Utterly Beautiful, but that's not all
Final Fantasy XIII is yet another addition in the long running RPG series from Square Enix. It uses the pleasure of intensely sophisticated graphical prowess and the absolutely dense combat system to make this entry to the series as great as ever. It should be noted that this Final Fantasy is different, as with most entrees to the series, it has its own spin on things. A new role specific system makes the battles extremely complicated at points, and completely boring at others. The game begins with a stripped down version of the final product, and the player will have to grind out a good ten to fifteen hours of opening gameplay and incomplete combat to really get to the good stuff at the center, the Paradigm shift system.
Paradigm shifting involves shifting the roles of the character's in one's party, which can be a max of three. The player will only be allowed to use two character's in their party for a good chunk of the game in the beginning, but sticking through this meticulous phase will bring the ultimate reward to the player; satisfaction. The battle system is extremely satisfying, especially when one finds a new way to bring down a dangerous foe.
The story is extremely complicated, but is filled with text entry "Datalog" entries to flesh out different aspects of the characters, enemies and the locations. The game starts with Lightening, a dangerous Guardian Corps, or simply a cop, on a train that is derailed and the war begins. That war will last the entire length of the story of the game, and introduce many different people across many different locations. The player will eventually be able to use six characters in their three character max party.
The game is filled with components (loot), accessories, and weapons. While gil is extremely hard to find, and for the most part non existent, the weapon and accessory upgrade system is totally fleshed out and a blast to partake in. The experience system does not yield levels to the characters, but rather to the crystarium system. A tech-tree like ability board, the player slowly gets CP, or crystarium points, from defeated enemies that can be used to learn new ability and increase stats. The system works fine, but a level on each character would have been nice.
The game is getting a lot of attention for being too linear, but it is taken in stride when you actually play through the game. The story moves at a rapid pace, making stopping at towns and stopping to grind an inconceivable thought for the first thirty or so hours of the game. The final three chapters will probably take you an addition thirty hours or so to reach the final boss. In total, the story took me 60 hours to complete, and I then spent 25 additional hours completing marks and upgrading my weapons.
In all I had a blast playing through this epic quest. I loved watching all the cutscenes, learning about the characters, but most of all I had the most fun beating the tougher enemies in the game by using unique strategies. With other $60 games lasting eight to ten hours, a sixty hour trek may be very refreshing to most any gamer.