11 December 2012

#2LR - Too Late Reviews: Game Review, "Final Fantasy XIII" Part 2:

One of the reasons I enjoy playing Bethesda's "Elder Scrolls" series is that the world is extremely immersive. You can imagine yourself partaking in all of the quests, going down to the minutae of squeezing out an extra three points of carrying capacity from enchanting, or possibly bartering to the very singular percent for all of your weapons and armor.  Or, you can just cast all reason to the winds, get your archmage robes on and start causing explosions of fire and ice all over the place, pausing every once in a while to heal.

Having a world at your fingertips, intensely connected to your controller, and so dynamic that people who are killed in dragon attacks sometimes end up staying that way, means that your mind is being engaged to its fullest... after all, you get to choose what you do next, and the game reacts and changes to your choices.

As intimated before, Final Fantasy is NOT that game.

Final Fantasy is more like taking part in a movie.  It's absolutely scripted.  The director will tell you where to go and what to do at all times, and the best you can do to change things in Final Fantasy is either to use up your potions/Phoenix Downs and go without a tightrope, or to use all your crafting materials on your weapons immediately.  You'll end up with a level 8 something, and it will be different if you reset before saving... but only in that situation.

On the other hand, the game throws its chips towards the plot and character squares.  Unfortunately, for Final Fantasy XIII, there have been similar plots in the past.  Final Fantasy seems to go all-in for the "young people starting a revolution" plot, because that allows the characters to basically be against the world.  After thinking about it a few times, the only Final Fantasy game that I can think of that I played that didn't try that plot was Final Fantasy X-2.  (Disclosure: have never played 8 nor 9, nor have I played the Japan-only 3 or 5).  It's not as if I'm asking for a political-thriller-type plot, I don't need to revisit The Phantom Menace, but this really feels like ground that's been packed flat by millions of footsteps.

This leaves the characters.  Through hour ten or so, there's five main playable characters.  Like in the beginning, they're STILL split into three teams (though they were brought together very briefly around Hour Four, and remained two teams for roughly another hour).  There are tons of cutscenes to flesh out the characters, and plenty of time is used to flash back, around, and through The Days Before It Started.  Final Fantasy thoughtfully provides a "datalog", but that requires lots of reading... not something I'll spend an extra two hours on a game that may last more than thirty.  You can immerse yourself in this plot if you care to, but whether or not you do is really personal preference.

So... if it seems that I'm so negative about the game, why am I still playing around Hour Ten?  Well, I wanted to get to the sixth and last character, though I'm starting to lose some hope for that.  (Hope... HA!)  The level-up system has proven to be at least somewhat interesting, as you have the FF10-flavored discs with status or ability upgrades.  But the real reason is listed below.

The battle system is tweaked from previous games, and in my mind it does show an old gamer like me a new challenge.  In FF13, it's all about getting the enemy "staggered".  This is served by putting together the correct attacks in the correct order... if you go blasting magic at it immediately, it won't work.  You have to soften it up with either attacks or status weakening spells first.  It's extremely fast-paced, and you have to manipulate at least two menus with some deftness.

This battle system will NOT be for everyone.  As it is, I had to take some time to get used to it myself.  However, if there was one thing that I enjoyed about Final Fantasy, it is fighting around and levelling up... and for the battle system to be revamped into a bit more of a logic puzzle that takes some thinking and strategizing, that suits me right to the ground.  There's a million ways to dispatch people in Skyrim or Oblivion, but most gamers will gravitate to one method... have I ever told you how I can take down giants in Skyrim with one arrow due to all the status buffed armor and archery skills bought?

For the time being, FF13 remains my main television video game of choice, and as long as that is the case I will continue to blog about it.  Just be prepared, if for any reason FF13's battles get tedious or the plot sinks any further, you'll get a five-word blog post about me giving up on it going forward.

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