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Edited by GrantHeaslip

I’ve put off writing this for the better part of a week, so I’ve got some catching up to do. My last entry left off at the beginning of Chapter 10 (The Fifth Ark), and I’m now deep into Chapter 11 (Taejin’s Tower).

I’m not going to sugar-coat this: I’m getting a little bored. Xenoblade is my only recent JRPG, so take comparisons with a grain of salt, but the parallels are many: since the Palamecia, the combat has settled into a predictable rhythm, the pace of the story has slowed, I’m being led through enemy-filled zones with questionable narrative relevance, and I’m being asked to complete phoned-in “kill X” quests.

I finished the first tier of Cie'th quests in the Gran Pulse overworld, and figuring Oerba Village was nearby and might be worth hitting up before I progressed much further, I decided to head there. It turns out that is absolutely not the case, and while I know that I’ll be able to teleport back to the overworld later on (not that I particularly want to), I’m in too deep to turn back now. Taejin's Tower, like The Fifth Ark, gives me the same lifeless MMO feeling as parts of the Palamecia — it appears to be a thinly-veiled excuse to have me run around and kill more monsters. Unlike earlier, when there was a very clear push factor, I’m not totally clear on why the group is heading to Oerba Village. The datapad gives a hand-wavey “they hope to learn more about the nature of their task”-esque justification, but I’m just not sold on it.

The Cid Raines story dump felt cheap, wasteful (in the context of how light the following 5-10 hours have been), and utterly out of left field. It was a BioShock-style “you’ve been strung along” cheap shot, and the writers should have found a way to convey all of that information in a more natural way than a character just telling you everything. That aside, I liked when the story was more about individual characters and their coming to terms with each other and thier predicament, not demigods trying to revive their god with a mass sacrifice.

There has been some good story stuff, particularly the way Vanille’s story has been fleshed out. I’m not taking back what I said about her being obnoxious early in the game, but it mostly makes sense now, and it’s a genuinely interesting scenario she was in — waking up to an unfamiliar world, having the clock ticking on her life, wandering aimlessly, and being drawn to those she had hurt even though she couldn’t bring herself to explain or apologize. This scene, in the context of her knowing what she knew, is pretty interesting.

Maybe I’m just in an uneventful stretch, and maybe I was just in a bad mood while playing. Don’t read any of this as giving up hope — I’m just a bit unenthused and disappointed with how the things have played out.

Gameplay

After putting off dealing with upgrades for a while, I settled on using Lightning/Hope/Fang as my primary party, and upgraded their weapons to midway through their second forms. I’ll restate that any upgrade system that encourages and rewards hoarding materials and breaking out a calculator is, I think, a badly designed one.

Now that the systems are all in place and the difficulty has ramped up, combat has settled into a pretty predictable pattern. The enemies are potent enough that having Fang in the Sentinel role has become the default, not the exception. I haven’t upgraded any accessories, so this may be on me, but I find that letting aggro slip to Lightning or (especially) Hope before most enemies are dispatched can cause things to go south very quickly, and leave me wasting even more time doing damage control. My basic combat loop revolves around switching between COM/MED/SEN, RAV/MED/SEN, and when possible, RAV/RAV/SEN. I’ll switch to COM/RAV/COM when I’m fighting something easy, have an opportunity to get off some choice blitzes, or have the primary threat staggered; and I’ll mix in MED/SYN/SAB when I feel it’s worth it.

On the one hand, this change in difficulty has forced me to be much more tactical, but constantly being on the defensive and taking calculated potshots feels less freewheeling and fun. I generally get 3-5 stars, and a lot of the enemies I’m fighting just plain take a while to kill. I know I’m not completely missing something, but the way I’m fighting just doesn’t feel right.

Graphics

I feel like I haven’t been giving this game’s graphics and art enough credit. It continues to look great, and the framerate is rock solid. There’s filler — the re-use of identical rooms in the Fifth Ark was shameless — but it’s easier to forgive when the game is so often presenting beautiful vistas and great looking cutscenes. Gran Pulse is incredibly expansive, and feels appropriately lush and teeming with life. Palumpolum in particular looked fantastic, though trying to track down a good screenshot of it was not easy.

Posted by Hailinel

I think part of your experience with the plot at the moment is that you've just hit the most open part of the game. You're free to go about and do optional side events now, which wasn't the case for pretty much the entire game up to that point. The characters don't have the law on their ass for once, so they're free to explore and work at their own pace. As far as the Cid Raines twist, yeah, that was crazy, but I felt it fit in line with what else was going on.

This was the point in the game where I really got into a rhythm with the gameplay. The Cid Raines boss fight was actually the first point in the game where I realized that unlike most Final Fantasy games, the status effect spells actually mean something, and I suddenly got a lot better at the combat as a result.

Edited by xyzygy

I agree with Hailinel, this is where the gameplay got really rhythmic for me. Just so you know, you don't have to do all the Cie'th stones before you beat the game, but obviously it's good for gaining CP and getting materials for weapons. Just out of curiousity, have you switched weapons much? I found that experimenting with all different types of weapons really altered some characters for me. Most notable was Lightning and Fang. And the trio of Hope, Fang and Lightning is my favorite - while controlling Fang. Her Ultima move is crazy awesome and satisfying, not sure if you have it yet.

So wait, in the story, you're currently on the way to Oerba? I can't remember the sequence of events once you get to Pulse. What was the last major boss you fought? Did you climb any towers?

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Hailinel said:

I think part of your experience with the plot at the moment is that you've just hit the most open part of the game. You're free to go about and do optional side events now, which wasn't the case for pretty much the entire game up to that point. The characters don't have the law on their ass for once, so they're free to explore and work at their own pace. As far as the Cid Raines twist, yeah, that was crazy, but I felt it fit in line with what else was going on.

This was the point in the game where I really got into a rhythm with the gameplay. The Cid Raines boss fight was actually the first point in the game where I realized that unlike most Final Fantasy games, the status effect spells actually mean something, and I suddenly got a lot better at the combat as a result.

Yeah, I think my assumption that Oerba was nearby led me away from the open area earlier than I should have, though I don’t necessarily feel under-leveled where I am. I did a fair bit of exploring and finished the first tier of quests, but if I had known I was leaving it behind for a good while, I would have stuck around longer.

Judging from what I’ve stumbled across online, many people seem to have run into trouble with Raines. I think I may have let him kill my party leader once, but I don’t recall him being particularly nuts. I was thrown off by him changing roles, but I remember just having to be careful my sentinel (I think I used Snow) didn’t lose aggro when he was in his dangerous phases.

Buffs and debuffs are great for longer battles. I also underestimated how much of an effect some of them (especially the buffs) had early on.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@xyzygy said:

I agree with Hailinel, this is where the gameplay got really rhythmic for me. Just so you know, you don't have to do all the Cie'th stones before you beat the game, but obviously it's good for gaining CP and getting materials for weapons. Just out of curiousity, have you switched weapons much? I found that experimenting with all different types of weapons really altered some characters for me. Most notable was Lightning and Fang. And the trio of Hope, Fang and Lightning is my favorite - while controlling Fang. Her Ultima move is crazy awesome and satisfying, not sure if you have it yet.

So wait, in the story, you're currently on the way to Oerba? I can't remember the sequence of events once you get to Pulse. What was the last major boss you fought? Did you climb any towers?

I’ve put enough materials into the weapons I’m using now that experimenting is kind of out of the question, but I did mess with different ones earlier on, and did some research into what the effects actually entailed. Unfortunately, most of the discussion online about equipment is about crazy late-gaming farming, which I’m not interested in.

I’m at Taejin’s Tower (the big broken tower with the Fal’Cie in it) now. Sorry about that, I’m going to update the first paragraph so that’s more obvious.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

God that game is pretty. That was basically my thoughts the whole time I was playing the game.

Posted by Slag

@GrantHeaslip

Hey Grant

fun read as always. It's been really neat for me to see how fresh eyes see a series that has been part of my gaming life for over twenty years.

I am not at all surprised Chapter 10 wore on you, I felt it was the only actually outright bad chapter in the game. The environment is overlong and boring. The main plot and characters arcs doesn't advance in meaningful ways and the Cid stuff is just lazy writing. Basically the same exact things you said.

And I think you probably see now why I said the middle parts of the games is my favorite. The story loses a lot of steam after ch.9. It picks up again a bit later on, but I don't think it ever quite recaptures the highs. At least it didn't for me

My big question I've been asking myself throughout your series was whether or not you'd like Ch.11. Given your reaction to it, I'm going to suggest you probably wouldn't like most Final Fantasy games.

Granted FF 13's pacing is way out of whack, typically most final Fantasy games aren't all or nothing like 13 is. There is a mix of story/roaming that is largely player determined. There will be lots of mini "corridors" followed by lots of mini open areas.

13-2 I've recently discovered brings this back with a vengeance as I'm just ripping through bosses (I'm one of those guys who does all the available sidequest before proceeding to the net story beat, which leas to em being insanely overleveled by end game).

But for the most part Ch.11's pacing (if you added more story bits) is probably the closest to most games in the series are like. It just comes so late that it jams what feels like 40 hours worth of sidequests and grinding into late game, which is kind of overwhelming.

Since FF13 is paced so oddly, I found myself at this point in the game having to grind all of a sudden. On one hand I enjoyed the difficulty spike, FF 13's late game bosses gave me more problems than any other game in the series (even X-death in 5 and optional boss Osma in 9), so that was invigorating. I'm used to being way overleveled and smoking bosses in FF games, But on the other hand having to grind so much all at once is pretty dull.

(FWIW I suspect you may be underleveled for some of the upcoming bosses if you aren't careful if you are having to use Fang this much in SEN, the boss of the Taejin's Tower can just smoke you if you don't use the correct strategies).

I like your party makeup. I probably should have used your party makeup but I went with Vanille instead of Hope since I decided to bypass SYN character in favor of her SAB/RAV/MED mix which I liked better. Which probably wasn't the right call. But it did let me stay offensive. My default party was Lightning, Fang and Vanille in RAV/COM/RAV for plowing through random battles, which I'd then switch into RAV/COM/MED at light dmg, or some Mix of MED and occassionally SEN where needed, and COM/SAB/SAB at the start of boss fights

The one thing I did that most people probably didn't, was give Fang MED but only to gain Cure. In some of the more brutal fights I'd switch to MED/MED/MED paradigm for a single turn to heal up quickly and then flip it back pure dmg. Might not be as needed or useful since you have a SYN to bolster your defense, but I foolishly didn't.

Online
Posted by Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel said:

I think part of your experience with the plot at the moment is that you've just hit the most open part of the game. You're free to go about and do optional side events now, which wasn't the case for pretty much the entire game up to that point. The characters don't have the law on their ass for once, so they're free to explore and work at their own pace. As far as the Cid Raines twist, yeah, that was crazy, but I felt it fit in line with what else was going on.

This was the point in the game where I really got into a rhythm with the gameplay. The Cid Raines boss fight was actually the first point in the game where I realized that unlike most Final Fantasy games, the status effect spells actually mean something, and I suddenly got a lot better at the combat as a result.

Yeah, I think my assumption that Oerba was nearby led me away from the open area earlier than I should have, though I don’t necessarily feel under-leveled where I am. I did a fair bit of exploring and finished the first tier of quests, but if I had known I was leaving it behind for a good while, I would have stuck around longer.

Judging from what I’ve stumbled across online, many people seem to have run into trouble with Raines. I think I may have let him kill my party leader once, but I don’t recall him being particularly nuts. I was thrown off by him changing roles, but I remember just having to be careful my sentinel (I think I used Snow) didn’t lose aggro when he was in his dangerous phases.

Buffs and debuffs are great for longer battles. I also underestimated how much of an effect some of them (especially the buffs) had early on.

I just remember the Raines fight being a long slog, and I just couldn't beat him because his tricks threw me off. It wasn't until I got into the habit of using buffs and debuffs that I actually started noticing an appreciable difference and I was finally able to take him down.

Still, Raines wasn't nearly as long of a fight as some other battles I fought. It always becomes tense when you finally wear down your opponent, but it took so long that a Doom counter was put on your party leader, forcing you to find a way to finish the fight quickly.

Posted by GrantHeaslip
@Slag I'm replying from my phone so I can't write as much as I'd like, but thanks for all of these detailed replies!

I don't really have a huge problem with chapter 11. The sidequests aren't blowing me away with their creativity and variety, but the reason I moved on was that I thought Oerba Village was nearby and maybe a quest hub. If I had known I was reentering the corridor, I would have stuck around the overworld for way longer.

I guess I'm going to find out if I need to go back and level when I hit the boss. I'm having a pretty easy (if, as you said, a bit slow) time with the regular enemies, but the difficulty has oscillated enough since Chapter 9 that it's hard to say what that means.
Posted by Sinusoidal

This game is such a tragedy. Amazing graphics, intriguing world, fun battle system and an OK plot filled with either bland or annoying characters who are repeatedly forced down one-way hallways on incredibly monotonous fetch quests. So much wasted potential.

Edited by eskimo

My old PS3 died and I was unable to rescue any of the data from the hdd. I just got a new PS3 and swapped in the old hdd. At the point where it asked me whether or not I wanted to delete all the old data I hit yes, then immediately had flashbacks to all the savegames and stuff I was losing in the process. I had a FF13 save from a year or so back where I had gotten to Chapter 11, I can't see myself starting again. All those stories, memories and experiences, wiped out with one click of the X button :(

Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Hailinel said:

Still, Raines wasn't nearly as long of a fight as some other battles I fought. It always becomes tense when you finally wear down your opponent, but it took so long that a Doom counter was put on your party leader, forcing you to find a way to finish the fight quickly.

Yeah, Barthandelus (first encounter — I know that there’s a couple more) did that, and it freaked me out. Those Eidolon fights have me terrified of doom counters.

@eskimo said:

My old PS3 died and I was unable to rescue any of the data from the hdd. I just got a new PS3 and swapped in the old hdd. At the point where it asked me whether or not I wanted to delete all the old data I hit yes, then immediately had flashbacks to all the savegames and stuff I was losing in the process. I had a FF13 save from a year or so back where I had gotten to Chapter 11, I can't see myself starting again. All those stories, memories and experiences, wiped out with one click of the X button :(

Oh man, that’s tragic. If I lost my save now, I’d watch the rest of the game on YouTube without a second thought.

Posted by Slag

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Slag I'm replying from my phone so I can't write as much as I'd like, but thanks for all of these detailed replies! I don't really have a huge problem with chapter 11. The sidequests aren't blowing me away with their creativity and variety, but the reason I moved on was that I thought Oerba Village was nearby and maybe a quest hub. If I had known I was reentering the corridor, I would have stuck around the overworld for way longer. I guess I'm going to find out if I need to go back and level when I hit the boss. I'm having a pretty easy (if, as you said, a bit slow) time with the regular enemies, but the difficulty has oscillated enough since Chapter 9 that it's hard to say what that means.

no problem, always fun to talk shop on Final Fantasy.

it's been intriguing to read a perspective so similar and yet so different from mine on the series.

yeah FF Xiii I think did not do a good job at all in a couple key areas communicating some systems to the player, which is odd since these areas are usually ones that are very obvious in the series. Both of which you are running into now.

1- is the Weapon upgrade system- very opaque and barely usable in the first playthrough. (13-2 fixes this by basically not having one. Just straight up buy new weapons from Chocobolina in each new chapter)

and

2- is the story to exploration pacing. Not intuitive at all, there's no real pattern to corridor to free roam transitions whatsoever (13-2 fixes this as well by having the game's pace largely player determined).

Online
Posted by Ryanmgraef

Gran pulse is the best parrrrt! That's when it kinda turns into a really pretty monster hunter.with turn based battles. And single player...okay so not like monster hunter but you all feel me right?