Final Fantasy XIII Part 11: Done!

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

Nearly two months and close to 60 hours later, I’m done Final Fantasy XIII. I’ll write up a general retrospective soon, but I wanted to get my impressions on Eden, Orphan’s Cradle, and the ending out of the way.

Gameplay

The last couple of chapters (and really, the last third of the game) were a bit of a slog for me. For all of the obvious issues with the game’s linear nature, a big upside is that it afforded more control over game balance. Even though I didn’t go particularly overboard on sidequests and never did anything I’d describe as grinding, almost everything after Chapter 11 (Gran Pulse) was easy to the point of just not being fun. I maxed out every character’s main three Crystarium branches before the last boss fight, so I have to assume I was over-levelled.

This came to a head in Orphan’s Cradle, in which most battles took the better part of five minutes (and I got perfect ratings on most!). It was a neat looking area, but man, I was not looking to grind through repetitive, frustrating (those goddamned Dagonites!), yet utterly unchallenging encounters. It had basically no story significance (why were they being randomly teleported into a cathedral?), and was stupidly formulaic. Xenoblade pulled some of the same “here’s a barely-contextualized enemy-filed zone” crap near the end, and it wasn’t fun either. I don’t get why these games were so obviously padded out — I can’t imagine many would have complained about a tight(er) 45-50 hour game.

I’d heard a lot about how challenging the game got near the end, but that wasn’t my experience at all. I settled on using Lightning/Fang/Hope upon arriving at Gran Pulse, and used the following paradigm setup (or something very similar) for the rest of the game:

  • COM-SAB-SYN (default if fighting a longer battle, especially after Hope learned Haste)
  • COM-COM-RAV (damage dealing/cleanup)
  • COM-SEN-RAV (chain starting/maintenance)
  • RAV-SEN-RAV (chain building — cycled between this and the previous)
  • COM-SEN-MED (light healing and chain starting/maintenance)
  • MED-SEN-MED (emergency healing/debuff cleanup)

It was a pretty conservative and often inefficient setup — I’m sure it could have been improved — but it got the job done so well that it didn’t really matter. This got me through Adamantortoise, Wladislaus, and Orphan’s first form without a single game over (though Orphan took over 20 minutes). I gave everyone Diamond/Adamant Bangles (900/1200 extra health) and Royal Armlets (15% damage reduction). Fang got the best strength boosting item I had, Hope got the best magic boosting item, and Lightning got an extra bangle so she (the party leader) wouldn’t accidentally get focussed down. Lightning had a Flamberge (balanced), Hope had a Eagletalon (magic-heavy), and Fang had a Glaive (strength-heavy). All were fully-upgraded second forms — the final forms required a level of dedication I didn’t possess. I know some of this stuff isn’t ideal for the post-game, but I don’t plan on going back.

Story

I wouldn’t be anywhere near as annoyed with this the gameplay stuff if the story had been going somewhere at the same time. Almost nothing that happened post-Palemicia (Chapter 9) really mattered at all. The l’Cie work out their differences, they know what Barthandelus is up to, they vow to stop him, and… nothing. Chapter 9 could easily have transitioned straight into Chapter 12 or 13 and barely anything would have been lost in the process. The character motivations don’t evolve, there aren’t any fundamental story twists, and there was very little character development.

I kind of expected that they’d take the Gran Pulse break as an opportunity to have characters open up, interact more, and maybe discover more about life on Gran Pulse before the war. Most of the story before the group came back together on the Palemicia was about characters working out their differences, coming to terms with their problems, and crystallizing their motivations. Some of it was a bit cheesy and melodramatic (in an endearing Japanese way), but it was a totally legitimate direction to take, and involved some nice arcs and interesting revelations. I can’t come up with a good justification for the way the story ran out of steam 2/3 of the way through. There was some later character development — like the scenes between Fang and Vanille, and the flashback to Serah and Vanille’s meeting — but it was fairly anemic.

With all of that said, I thought the ending itself was satisfying enough. The whole “don’t worry, the Cocoon crew weren’t dead, they just temporarily disappeared or something!” thing was kind of dumb, but hey, it’s a fantasy game, a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary (seriously!). Although some of the broad strokes of the ending had been spoiled for me because I’d seen XIII-2 trailers, I didn’t see Fang and Vanille’s sacrifice coming, which gave it a bittersweet quality. I would have liked to have seen more of what became of the world, maybe behind the credits or something, but it was implied well enough.

I don’t see myself playing FFXIII-2 anytime soon, but I will play it eventually. The combat system, in a tighter game with a better-balanced difficulty curve (both of which I understand XIII-2 addresses), is still fundamentally sound. I want to see more of the Fabula Nova Crystallis world and characters, and having some strong opinions about some of Final Fantasy XIII’s flaws, I’m curious about what XIII-2 changed.

#1 Posted by Hailinel (24974 posts) -

XIII-2 changes quite a bit, actually. While the core combat system is the same, the world is much more open to exploration, so you're not just taking one narrow corridor after another for the majority of the time. There are also multiple endings (most of which are "paradox" endings related to screwing up the time line in some way), a greater sense of world and character, and in general, it fixes most everything that people had problems with mechanically in FFXIII.

As for FFXIII itself, I really enjoyed playing it. Judging by your thoughts, I probably enjoyed the overall experience more, especially in the end, though I didn't level myself up to the point where I was tearing through everything with ease in the final area. I also had to resort to a silly trick to get through the final battle with Barthandelus. But even so, I thought he was an all right villain; mostly a prodding dick that gets angry in the end because Lightning and the others refuse to do what he wanted them to once he got them to the cradle.

#2 Posted by Pazy (2587 posts) -

I had a similar problem with the leveling, especially near the end of the game, where I always felt over-leveled. I was always waiting for the next tier to unlock and then I would dump in my points and either cap it or get 2/3+ the way through it. Im not sure why I felt so over-leveled since I only upgraded items and weapons on the save point before the Final Boss (at which point I had the money to buy/upgrade the best items and get second tier on all weapons). I found this weird since I kept avoiding fights to get the next bit of story faster, odd experience there for me.

#3 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

@pazy said:

I had a similar problem with the leveling, especially near the end of the game, where I always felt over-leveled. I was always waiting for the next tier to unlock and then I would dump in my points and either cap it or get 2/3+ the way through it. Im not sure why I felt so over-leveled since I only upgraded items and weapons on the save point before the Final Boss (at which point I had the money to buy/upgrade the best items and get second tier on all weapons). I found this weird since I kept avoiding fights to get the next bit of story faster, odd experience there for me.

Yeah, that’s pretty similar to my experience, except that I upgraded stuff on 3-4 occasions and generally didn’t avoid fights. It’s a battle system that’s fun if you’re challenged, but utterly mindless if you’re not. I suppose that applies to most games, but most games can’t be played by mostly pressing X.

It’s disappointing because I had a great time with the battle system earlier in the game.

@hailinel said:

XIII-2 changes quite a bit, actually. While the core combat system is the same, the world is much more open to exploration, so you're not just taking one narrow corridor after another for the majority of the time. There are also multiple endings (most of which are "paradox" endings related to screwing up the time line in some way), a greater sense of world and character, and in general, it fixes most everything that people had problems with mechanically in FFXIII.

As for FFXIII itself, I really enjoyed playing it. Judging by your thoughts, I probably enjoyed the overall experience more, especially in the end, though I didn't level myself up to the point where I was tearing through everything with ease in the final area. I also had to resort to a silly trick to get through the final battle with Barthandelus. But even so, I thought he was an all right villain; mostly a prodding dick that gets angry in the end because Lightning and the others refuse to do what he wanted them to once he got them to the cradle.

That’s what I’d heard about XIII-2 in a nutshell. It would be insanity to jump in so fast after playing XIII, but I do look forward to playing it.

Are you talking about the Barthandelus fight or the (in my experience way harder) Orphan fight? Orphan had an attack that took the entire party down to 1 health, another instant-kill attack, and an attack that gave each party member two debuffs. The Barthandelus fight was pretty quick and dirty for me, but the Orphan one dragged on for over 20 minutes and had a few scary moments, including that terrifying doom timer.

#4 Posted by Hailinel (24974 posts) -

@grantheaslip: Ah, yeah, it would be the Orphan fight. And Barthandelus fight? Well, you know how it is considering what happens after Barthandelus gets dropped in the cradle and merges with Orphan. But yeah, that Doom counter was crazy.

#5 Posted by Slag (4455 posts) -

Hey @GrantHeaslip !

Glad orphan was easy for you, I probably should have leveled as far as you did, I don't think I even had one role mastered when I fought him. And you were certianly better equipped than I. Wladislaus can be real problematic if you don't have high HP/DEF, but if you do he's easy.

I'm with you on the final two chapters. To me they were pretty disappointing and represented one of the worst endings in the FF series. I liked the strong opening cutscene 12 had but it just went weird from there. A long pointless slog through ch.12 and the the usual byzantine ethereal final dungeon FF games love to have. Unfortunately that sort fo thing comes standard in the JRPg genre.

By what really got me was how WTF the ending and lack of character resolution we got which is actually very atypical for a FF game. Normally they are pretty good at tieing it altogether in a way that's plausible to the game world. Not shakespeare but satisfying.That's why 13's ending was so weird to me.

The game had all this great buildup and interplay mid way through the game and virtually none of it was even referenced at the end. Sazh in particular experienced an almost criminal level of disregard after his arc. They basically just reduced him to comic relief.It's like they didn't know how to write anymore, or really any of them. And did anyone else wonder why the heck Fang and Vanille could do what they did and why they waited so long to do it?

I also felt the game did a pretty weak job of showcasing Barthandleus's motivations and abilities. The implied things this dude did were pretty amazing (rule and raise a whole world just to sacrifice it) but I didn't feel the story did him justice in demonstrating it. He just never felt as threatening as he should have been, at least the second form fight was really good.

They did try to address some of the plotholes in 13-2, but they almost made it worse if such a thing is possible.

So I think you see now why I said the middle of the game was by far the best imo. Which for me was enough to make me like the game as a whole.

re: 13-2 - I don't know when you are considering playing it but I just tried something different this time that worked well for me. After clearing FF 13 in December, I cleansed the palette a bit by playing Sleeping Dogs and Enslaved and Street Fighter IV, then I Started 13-2. I've never done it that way before (usually a year or so in between is what I do), but I really liked how it felt. A month or two in between was a nice time as it allowed the previous game to still be in recent muscle memory (and little touches to still be in memory) but also enough time for the new game to feel fresh.

#6 Posted by TruthTellah (9158 posts) -

@grantheaslip: Good luck with your retrospective! I remember talking to you in the beginning of your journey, and I'm glad you got some fun out of it. I appreciate your impressions of it, and while it's still one of my least favorite games of all time, it's always nice when someone can enjoy a game. :)

#7 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

@truthtellah said:

@grantheaslip: Good luck with your retrospective! I remember talking to you in the beginning of your journey, and I'm glad you got some fun out of it. I appreciate your impressions of it, and while it's still one of my least favorite games of all time, it's always nice when someone can enjoy a game. :)

I meant to write it this week, but it might not get done for another since I’ll be away. It was interesting playing such a divisive game, especially as my first game in the series — I really didn’t what I’d end up thinking about it.

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