Review by xcredia

"Failure Fantasy XIII"

This review is meant for those who loves the Final Fantasy franchise since the 8-bit day. This is to those who understand what makes an RPG worth the 100 hours and what makes it memorable and fun.

XIII is so seriously flawed, that I will skip all the good things and go downright to the things that makes it one of the shallowest and messiest RPG ever made. It is the worst in the franchise hands down.

There are two key aspects of an RPG that makes it attractive: the lore and the gameplay mechanics. The first motivates you to read all those lines and texts to immerse yourself with the universe. The latter gives you reason on why you want to grind to lv 99 and why beating the boss 10 seconds faster makes you a lot more awesome.

What RPG folks prepare to ignore, is the presentation. In the good old day, we use our own imagination to visualize or contextualize the game. We were okay with paper and dice before, and thus happy with the minimalistic approach in wizardry, king's field, and FF I-VI. Even we still see them today in Etrian Odyssey. Game such as Dragon Age and Demon's Soul, which are among the best today, have among the poorest and buggy graphics. We do not care and we are completely happy as it is.

XIII chooses to invest itself exactly on the opposite. This is cunning, because it knows we will buy it and all its swags anyway. This is very profit-driven, because it reeks hip-and-cool I-am-pretty feel with linear gameplay which definitely attracts casual gamers.

THE LORE

XIII universe revolves around two conflicting powers: a hyper-futuristic modern world and the vast primitive pre-modernism land. The story itself presents an allegory of salvation through fulfiling one's purpose in life or suffer an eternal damnation. Where does this purpose comes from ? What exactly is the goal? To what end one must continue to pursue it? Is it worth fighting for? Each of the characters in XIII supposedly represent an argument or a case of man pursuing the answer. The collective struggle then becomes the thesis of XIII. We all are hoping for a grand thought-provoking conclusion. What a great setup!

Alas XIII fails to convincingly deliver any of it.

The usage of awkward terms e.g. "Fal'cie", "l'cie", "c'ieth", makes the story very hard to understand. What is worst, those terms are combined to an even more laughable terms: Focus, Pulse, Sanctum, Coccoon. Terms such as "Pulse Fal'cie", "Coccoon l'cie" are commonly uttered and will confuse you. Even wading through the documentation does not help much. In the end, I just stop to care.

As usual for JRPG, all main characters are one-dimensional stereotypes. Tsundere girl? Check. I-wanna-be-stronger boy? Check. I-am-a-hero-jack-ass? Perky-I-am-innocence chick? Check. Iconic funny afro guy? You bet. I am okay with this. I am even okay with the odd fashion tastes all of them have compared to the rest of the world population. Unfortunately their lines and actions are so often out of place and illogical that it is hard to emphatize with their plight at all. I can tell the localization team must be trying their hardest to get them make sense. Problem seems to be with the source material. Many supposedly gut wrenching dramatic moments in the story, such as Vanille and Sazh, fall flat.

There is no believable reasoning behind many of the plot setting. Convinient plot device is ridiculously everywhere. Often the flow of the story is incoherent and turn of event has no valid explanations. Why would one be afraid of l'cie really ? Why sending someone to Pulse is a bad thing? Why is that even with a Pulse Fal'cie vestige towering in Bodhum, people are still partying and making wishes upon fireworks? How would ramming a plane to a tower makes you end up in an Ark? How did Serah end up a l'cie in the first place? The ending is probably the craziest of it all and apparently XIII answers to this is: "Because I said so and I do not care if it is nonsense to you".

GAME MECHANIC

I suppose the emphasize of XIII is on the action-heavy adrenaline-pumping battles while keeping the travelling an exploration as optional. There is no fetch quest, no collect quest, no NPC quest, nothing. The bulk of the game is going from point A to exactly point B in a one way corridor. Presumably the designer wants to insure that the flow of the gameplay is according to what they want.

Levelling up in XIII is probably the worst system compared to all FF. Here is how it got setup. When you win a battle, you get some CP points similar to 'exp' points. To increase your attributes, you need to 'purchase' them using your CP points. Attribute increase (E.g. HP+10, STR+20) are all set for purchase with a CP cost. Problem is, they are 'sold' based on a pre-determined 'path' and order of availability. If you want to purchase that HP+200 but it is set behind STR+20, then you need to first get the STR+20. This means you cannot tailor how you want to grow a character. What is worst, the game does a cap on how far you can purchase these attributes according to where you are in the story. This ultimately means, the game will control when and how you will need to grind your character. You WILL have to grind when the game tell you so since otherwise you will not survive.

Another disturbing fact, you only control one person in a battle with noway of changing to other characters. You do not and cannot control your comrades directly. They are all under AI control, acting based on a behavioral pattern or "paradigm" as XIII calls it. Problem with paradigm is, what they are doing is still totally up to them. If you set someone to adopt a "healer" paradigm, it is up to him to decide whether he will cure you or raise the dead comrade. The designer make the battle process fast paced to the point that you will not feel this as a limitation. You will in fact frantically changing paradigms and button mashing on the selection screen to move as quickly as possible before the enemy kills you or your comrades pulling some unwanted moves.

What baffles me the most, is that the game will end right away if the character you control died irregardless on your comrades status. It is ok for your comrade to keep on dying but not you.

Last nail to the coffin. The summoned creatures, or "Eidolons", are assigned to one character precisely at certain order within the story. One creature per character. Noway to re-assign it. Your controlled character is the only one who can summon his or her Eidolon. To summon one, you need to pay a "Technical Point" or TP which suffice to say this will absolutely limit one summon per battle. Hence, you will rarely see summoning in action in XIII. This is very unfortunate given how majestic and incredibly creative they are. Total waste.

I would have never imagined after all the decades of superiority and absolute quality, square finally lost it all.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 03/24/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)


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