Review by fragmesa
"The first 4 hours is as disappointing as The Phantom Menace"
The first 4 hours of Final Fantasy 13 should be scored at 3/10, because the combat system at it's introduction is very underwhelming, as I could only attack, and access 1 special move. The plot doesn't tell me why the military - organized and ruthless- can be bested by civilians. The voice acting and script score way below games like Mass Effect 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Uncharted 1 & 2.
I couldn't immerse myself because all the jargon being talked about wasn't explained, or even put in your menu's encyclopedia. I didn't get why the fal'cie were worth all this fuss. It's not until you encounter one that everything finally makes sense, and the game suddenly becomes very enjoyable.
Combat is an excellent upgrade from the old active time gauge used in most of the older Final Fantasies. Instead of waiting for the bar to fill before you can choose commands, you choose your commands while the gauge fills, and can even set your character to perform some attacks before it fills completely (in case an enemy has 1 HP left, or whatever your reason).
The reward for dealing with the awkward plot for 4 hours is the paradigm system. You can switch from magic user to fighter, to healer, all in the same battle, which brings a lot more strategy into fights than previous games where you'd just hammer on enemies with your strongest spells and attacks, while tossing out the occasional cure spell. Your encyclopedia also contains weaknesses for enemies you've fought. By knowing your enemies, you can develop paradigm strategies which can decimate your opponents in a dozen seconds. That matters, because the faster you finish a battle, the better your score.
You probably heard that the out-of-combat walking around is very linear. I wonder why they even bothered with a map for this game, because you cannot possible get lost walking around. Occasionally there will be a little offshoot path that contains a treasure chest. It might be for the best, because controlling the camera while running is quite difficult - it feels like you're actively fighting the built-in realignment camera.
The graphics and sound effects and music are typical of Squaresoft. The battle theme isn't as catchy as earlier games (I still have Final Fantasy 10's combat theme stuck in my head), but everything, minus the voice acting is top notch. My advice is to plow through the first bit of the game, don't worry about the plot (you can recap everything in your encyclopedia), and once you open up the combat system a bit, be prepared for a time sink worthy of the sixty bucks you threw down for this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/12/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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