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Final Fantasy XIII – Ending Thoughts

Don't listen to those other kids. You have your charm points FFXIII.

I’ve finally surmounted the obstacle of FFXIII and I suppose it’s time I weigh in in the debate. Going into this game I was already aware that this isn’t a traditional Final Fantasy game as the original FF team left after FFX and formed Mistwalker Studios (Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey). I went into the game as just any other RPG with a much larger budget. There have been numerous reviews of the game already with both positive and mostly negative responses. I’m just going to break it down into the various elements.

Characters – I, for one, had no issue with the characters at all. I felt they were all just unique enough. They were interesting without being so crazily designed as to be completely unrelatable. Lightning was the shining beacon of the characters and it was really nice to see a strong female lead in a game that didn’t call out “I’m a woman look at me” the whole time. Lightning was instead a smart, strong, composed character with some flaws like being stubborn and reckless, and she also happened to be female. Kudos to Squeenix for letting her exist. The character that most people seemed to have a problem with was Hope because they felt he was overly whiny. The issue with this, though, is that this is only in the first segment of the game. Hope builds and develops as a character over the length of the story and it’s rare to see any character in a game develop past the personality they start out with. By the end of the game Hope is one of the first people ready to charge in and stand up for himself.

Story – Like most other people who played the game, I really only have a light grasp of what was actually going on in the story. Even the characters in the game seemed to have no idea where they were going or why they were doing what they were doing. The game did provide a handy little glossary that helped explain who was what and why they were at each juncture, but if your story needs cheat sheets to get people to understand what’s going on then there’s a problem.

Graphics – No one can complain about the graphics. The only complaint I normally would have is that they use in game graphics for almost every cutscene, but they made up for this by still giving us a decent number of FMV sequences. And boy were they beautiful. While the characters still look like CG, which i’m completely fine with, the lighting and colors were photo realistic if not more so.

Music – This was the first mainstream Final Fantasy to not have Nobou Uematsu involved, and instead was composed by his apprentice Masashi Hamauzu. This was due to the fact that Nobou was engaged in composing all the music for FFXIV. Masashi’s score worked wonders at first and his battle theme was magnificent, but after so much time in the game passes you find the music forgettable simply due to the fact that you don’t really revisit places that much to re-hear music enough. It all ends up with an almost ambient atmosphere about it.

Gameplay – Here’s the bread and butter of what went right and what went wrong with FFXIII. There are classes of sorts in the game and they work accordingly. You have the magic damage, physical damage, tank, buffer, and debuffer. Part of the problem in the game is that you don’t get access to all of these jobs in your party until late in the game. There is a job change system during battle, but you can’t adjust it individually. Instead you have to set up a series of “Paradigms” that are a collection of jobs for the whole party like Caster/Tank/Medic and so on. This proves to be annoying and troublesome because you can only have 6 or 7 of them at a time and you often use all of them. Then you have to re-do them between fights because they don’t work for each fight.
The game is also incredibly difficult at times, but it seems more that it’s done just for the sake of being difficult. This ends up making each fight time consuming and annoying as you have to constantly switch paradigms to heal between attacks and then switch back just for a chance to do any damage. Another issue with difficulty for difficulty’s sake are boss fights that run on timers, mobs that constantly stun/juggle you, and an end boss encounter that casts death randomly. The last part wouldn’t be an issue as much except for the fact that if your player character dies the game is over. The other party members can be revived, but not your character. This is just a terrible practice. Because of the automated system that the game presents, this necessity of job changes and waiting for your partners to perform the right maneuvers proves to become more of an annoyance than anything.
Another aspect of the difficulty that is a huge problem in the game is the item system. It’s just so awful that it’s practically useless for anyone but die-hards. Each character gets 5-6 weapons that they can level up and each has their own strengths/weaknesses. The way it works is that you take components you find from mobs through the game and spend them on the weapon you wish to upgrade. As you do this you earn xp for the weapon and increase a multiplier to a certain point based on the number of components you used at a time. Then when your multiplier is high enough you use a different type of component that increases the xp even more by utilizing the multiplier. When it reaches a certain point it maxes out (a hidden number that is different for each weapon btw so you can easily waste materials by overshooting the cap) and then you use another component to transform the weapon into one of two more weapons till you end up with the final max version. This would almost be fine except for the fact that there’s really only a few worthwhile components and the best way to get them is to buy them because you need mass quantities. Here’s the catch, you’re going to be broke through the whole game. The ONLY way to make money is to sell components you collect from mobs, but what if you need said components later on? Or what if you sell something that turned out to be a good multiplier? Sure you can use a guide to determine which is which to sell all but the few you need, but you should never NEED a guide in any game. On top of the fact that you go broke so easy from simply upgrading one weapon one time, you also have the choice of upgrading each and every accessory to different levels. It honestly feels like they intended to have some way to make gil, like from mob drops that increase in amount as the game progresses, and simply forgot to enable that feature. You can beat the game without upgrading anything, but it’s just infuriating to have a feature and not be able to use it.
Speaking of features that are a pain, let’s look at the Crystarium system. It’s basically a dumbed down version of the sphere grid, but now it’s the ONLY method of getting stronger. That means that any boost to hp, strength, or magic is all done through here. There is no “boost defense” or “boost speed.” It’s all magic, strength, hp, abilities. It’s also incredibly hard to navigate because your cursor is locked on the track and can only move forward and back. It’s also unnecessarily in 3D so it just makes it feel confusing and disorienting. I found myself constantly having to move the camera and traverse entire levels just to see if I missed a spot that I could gain.
A big complaint people have is the linearity of the game. I, for one, am completely ok with that. While it is different from some RPG’s, most games have a linear path in the disguise of freedom. Very rarely do you get to explore the entire world in any game nowadays. Usually there are invisible barriers and the like. While you do get to backtrack if you want, I don’t really consider that as an “open world.” The problem with the extreme linearity of the game though is that you don’t have your full party till about 25-30 hours in. This is a serious problem because, for me, that’s half the game. Worse yet is the separation of characters that causes fights to last longer because you don’t have a full party or the correct jobs or the fact that pairing the light hearted character and the comedy character = boooooring.

So at the end of things, was it a bad game? Not really. Did it have frustrations? Yes, and many of them. Do I regret playing it? Not at all.

  1. jettwinlock
    March 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Worst Story, Worst Characters. Everything in story development was completely worthless. I will be giving a full review on this craptastic game about the story alone. Not worth spending time to play.

  2. existdissolve
    July 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

    I agree with much of your review. Definitely not the best FF ever (not by a long shot), but also not an all-out terrible game. I got frustrated with the item-to-weapon upgrading system, and only really used it when I felt like I need a boost to get past something difficult (by that time, I had plenty of reserves!).

    Also, I completely skipped the “shops”. I hated the fact that they were all loaded into the save points, so I didn’t use them, not even once. To me, if shops aren’t a necessary part of the game, something’s wrong.

    Anyway, nice review. I think you gave a pretty objective assessment, and hopefully future games will be a bit more Final Fantasy-ish.

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