Hope and Vanille have just arrived at the survivor camp after Hope’s mother dies. I can already see where this is going: Hope’s going to steal a hoverbike and chase Snow (to accuse him of something that plainly wasn’t his fault?), which is a terrible idea. Unless there’s a severe shift or I’m misreading them, Hope and Vanille seem like they’re going to be the plot’s soft, Japanese underbelly. I mean, seriously, what’s even happening here? I’ve got to assume I’ll eventually be given a plausible explanation for why Vanille seems to have the mannerisms of a 7-year-old.
Aside from Lightning and Sazh, I’m really having trouble swallowing the characters’ motivations thus far. Snow goes from aloof badass to self-doubting hero to acute PTSD sufferrer and straight back to aloof badass over the course of approximately 5 minutes. I guess I’m supposed to read this as a coping mechanism. Dozens of people he took responsibility for just died, and he’s obsessed with one lady and her son? In the midst of a warzone, he decides to drive straight into the eye of the storm to check on his girlfriend?
I’m liking both Lightning and Sazh as characters thus far. Sure, the quiet brooding badass with unclear motivations is one of the tropiest video game tropes, but she’s seems like a pretty cool character, and I’m sure there will be more to her. Sazh is a bit goofy, but in a likeable way. I know I’m playing a JRPG — I don’t expect to find deep, complex, consistent characters that I could picture having an everyday life outside of the game. That’s not what they’re going for, and it would be idiotic to expect a Final Fantasy game to play by the same narrative rules as Mass Effect or The Walking Dead. What I do expect, however, is for characters to not be cringe-worthy.
Premature story gripes aside, I should reiterate that this game is beautiful. It was severely delayed, came out over three years ago (in Japan), and still looks better than most new releases. While it’s possible to spot the difference between the FMV and in-game rendering, the difference is amazingly slight — I think that speaks volumes about what Square Enix achieved. I don’t think I would have expected anywhere near this level of progress 10 years ago. I’ve stopped a few times and just panned the camera around taking everything in, especially the character models.
Gameplay-wise, things are really light so far. Except for a couple of times I’ve used a Potion, battles have consisted of pressing X a bunch. I can see the makings of an interesting battle system — the stagger system reminds me of Xenoblade’s Break/Topple/Daze system except more straightforward and predictable, and I can see the monster strengths and weaknesses adding more depth once I’ve got elemental attacks.
I appreciate that the equipment system seems limited to just weapons and accessories. I’ve never enjoyed spending a bunch of time messing with gloves, boots, gem slots, etc. Even if things get more complicated, it looks like I can just take advantage of the auto-equip button and avoid having to sit in awkwardly-designed menus for half an hour at a time (I’m looking at you, Xenoblade). I’m getting the sense that a lot of the gameplay systems are similarly streamlined, which bodes well for my enjoyment of the game.
One last small gripe: the camera seems kind of bad. Maybe I’ll get used to it or I need to just give up trying to manually control it, but right off the bat, I felt like I was fighting it. It pans too slowly, moves unpredictably, and does weird stuff like panning up as you run up stairs then never coming back down.