Final Fantasy XIII Part 7: Battles, villains, and music

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

I’ve played through to the beginning of chapter 10. Arriving in the Fifth Ark threw me for a loop, since for whatever reason, I had it in my head that chapter 10 was when the game opened up. The Palamecia, while a cool setting, felt padded out and light on story. I like the combat system, but there were a bunch of combat areas on the Palamecia that felt like MMO zones to me — giant areas filled with re-spawning enemies. In the absence of side missions and secondary objectives, fighting through hordes of identical enemies just fees like busywork, and I’m concerned too much fighting is going to leave me burnt out too early. It happened to me with Xenoblade, and I don’t want it to happen here.

Despite that, the combat remains engaging, and I feel like I’m still learning new stuff and evolving my approach to battles. Now that I’m constantly fighting with three-member parties (and in chapter 10, allowed to change party members), I’m no longer hamstrung by the limitations I was running into when stuck with fixed two-member groups. Synergists and saboteurs are starting to come into their own in longer battles; I’m getting a better handle on when and how to use sentinels, especially now that I know they come with a guaranteed damage reduction and lesser reduction for party members; and I’ve come to optimize my use of commandos and ravagers — sometimes using a few commando hits to slow the gauge, bombing the chain gauge up with RAV-RAV-RAV, continuing more (depending on health and what their stagger threshold is), then switching to COM-COM-MED to finish them and heal up.

The battle system feels satisfyingly rhythmic when you’re fighting effectively. Ideally, everything has a proper time — you’re renewing buffs as they expire, healing when there’s an appropriate lull, trying to push the enemies into stagger when the party is in appropriate condition, and keeping the timing of dangerous attack patterns in mind so you’re not hit on a bad footing. When you mess up, it feels awkward and desperate, and when you’re nailing it, it feels smooth and effortless.

Barthandelus was a great boss battle in this respect. His difficulty level was such that I couldn’t afford to screw up, but when I died, it was my fault for getting greedy. If you weren’t healing, buffing, defending, and bombing at the appropriate times, he punished you for it. The one weird thing about that fight was the fact that his charging attack reset his chain gauge. It felt a bit cheap, as the game teaches you to focus on staggering enemies then makes staggering him kind of pointless. It’s entirely possible that I just missed something or was under-leveled — I got a zero-star rating on it.

One more thing about Barthandelus: I was a bit disappointed when the villain (at least for now) turned out to be a old, condescending Pope-looking man who can summon giant robots — it feels a bit too obvious and easy. I liked the way the game had no obvious, evil-for-evil’s-sake villain for the first 9 chapters. There was no clearly-defined end goal, and no easy solution to their problem. The Sanctum’s fear of and zero-tolerance policy toward l’Cie was fairly justifiable, especially with the populace on their side, and I thought that made for an interesting dynamic. I suspect there’s going to end up being more to this (please don’t spoil anything), but at least for now, having such a cliched villain is a bit of a let-down.

P.S. I think I may have just spoiled something fairly major by googling Barthandelus. Vague spoilers have been an unfortunate side-effect of writing these articles.

Music

It’s been a while since I’ve listed some of my favourite pieces, so here’s some catch-up. I’ve made note of more, I just don’t want to blow them all at once:

  • Can't Catch A Break. I like jazz music, so maybe I’ve got my own reasons for liking this piece, but I’m a big fan of this and Sazh’s theme. They’re give Sazh a very distinct musical calling card, and are a nice change of pace.
  • The Vile Peaks. This fits the area very well. In tonal shift and musical influences, it kind of reminded me of Ocarina of Time’s Fire Temple theme.
  • Lightning's Theme. I love the way various tracks in the game play with the same melodies.
  • March Of The Dreadnoughts. I can’t figure out if I’ve actually heard this in-game. I think I have, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Regardless, it’s a great piece — it conveys a great sense of adventure.
  • Chocobos of Cocoon. Look, I’m not going to claim I like this, but I like that it exists — it’s just so endearingly earnest. When it started playing (and even more-so when the vocals kicked in) I thought “ugh, here we go,” but it melted my cold, icy heart.
#1 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

I’ve played through to the beginning of chapter 10. Arriving in the Fifth Ark threw me for a loop, since for whatever reason, I had it in my head that chapter 10 was when the game opened up. The Palamecia, while a cool setting, felt padded out and light on story. I like the combat system, but there were a bunch of combat areas on the Palamecia that felt like MMO zones to me — giant areas filled with re-spawning enemies. In the absence of side missions and secondary objectives, fighting through hordes of identical enemies just fees like busywork, and I’m concerned too much fighting is going to leave me burnt out too early. It happened to me with Xenoblade, and I don’t want it to happen here.

Despite that, the combat remains engaging, and I feel like I’m still learning new stuff and evolving my approach to battles. Now that I’m constantly fighting with three-member parties (and in chapter 10, allowed to change party members), I’m no longer hamstrung by the limitations I was running into when stuck with fixed two-member groups. Synergists and saboteurs are starting to come into their own in longer battles; I’m getting a better handle on when and how to use sentinels, especially now that I know they come with a guaranteed damage reduction and lesser reduction for party members; and I’ve come to optimize my use of commandos and ravagers — sometimes using a few commando hits to slow the gauge, bombing the chain gauge up with RAV-RAV-RAV, continuing more (depending on health and what their stagger threshold is), then switching to COM-COM-MED to finish them and heal up.

The battle system feels satisfyingly rhythmic when you’re fighting effectively. Ideally, everything has a proper time — you’re renewing buffs as they expire, healing when there’s an appropriate lull, trying to push the enemies into stagger when the party is in appropriate condition, and keeping the timing of dangerous attack patterns in mind so you’re not hit on a bad footing. When you mess up, it feels awkward and desperate, and when you’re nailing it, it feels smooth and effortless.

Barthandelus was a great boss battle in this respect. His difficulty level was such that I couldn’t afford to screw up, but when I died, it was my fault for getting greedy. If you weren’t healing, buffing, defending, and bombing at the appropriate times, he punished you for it. The one weird thing about that fight was the fact that his charging attack reset his chain gauge. It felt a bit cheap, as the game teaches you to focus on staggering enemies then makes staggering him kind of pointless. It’s entirely possible that I just missed something or was under-leveled — I got a zero-star rating on it.

One more thing about Barthandelus: I was a bit disappointed when the villain (at least for now) turned out to be a old, condescending Pope-looking man who can summon giant robots — it feels a bit too obvious and easy. I liked the way the game had no obvious, evil-for-evil’s-sake villain for the first 9 chapters. There was no clearly-defined end goal, and no easy solution to their problem. The Sanctum’s fear of and zero-tolerance policy toward l’Cie was fairly justifiable, especially with the populace on their side, and I thought that made for an interesting dynamic. I suspect there’s going to end up being more to this (please don’t spoil anything), but at least for now, having such a cliched villain is a bit of a let-down.

P.S. I think I may have just spoiled something fairly major by googling Barthandelus. Vague spoilers have been an unfortunate side-effect of writing these articles.

Music

It’s been a while since I’ve listed some of my favourite pieces, so here’s some catch-up. I’ve made note of more, I just don’t want to blow them all at once:

  • Can't Catch A Break. I like jazz music, so maybe I’ve got my own reasons for liking this piece, but I’m a big fan of this and Sazh’s theme. They’re give Sazh a very distinct musical calling card, and are a nice change of pace.
  • The Vile Peaks. This fits the area very well. In tonal shift and musical influences, it kind of reminded me of Ocarina of Time’s Fire Temple theme.
  • Lightning's Theme. I love the way various tracks in the game play with the same melodies.
  • March Of The Dreadnoughts. I can’t figure out if I’ve actually heard this in-game. I think I have, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Regardless, it’s a great piece — it conveys a great sense of adventure.
  • Chocobos of Cocoon. Look, I’m not going to claim I like this, but I like that it exists — it’s just so endearingly earnest. When it started playing (and even more-so when the vocals kicked in) I thought “ugh, here we go,” but it melted my cold, icy heart.
#2 Posted by Turambar (6790 posts) -

Barthandelus seemed to be the first boss of the game I heard a lot of people have some difficulty with back during the game's release, though I suspect its because most seemed to not realize how amazingly good synergistic (saboteurs to a lesser extent) are. Also, I really like Barthandelus's boss theme.

#3 Posted by TopSteer (658 posts) -

I didn't like Sentinels at all, although part of that could be because my main party didn't have anybody that could be a good Sentinel. Synergists and Saboteurs on the other hand I loved using which is weird cause I don't normally bother with buffs and debuffs in most RPGs.

#4 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -

@Turambar said:

Barthandelus seemed to be the first boss of the game I heard a lot of people have some difficulty with back during the game's release, though I suspect its because most seemed to not realize how amazingly good synergistic (saboteurs to a lesser extent) are. Also, I really like Barthandelus's boss theme.

I could definitely see how he could be hard if you didn’t have a pretty good grasp of the systems. He has an attack that very nearly wipes your party even if you go into it will full health and a sentinel.

@TopSteer said:

I didn't like Sentinels at all, although part of that could be because my main party didn't have anybody that could be a good Sentinel. Synergists and Saboteurs on the other hand I loved using which is weird cause I don't normally bother with buffs and debuffs in most RPGs.

I think buffs and debuffs are more palatable in this game because you’re not forced to use them at the expense of just attacking — in old-school turn-based games, they often felt like a waste since they would take a bunch of turns to pay for themselves. In FFXIII, you can very easily get some off at the beginning of a battle and during healing cycles without killing the pace.

#5 Posted by Slag (4455 posts) -

It’s entirely possible that I just missed something or was under-leveled — I got a zero-star rating on it.

could be, my guess is that it might be the former.

are you aware how the game generates the star ratings the battles (fwiw it never explictly states the calculus so it's not a surprise if you don't)?

w/o being over specifc or perhaps spoiling the fun the fewer turns you can spend healing, the better the score you'll probably get. That perhaps is one the best advantages a Sentinel can provide, by soaking that damage you'd have to heal otherwise.

fwiw Ch. 10 imo is the worst in the game.

the good news is ch.11 is after it.

#6 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -
@Slag Yeah, I generally get 5 star ratings, and when I don't, I usually know why. The way Barthandelus played out, keeping a sentinel around at all times would have slowed me down. His final form really only did damage with a couple of big attacks, and I'd shift before they hit.
#7 Edited by xyzygy (10008 posts) -

What you're saying about Barthandelus' story happenings is a little premature. Just wait it out, I know it was stupid about the whole Galenth Dysley thing but more about him will open up, he's pretty badass. Also, DAT MUSIC.

I think it is the ultimate Final Fantasy song! The song combined with the fucking awesome fun that Barthandelus gives you is sublime. I think the developers perfectly gauge your power level by the time you reach him and they set limits to him that are so satisfying when met. This is why I think the linearity of the game is not a bad thing in the slightest.

As for your Barthandelus staggering note, he can be staggered for quite a while and have quite a bit of damage done to him if you know exactly what to do and when. The battle system in FFXIII just takes a lot of practice in order to get higher ratings. Don't worry, I was ripping my hair out when I first fought him but I practiced and practiced and finally got it, I think at a zero or 1 star.

Where you're at now is where the game turns from great to brilliant in my eyes. Roles will become ten times as important as before and you will need to learn every strength and weakness of each party member and their roles in order to succeed.

You're making me want to play this game over again!!!!

#8 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1616 posts) -
@xyzygy My impression was that in his final "phase" (after you've killed all of his arms and staggered him once) he will always reset his chain every X seconds. Casting slow helped, but still only left me with a few seconds.

And yeah, that music was pretty good.

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