It’s been a long time since there was a core Final Fantasy game. Not counting the catastrophic MMO Final Fantasy XIV, various sequels and spin-offs, it’s been a solid seven years since the last real adventure. Want to know what else happened seven years ago? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Not the movie. The book.

Yeah, it’s been that long.

But Square Enix is prepared to unleash Final Fantasy XV this year. Gaming has changed a little since 2009’s Final Fantasy XIII, so how is Square acclimating to the new status quo? And exactly what’s Final Fantasy XV gonna be like?

What’s the story this time?

In a distant world like our own where people have smart phones and luxury cars but also swords for some reason, a few warring kingdoms have agreed to armistice.

On the day the Lucis kingdom’s prince, Noctis, is to marry Princess Luna of Tenebrae, the rival Niflheim nation breaks the peace with a surprise invasion. Their goal: to possess the last known crystal safeguarded by the Lucis and gain supreme power. Having escaped the attack, Noctis and his most trusted bros (and just bros, more on that later) embark on a journey to retrieve the lost crystal and vanquish the Niflheim empire.

And it’s a literal journey, because Final Fantasy XV is a road trip.

Why a road trip?

According to director Hajime Tabata, he wanted to explore the bonds between men, hence the story being a bit of a sausage party. “We’re designing it to be a road movie that you can experience as an RPG. You’ll feel the romance of going on a trip, and such,” Tabata said in an interview with 4Gamer (via Siliconera).

Though evoking Easy Rider and Bing Crosby movies is a left-field creative decision, the game will still look and feel like the Final Fantasy games you expect: Big swords, big monsters, and big hair.

So besides Noctis, who are the other guys? Can we play as them?

No, only Noctis is playable.

The other dudes are Gladiolus Amicitia, a brotherly figure to Noctis and is the heir to a noble family; Ignis Stupeo Scientia, a genius military tactician and Noctis’ childhood friend; Prompto Argentum, also a friend from a lower social class; and Cor Leonis, renowned in Lucis as one of the most powerful warriors who accompanies Noctis as a guardian.

Took me ten minutes to type that paragraph. Couldn’t have they been named Danny and Steve?

What’s the gameplay like?

The gameplay of Final Fantasy is a natural evolution of modern role-playing games. Dubbed “Active Cross Battle System” by its developers, the game ditches menu finagling in favor of more active combat. The games have been moving in this direction since 2006’s Final Fantasy XII but XV is taking cues from Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts.

Battles happen in a robust 3D environment — you can jump! And free run! — thus allowing a wider appeal. But Tabata told Gematsu that doesn’t mean the game is attempting to be “casual.” They’re developing so “that anyone can immediately be able to play it, however the game as a whole is not casual.”

What’s new to combat?

Magic is handled differently than most J-RPGs. Magic attacks in Final Fantasy XV are divided into two categories: One just for Noctis (There’s a reason: Noctis is an “Oracle,” blessed with powers after a near-death experience). The other magic, according to RPGFan, are “activated by special rings that, when worn, allow characters to manipulate elements in the environment.”

Unlike other games in Final Fantasy and most RPGs, magic will not cost MP. Rather, MP will be spent on special actions like warping around the environment or attack evasions.

So does the road trip aspect matter at all?

Yeah, actually! You can explore the world using the sweet car which looks like a black Lexus convertible or chocobos, which have to be rented.

And like real road trips, you need sleep, gas, and food. You’ll have to check in to hotels or make camp and fill up on meals, or else Noctis and the gang will be sleepless and hungry, resulting in weakened combat. That’s no bueno, especially since different kinds of animals and monsters will show up at night…

Wait, how can players buy food and gas and rent hotels and chocobos?

You ever play an RPG before? Side quests, son. You’ll encounter all kinds of people along the way who are in no shortage of help, and they all have deep pockets.

But even if they’re strapped, fishing minigames are a surefire way for Noctis and the boys to get some grub.

What’s the time relativity in the game?

One hour of playing in the real world is one whole day in the game.

The graphics look tight.

They’re more than just stunning. There’s a dynamic weather system which will dampen clothes and hair. We’re finally in the future.

There’s certainly way more underneath the hood of Final Fantasy XV, but we can wait it out: Tabata told Japanese gaming mag Famitsu (via Wired they’ll show off the final game this March, so we’ll get a better understanding of the next adventure then.

Photos via Square Enix