Review by Gryffulator
"Disillusioned - let's talk gameplay."
I don't have a enormous qualms with the ff13 story. The layout and linearity make the game's progression seem garbled and nonsensical. but the storyline is still a cut above the average RPG.
The nonsensical layout (switching npcs frequently) detaches the player from the protagonist and make the story more difficult to follow. Square-Enix combats this by giving a text digest of what's happened up to your current point of the game. But for a visual learner like myself (and many gamers I'd imagine) I need maps and imagery to get an idea where I am.
There are no people to talk to, the story is told entirely through elaborate narratives and action sequences. Combined with immense linearity and no backtracking, the game lacks personality. This is unusual, especially for rpgs.
Take ff7 for instance, I can return to the ancients' city to be reminded what transpired there. Or in ff6, I can visit Doma and listen to Cyan's music and be reminded of his family.
There is no sentimental attachment to ff13 because it doesn't do a good job of allowing us to identify with the characters. So X character has lost his mother. X hates character Y for killing her even though he knows Y wasn't at fault. They now have to work together to survive; why not truncate the characters altogether to make the game more succinct: there's hours of time in cutscenes alone.
These are minor gripes, however, when compared to the gameplay: particularly the combat.
From my very initial exposure to ff13, I was asking myself one question: "why did they make it completely automated, EXCEPT the main character has to press X to launch attacks while everyone else is automatic?" Imagine if, in FF12, before performing an action, I had to hit the X button. It's cumbersome.
You use "paradigms" in battle to decimate your opponents. A paradigm, in this case, simply means "combat strategy." So you can choose to be a medic, who heals party members, ravager, who attacks with magic, or commando who strikes with physical attacks.
There are a couple more paradigms but rest assured: you can breeze through this game using only medic and commando. There is no point in the game where you cannot proceed without this combination. I've tested it exhaustively.
Combat essentially revolves around mashing the X button while the ATB gauge builds up. But why can't it just do it by itself? FF12 did and people loved that. View some gameplay clips on youtube if you don't believe me.
FF12 has a lot more depth to its customization though. There were hundreds of commands to choose from and situations to use them in. The PARADIGM system, in comparison, is quite boring. There are maybe 7 options per class and your teammates will make use of them very poorly. There is no flee option, either.
The promotion/level up system allows you to select abilities for different paradigms. It's slow to use and time consuming if used frequently. It's like the sphere grid from ff10 but poorly organized so you have no idea which direction you're headed.
Play this game. Not all of it, just for a few moments. I'm not intending to criticize the visuals, those were on par with the hardware capabilities. The disappointment of this game is extremely shocking. S-E's other titles aren't nearly this bad. Nier, Last Remnant, Infinite Undiscovery were all at least satisfactory. This is NOT!
A final fantasy game should be fun the whole way through. You should be able to look back and say "even though X part was difficult, I still thoroughly enjoyed getting through it." And it just isn't the case because the game in a nutshell is [Mash X to win battle] ---> [follow blinker on map to next battle].
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 01/06/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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