Why am I reviewing Final Fantasy 13 now? It has taken me this long to get around to finishing it. It has very little in common with previous Final Fantasy games, I can see why they have don’t this but I don’t think it has worked quite as well as they would have liked. Thirteen is said to be an unlucky number, it probably wasn’t the best choice for Square to mixed up the formula quite so much knowing this.
The story from the start is told if familiar Japanese fashion, no one ever tells you the story, you are drip fed nuggets of information however this is quite normal for final fantasy games. The difference being in FF13 the pace of the story is so much quicker, there is no downtime milling around in towns or chatting with the locals. You are either having a cutscene or on your way to a cutscene. The choice to remove towns and NPC chatter I suspect was to reinforce the fact that you spend the whole game on the run with a sense of urgency. In this respect it succeeds quite well, you feel like you need to get somewhere, even if you aren’t sure where or why that is. Compare this to FF7 where you spend a portion of the game with a meteor looming in the sky however you can just take a break and spend hours trying to breed a golden Chocobo.
After the opening chapter I was sure I would hate several of the characters. I was wrong. Although it took a while once the story started to unfold I understood why all the characters act as they do and began to like them. Hope in particular goes through a believable change during the story and there are some really quite emotional scenes that work well. One big change in this game is that there is no main character that the story revolves around, they all share the lime light almost equally. This can take some getting used to but I think it is required given the games heavy reliance on story.
Combat is a mixed affair, I mix of L1 and X for the Playstation version. The combat itself is quite bland and given the pace you spend most of the time tapping X to confirm auto attacks. The real gameplay and tactics come from the Paradigms. These are roles that your party members can flick between and knowing what combinations of Paradigms to use at what times is what really drives the combat. For example you might want a Melee, and two Casters for burning down a bosses health but then switch to a Tank and two Healers as a boss charges up a big attack.
Outside of combat there is relatively nothing to do except run towards the next bit of combat. It feels almost like playing a side scrolling beat’em up like streets of rage, walk down a path kill so dudes, walk a bit more and kill some more dudes. This really is where the game falls down, combat simply isn’t fun enough to sustain that much continuous use. The older games broke up the combat by towns and other areas to have some downtime however the pace where is very grinding.
Outside the copious amounts of grinding there is very little in terms of traditional RPG fare. Character progression is done via the crystalarium which is a series on linked crystals; there isn’t much in the way of customisation to be had here. You follow the path and fill any side branches if you have any leftover points. It feels like having to manually level, rather than gaining a level and having your character’s stats improve you constantly have to do it yourself.
Weapons accessories are few and far between although you will want to hold on to one of each of the time as they all have slightly different uses. To keep your weapons up to scratch with your current progression in the game you need to upgrade them at one of the frequent save points. This is one of the worst aspects of the game and the in-game explanation of the system is woeful. If I have to look up how the system works on the internet either the system isn’t well designed or the in-game explanation is extremely poor. I expect here it falls in to a little of both, whenever you win at combat you have a chance of getting items. These items either add XP to your Weapons or boost the XP that a weapon gains. So you would typically boost the XP bonus to X3 then slap on some XP granting items to get big numbers. This is as fun as an excel spreadsheet.
Visually it is probably the best looking game on the Playstation and the effort that has been put in to the animation is amazing, there is rarely a stock animation used which all adds to the power of storytelling. After spending 40 hours playing a game that isn’t all that fun I was still wanted to finish it if only to find out what the outcome is. All in all the game mechanics focus so much on the story to the point where it is the only thing that holds it together.
I’m happy I’ve finished, not so much because it was enjoyable but because I wanted to see the story come to a close. The problem was when it happened I didn’t have a clue what was going on. It was never made clear through out the story who the main villain was , when it happened i didn’t really care. My advise to you is that if you haven’t bought the game already don’t bother, just look at the UK trailer and take in how awesome it looks, but don’t buy it because you will be disapointed.