Final Fantasy XIII Post Mortem

Posted by Beforet (2927 posts) -

Post-mortem? Is that the right word? Whatever, all I know is that I wrote an unnecessarily long essay on a game I didn’t exactly love. So here you go.

Ostensibly I wrote that last blog for reflection on my cheevo and tro tro habits while discussing the games I played. Instead I waxed indulgent about mostly nothing while making up some not-words. The result being that I didn't really say all that much. Mission accomplished. I like to read the sound of my own words, and I really like to make words whose sole purpose is to please me. Unfortunately for me, this time I actually have something I want to say, making this endeavor much less fun for your narcissistic author.

Final Fantasy XIII

Yo! Final Fantasy XIII's terrifically named sequel comes out in less than a week, right? That's a thing. And Final Fantasy XIII kinda clawed its way up the pile to being kind of a thing again, right? Well I sure hope so because, in the span of two weeks, I put just about a hundred hours into that fucker.

So why did I replay it? Because I had lost my post-game save when my PS3 decided to explode a few months ago. Why did I want to play it in the first place? It started with me looking at the incomplete trophy list, eyeing the tide breaker, Treasure Hunter, and saying to meself “that's doesn't look so tough.” Oh boy. Oh boy! Oh fucking boy am I bad at making these judgement calls. S-Ranking Final Fantasy XIII is a different sort of hell. Whereas Limbo and Ico both demand the absolute apex of player skill and manipulation, FF13 asks only for your time. All of your time. S-Ranking FF13 is much like cruising towards the center of a black hole, past the point where gravity literally pulls time and space towards the center, and everywhere you turn you face that inescapable doom. I spent the first fourty hours of FF13 completing the story.. The next sixty I spent working towards Treasure Hunter. Most of that time I spent killing turtles. So many, many turtles. But, in the doing, I feel I have obtained for myself a perspective on the highs and lows of Final Fantasy XIII.

I will not try to break this into a list of “this is good” and “this is shit.” Everything has problems, everything has not-problems. I'm basically going to break this shit down and analyze the fuck out of everything, good and bad. I can NOT guarantee quality.

The Shit You Do

Killing Dudes!

You can't just button mash your way to victory

The combat system, a sort of evolution to the Active Time Battle mechanic FF fans are familiar with, has its virtues. Most significant, Square managed to streamline the list of available abilities. Every single command has a purpose, and every spell, buff, and debuff has its place. Even poison, poison, the red headed step child of all Final Fantasy spells outranking only Toad, has its place in strategy. The inability to grind means that strategy and an understanding of the system is vital for any difficult battle. Lack of control over your party member, while certainly a bummer for fan of micromanagement, gives a feeling coaching a team, which somewhat appeals to me.

However, you can safely ignore all of that in 90% of the fights. From chapters 1-10 you could just Rav-Rav and then Com-Rav or Com-Com your way to victory. In chapter 11-13, I found myself just using a party of one synergist, Sahz in this case, and two commandos and finishing most fights with trash mobs in a few rounds. The fact that there are trash mobs period drags the combat down. Most strategy boils down to buff me, debuff him, and stagger. Some areas required I switch someone to a sentinel role, which I appreciated. The only times I used other strategies were when I needed to cheese a guy because I was fighting it too early. Though the fact that you can kill bosses you are grossly underleveled for by using an unorthodox strategy speaks to the importance of tactics over stats, which again I appreciate.

You definitely can't just spam auto battle in all cases. Try fighting a Shaolong Gui without turtling an tell me how that goes. The problem is that most of the time you can, and I feel that devalues the overall experience of the combat.

Explorating!

Some complex stuff here

Speaking of things that start with C: Corridors! Final Fantasy XIII is linear. But that is not the problem, or at least it's not the whole problem. A linear design does not damn a game, just look at most of the shooters released in year. Battlefield, Uncharted, Space Marine, Modern Warfare. These are all great games that are linear. No, the problem I had with FF13 lies not with the linearity of the structure but with the overall structure itself.

There is no pacing in Final Fantasy XIII. You don't spend most of your time in dungeons, you spend all of your time in dungeons. It is always on, with not a single break until that blessed chapter 11. The basic formula for good pacing: high intensity, low intensity, high intensity etc. Dungeon's and towns. Fighting shit and bullshit wandering around. Dark, emotional moments and light hearted, funny comic relief. Square made FF13, believe it or not, a very high intensity game. You are never given time to chill the eff out. The only instance I can think of is the festival Sahz and Vanille attend. You know, the one with the chocobos. This complaint sounds a lot like “the game doesn't have towns wah!” but it's more than that. I don't care if the game never had a single town. I wouldn't care if XIII-2 didn't have towns. I just want some pacing, I want some low moments. Look at Chrono Trigger, you don't spend all that much time in towns. Hell, you can't even really enter towns, just individual buildings. But you will never fight a random enemy while on the world map. You can aimlessly wonder around and relax a bit in between dungeons.

Clearly this game needs more chocofro

Chapter 11 has some of that, with a lot more scenes dedicated to silly comic relief. I appreciate that, but there's not enough of that. So many dungeons were just mind numbing. A branching path and some dead ends would have done nothing to help that.

Even when the game does branch out, the world feels so much emptier than it did in the other games. Most damning is the complete lack of endgame content. No super boss that drops the ultimate weapon, no secret dungeon, nothing. Yeah, you can grind everyone’s stats to max after you beat the game, but for what? To kill turtles. But why do you want to kill turtles? So you can kill tutrles more easily. But why do you do that? So that you can get Trapezohedrons and craft the ultimate weapons. Why do you want those? So you can start killing more powerful turtles. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU!

The Words!

Over Exposit, Under Exposit

The writing is not terrible. The characters and the actual plot have good things and bad about them, but the presentation itself does not break the game to the extent many seem to feel. From my experience most people talk about the way the game drops you into this world filled with these bizarre terms suchs as “fal'cie” and “l'cie” and “chocofros” with no context, explanation, or exposition. The only way to make heads or tails of all this nonsense was to keep referring to the novel they included, the infamous datalog.

Ah, and there it lie in slumber. The datalog, so much like Mass Effect's codex, yet so detrimental, poisonous, cancerous to the experience. I posit that the quality of the writing and the vibrancy of the world would have been much greater had the datalog simply been omitted. Nothing more done to the script, just the excision of that device. A lot of people say that without the datalog the plot, the characters, the environment are incomprehensible, but I disagree. If we just listened, the script provides enough cues and implications to understand most of what transpires. Yes, at first l'cie has no meaning, but it's clearly a bad thing to be, and as the story progresses it becomes clear what exactly it means to be l'cie. Most of the elements are contextualized pretty well, I say. So why is it that most seem to need the datalog?

Well, I wager that most people do not need it. Despite what cool kids on the internet will tell you, people tend to be pretty smart, so it's not a case of lacking the intelligence necessary. Square Enix never asks you, never challenges you to immerse yourself and mentally explore. The lack of mental exploration of this game, of needing to puzzle out of learn about the absolutely dazzling world of Cocoon and Pulse on you own, does more harm than the lack of physical exploration. In fact, Square doesn't just neglect it, they outright discourage any mental exploration. By including the datalog and essentially saying “if you ever find yourself confused, please stop thinking and just read this.” And we listen, because why not? It only makes sense. Why would I struggle with a puzzle when the answer is being presented to me on a silver platter?

A lot of time will be spent looking at this.

After every important cutscene you will be alerted to the new datalog entry explaining (in the present tense which I found infuriating!) exactly what happened, why it happened, and what the implications are now that it has happened. When an event or action drops some vague implication about a character, you'll find a new entry explaining it all in detail. It immediately becomes clear that you don't even need to really watch the cutscenes to understand what's going on, and any value they hold disappears. In explaining everything in detail, Square made the actual game look obfuscating an confusing. They built a wall between the player and their world when I'm sure they just wanted everything to be easy to understand.

Now, all that said, how is the acutal story? The plot is pretty simple at first:each of the characters are brought to something called a Vestige for different reasons, and there they find a god-like being called a fal'cie from the underworld that is Australia AKA Pulse. The fal'cie makes them l'cie, servants with extraordinary powers, and are given a focus, a task they must complete or risk becoming zombie-like cie'th. After that they split up, each running from the military that's on their ass and trying to figure out what to do.

The story itself is not terribly well written, keeping in mind what I said about the datalog. There's no sense of focus and the characters are always just running. Which is fine, there's a way you can tell that story. But there's not much to say about the first 20 hours; it all seems like build up to when the party regroups, meets the villain, and the actual plot is revealed. And everything in the ending is legitimately incomprehensible.

The the writing is certainly character focuses as opposed to plot focused, with more emphasis placed on character interaction than plot advancement. Not necessarily a bad thing; I tend towards those sorts more anyway.

The Cast

Lightning

Lightning is not the main character of FF13, despite receiving the main billing. Just as much screen time is devoted to Sahz and Hope as is Lightning, and certainly more character development. Square billed Lightning as a female Cloud, and they're right. Superficially, at least. A cold and emotionally distant former soldier who rebells against he employer with the help of a sassy black man. And that's where the similarity stops, as well as most of her character. For most of the game, Lightning's just kind of a bitch. Needlessly so.It seems like Square wanted her to be mysterious, but after the third time she let the group move on without her while she crossed her arms and pouted, only to follow them a moment later had me rolling my eyes. Yeah I know she's military, but so is Sahz (pilot, though its never mentioned outside the datalog) and he's not an asshole! Maybe she, like Cloud, has some insanely fucked up trauma in her life. Maybe the superficial stand in for Sephiroth, Yaag Rosch, burned down her home town too. We never learn what her deal is, and the only character development she undergoes is when Hope teaches her what love is and she stops being a complete asshole.

Lightning, like every Final Fantasy protagonist, is a generalist who doesn't specialize. She gets all of the -strike commands as a ravager, she holds up as a pretty good commando and actually makes for a decent sentinel, despite having no guard skills. She's a terrible late-game medic, though, which confuses me since she has medic as a primary role. She makes up for it as a decent saboteur, learning multi-target debuffs.

Sahz

Saaaaaahz!

Speaking of Sahz. Sahz. Saaaahz! I like Sahz. I liked him from the moment Square announced him. Most likely because I liked the idea of a black main character who wasn't a hilariously bad caricature of Mr. T. No, Sahz resembles Will Smith instead. The calm, fatherly Will Smith who occasionally shows the zanyness of his youth. But then I actually played the and found out that I still like Sahz even after about 140 hours (my original playthrough lasted 40 hours). He's the straight man, the guy who tries to keep an even head when everyone else is going crazy. Even during his own emotional moments he doesn't descend to the same levels of melodrama the other characters do. Really, the best thing I can say about Sahz is that he almost seems human. How grand a coincidense that he's a father, like one of my other all time favorite characters, Nier.

So it really sucks that he has the lowest stats in the entire game. With the exception of HP, every character beats him in every way. The only thing he really has going for him is that he's a better healer than Lightning and the best synergist for most of the game. In the late to postgame he's easily surpassed by Hope as both a damager and a buffer. That said, in all cases where a strategy called for buffs I used Sahz, because stats aren't that important and ability wise the two are mostly interchangeable. Also, because fuck Hope. Though by the numbers he's beaten, his ultimate skill, Cold Blood, makes him a pretty brutal ravager, especially after an enemy has been staggered. One Cold Blood an a staggered enemy can drive the bar up to 999.9% pretty reliably.

Hope

Hope. Hope, Hope, Hope. I hate Hope far too much. I think everyone does. I once had a friend say to me that he hated Hope and wanted Hope to die. I never did learn if he was talking about the character or was having an existential meltdown. I wonder how that guy's doing in Florida. Anywho, Hope whines. He's a whiner. He's a kid, apparently prepubescent if his cameo in a 13-2 trailer are any consideration (his voice dropped 37 octaves in a few years? Sounds like highschool) so his disposition is believable. I just don't want to watch a 12 year old being 12 years old. I don't like watching 12 year olds being 20 year olds. Other games and shows do the whole “little kid having his mind blown” thing much better. I've watched like two episodes of The Wandering Son and that does the whole 12 year old being 12 years old thing much better. What I appreciate about Hope is that he's the only one who's willing to say “what the hell, guys?” After everyone becomes a l'cie, they are all like “kay” and he's the only one who is freaking out over it. That character can be written, but Hope only comes across as annoying.

What I will say in Hope's favor is that he is one of the most versatile characters for most of the game. He's one of the best healers and ravagers in the game, and the only character who has protective buffs for the first third. His secondary roles are nothing to brag about, though he does get Ruin immedietely, making him a passable commando. He learns all the same buffs as Sahz, and benefits from a higher magic stat.

Snow

Snow is the bastard love child of Zell and Seifer from Final Fantasy VIII. I just want you to think about that. You liking what you're seeing? Okay, moving on. Snow is the hyperactive, college fratboy asshole who insists on be the center of attention at all times. He clearly thinks he's the main character, but lacks the confidence and aplomb with which Balthier takes that title from the true protagonist. I can't exactly blame Lightning for punching him so many times or Hope for wanting to drive a knife in his back. That said, I like Snow. He's like Kamina, he's always upbeat and insanely optimistic in a way that the other characters, except Vanille, just aren't. He is such a cartoon character, and it's a joy to watch him being all crazy. Maybe it's just because I'm also an asshole in college, but I appreciate that part of his character. What I don't appreciate is when he stops being a cartoon character and becomes a soap opera character. Every scene concerning his very weird relationship with Lightning's sister Serah (yeah I know she's supposed to be 19 or something, that doesn't stop the fact that she's fucking Snow when it looks like she should be playing doctor with Hope) he switches from Kamina to Fabio. In the scene where Hope finally confronts him, Snow enters drama school mode so fast and so hard that you can feel Oscar shaped boner Troy Baker had to have been sporting during that recording session.

Snow’s probably the best sentinel you can have on your team. He’s usually better at taking damage than dealing it, but he’s still one of the stronger characters and his faster casting animation makes him good for powerplaying a ravager. Otherwise, he doesn’t have much going for him. My turtle strategy required him for spamming daze, but the argument can be made that Sahz is better for that role given his longer animation, but that dives into a realm of insanity that few care about and I fear.

Vanille

Vanille. Vannile? Vannille? I don’t fucking know. Vanille, from my perception, stands only second in most hated character by the community, right under Hope. I didn’t hate her. Now, what exactly does she have going for her than being every one of my fetishes rolled into one oh so fuckable ball? She gives some energy to the cast! Besides her and Snow, everyone else is kind of a downer. I get why they were written that way, and I appreciate it, but I also appreciate the levity that Vanille’s saccharine bullshit injects into the situation. The problem is that often enough she comes off as irritating as fuck. For me, it’s less the mannerisms and more the voicework. I’m sure that Georgia Van Cuylenburg is a perfectly competent actress, and this performance is hardly the worst I’ve heard. But something about it rubs me the wrong way, whether it’s the accent or it’s the pitch or whatever. Otherwise, she is the second most Final Fantasy ass Final Fantasy character. It seems that, at least since VII (probably before) every game has needed its perky, cheerful, jailbait fanservice girl. Vanille is that, no question. But even then I feel her behavior is kind of justified.

Vanille is the primary healer of the party with Hope. I’m pretty sure only they learn Curaja, which is vital down the line as the characters’ health bars grow. She’s also the first to learn deprotect and deshell, so you’ll want her for bosses and the tougher mobs. Most important, for endgame in any case, is that she learns Death. The nice thing about Death in this game is that, more than any other game in the franchise, a lot of enemies are vulnerable to Death. Even when Death doesn’t stick (which is most of the time, given its base 1% success rate) it still does a lot of damage. There are a few enemies that you can kill before you ought to with the help of Death. Otherwise she has one of the highest magic stats.

Fang

FF13 Wallpaper

I have little to say about Fang. I never felt she contributed much to the party dynamic or that she had much of a personality besides really, really liking Vanille. She kind of goes crazy at the end, but then doesn’t. I don’t know. That ending was weird.

What I will say is that she is a fucking beast. You will be breaking the damage cap regularly with her in the postgame, and I’m pretty sure she’s the only one I’ve gotten to hit 999,999 on one hit. She learns the pretty vital slow spell early, and makes for a good sentinel. Hell, she and Vanille are the only ones to get the -ra variants of the synergist spells. You want her in your team, and probably as leader so you can use Highwind for massive damage.

God Things!

The Fal’cie, and really the mythology FF13 has as a whole, were pretty interesting. I would like to learn more about these things in future games; probably Versus 13, as 13-2 doesn’t seem to go into that stuff. The Analect dtalog entries you got for completing missions added some of the depth that Cocoon and Pulse were missing. And Dysely/Barthendelus made for a convincing villain. More than the other villains in the series, he seemed to really have his shit together. But maybe I’m biased; I just can’t hate a good voice.

Sooo gooood! I just love it when a villain sounds like he's having an orgasm with each word.

Conclusion

You still reading this? Jesus, guy. Okay, I’ll end this. Final Fantasy XIII is not terrible. If fact, I would go as far as to say it’s pretty good. I did not decide to put another 100 hours into because I hate it. I know I say a lot of shit here, but that’s because it’s easier to be negative than it is positive. I like playing FF13; I find it’s combat compelling; its characters act almost human, which is a rarity in any video game, and the plot, if convoluted and annoying at the ending, is fun to follow. The game isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t deserve the rap it gets. What I think is that time will go on, Final Fantasy XV or whatever will come and earn everyone’s bile, and people will look back and take another look at 13. It’s already happening with 12; everyone (or at least it seemed) hated that game when it came out, but if you look now a lot of people seem to either be changing their perspective on it or coming out of the woodworks to support it. I think something similar will happen with Final Fantasy XIII.

I won’t go into either the news or the demo for 13-2, because fuck you this blog is overlong enough. Maybe I’ll do something on that, but not for a long time. And I don’t think I’m going to do anymore super long analysis on average games.

Though I did just beat Dragon Age II.

#1 Posted by Beforet (2927 posts) -

Post-mortem? Is that the right word? Whatever, all I know is that I wrote an unnecessarily long essay on a game I didn’t exactly love. So here you go.

Ostensibly I wrote that last blog for reflection on my cheevo and tro tro habits while discussing the games I played. Instead I waxed indulgent about mostly nothing while making up some not-words. The result being that I didn't really say all that much. Mission accomplished. I like to read the sound of my own words, and I really like to make words whose sole purpose is to please me. Unfortunately for me, this time I actually have something I want to say, making this endeavor much less fun for your narcissistic author.

Final Fantasy XIII

Yo! Final Fantasy XIII's terrifically named sequel comes out in less than a week, right? That's a thing. And Final Fantasy XIII kinda clawed its way up the pile to being kind of a thing again, right? Well I sure hope so because, in the span of two weeks, I put just about a hundred hours into that fucker.

So why did I replay it? Because I had lost my post-game save when my PS3 decided to explode a few months ago. Why did I want to play it in the first place? It started with me looking at the incomplete trophy list, eyeing the tide breaker, Treasure Hunter, and saying to meself “that's doesn't look so tough.” Oh boy. Oh boy! Oh fucking boy am I bad at making these judgement calls. S-Ranking Final Fantasy XIII is a different sort of hell. Whereas Limbo and Ico both demand the absolute apex of player skill and manipulation, FF13 asks only for your time. All of your time. S-Ranking FF13 is much like cruising towards the center of a black hole, past the point where gravity literally pulls time and space towards the center, and everywhere you turn you face that inescapable doom. I spent the first fourty hours of FF13 completing the story.. The next sixty I spent working towards Treasure Hunter. Most of that time I spent killing turtles. So many, many turtles. But, in the doing, I feel I have obtained for myself a perspective on the highs and lows of Final Fantasy XIII.

I will not try to break this into a list of “this is good” and “this is shit.” Everything has problems, everything has not-problems. I'm basically going to break this shit down and analyze the fuck out of everything, good and bad. I can NOT guarantee quality.

The Shit You Do

Killing Dudes!

You can't just button mash your way to victory

The combat system, a sort of evolution to the Active Time Battle mechanic FF fans are familiar with, has its virtues. Most significant, Square managed to streamline the list of available abilities. Every single command has a purpose, and every spell, buff, and debuff has its place. Even poison, poison, the red headed step child of all Final Fantasy spells outranking only Toad, has its place in strategy. The inability to grind means that strategy and an understanding of the system is vital for any difficult battle. Lack of control over your party member, while certainly a bummer for fan of micromanagement, gives a feeling coaching a team, which somewhat appeals to me.

However, you can safely ignore all of that in 90% of the fights. From chapters 1-10 you could just Rav-Rav and then Com-Rav or Com-Com your way to victory. In chapter 11-13, I found myself just using a party of one synergist, Sahz in this case, and two commandos and finishing most fights with trash mobs in a few rounds. The fact that there are trash mobs period drags the combat down. Most strategy boils down to buff me, debuff him, and stagger. Some areas required I switch someone to a sentinel role, which I appreciated. The only times I used other strategies were when I needed to cheese a guy because I was fighting it too early. Though the fact that you can kill bosses you are grossly underleveled for by using an unorthodox strategy speaks to the importance of tactics over stats, which again I appreciate.

You definitely can't just spam auto battle in all cases. Try fighting a Shaolong Gui without turtling an tell me how that goes. The problem is that most of the time you can, and I feel that devalues the overall experience of the combat.

Explorating!

Some complex stuff here

Speaking of things that start with C: Corridors! Final Fantasy XIII is linear. But that is not the problem, or at least it's not the whole problem. A linear design does not damn a game, just look at most of the shooters released in year. Battlefield, Uncharted, Space Marine, Modern Warfare. These are all great games that are linear. No, the problem I had with FF13 lies not with the linearity of the structure but with the overall structure itself.

There is no pacing in Final Fantasy XIII. You don't spend most of your time in dungeons, you spend all of your time in dungeons. It is always on, with not a single break until that blessed chapter 11. The basic formula for good pacing: high intensity, low intensity, high intensity etc. Dungeon's and towns. Fighting shit and bullshit wandering around. Dark, emotional moments and light hearted, funny comic relief. Square made FF13, believe it or not, a very high intensity game. You are never given time to chill the eff out. The only instance I can think of is the festival Sahz and Vanille attend. You know, the one with the chocobos. This complaint sounds a lot like “the game doesn't have towns wah!” but it's more than that. I don't care if the game never had a single town. I wouldn't care if XIII-2 didn't have towns. I just want some pacing, I want some low moments. Look at Chrono Trigger, you don't spend all that much time in towns. Hell, you can't even really enter towns, just individual buildings. But you will never fight a random enemy while on the world map. You can aimlessly wonder around and relax a bit in between dungeons.

Clearly this game needs more chocofro

Chapter 11 has some of that, with a lot more scenes dedicated to silly comic relief. I appreciate that, but there's not enough of that. So many dungeons were just mind numbing. A branching path and some dead ends would have done nothing to help that.

Even when the game does branch out, the world feels so much emptier than it did in the other games. Most damning is the complete lack of endgame content. No super boss that drops the ultimate weapon, no secret dungeon, nothing. Yeah, you can grind everyone’s stats to max after you beat the game, but for what? To kill turtles. But why do you want to kill turtles? So you can kill tutrles more easily. But why do you do that? So that you can get Trapezohedrons and craft the ultimate weapons. Why do you want those? So you can start killing more powerful turtles. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU!

The Words!

Over Exposit, Under Exposit

The writing is not terrible. The characters and the actual plot have good things and bad about them, but the presentation itself does not break the game to the extent many seem to feel. From my experience most people talk about the way the game drops you into this world filled with these bizarre terms suchs as “fal'cie” and “l'cie” and “chocofros” with no context, explanation, or exposition. The only way to make heads or tails of all this nonsense was to keep referring to the novel they included, the infamous datalog.

Ah, and there it lie in slumber. The datalog, so much like Mass Effect's codex, yet so detrimental, poisonous, cancerous to the experience. I posit that the quality of the writing and the vibrancy of the world would have been much greater had the datalog simply been omitted. Nothing more done to the script, just the excision of that device. A lot of people say that without the datalog the plot, the characters, the environment are incomprehensible, but I disagree. If we just listened, the script provides enough cues and implications to understand most of what transpires. Yes, at first l'cie has no meaning, but it's clearly a bad thing to be, and as the story progresses it becomes clear what exactly it means to be l'cie. Most of the elements are contextualized pretty well, I say. So why is it that most seem to need the datalog?

Well, I wager that most people do not need it. Despite what cool kids on the internet will tell you, people tend to be pretty smart, so it's not a case of lacking the intelligence necessary. Square Enix never asks you, never challenges you to immerse yourself and mentally explore. The lack of mental exploration of this game, of needing to puzzle out of learn about the absolutely dazzling world of Cocoon and Pulse on you own, does more harm than the lack of physical exploration. In fact, Square doesn't just neglect it, they outright discourage any mental exploration. By including the datalog and essentially saying “if you ever find yourself confused, please stop thinking and just read this.” And we listen, because why not? It only makes sense. Why would I struggle with a puzzle when the answer is being presented to me on a silver platter?

A lot of time will be spent looking at this.

After every important cutscene you will be alerted to the new datalog entry explaining (in the present tense which I found infuriating!) exactly what happened, why it happened, and what the implications are now that it has happened. When an event or action drops some vague implication about a character, you'll find a new entry explaining it all in detail. It immediately becomes clear that you don't even need to really watch the cutscenes to understand what's going on, and any value they hold disappears. In explaining everything in detail, Square made the actual game look obfuscating an confusing. They built a wall between the player and their world when I'm sure they just wanted everything to be easy to understand.

Now, all that said, how is the acutal story? The plot is pretty simple at first:each of the characters are brought to something called a Vestige for different reasons, and there they find a god-like being called a fal'cie from the underworld that is Australia AKA Pulse. The fal'cie makes them l'cie, servants with extraordinary powers, and are given a focus, a task they must complete or risk becoming zombie-like cie'th. After that they split up, each running from the military that's on their ass and trying to figure out what to do.

The story itself is not terribly well written, keeping in mind what I said about the datalog. There's no sense of focus and the characters are always just running. Which is fine, there's a way you can tell that story. But there's not much to say about the first 20 hours; it all seems like build up to when the party regroups, meets the villain, and the actual plot is revealed. And everything in the ending is legitimately incomprehensible.

The the writing is certainly character focuses as opposed to plot focused, with more emphasis placed on character interaction than plot advancement. Not necessarily a bad thing; I tend towards those sorts more anyway.

The Cast

Lightning

Lightning is not the main character of FF13, despite receiving the main billing. Just as much screen time is devoted to Sahz and Hope as is Lightning, and certainly more character development. Square billed Lightning as a female Cloud, and they're right. Superficially, at least. A cold and emotionally distant former soldier who rebells against he employer with the help of a sassy black man. And that's where the similarity stops, as well as most of her character. For most of the game, Lightning's just kind of a bitch. Needlessly so.It seems like Square wanted her to be mysterious, but after the third time she let the group move on without her while she crossed her arms and pouted, only to follow them a moment later had me rolling my eyes. Yeah I know she's military, but so is Sahz (pilot, though its never mentioned outside the datalog) and he's not an asshole! Maybe she, like Cloud, has some insanely fucked up trauma in her life. Maybe the superficial stand in for Sephiroth, Yaag Rosch, burned down her home town too. We never learn what her deal is, and the only character development she undergoes is when Hope teaches her what love is and she stops being a complete asshole.

Lightning, like every Final Fantasy protagonist, is a generalist who doesn't specialize. She gets all of the -strike commands as a ravager, she holds up as a pretty good commando and actually makes for a decent sentinel, despite having no guard skills. She's a terrible late-game medic, though, which confuses me since she has medic as a primary role. She makes up for it as a decent saboteur, learning multi-target debuffs.

Sahz

Saaaaaahz!

Speaking of Sahz. Sahz. Saaaahz! I like Sahz. I liked him from the moment Square announced him. Most likely because I liked the idea of a black main character who wasn't a hilariously bad caricature of Mr. T. No, Sahz resembles Will Smith instead. The calm, fatherly Will Smith who occasionally shows the zanyness of his youth. But then I actually played the and found out that I still like Sahz even after about 140 hours (my original playthrough lasted 40 hours). He's the straight man, the guy who tries to keep an even head when everyone else is going crazy. Even during his own emotional moments he doesn't descend to the same levels of melodrama the other characters do. Really, the best thing I can say about Sahz is that he almost seems human. How grand a coincidense that he's a father, like one of my other all time favorite characters, Nier.

So it really sucks that he has the lowest stats in the entire game. With the exception of HP, every character beats him in every way. The only thing he really has going for him is that he's a better healer than Lightning and the best synergist for most of the game. In the late to postgame he's easily surpassed by Hope as both a damager and a buffer. That said, in all cases where a strategy called for buffs I used Sahz, because stats aren't that important and ability wise the two are mostly interchangeable. Also, because fuck Hope. Though by the numbers he's beaten, his ultimate skill, Cold Blood, makes him a pretty brutal ravager, especially after an enemy has been staggered. One Cold Blood an a staggered enemy can drive the bar up to 999.9% pretty reliably.

Hope

Hope. Hope, Hope, Hope. I hate Hope far too much. I think everyone does. I once had a friend say to me that he hated Hope and wanted Hope to die. I never did learn if he was talking about the character or was having an existential meltdown. I wonder how that guy's doing in Florida. Anywho, Hope whines. He's a whiner. He's a kid, apparently prepubescent if his cameo in a 13-2 trailer are any consideration (his voice dropped 37 octaves in a few years? Sounds like highschool) so his disposition is believable. I just don't want to watch a 12 year old being 12 years old. I don't like watching 12 year olds being 20 year olds. Other games and shows do the whole “little kid having his mind blown” thing much better. I've watched like two episodes of The Wandering Son and that does the whole 12 year old being 12 years old thing much better. What I appreciate about Hope is that he's the only one who's willing to say “what the hell, guys?” After everyone becomes a l'cie, they are all like “kay” and he's the only one who is freaking out over it. That character can be written, but Hope only comes across as annoying.

What I will say in Hope's favor is that he is one of the most versatile characters for most of the game. He's one of the best healers and ravagers in the game, and the only character who has protective buffs for the first third. His secondary roles are nothing to brag about, though he does get Ruin immedietely, making him a passable commando. He learns all the same buffs as Sahz, and benefits from a higher magic stat.

Snow

Snow is the bastard love child of Zell and Seifer from Final Fantasy VIII. I just want you to think about that. You liking what you're seeing? Okay, moving on. Snow is the hyperactive, college fratboy asshole who insists on be the center of attention at all times. He clearly thinks he's the main character, but lacks the confidence and aplomb with which Balthier takes that title from the true protagonist. I can't exactly blame Lightning for punching him so many times or Hope for wanting to drive a knife in his back. That said, I like Snow. He's like Kamina, he's always upbeat and insanely optimistic in a way that the other characters, except Vanille, just aren't. He is such a cartoon character, and it's a joy to watch him being all crazy. Maybe it's just because I'm also an asshole in college, but I appreciate that part of his character. What I don't appreciate is when he stops being a cartoon character and becomes a soap opera character. Every scene concerning his very weird relationship with Lightning's sister Serah (yeah I know she's supposed to be 19 or something, that doesn't stop the fact that she's fucking Snow when it looks like she should be playing doctor with Hope) he switches from Kamina to Fabio. In the scene where Hope finally confronts him, Snow enters drama school mode so fast and so hard that you can feel Oscar shaped boner Troy Baker had to have been sporting during that recording session.

Snow’s probably the best sentinel you can have on your team. He’s usually better at taking damage than dealing it, but he’s still one of the stronger characters and his faster casting animation makes him good for powerplaying a ravager. Otherwise, he doesn’t have much going for him. My turtle strategy required him for spamming daze, but the argument can be made that Sahz is better for that role given his longer animation, but that dives into a realm of insanity that few care about and I fear.

Vanille

Vanille. Vannile? Vannille? I don’t fucking know. Vanille, from my perception, stands only second in most hated character by the community, right under Hope. I didn’t hate her. Now, what exactly does she have going for her than being every one of my fetishes rolled into one oh so fuckable ball? She gives some energy to the cast! Besides her and Snow, everyone else is kind of a downer. I get why they were written that way, and I appreciate it, but I also appreciate the levity that Vanille’s saccharine bullshit injects into the situation. The problem is that often enough she comes off as irritating as fuck. For me, it’s less the mannerisms and more the voicework. I’m sure that Georgia Van Cuylenburg is a perfectly competent actress, and this performance is hardly the worst I’ve heard. But something about it rubs me the wrong way, whether it’s the accent or it’s the pitch or whatever. Otherwise, she is the second most Final Fantasy ass Final Fantasy character. It seems that, at least since VII (probably before) every game has needed its perky, cheerful, jailbait fanservice girl. Vanille is that, no question. But even then I feel her behavior is kind of justified.

Vanille is the primary healer of the party with Hope. I’m pretty sure only they learn Curaja, which is vital down the line as the characters’ health bars grow. She’s also the first to learn deprotect and deshell, so you’ll want her for bosses and the tougher mobs. Most important, for endgame in any case, is that she learns Death. The nice thing about Death in this game is that, more than any other game in the franchise, a lot of enemies are vulnerable to Death. Even when Death doesn’t stick (which is most of the time, given its base 1% success rate) it still does a lot of damage. There are a few enemies that you can kill before you ought to with the help of Death. Otherwise she has one of the highest magic stats.

Fang

FF13 Wallpaper

I have little to say about Fang. I never felt she contributed much to the party dynamic or that she had much of a personality besides really, really liking Vanille. She kind of goes crazy at the end, but then doesn’t. I don’t know. That ending was weird.

What I will say is that she is a fucking beast. You will be breaking the damage cap regularly with her in the postgame, and I’m pretty sure she’s the only one I’ve gotten to hit 999,999 on one hit. She learns the pretty vital slow spell early, and makes for a good sentinel. Hell, she and Vanille are the only ones to get the -ra variants of the synergist spells. You want her in your team, and probably as leader so you can use Highwind for massive damage.

God Things!

The Fal’cie, and really the mythology FF13 has as a whole, were pretty interesting. I would like to learn more about these things in future games; probably Versus 13, as 13-2 doesn’t seem to go into that stuff. The Analect dtalog entries you got for completing missions added some of the depth that Cocoon and Pulse were missing. And Dysely/Barthendelus made for a convincing villain. More than the other villains in the series, he seemed to really have his shit together. But maybe I’m biased; I just can’t hate a good voice.

Sooo gooood! I just love it when a villain sounds like he's having an orgasm with each word.

Conclusion

You still reading this? Jesus, guy. Okay, I’ll end this. Final Fantasy XIII is not terrible. If fact, I would go as far as to say it’s pretty good. I did not decide to put another 100 hours into because I hate it. I know I say a lot of shit here, but that’s because it’s easier to be negative than it is positive. I like playing FF13; I find it’s combat compelling; its characters act almost human, which is a rarity in any video game, and the plot, if convoluted and annoying at the ending, is fun to follow. The game isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t deserve the rap it gets. What I think is that time will go on, Final Fantasy XV or whatever will come and earn everyone’s bile, and people will look back and take another look at 13. It’s already happening with 12; everyone (or at least it seemed) hated that game when it came out, but if you look now a lot of people seem to either be changing their perspective on it or coming out of the woodworks to support it. I think something similar will happen with Final Fantasy XIII.

I won’t go into either the news or the demo for 13-2, because fuck you this blog is overlong enough. Maybe I’ll do something on that, but not for a long time. And I don’t think I’m going to do anymore super long analysis on average games.

Though I did just beat Dragon Age II.

#2 Posted by clstirens (847 posts) -

Beyond any other issue, it was the pacing that killed FFXIII for me. By the time I got to chapter 11, I had completely given up on caring about the world or its characters. I wish I could write more, but it's hard to speak for the game's merits (of which it actually has a surprising number), when the pacing of the story, combat (not per battle, but overall amount), and characterization ruined the experience for me.

#3 Posted by BoG (5191 posts) -

I admire your perseverance. I'm in my first playthrough, and I'm burned out at chapter 11. I want to get some sidequests under my belt before entering run forward all the time mode again. This brings me to a point on which I agree with you: the game never gives you a break. Well, I haven't visited the city in Pulse, so I guess I don't totally know yet, but even running around the open map is essentially the same as running through a dungeon. The total lack of side-quest variety doesn't help. It's just much easier to get lost in Pulse than in a corridor/on a raised platform. Square put so much money into the presentation that the forgot some video game essentials. As you said, Sazh and Vanille get to chill in Nautilus, but that's about it. Anyways, linearity. As you said, it's how they structured it. All FF games have been linear, but in XIII, they didn't even attempt to hide it.

As for the battles, you're totally right, you can just button mash through. I've found that each battles is one of three things: 1. Easy to get through with button mashing; 2. Difficult, but winnable if only pay attention; or 3. Not possible at my current stage. The earned CP does not reflect this. I can grind on little gremlin creatures, killing a mob in less than 30 seconds for 2000 CP. I get about the same from a more difficult fight. I'm undecided on whether or not I enjoy not being required to pay attention as I play. To be honest, I think I've only endured so long because I can do other things while grinding. Sometimes, I won't even be in the same room, I'll just mash A.

Question: What is your opinion of the Crystarium? I've concluded that I don't like it. I'm ok with Squenix having replaced levels, but the Crystarium leaves little to no room for customization. You can go off on tiny branches, but that's it. Oh, and you can open up new roles, but it's a waste of CP until the endgame. As the game revolves around switching paradigms, it is worthwhile to dedicate CP to all character's natural roles, so imagine progression is similar for every player. I feel like the series should have evolved past every character being exactly the same for every player with FFV. It works, but it's just as linear as the rest of the game.

Oh, and thanks for the image of Seifer and Zell. I'm going to go and cry now.

#4 Posted by PerfidiousSinn (750 posts) -

I just finished this game for the first time. It's just OK. Not deserving of all the hatred I've read, but it definitely won't go down as one of my favorites in the franchise either.

I liked the battle system but the complexity doesn't really matter until you start taking on missions, which force you to play smart and not mash through it. I'd say I enjoyed the game a lot more after the end, when I started doing the really challenging missions.

The game's pacing was bad though. The whole game should have been like 10 hours shorter because it felt like a grind, and I didn't care about the characters when they kept having the same "revelation" every three hours.

#5 Posted by Beforet (2927 posts) -

@clstirens said:

Beyond any other issue, it was the pacing that killed FFXIII for me. By the time I got to chapter 11, I had completely given up on caring about the world or its characters. I wish I could write more, but it's hard to speak for the game's merits (of which it actually has a surprising number), when the pacing of the story, combat (not per battle, but overall amount), and characterization ruined the experience for me.

I feel the same way about combat amount. There is way too many not-quite-but-effectively-random encounters. By the end of every dungeon I felt exhausted.

@BoG said:

Question: What is your opinion of the Crystarium? I've concluded that I don't like it. I'm ok with Squenix having replaced levels, but the Crystarium leaves little to no room for customization. You can go off on tiny branches, but that's it. Oh, and you can open up new roles, but it's a waste of CP until the endgame. As the game revolves around switching paradigms, it is worthwhile to dedicate CP to all character's natural roles, so imagine progression is similar for every player. I feel like the series should have evolved past every character being exactly the same for every player with FFV. It works, but it's just as linear as the rest of the game.

Oh, and thanks for the image of Seifer and Zell. I'm going to go and cry now.

Here's my take on the Crystarium: as you continue upgrading one character, the sound effect of filling it up starts to add layers, building up and up, and then finally it abruptly stops and, for a moment, I feel really sad. Also, I like seeing the nodes fill up. When I'm trying to say is that I like it because it makes the reptilian part of my brain that responds purely to lights and sound really happy.

Critically, it's the same as the standard leveling system really. That is to say totally linear. I guess you can say that they took out linear-with-illusion-of-choice in the exploration and put it in the character progression. I kinda wish I had gone into that, but I forgot to I guess. It's kind of like the Sphere Grid, except that the SG promised total mastery of every role. That doesn't really happen in 13, though some characters were better at secondary roles than I expected. Since you're in ch. 11, I recommend you don't upgrade those just yet. Or even bother if you don't intend on grinding the adamantoise. If you do, you might want to bring Fang down Synergist earlier, but only up to level 2. She gets everything by then, bizarrely.

I'm actually really excited about the way 13-2 is changing the crystarium. While replaying 13, I was thinking how I would change it and 13-2 seems to do exactly what I would have done. My idea was that if you leveled up one thing you raise the requirement for everything else, like in the Souls series. That way you need to specialize early or risk spreading yourself thin.

#6 Posted by ZenaxPure (2569 posts) -

I think I actually mostly agree with your blog post. Probably my only concern (and something that has been bugging me since the games launch I guess) is how people can not figure out the Fal'cie and l'cie stuff without the datalog. I defiantly never read a datalog entry once (cause ugh I hate them in any game, Mass Effect included) and had no trouble figuring any of that out. Like in the first 2 hours of the game the characters go out of their way numerous times to explain that stuff to the player even though it breaks parts of the story. 
 
In fact there is a cutscene very early on where Sazh is basically explaining everything about Fal'cie to Lightning about why Serah is fucked in the long run that seems out of place in the context of the world (since Lightning obviously knew all that stuff) and is simply there to explain it to the player. There are quite a few scenes like that early on as well.

#7 Posted by Humanity (9584 posts) -

@Zenaxzd said:

I think I actually mostly agree with your blog post. Probably my only concern (and something that has been bugging me since the games launch I guess) is how people can not figure out the Fal'cie and l'cie stuff without the datalog. I defiantly never read a datalog entry once (cause ugh I hate them in any game, Mass Effect included) and had no trouble figuring any of that out. Like in the first 2 hours of the game the characters go out of their way numerous times to explain that stuff to the player even though it breaks parts of the story. In fact there is a cutscene very early on where Sazh is basically explaining everything about Fal'cie to Lightning about why Serah is fucked in the long run that seems out of place in the context of the world (since Lightning obviously knew all that stuff) and is simply there to explain it to the player. There are quite a few scenes like that early on as well.

I didn't really need the datalog either. Since the first time they drop those names I realized it's going to get a little confusing - so I did the one thing that isn't very popular these days, and just actively paid attention whenever they talked about anything. I liked the fact that I could go back to the datalog and read up on something if I so desired - and I did. It's especially useful that as the game progresses the character descriptions automatically update so you can always check up on them.

I always defend this game only because it gets so much unwarranted smack. I started playing it for the first time just recently because XIII-2 looked interesting. I actually really enjoyed everything UP until Gran Pulse. The way they drove the story forward was great for me because I like plot in games and I was interested in the story of XIII. The way the game leads you A to B does wonders for plot advancement. It seemed around every corner there was a little cutscene and I learned a little more about each character which helped keep me interested in the game. The second I was dumped in the "open world environment" I lost a ton of steam to play the game. One particular moment shines for me as a prime example of how tedious sidequests are. Not to spoil anything that happens to be reading by - it's the part after the tall tower segment with the musical elevators and all of a sudden you need to fix something for Vanille. I don't think there could have been anything more insignificant in the grand scheme of what was going on in the story for the characters to do.

The one thing I don't miss in XIII that is heavily used in all open RPG's is the mundane sidequests. Hey the world is ending, you need to destroy to evil Lord X and time is of the essence - but could you deliver these pots to Mrs. Pinkerton for 10xp? Thanks!

#8 Edited by BoG (5191 posts) -

@Beforet: I guess I can see what you mean with the illusion switch from exploration to advancement. It's not a good enough illusion, though. Not to mention, I think the illusion is more effective in earlier games.I do feel that the other games provide more choice, especially beginning with V (or even III). I'm sure that my team is very different from someone else's team. In VI, everyone will eventually develop the same team if they try hard enough, but assigning different espers allows you to develop different characters in different ways. Not to mention, there are enough characters that everyone may have a different team based on preference. VII's materia system, too, allowed for a more custom party to a certain point, as did VIII. IX was more rigid, but you could still choose the path you took, and choose which abilities to use once you had learned them. XII was also freer, especially or dumb players like me who had the strangest character builds of all time. Fran was my primary DPS, and my main healer. Of course, by the time I finished the game, I had filled all necessary roles, and could use them all thanks to the ability to switch characters at will. I didn't progress far enough in X to really judge the sphere grid, though.

@Zenaxzd: I don't particularly like required reading in my games. I felt that I needed to read the datalog to get what was going on, so I did. Mass Effect does not require you to read in order to understand the story, but I read most of the encyclopedia out of a desire to learn more about the universe. I think the first thing I did in the original game was read the entry on Asari mating practices...

I wish that every forum topic had so many detailed posts.

#9 Posted by ZenaxPure (2569 posts) -
@BoG: Well my main quarrel was that I didn't think any of it was required. I personally don't read entries in games even those I like because I'd simply rather be playing the game itself. I believe the only time I've gone out of my way to read stuff was in WoW, but that was mostly because it was on a wiki and I could quickly hop from one article to the next. Anyhow though, like I said my main point was I didn't understand why anyone thought the stuff in 13 was required to read to follow the plot. Pretty much every entry in my first save file of the game still has a fat ! on it as I chose to simply ignore it as the characters gave all the info needed to follow along. I don't really feel like digging around youtube for the specific cutscene but there is a scene very early into the game where Sazh spells out in simple details the basics on fal'cie and l'cie which after his couple of sentences I felt like I grasped what was going on in the situation. Fal'cie's were demi-gods (aka dicks) that gave people jobs to finish, and those people were known as l'cie, wasn't really that complicated or confusing.
#10 Edited by Encephalon (1283 posts) -

I'd like to know how you feel about the plot of FFXIII when the Pope spills the whole deal. Personally, I thought it was really weird, and also disappointed in that it follows the grand Final Fantasy tradition of resorting to dumb fantasy tropes in the eleventh hour.

Like, when we find out that the whole game isn't about totalitarianism and propaganda and racism at all - it's really about the Pope trying to kill everyone in Cocoon as some big fucking sacrifice to call back an even bigger god called the Maker, who the fal'Cie really want to see again because they miss Daddy. Except the Pope can't do it himself because he is a robotic steward of humanity and is thus unable to harm them directly, so he enlists l'CIe to fuck everything up in his stead. Except he totally iced Jihl and the Palamecia's crew so... My head hurts.

I really wish these games could resist the urge to go galactic near the end, and instead try to tell more grounded stories about things I care about. Hell, even the stellar Final Fantasy Tactics ends with a boilerplate "revive the dark god by collecting these magic stones" plot. Why can't the last boss ever just be, like, a dude?

#11 Posted by endaround (2147 posts) -

My problem with the combat system was the fact that for 90% of the time Com-Rav-Rav or Com-Rav-Med was more than enough. But if you stumble upon a battle that requires a Sentinel and you don't have one, its game over. And the whole give everyone access to all the other classes for no reason? Yeah that sucks, especially since you have to preload which jobs they'll take before battle.

And the item/weapon crafting. It is the worst system I've ever seen even in a SE and that is saying something coming from a company that purposely makes decisions to force you to buy guides (Can't open that chest if you want the best weapon in 15 hours!)

#12 Posted by BoG (5191 posts) -

@Zenaxzd: Yeah, I understood what you said, but my post didn't reflect that. I think the primary reason most people wanted it was because none of it made sense. Fal'cie was explained, but I had nothing to associate it with. Not to mention, I wasn't actually paying very close attention for much of the game, ha ha. I actually haven't read much at all, but I've caught up on most as I continue playing. What I have read, though, proved useful. The story briefs provide useful insights that the cutscenes lack. Still, I think that they dialogue could have been improved, so that we wouldn't need to do any homework.

@Encephalon: Final Fantasy IV comes to mind. Everyone is under some sort of mind control. I'm sick of it, too.

#13 Posted by Hailinel (25179 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

I'd like to know how you feel about the plot of FFXIII when the Pope spills the whole deal. Personally, I thought it was really weird, and also disappointed in that it follows the grand Final Fantasy tradition of resorting to dumb fantasy tropes in the eleventh hour.

Like, when we find out that the whole game isn't about totalitarianism and propaganda and racism at all - it's really about the Pope trying to kill everyone in Cocoon as some big fucking sacrifice to call back an even bigger god called the Maker, who the fal'Cie really want to see again because they miss Daddy. Except the Pope can't do it himself because he is a robotic steward of humanity and is thus unable to harm them directly, so he enlists l'CIe to fuck everything up in his stead. Except he totally iced Jihl and the Palamecia's crew so... My head hurts.

I really wish these games could resist the urge to go galactic near the end, and instead try to tell more grounded stories about things I care about. Hell, even the stellar Final Fantasy Tactics ends with a boilerplate "revive the dark god by collecting these magic stones" plot. Why can't the last boss ever just be, like, a dude?

He killed Jihl because she was on the verge of fucking up his plan. He wanted her to bring the l'Cie together and to him, not have them arrested and executed. He was using the Sanctum military as a puppet to get the l'Cie to do what he wanted. With the military chasing them, they had no other alternative than to go on the run and complete their Focus or be done in by their l'Cie brands.

And actually, the final boss of Final Fantasy XII is just as a dude. Sure, he's a more powerful version of said dude, but it's still just that dude. There's no eleventh-hour surprise final boss waiting in the wings. The same can be said of other entries in the series like Final Fantasy VI. In the end, you're still fighting Kefka, even if he does fancy himself a god.

#14 Posted by Encephalon (1283 posts) -

@Hailinel: I get why Jihl had to go. My issue is that the very fact that Barthandelus could even do that throws his entire gambit into question.

If Bartandelus can in fact harm humans, and his ultimate goal is to kill everyone in Cocoon to get the Maker's attention, why does he even bother with the l'Cie rigamarole when there are far easier ways to achieve his goals?

He could stop making food and starve them out. He could more directly command PSICOM and start a genocide campaign. He could start warping giant turtles and robots into Eden and let them do the job--oh wait, he already did that, and it works because as the party nears Edenhall, crystal energy or whatever starts flying everywhere and the Door of Souls opens overhead. So why does he even need Fang to become Ragnarok in the first place?

Honestly, the more I think about the whole l'Cie conceit, the less sense it makes. If the fal'Cie give out Focuses with the express purpose of seeing them completed, why do they communicate objectives in the form of hazy, indecipherable dreams?

#15 Posted by Hailinel (25179 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Hailinel: I get why Jihl had to go. My issue is that the very fact that Barthandelus could even do that throws his entire gambit into question.

If Bartandelus can in fact harm humans, and his ultimate goal is to kill everyone in Cocoon to get the Maker's attention, why does he even bother with the l'Cie rigamarole when there are far easier ways to achieve his goals?

He could stop making food and starve them out. He could more directly command PSICOM and start a genocide campaign. He could start warping giant turtles and robots into Eden and let them do the job--oh wait, he already did that, and it works because as the party nears Edenhall, crystal energy or whatever starts flying everywhere and the Door of Souls opens overhead. So why does he even need Fang to become Ragnarok in the first place?

Honestly, the more I think about the whole l'Cie conceit, the less sense it makes. If the fal'Cie give out Focuses with the express purpose of seeing them completed, why do they communicate objectives in the form of hazy, indecipherable dreams?

Barthandelus can't accomplish his goal by himself. Orphan can't be killed by a Cocoon fal'Cie. He specifically needs the party because they were made l'Cie by a Pulse fal'Cie.
#16 Edited by spazmaster666 (1972 posts) -

@Beforet said:

S-Ranking Final Fantasy XIII is a different sort of hell. Whereas Limbo and Ico both demand the absolute apex of player skill and manipulation, FF13 asks only for your time. All of your time. S-Ranking FF13 is much like cruising towards the center of a black hole, past the point where gravity literally pulls time and space towards the center, and everywhere you turn you face that inescapable doom. I spent the first fourty hours of FF13 completing the story.. The next sixty I spent working towards Treasure Hunter. Most of that time I spent killing turtles. So many, many turtles. But, in the doing, I feel I have obtained for myself a perspective on the highs and lows of Final Fantasy XIII.

You're right about that. And only a true idiot would ever want to do something as stupid as S-ranking it twice, let alone play it 3-and-a-half times. ;)

But seriously, I think FFXIII definitely got a lot of harsh criticism, much harsher than it deserves. While the pacing of the game was definitely flawed, it still manages in the end to draw me into its world and had one of the enjoyable (though at times obtuse) combat systems around. Also those cinematics. Let me you, I'm a guy who skips a lot of cinematics in games (I even skipped some in Metal Gear Solid 4) and I watched every single one of those cinematics, even on subsequent play-throughs, even on the 360 version. Anyway, my journey of self abuse will probably start again soon with FFXIII-2 as I will probably end up playing that game many times through as well. :P

#17 Posted by ESREVER (2700 posts) -

Aww, your title is misleading. I thought it was an actual developer post-mortem, not just a "here are my final thoughts on the game" kind of thing. Unless you were a developer on the game, I don't think you can use the term "post-mortem" to describe what this is. Or I just might be use to developer post mortems and this could still be an okay use of the word. Iunno.

#18 Edited by Encephalon (1283 posts) -

@Hailinel:

But why does Orphan have to die in the first place? Orphan is the life support system of Cocoon, sure, but his plan revolves around the release of an immense quantity of crystal energy, which is created by humans only. Destroying Cocoon itself is, at least as I understood it, incidental. So even if he sends Cocoon crashing to the ground, killing everyone inside it, it's still just a more complicated and dangerous alternative to just shooting everybody with guns. Also, since his life is intertwined with Orphans, wouldn't it be in his best interest to not kill it, because fal'Cie don't have souls and can't follow the maker through the Door, which is the entire reason he wants to bring the Maker to him? Where does he expect to go once Orphan bites it? I might have missed that.

As for FFXII, I think we've misunderstood each other, though this is largely my fault. I'm not actually hung up on who or what you fight at the end of a game, but rather what they represent as the culmination of the story. I would argue that Vayne fits what I'm talking about exactly, because his transformation is tied in with the Occurian plot, which fits the kind of eleventh hour turn I'm talking about.

It's especially painful in a Matsuno game, because at the outset, they all seem to be going in the direction that I want them to. FFT starts with a succession crisis and class warfare; FFXII, a proxy war between two superpowers spilling over into a modest third-world kingdom. But they never seem to stick with it. God is always toying with everybody behind the scenes, and their motivations are never as interesting. I realize this is mostly a difference of taste, not necessarily an objective flaw, but the point stands.

#19 Posted by Hailinel (25179 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Hailinel:

But why does Orphan have to die in the first place? Orphan is the life support system of Cocoon, sure, but his plan revolves around the release of an immense quantity of crystal energy, which is created by humans only. So even if he sends Cocoon crashing to the ground, killing everyone inside it, it's still just a more complicated and dangerous alternative to just shooting everybody with guns. Also, since his life is intertwined with Orphans, wouldn't it be in his best interest to not kill it, because fal'Cie don't have souls and can't follow the maker through the Door, which is the entire reason he wants to bring the Maker to him? Where does he expect to go once Orphan bites it? I might have missed that.

As for FFXII, I think we've misunderstood each other, though this is largely my fault. I'm not actually hung up on who or what you fight at the end of a game, but rather what they represent as the culmination of the story. I would argue that Vayne fits what I'm talking about exactly, because his transformation is tied in with the Occurian plot, which fits the kind of eleventh hour turn I'm talking about.

It's especially painful in a Matsuno game, because at the outset, they all seem to be going in the direction that I want them to. FFT starts with a succession crisis and class warfare; FFXII, a proxy war between two superpowers spilling over into a modest third-world kingdom. But they never seem to stick with it. God is always toying with everybody behind the scenes, and their motivations are never as interesting. I realize this is mostly a difference of taste, not necessarily an objective flaw, but the point stands.

Because Orphan gives life to Cocoon, and Barthandelus believes that by destroying Orphan, Cocoon will be destroyed, and the Maker will return to create a new world. Barthandelus's end goal was to bring back the Maker and see the world reborn.

As for your views on FFT and XII, I can't really say I agree, but like you said, this is a difference of taste.

#20 Edited by CaptainCharisma (339 posts) -

Really good read! The story really left me lost, but I think that's because I took a two month break from the game because the final boss kept one hit killing my party leader. And when I went and finished it, the ending just left a bad taste in my mouth between the song playing in the background and the complete randomness that preceded it. I'm sort of looking forward to 13-2 but don't plan on picking it up until it's around $20. And the lack of Sazh in all of the trailers I've seen has been really disappointing.

Oh, and I hated the main antagonist. That's the one thing I disagree with you on. I thought he was boring and a cliche.

#21 Posted by Turambar (6808 posts) -
@Encephalon said:

I'd like to know how you feel about the plot of FFXIII when the Pope spills the whole deal. Personally, I thought it was really weird, and also disappointed in that it follows the grand Final Fantasy tradition of resorting to dumb fantasy tropes in the eleventh hour.

I really wish these games could resist the urge to go galactic near the end, and instead try to tell more grounded stories about things I care about. Hell, even the stellar Final Fantasy Tactics ends with a boilerplate "revive the dark god by collecting these magic stones" plot. Why can't the last boss ever just be, like, a dude?

Because people like to play games that let them do grand things.  So the final boss follows in suit and is grand.  It's a trend fairly prevalent across all game types.
#22 Edited by Encephalon (1283 posts) -

@Hailinel: Sure, I can respect a difference of taste.

It's clear that the writers behind Final Fantasy have huge narrative ambitions, and always conceive interesting metaphysical systems for the worlds they create, and I continue to respect that as much as I did when I played FFX and thought the concept of an Unsent was the coolest thing ever. I just think that, oftentimes, their reach exceeds their grasp, and that is why I rarely enjoy their games when these elements become more prominent.

I realize now that what I want out of fantasy is something like the Witcher or Game of Thones--which indulge in some fantastical genre elements but otherwise tell very mundane, grounded stories--but that is just something that Final Fantasy is not interested in.

@Turambar: I guess you're right. It is kind of common in games to eschew the mundane for the epic. Not that I've ever deluded myself into thinking this is purely a JRPG thing.

I'd rather Mass Effect be about intergalactic race relations than a Reaper invasion, and I'd rather Dragon Age be about mage civil rights or the Qunari than darkspawn. But I guess people like to do epic things. Alas, my dream of a ME3 finale, which is an hour-long Yalta peace conference with only dialogue trees and no shooting, will probably never come to pass...

#23 Posted by Petiew (1353 posts) -
@Encephalon:

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.