I took full advantage of the President's Day holiday by playing Final Fantasy XIII for about 6 hours. After dedicating what felt like an eternity grinding through the game (45 hours to finally complete the game, average for a Final Fantasy game) I just wanted to be done with it. Now, I will share my final thoughts. There will be unmarked spoilers ahead. I'm a terrible writer, so forgive me if it reads roughly. I just type thoughts as they come to me, and the final product is onl semi-coherent.
I was told a dozen times that the game gets better near the end, and it really opens up in chapter 11. I agree with both statements, though I don't think the openness in the 11th chapter is what makes it better. In fact, it was just confusing and boring. I worked through the first 20 or so quests begrudgingly (I did it for the sake of the Chocobos). I really didn't find the sidequests fun at all, they were nothing more than even more battles. I felt that the game improved once I moved past the open fields of Pulse back into the corridors. This time, though, the corridors were much more interesting. I enjoyed "exploring" (if I can call it that) Oerba and Eden. More so than the journey, this is when the battles became interesting. I was no longer able to button mash, I had to pay attention to what was going on. It is here that I began to appreciate the paradigm switching pleasures of XIII.
Worth mentioning also is the music in Pulse. For the most part, the game's soundtrack is underwhelming. This is important, as just about every game in the series has a memorable soundtrack. Until Pulse, most every song was recycled for each new set of corridors, and the music was more ambient than anything else; hardly memorable. This stands in contrast to previous games, where each new area, even the least important of forests, had a catchy tune. The different branches of the Pulse overworld had nifty songs that I enjoyed listening to, which was nice.
So, the story. WTF? To be honest, I feel like the story, and most every aspect of the world of Final Fantasy XIII, was overly complex. The story was just too hard to follow, and not interesting enough for me to make an attempt at figuring it all out. It got worse when I arrived in chapter 12. So much was going on at the same time, resulting in a headache. To the story's credit, it ended.
I want to take a moment to say how confused I am by the world of Final Fantasy XIII. First of all, I had no sense of geography for 45 hours of gameplay. Though I saw the planetary object that is Cocoon, I never actually felt like I was standing on solid ground. Part of the immersion experience of many games is a sense of place, be it an entire world, a city, or even the galaxy. Each area in Final Fantasy XIII felt like it was in a place completely removed from the last. I actually searched for a world map on Google, and what I found was not helpful (for some reason, I can't link it, but it's not really important).
Another piece of the world that I both dislike and am confused by is how... unnatural it is. I ca't grasp that these eidolons, which are apparently some naturally occuring thing, are all robots that can transform into vehicles. Maybe I can grasp it, maybe the gods of their world prefer to make robots, but I sure don't like it when Shiva turns into a motorcycle. That is dumb. I really just hated the over use of impossible technology. Oh, not to mention how overly ornate and impractical some of the stuff is. Barthandelus, why does your combat form have four female heads? I'm also quite sure that the Proudclad could not properly function as a battleship in any world, fantastical or not. The artists over at Squenix need to calm down.
I'll close my random thoughts on the game by saying that, of the Final Fantasy games I've played from beginning to end, XIII is my least favorite. I don't hate it at all, it's just my least favorite. For the most part, I enjoyed the game. It's just not as good as its forerunners.
Now, I'm moving on to Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy X in my quest to complete every game in the series. After X, the only main games that remain for me to complete are the first three.