duecenage's Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3) review

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Efing Media Reviews - Final Fantasy XIII

 Final Fantasy XIII a mixed bag of totally awesome, and somewhat inane design choices.

The game starts off with the main party being fugitives on the run. I believe that’s why a bulk of this game is so linear. When you’re running and hiding from the army, you don’t have time to dick around at Inns or Weapons shops. Yet, even with the game being so streamlined, the environments still felt really fat. Like they were 20 - 25% bigger than they needed to be. Nothing in this world felt “human” sized. There’s no doubt that each of these environments were gloriously crafted and a marvel to look at, but eventually the awe is replaced with “Are we there yet?”

I really liked the battle system in this game. This is one part where streamlining actually worked. Some of these battles were so fast that you had no option but to use Auto Battle. If you tried going through the menus you’d end up dead before you found what you were looking for. But even death isn‘t a big deal in this game because you can always retry the battle or avoid it all together. I’d see a big-ass Behemoth. Fight him. He’d kill me in one hit. So I ran around him instead.

The battle system isn’t without flaws. I hate that whenever the party leader dies it‘s game over, even though I have 2 other characters perfectly capable of resurrecting the leader. This wasn’t fun in any of the Personas and continues to not be any fun here. Especially when a large group of enemies decide to all jump the party leader, killing you faster than you can say “Odin.” They should’ve borrowed a note from the FFXII team and implemented the “new leader” option.

I really enjoyed the Paradigm Shifts. It gave a great, on-the-fly, squad mentality. I found it more enjoyable than Gambits. I really liked the Gambit system, but quick changes in the heat of the moment versus an hour of setting things up is just more entertaining to me. Must be why I prefer Hockey to Football. I had to make sure my Paradigms were always in the same order because I rolled through the menu so fast it was all touch memory. It would’ve been nice if I could’ve stored Paradigms setups. They give you all these characters, with all these fun summons to control, and I used the same 3 because having to always reset the Paradigms would’ve been way too tedious. It was annoying enough having to do it because the story swapped party members for me. I know it would be too hard to implement because not everyone in your party has the same Paradigms, but if they’d let you store a few teams with some Paradigm setups then I would’ve been more inclined to explore these other things.

The Crystarium was like crack for levelling up. A visual interface that you could follow from stat boost to stat boost. I liked stocking up on Crystogen Points, just to watch the Crystarium fill up even more. There wasn’t much to it, it was merely just visual filler, but it was still neat. One thing that did suck about the Crystarium was that how high you could level up was based on story. You’re unable to fully develop characters until after you’ve beaten the last boss. I’m all for balancing and keeping a certain difficulty level throughout a game, but this is a poor way to do it. Once the world opened up and you had your full team, that is when it should’ve been up to you to determine how far you wanted to level up.

I’m kind of mixed about the story. I thought the first half was really well paced and somewhat easy to follow. I liked that they tried the non-linear route, only telling you what you needed to know when you needed to know it. It made for some great revelations about characters and it was a good contrast to the linearity of the environments. They also didn’t go out of their way to explain every little thing. I appreciate it when storytellers just let the audience view the world as it is. Those who catch on quickly can keep moving forward, and those who don’t quite get it still have the data logs to help make things a more clear.

In the last half of the game I started viewing the data logs more often. Not to understand the world better, but because the story was getting more convoluted and hard to follow. I never understood the main characters motivation towards the end and I think I know what the villain was trying to do, but it was all very ambiguous. They avoided explaining too many things. I usually don’t need everything to be explained but “Must’ve been Fal’cie smoke and mirrors” got old pretty fast. I didn’t even know I was near the end of the game until the credits started rolling. I thought this was leading up to something grander, but it never did.

This game seemed to be more about the world and less about the characters. The cast list is pretty shallow. Outside the main 6 heroes, there was maybe 10 other characters. Of those 10, only 3 were antagonists, and of those 3, you only actually had to deal with 2. With so little going on in this department, the 40-50 hours of game play relies on the constant grind as you fight your way from point A to point B.

The game does open up in chapter 11. I spent about 15 hours in this part. 10 hours doing non-story stuff, and I think I only did about a third of the side quests. It was a welcomed change of pace, but having all the side stuff in this one part was just too much. After those 10 hours, I got bored with running around the field and continued on my upward path. It gave me the impression that no one was looking at this game as a whole picture. That’s actually the biggest flaw with this game. Elements rarely seem to blend with one another, instead they feel like separate chunks. Like someone placed a piece at point A and kept laying them down until the end of the game.

As a Final Fantasy game, this is one of the weaker ones. That said, I really enjoyed playing this game, in spite of its flaws. When the game play was still growing, the story kept me intrigued. Then as the story faltered, the game play had me hooked. It might not matter to most people, but this game does a lot of the little things really well. I feel it kind of evens things out in the end. If you are on the fence about this game, all I can say is give it a try. You might actually like, but it’s still okay if you don’t.

1 Comments
Posted by Xanth93

Excellent review. I have to agree with just about every one of your points.

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    Final Fantasy XIII is an odd beast of a game. FF XIII is a game that blurs the lines between what we expect from Japanese and Western game design. It moves away from what has become staple for the series resulting in an odd mixture of action and rpg elements.  The Japanese version has better names for the classes and Paradigm shifts.   Ostensibly FF XIII looks far more watered down or simplified than it actually is. In combat you don't have control over any other character besides your leader, ...

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