So yeah, I've had Final Fantasy XIII four a lil' while now. Might not be finished with it yet but I've clocked in over thirty hours so I've seen almost all there is to be seen in the game and I figure it's about time to put in my ten cents since I'm about sick of the game and don't intend to finish too soon.
I'll start off by saying Final Fantasy XIII has a pretty poor first impression. You're introduced to Lightning who comes off as an early Final Fantasy VIII Squall with a vagina She's an insensitive, unlikabledouche at first.
Snow is as campy as they come. Hope is probably one of the most whiny characters I've seen in a game up until the fifteen hour point. Vanille initially seems like another one of those ditzy childish jrpg staples like Yuffie and Rikku. It doesn't help that she sounds like she's has a chronic orgasm in battle. I'm about thirty hours into the game and I still know next to nothing about Fang. Hell, I can't even think of how to describe her personality.
That leaves us with Sahz. The only likable, mildly relatable and understandable characterduring most of thegame. I give him bonus point for having a chocobo in his fro.
All the characters really start to pick up along with the story around fifteen to twenty hours in... But yeah, that fifteen to twenty hours of player indifference.
The game does a poor job of fleshing the world around you out as well. Most players will have a hard time getting what the difference is between a "L'Cie" and "Fal'Cie" is in the first dozen hours or so. the game makes little effort to explain the cultures and origins of it's past at first. You feel as though you're throw into the middle of something, like watching a television show only after missing the first season.
And don't give me "read the datalogs" crap. I shouldn't have to waste my time in some menus to get whats going on in the game. Datalogs should be supplementary.
The combat is alright and at first seems like something new. But once you give it some thought it's just a stripped down version of the Final Fantasy VII combat system with a couple interested additions.
You control only one character of the party, if that character is killed the game is over. It's sort of turn based like Final Fantasy VII where you input commands once the ATB gauge has been filled. I guess one of the defining changes here is that you do hardly any damage to enemies until their "Stagger" gauge is filled after you chained so many attacks. So you often get to waste tons of time fighting the most basic of enemies.
Often times enemies will have elemental weaknesses and such, but you never have to give it much thought. Use the libra ability or a libra scope which will instantly research enemies and show their weaknesses and your party members will automatically act on that knowledge. Select the "Auto battle" option that almost always chooses the best attacks for you and voila, you have a game that requires almost no thought.
Then you have "Paradigm shifts". This allows you to switch the roles of the party members on fly in combat. It's a pretty neat idea actually and you could form up alot of interesting formations. Unfortunately, it's rare that fights you get into will require you to use any formations other than some offensive one and a healing one to heal up when health is low and then back again the the offensive one.
Of course, there are exceptions. Such as the occasional brick wall boss fight. Final Fantasy XIII's idea of pacing is run through a bunch of push overs and then introduce a big bad that requires a vastly different strategy than you used on all the previous enemies. There is no slow build up in difficulty, it's fight mind numbingly easy baddies then fight Mr. Not-Quite-Impossible-But-You-May-Need-an-FAQ-Good-Chum.
Most of these tough battle are for your summons which prove to not be worth the trouble. They barely make up in damage the amount of time they waste on the field. Perhaps their most useful aspect is that the party is revived after the summon goes away, but the stagger gauge resets.
Then you have the poopy pacing. The game is a giant grind. Walk in a line, fight some guys, watch cut scenes. This routine goes unbroken for almost a solid thirty hours. Final Fantasy games traditionally had puzzles, minigames and towns to mix things up a bit. Not here, pal. The closest thing you get to ths in the first thirt hours of the game is a minute long ride on a robot and walking around a room for a couple minute looking for a baby chocobo. Then when you finally get to some side quests at the thirty hour mark the vast majority are really only feasible after actually completing the game.
I might sound a bitb!tchy but it's not a bad game. In fact I'd probably give it something like a 7.5/10 or an 8 even. By current jrpg standards this is almost as good as it gets now a day. While I don't approve of some of the changes I'm at least happy Square is putting forth effort to make some changes rather than continuously putting out a recycled product *cough*Pokemon*cough*. Oh, excuse me. I meant Nintendo as a whole.
But you expect more from Final Fantasy. And considering it's been in development for aboutfour years, maybe more, you'd expect better. Other developers such as Bioware puts out arguably better games on ayearly basis and they're a much smaller developer.