I didn't do a Gaming Landscape this week because it was basically the same two games I'd been playing the past few weeks but one (sort of) new game I did start was Final Fantasy XIII. It's been sitting on my shelf for a few months and I had actually tried to get into it at the start of the summer but the game kept freezing at this one particular cutscene. So I skipped it and just watched it on YouTube and now it works just fine and I've been playing it since the weekend. Currently, I'm at the very beginning of Chapter 7 so these are my impressions as of this point.
I'll start with a positive. I like the combat system. Nothing too taxing has been really presented to me yet but I like the idea of a more action based combat system that allows for real time switching of roles and abilities without having to cycle through menus. This system helps make you feel really powerful even during the early parts of the game as you're going up against enemies with tens of thousands of health. The stagger system is also something I'd actually like to see return in some form. Now for some bad. Some of the options that have been in previous Final Fantasy games aren't here and it's simple stuff too. Manual control of each character, the ability to have all your commands that you've earned available to you at once, even the choice of picking which character you control, not here. Even if these features show up later, it's a little too late seeing as how I'm around 15 hours in already. Also, while I like the battle system, the question that I ended up thinking about was "Am I willing to give up manual control of things for a more streamlined and energetic approach?" The answer I came up with was "No". So despite me liking it, I'd rather not see it implemented in another Final Fantasy.
I like the Crystarium system. It's fairly simple and is a decent way to upgrade your character while doing away with normal EXP and levels. I do wish there was more freedom with it. So far, the upgrade paths offer few branching options so it doesn't really give you a choice to emphasize certain stats with some characters. A couple of things in the meh category: upgrading weapons just simply seems to work. I've upgraded my stuff several times and it works fine but I haven't figured out what items do better things for my weapon. I know some are worth more EXP but that's all I've figured out. Also, shops are kind of useless. You don't get a lot of money in this game but you don't really seem to need it. Why buy a new weapon when you could upgrade the one you have to greater effect?
Really though, my biggest concern is the story and pacing. I don't hate the story. I actually like some of the characters and the plot. I like Sazh and as far as annoyingly optimistic, childish, scantily clad anime women go, I've seen worst than Vanille. I also like Lightning since she's tough and stoic and not overly sexualized at all yet is still appealing for other more substantial reasons. Snow's kind of annoying though in his brashness. Also, Hope makes no sense. Lightning's motivation to go after the Sanctum doesn't make any sense as she just wants an enemy to fight for her circumstance but at least there some kind of logic behind it. Hope didn't make sense as soon as I started to control him. Despite seeing his mom die from falling off a bridge that was blown up by the Sanctum and Snow trying to keep her from falling, apparently, the blame is on Snow. What's more is this is enough for him to hijack a vehicle, go into a potentially dangerous situation, and even go after the Sanctum in a ridiculous revenge operation.
The game also seems to draw out its sections for too long. Ever since the group split up, it seems like the chapter could have been cut in half but instead are padded with random battle sections and roaming around that doesn't contribute to the story. It helps with learning the combat system but not to the extent the section lengths are. Overall, I'm still invested in the game, thanks mostly to the combat and Crystarium system. I'm just hoping to get to Chapter 11 quickly (and at some point play as Snow) as I've heard that's when the game opens up.