Final Fantasy XIII now available to the masses, but should you rush to get it?

The day has finally come, we have counted the days. Final Fantasy XIII is now out! Quick, run to your nearest video game retailer and pick up a copy. Wait! Have you really heard what this game brings to the table? Let me share my first few hours of FFXIII experience with you.

Let me start with some basic information. For starters, I am playing the Xbox 360 version of the game, however I don't believe the actual game content differs between the two consoles. Also, I have only clocked a few hours of actual gameplay, so this is kind of a first impressions rant... if you will call it that.

My version of the game came on multiple discs, and some of the content is compressed so I expected some longer load times while playing. I haven't played the PS3 version, but I can say that I was fairly pleased with the game in this aspect. The load screens were brief and mostly just when changing maps or scenes. Battles flows smoothly and the videos present themselves with shine. That's another plus point: the game definitely struts its stuff. The opening video was great and it dives you right into the heat of battle.

But what is this? Instead of gaining experience and money for fighting, I get an arcade-style score and a rating out of 5 stars. This rating seems to be solely based on how fast I complete the battle like its a race, and the rating has some influence on item drops after the fight. Oh, and I forgot to mention I only control the leader of the party. You can have other party members in the fight with you, but they are computer controlled and you really don't have any say in what they do. Oh, and there are some rules you need to be aware of as well: the main character can't fall in battle. Your allies can die and you can revive them, but if you are down its game over, even if the rest of the team is still kickin'.

Alright, so I have to stay alive. I guess that adds some increased challenge to the game. Don't worry though, they compensated for that by adding in the auto battle command. Choosing this selects optimal attack options based on the situation. You do have to select it each time it's your turn in battle, so the fight is not entirely automatic. It appears to just be for attacking skills, not healing or anything. Oh yeah, healing has been made a bit easier too, probably to ensure you can select it quickly enough to not lose some of that score! Basic items like potions now heal the entire party, you no longer need to select a target. Also, your party is healed entirely after every battle so no more preparation needed between fighting.

You can save your game at one of many save stations you encounter. There appears to be many of these scattered around and I had no problem finding them. These stations also act like shop hubs, allowing you to login to different shop types in a computer-like interface. You can gain access to more shops as the game progresses and you collect chips with the shop information. Yes that's right, no need to go into town for the latest equipment anymore. Good thing too, since there are no towns to randomly visit during your journey.

So if I don't gain experience, how do I level up my characters? Well, actually characters don't have levels! I am not far enough into the game to have unlocked the method for upgrading skills and statistics, but from the status screen I can access, each character has two stats: attack and magic. Also from what I have read about the upgrade system, it caps off how much you can progress your characters based on your game progress. No more spending hours leveling those troops! The lack of ability to customize your characters, at least in the beginning of the game is certainly a disappointment to me.

The story can be a bit confusing to follow unless you take advantage of the datalog blurbs that get sent to you as you progress. As you advance through the game, you are sent story updates via the menu system that you can read for some further in-depth information. Following these updates is key to understanding what some of what the chracters are talking about during the story progression. Its like a movie and a book, with some random button-mashing breaks between scenes!

I should also mention that you end up controlling a few different parties at the start; the first you encounter lead by Lightning, our ex-soldier heroine. Then the story jumps over to a team lead by Snow, our resistance hero who likes to punch and jab his way to victory. Oh, and don't forget Hope, the boy out for revenge, with his over-energetic sidekick Vanille keeping spirits up. Even before these teams meet, you will notice your item inventory is shared as you switch. How convenient!

Too lazy to read all of that? I will summarize my comments with the game at this point;

+ good graphics, looks great
+ fast/infrequent loading screens
+ easy to learn and control
+ automatically healed after battles
+ voice acting is entertaining

- no experience or money from battles, arcade style feel
- battle ratings based mostly on speed rather then tactics / playing smart
- only control a single party member, and that character must survive or game over
- lack of ability to tell allies what you want them to do, or even influence their actions
- challenge lacking greatly with auto battle and multiple target healing with basic items like potions
- fighting is pointless at this point in the game, nothing to gain (other then mediocre enemy spoils)
- no towns to visit/explore, shops available via save stations
- lack of character development options and statistics, at least up to this point

Now of course as I said, I am only a few hours in, so the game has some potential to improve, and I welcome your comments as you progress through this game. It just doesn't feel like a Final Fantasy to me anymore, too many of the standard elements are missing. I have no doubts that the game will do well and sell millions of copies, however at this point it has far from lived up to my hopes and expectations of Final Fantasy titles. Its hard to say this, as I have been a fan of most of the games in the series. Yeah, I'm a bit of a SquareEnix fanboy... so what? Unfortunately, for this one I would say to rent this game first, or borrow it from a sucker who bought it friend to see if you can get into it. Purchase at your own risk!

Posted in Gaming by Locke Member on March 09th 2010 at 12:58am 9 Comments
#1 posted by Locke Member on March 9th 2010 at 1:58am

I tried to write this based strictly on my experience so far. I didn't read other reviews to try and ensure my opinions were not influenced. I did browse some afterwords, and it seems there are mixed feelings about the game. I get the impression that the game does improve if you are willing to play through the first 9 chapters or so with little freedom and a linear storyline. I look forward to your comments! tongue

#2 posted by Charon on March 12th 2010 at 5:10pm

So it's like... RPG for dummies?
Could you close your eyes and still win the battles?
I abandoned the FF series after number 9. Your review certainly hasn't made me regret that decision in the slightest. tongue It sounds terrible. :S And I'll even justify my reasoning.

You can't control the other characters? Then what is the point of their existence? Or indeed, the point of mine? If they don't require my input then why not remove the main playable character from the game and let it play itself? tongue

No experience or levelling? That would probably be my definition of a roleplaying game. It's a game in which you gain experience for fighting that you can then 'spend' either by straightforward levelling and gaining set stats ala suikoden or by specifically customizing your character along the way by choosing attributes for them to develop or 'buying' them new skills.

In fact... from what you've said. The game is actually just a "how fast can you click this button" speed test. Sorta like track and field although at least in that you had to alternate buttons.

I guess my opinion so far is then, that Squeenix have made a game that is visually stunning and involves simply pushing one button really fast. It's hungry hungry hippos with a graphics upgrade...

#3 posted by Locke Member on March 12th 2010 at 11:56pm

I haven't really gone back to playing as the game didn't catch my fancy enough to keep me focused.. but, I did read some other reviews and it seems the game does become more rpgish later on, but the different features unlock slowly and you are stuck with a fairly straight forward 'interactive movie' for a good while.

Oh, and to answer your question: yeah, you could probably mash the auto attack button blind for the first few hours at least. Boss-type fights might require a potion every now and then.. wink

#4 posted by Charon on March 13th 2010 at 8:14am

Yeah... I guess it leaves me wondering... why? :s

#5 posted by Kilu Member on March 14th 2010 at 1:43pm

Because it's super pretty, that's why! tongue From all that I've seen and heard, it seems to me that they decided to change everything just for the sake of change, not because it made the game better or something.
They tried to create the success of FF12 freshness but didn't have a vision.

#6 posted by Charon on March 14th 2010 at 7:17pm

Square of all companies... without vision... isn't that sad? I can't comment on the freshness of Ff12... The FFx rulebreaking and then FFXI was enough to end my Square fanboy days. I think I'll stick with konami. If they can just get over their metal gear obsession and see fit to do Suikoden 6... That'll be their judgement day for me. Their past record is awesome. But if they can make suikoden 6 blow me away like suikoden 5 did... I'll be impressed.

#7 posted by Mystro Member on March 17th 2010 at 5:31pm

Well.. Edger and I have been playing it on his PS3, and it does pick up after the 2 hour mark, were as there is no EXP but CP points like how FF12 had it. Also the battle system is a bit weird but it works, auto battle is great, they pick the best attacks suited, but u don't have to wait for the active bar to go all the way up, u press triangle (ps3) and it sends the attack in at were ever it is on the bar. But still only one person control. Then there is the Paradigms, the way your team is controlled. Very different I got to say. I started to get interested in it.. just need to get down to Grapes place again and continue on with it, or get my xbox360 back so I can play it.

#8 posted by bjp4444 on March 25th 2010 at 11:47am

Keep playing the game, it gets soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better. This is going to be a 160+ hour ride.

I enjoy the fact that there's only CP and you had to level through the crystarium. It makes you decide if you want that extra 100 HP, +18 strength, or a new spell. Strategy, strategy, strategy.

Also, if you die in battle, you can retry close to where you entered the battle. The game allows you to adapt and try new things; how many times do you play an RPG and only use the newest and flashiest spell or item, and leave so many more by the wayside? Not going to happen in this game.

You need your buffs and you need to inflict status on enemies. You need to take elemental concerns into effect.

True, it may be a little linear for awhile, but it does open up, and there's a high quantity of side mission then. Button mashing may get through a couple chapters. Maybe. Get to chapter eleven and tell me how well that works.wink

This is really a great, great game. I implore you all to give it a go; once you get going and get into the story, I think you will like it.

And did I say anything about the music? There's a song in chapter 11 that might be one of my favorite VGM songs of all time. I meant what I wrote. And there a very funky alternate battle song that pops up around chapter 6 or 7 and comes around here and there. Fun times.

Okay, I digress for now.

#9 posted by Kilu Member on May 13th 2010 at 6:28pm

From what I've heard lately, is that it gets good. But man, I can't for the life of me accept a game that needs that much time to get anywhere.

Sorry, comments are closed because article is over 90 days old.