This week I take the plunge into the fictional world of Gran Pulse to review Final Fantasy XIII.
I just finished it today and I must say I was a bit disappointed. With the development time that it had I was expecting alot more, which is a shame really. I’ve been a big fan of the series since early on and with Final Fantasy’s track record on new consoles (FFVII on the PSone and FFX on the PS2), I was hoping for something that blew me away like the pre-mentioned. Regrettably I ended up with an experience I would describe as “meh” at best and boring at worst.
Starting with the nitty-gritty stuff, the gameplay. The “free-roaming” section of the games outside battles would have to be my biggest niggle. Previous Final Fantasy’s made you believe that there was a big expansive world out there to explore. FFXIII turned out to be a bit linear (to put it lightly), The objective, some bad guy or chocolate or whatever always ends up being at the end of a long linear pathway. I was hoping this linearity would present us with the open world later on. If it is there I went through the whole game without finding it. “What about the Plains of Pulse?” I hear you cry. All Pulse was was a cross-road where lots of other linear corridors meet, also give that any other pathway except for the one that leads to the end is a dead end, if you think that is open-world then I pity you.
The battle system, in a nut-shell, like the rest of the game, they’ve taken Final Fantasy X as a bench mark and thrown in the good bits of XII. My problem with it is it’s inconsistency between fast pace hacky-slashy-stop-to-refill-HP frantic changing of tactics and simply bashing O until everything dead. Against some of the harder enemies and most of the bosses the game requires you to think ahead and plan for the “what if I get shot in the face with a very big laser” moments, the “dam, I’ve just been shot in the face with a very big laser, best heal” moments and the “I’m good on health, time to lay the smack-down” moments. These require switching between classes at appropriate times and against appropriate enemies, which work well against equally matched and harder opponents, but against most of the enemies and the odd boss fight you can pretty much get by just making everyone warriors or ravagers and mashing O till they die. Although the ability caps at points in the game try and still this it wasn’t quite enough to keep the combat even, and I just complained about my abilities being capped until I beat a certain boss.
The characters didn’t impress me and all felt like copy paste stereotypes without 2 strands of originality to rub together between them. Lightning, being the “cold soldier”, uncaring of the rest of the group until the convenient plot driving epiphany. Snow, being the “hero”, must save the day and must make sure everyone knows about it, while the rest of the characters kind of just hung out in the background to make up the numbers. It seems they referenced the characters from XII when they really should have used X as a guide, maybe someone at Square-Enix ticked the wrong box, or the characters were lost in translation. Can anybody who’s played the Japanese version verify this?
The story is that of any Final Fantasy. A group of people become aware of an evil threat and it’s up to them and them alone to save the world. Although this turned out to be right on the money the actual story is slightly more compelling than that. No real plot twisters like in other Final Fantasies but a the story flows with a natural progression which is easy enough to get to grips with without dumbing it down too much.
Oddly enough one thing I do think is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. It’s really good. Switching seamlessly between the ambiance of a full orchestra to a slow tempo trance and still maintaining the appropriate atmosphere of the game. I’m not usually a fan of trance and other genres of music as such, but the trancy tracks in the game would be something I would be more than happy sitting down and listening to.
Graphically it’s pretty (but then again in the current console generation what isn’t?) some pathetically outstanding scenery later on but apart from the Plains of Pulse there isn’t anything graphically that hasn’t been done better before.
You can tell when playing the game that it has taken a very long time to make, every aspect of it polished to a fine glistening finish. Unlike alot of other recent releases (Fallout 3 & New Vegas to name the biggest offenders) it’s not kicked out onto the shelves still with a good no. of bugs, which is sad in a way that a game is merited for something that should come as standard.
Now for my final thoughts. Final Fantasy has taken another step with XIII away from the traditional turn based RPG’s as demonstrated in IX and all those before it and I for one am for it. Sure FFXIII is a bad example of this but given the change in gamer demographic over the Final Fantasy lifeline, it’s just the natural evolution of the game to keep up with the times. I’ve played all of the main series from I through to XIII and I must say that it’s in the latter half I find some of my favourites (FFX taking top spot).
On a final final note, Why is this game getting a sequel? Hurry up and release Versus XIII already, a game I’m actually some what excited about.