Who are you trying to save, in a world without a soul?
Who are you trying to save, in a world without a soul? This was the question I asked myself repeatedly, while I played through Final Fantasy 13. Final Fantasy 13 is the latest single player game in the series by Square-Enix. It offers a more streamline experience from past entries in the series, however, more often than not, this streamlining is harmful. The game hits the usual high marks for graphics, in certain areas, but stumbles with story and controls.
The game's story is about a group of six, let's say adventures, and their quest to save a world. Without giving too much away, I'll say that their journey leads them through several dangerous locations while there is infighting in their group until the end when they come together. The theme for the story seemed to be an angst filled drama set in an apocalypse environment. However, this theme never seemed to work properly due to the incredibly slow pacing. The slow build up of angst gets so bad that at several parts during the story telling, I expected the theme song to Dawson's Creek ('I don't want to wait' by Paula Cole) to start playing as the characters looked at each other. All the characters have issues, but none of their issues comes close to the fact that nearly everyone in their world wants them dead, despite the fact that they are the only ones trying to stop the world from ending. It is this disconnect that makes the characters seem petty because they are obsessed with their small problems.
The game consist of two worlds, Cocoon and Pulse and only Cocoon matters, that are at war with each other for unknown, I couldn't figure it out, reasons. The game attempts to portray this struggle as some kind of epic conflict that has ruled daily life on both worlds. However, it fails at this for two main reasons. First, there is little to no contact with npcs on Cocoon in anyway, and less on Pulse. The player almost never runs across them in their journey, and there are no personalization items (for example audio logs in Bioshock) in the environments. Without some kind of emotional connection to the npcs or the world, it is difficult for the player to care about either. Second, It is apparent that in their attempts to streamline the experience, to make it easier for players to figure out what to do next, that they decided to cut out exploration. The problem with this is that the player often rushes through the environments without caring where or why they are there. Given that the game's main quest is to save the world, you would think that they would try to make the player care about the world, but instead they seemed to focus all their attention on the character's troubles.
Graphically the game looks great in some areas; the main cast, monsters, cut scenes, animations, but falls short in other important areas; environments, spell effects, and npcs. This topic doesn't need much elaboration so I'll leave it at this.
The controls for the camera in the game fail at the simplest tasks, and it makes you wonder if they designed them in a vacuum. For example the camera controls are slow, and become unresponsive when the characters jump from one platform to another. This is rather annoying since the gaming world has active monsters in it, and encourages users to attack them from behind. And this is made unnecessarily difficult because, more often than not, the player has to wrestle with the camera in order to get a good viewing angle on a monster, while the camera wants the user to get a good view of the back of their head. While bad camera controls are not uncommon, you wouldn't expect to find them from a big developer.
Overall this game was a chore to play, and it felt like that was the goal of it's design. With unsympathetic characters and a bland world it was hard to care about either them. The graphics were pleasing, but they were not good enough to carry the game. The controls are an irritation that constantly reminds that the game doesn't care if it is liked or not. If you are a final fantasy fan, and really want to play all of them, then you should check this game out, however, if you are not, then I would suggest that you skip this entry in the series.