Final Fantasy XIII Final Fantathoughts

So overdue, but that’s life. Or my life, anyway. But yes, here is an informal review of my overall experience with Final Fantasy XIII. No plot spoilers.

Of course, I previously did a lot of journal-style posts as I played through the game, which I’ll link to now. None of them contain any plot spoilers, either.

Plot is pretty low priority for me, but it does exist. And in this game, it exists in very large quantities. It makes Final Fantasy IX (my most recent, non-MMO Final Fantasy) look like an NES game or something. People joke that you just watch the game rather than play it, and the insane amount of cutscenes in FFXIII really felt like that at times.

At first, I was put off by all the anime-style action cliches in the opening, but in retrospect, I’d probably say the same thing about the opening videos in Final Fantasy VIII. In fact, though I do like the story in FFVIII, most of the fancier cutscenes do nothing for me, and they never really did. I just don’t care about people flipping around and doing crazy stunts in pretty graphics. With FFXIII, I have similar feelings. The story does have some substance to it, and I do like it. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but the plot and characters managed to keep me intrigued throughout most of the game. I’m not sure I cared for the execution, though. The amount of cutscenes sometimes took me out of the game rather than drawing me further into it. (“What the hell, another one already?”) The game also reminds me of Lost‘s style of storytelling at times (flashbacks to pre-game events where you learn that everyone is connected somehow, lots of “oh snap” moments), and like Lost itself, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. But I did generally enjoy it, and that’s all that really matters, I suppose.

FFXIII is certainly not all story. There are times where it allows you to run down a road for a few minutes between each cutscene. But I’m exaggerating… slightly. When I heard the game was very linear, I thought that just meant there wasn’t much in the way of backtracking or sidequests. I didn’t realize it meant the game was going to be 95% narrow one-way paths, most of which were heavily segmented and cut off from each other. I enjoyed all of that for what it was, but it’s hardly my ideal game experience, especially in an RPG. I like to explore huge worlds and crazy dungeons, and to run around and get lost. A fork in the road shouldn’t feel like a godsend. There were some areas that were exploration friendly, but it just wasn’t enough. I’d be really disappointed if Square-Enix takes this route with further games.

On the other hand, there are battles. Perhaps less so than before, because they’re all on-screen fixed encounters. I’ve always hated random encounters, so that’s a huge plus for me. But oh man, there are battles. They’ve given a new meaning to the “Active” in Active Time Battle, between the multiple “slots” to queue abilities in per turn, and the need to use the Optima Change system (which I’ll get to later). It comes at the cost of being able to directly control all of your party members, which I think is unfortunate, but it’s worth it. For some battles, it’s a huge relief that the CPU handles the other characters for me, frankly. My brain would melt if I tried to handle all of the ability queuing myself in those situations. And that’s not something I ever had an issue with in the older ATB-based games, even with “Wait” turned off and the battle speed at its maximum.

Another big part of battles that I enjoy is the Chain/Break system. It’s a system in which you must chain attacks to the point that you bring an enemy to its breaking point, where it is temporarily weakened and you can do extra damage to it. This can only be achieved through a combination of an Attacker’s sustained damage and a Blaster’s burst damage; one or the other alone won’t work (unless you’re either really lucky or really patient). I like that it’s a bit more interactive and controllable than previous “Limit Break” systems. I also like the way that it relates to the Optima Change system. Optima, of course, being a setup of different classes for your characters that you can change between in the middle of battle. This allows for very intense battles that can really keep me on my toes, even if it’s just a quick swap to heal up.

And that brings me to Roles — this game’s term for Jobs or classes. There’s only six of them (not those six, unfortunately), but they’re all unique and very clearly defined. Attacker does physical damage, Blaster does magical damage, Healer heals, Defender defends, Enhancer buffs your stats, and Jammer debuffs your enemies. They have straightforward English names in the Japanese version, but were apparently given different, more ambiguous English names in the English version, probably because someone wanted to convince me (and only me) that their translation quality has not improved since 1994. Anyway… I like that the Crystarium system lets you customize what stats and abilities characters learn for each Role, but like the game itself, it’s a little too linear. You can veer off the “path” to get certain abilities right away, but those are all dead-ends, and you eventually have to get back onto the path and continue in the original direction. But you do have customization in the sense that you can pick which Role(s) to focus on, which is nice. And I do like the way that, instead of the traditional Experience Points, you only earn Crystal Points to spend directly on upgrades in the Crystarium.

Speaking of spending and upgrades, I don’t particularly care for the complete lack of towns and NPCs. Well, maybe not a complete lack, but what’s there can barely be considered towns or NPCs at all, at least by traditional standards. It makes the game world feel so empty and impersonal, especially when combined with the tunnel-like design most of the world has, and the fact that all of your shopping is done through menus at save points.

Final Thoughts:
The story is decent, though I feel like I should probably like it less. Either way, it’s irrelevant to me in the grand scheme of things. The grand scheme of things being the gameplay, which is severely lacking in overworld exploration and interactivity, but man oh man do I love the battle system. I would so love to see this type of battle system ported to future games, but I want a big, fun overworld to come with it. But as for the present game, I still enjoyed it for what it was, and don’t regret my purchase at all. I’d recommend it to others who are patient and open-minded, but it’s probably not for everyone.

Tags: , ,

Categories: Review, Video Games

Comments are closed.