asia business to Grab

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Government of India is considering a ban on WhatsApp Calls

Will this actually prevent militants from communicating?

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WhatsApp and many other Instant Messengers have been in the crosshairs with governments around the world due to the misuse of available onboard encryption. End-to-end encryption protects the user’s messages from snooping eyes, but at the same time, the technology has been abused by terrorists and criminals to protect themselves from law enforcement authorities.

According to NDTV, a meeting was held in New Delhi yesterday where the Home Ministry expressed its concern over anti-national elements in the country using social media apps to carry out their activities. It was highlighted that detained terrorists had revealed to the Jammu and Kashmir police that they were taking directions from across the border via WhatsApp calls during the Nagrota army camp attack in 2016, in which seven army men were killed.

The authorities have now expressed a desire to monitor social media apps including messaging apps like WhatsApp. Top officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as well as those from security agencies and J&K police, agreed that WhatsApp is “the preferred medium of communication for anti-national forces.”

It is highly unlikely that WhatsApp or any other major player will hand over the encryption keys to the government, hence the authorities are trying to bring these services under Indian jurisdiction by establishing new policies. WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is already in hot water after data of more than 50 million users was shared with third parties without consent. Telegram stood by its users and declined to share the keys with the Russian Government a few months back and the app has been banned in the country since then.

The authorities are also considering taking inspiration from Gulf countries like the UAE where VoIP calls are strictly banned over major players like WhatsApp. Currently, the officials are meeting with representatives of social media platforms for compliance.

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