Recently, I got a brand new copy of Final Fantasy XIII for $10. It's great because I've wanted to play it for a while, but definitely not pay a significant sum of money for it! I was right to wait, because it isn't a very good game. It's not awful or the worst RPG I've ever played or anything. It's just very bland and terrible at making me want to keep playing it. But even a mediocre experience can be positive, and I learned what I like about RPGs from things Final Fantasy XIII did right AND wrong. So I'm gonna list these things and you probably won't care because this game's old and the sequel is out. Let's start!
Post-battle recovery is boring.
In every other RPG ever this has bugged me. After most battles, you will go through this ritual:
1. Go to item menu and use Potions to heal up your wounded characters.
2. Use Phoenix Downs to revive the downed characters.
3.Use Ether to refill magic.
It's just a waste of time, which is why I'm glad Final Fantasy XIII is nice enough to refill your HP after every battle, and there's no limit on MP at all! This is directly linked to the next point because this game can afford to be generous when
Every battle is a challenge.
For most of Final Fantasy XIIII, you really need to pay attention to battles or you're gonna lose. If I'm playing through an RPG for an extended period of time just steamrolling every enemy in my way, I'm gonna get bored of it. Final Fantasy XIII's difficulty is always spot-on, and even challenges that seem insurmountable at first glance can usually be overcome if you just reconfigure your party and Paradigm setup. It's always a challenge, and that made me want to keep playing.
I hate useless equipment and bad upgrade systems.
I think a good 75% of the equipment I picked up in Final Fantasy XIII was trash. There are TONS of accessories that raise your resistance to status effects and certain types of damage. If you use a healer in your party (which is pretty tough not to do) or spend a few Gil on status recovery items, these accessories become meaningless. There are weapons with fantastic abilities like "makes your magic weaker", "makes your physical strength weaker", and "+100 HP (which you can already get from the ten +100 HP items you got earlier)". They're worthless.
Even if these weapons got some kind of FANTASTIC ability when you upgrade them all the way, I can't tell. The game's upgrade system is so poorly explained in-game that I ended up looking up a guide to find out how to upgrade items most efficiently. It's not worth leveling up this "Enfeeblement" staff to see if it evolves into The Godlike Killing Staff of Pure Death if I could just upgrade the "Better Healing" staff and beat the entire game without changing it.
I love checkpoints!
The checkpoints in Final Fantasy XIII are fantastic. Since nearly every battle includes the very real possibility of you getting your ass blasted off in seconds, they checkpoint the heck out of this game. Failed a battle against one of those Behemoth guys because he stood up halfway through and decided to kill you in one shot? You get a retry right on the spot which spawns you outside of the battle and gives you time to change your tactics. I've played plenty of RPGs where you would get kicked out to THE MAIN MENU after losing a battle and have to retry from the last save point, which means you could be losing a ton of progress. I hate that. You might say it's "too easy" but I don't care if it makes the game more enjoyable. I love checkpoints.
Caring about characters = caring about the game.
I REALLY didn't care about the main cast of Final Fantasy XIII, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe because of all the melodrama? The frequent switching of perspectives? The long cutscenes where they continually reiterate their motivation and major plot points so often that I just stopped paying attention? Either way, I didn't care about what happened to these people and it really hurt my enjoyment of the game as a whole. The battling is fine, but in a story driven game, good pacing and writing are just as important as the gameplay. I didn't care about the story of Final Fantasy XIII, and it greatly diminished my desire to finish it. But it was only $10...
Good post-game content is crucial.
When I play a game, I try to get the most out of it. It's a bummer finishing a game and having nothing to do afterwards but start a new one, even if it is a New Game+ with added features. Final Fantasy XIII unlocks a ton of cool things after you beat it. New missions, new areas to explore, and the opportunity to raise all your characters to their maximum potential. New Game+ is cool, but I think I like post-game additions in RPGs even more.
I hate not having fast travel in a large world.
Once I got to the point in Final Fantasy XIII where I could do sidequests, I set out to do ALL of them because I like sidequests. I quit about two hours later because it was taking too long. There are a few missions you can complete to unlock fast travel spots. But this world is really, REALLY big. The fastest travel option you get is a Chocobo, but this option is not made apparent and requires you to do a lot of legwork on your own to finish a few loosely-connected sidequests to unlock. And even when you get the Chocobo, you can lose it easily because there's so many wild enemies running around to knock you off. Which means you'll have to walk quite a while to get on another mount. Which you'll probably lose again. Oh well. If you're gonna put in a large overworld, have a good fast travel system!
I'm glad I saw Final Fantasy XIII to the end. I didn't enjoy it all the way through, but playing a game that I never really got drawn into or enjoyed for a majority of it was a unique experience in learning what I appreciate as a gamer. Now I've just gotta find an RPG that I really like.
Please don't recommend Final Fantasy XIII-2, unless I can get that for $10 too...