Review by the_real_truth
"Like having no say whatsoever, over how you play a game?"
You could tell that Final Fantasy XIII was going to range somewhere between bad, and decent at best, long before it hit store shelves. When you ask most people which Final Fantasy games are good, and which games are bad, you'll get more varied opinions than you would for any other question. The general consensus is that the last great Final Fantasy to come out, was Final Fantasy X. Hironobu Sakaguchi did work on Final Fantasy X-2, and while it had an array of problems, the game was surprisingly fun to play. It has arguably the best battle system in the main series. Ever since Hironobu Sakaguchi left Square and stopped working on the series that he put together, things have been going downhill like a Katamari on a mountain.
FFXIII takes everything that's currently wrong with the gaming industry, and tosses it all together into the form of what's supposed to be a game. The major problem with FFXIII is that the entire game is far too controlled, restrictive, and linear. You are at the mercy of the developers throughout your play, and you'll likely hope to God that by the end of the game, it ultimately pays off. Wishful thinking usually leads to disappointment, and to no surprise, FFXIII follows the tradition.
First off, you'll notice right away that the areas that you're walking through, are basically one long hallway. This doesn't change, ever, or at least not until chapter 11, which to me felt like the developers were saying, "Sorry for putting you through all that nonsense, here's a glimpse at how fun this game could have actually been." Without spoiling anything, this is only a minor detour from the actual game, and if you wish to continue, you quickly head back onto The Yellow Brick Road on your quest to fly Dorothy back to her house in a hot air balloon. The minor detour in chapter 11 can't hide the fact that there's little to no interaction between anyone other than the 6 members of your party. When I say "little" I'm being very generous. Conversations are merely passing thoughts that random townsfolk (oh and by the way, there are no towns or cities) are currently having, which to put shortly, all breakdown into "why is this happening to me? I am so sad."
The lack of anything to do, really just causes a tedious experience that I myself wanted to be over as quickly as possible. The entire flow of the game is so out of whack, that you'll be wondering if 3 and 1/2 years of the development time that was put into the game, was all spent on making delicious looking backgrounds that you're unable to actually interact with. You get radar in the top right corner, which points you in the direction to go, just incase you're lost. In chapter 4, Lightning will give you helpful advice, such as "we can use the light to move in the right direction," you know, just incase you have no idea how to travel down a one-way path. It really feels like the game is demanding that you push on, and not take the time and goof off. I guess they wanted the game to be more realistic. You know, like if the world was in a major state of crisis and it was imperative that you get to where you need to be on time, and not a moment later.
Those are just some of the smaller issues on the surface of the game. Look a little deeper and you'll see that the game, outside of the characters themselves who are somewhat interesting, but at times,predictable, and enjoy repeating the same phrases over and over, the game offers almost nothing.
The actual battles themselves are far too boring, and lack almost any strategy. One of the major problems that I had with Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, was that you were only able to control the main character, and if he died, you got a gameover. In this game, it's almost the same. Admittedly, it's less harsh, but at the same time, it's much more enjoyable, and you're given much more freedom to play how you like. In FFXIII, the game really breaks down into 6 different strategies, which are covered with 6 different labels - Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synergist, Saboteur and Medic. These 6 strategies are conveniently called classes, or more accurately, Paradigms. Any character can be any class (though by the time you're able to be more than 2-3 classes, you're practically done with the game). Want a character to heal? Make them a Medic. Just don't count on them to properly heal you as the Medic Ai is absolutely terrible. They will certainly opt to not heal you to full health throughout the extent of just about every single battle in the game. They do this as to preserve more of their ATB, which ends up killing you if you're facing a tough opponent that can deal a mass amount of damage.
The AI for the Synergist is even worse. Most of the time, all I really wanted my Synergist to do was use Haste (which surprisingly, he did a fantastic job of - Haste on himself first, then on everyone else), and then Bravery on my Commando (Bravery boosts the attack power of Commando's). This was not the case. In fact, there were numerous times when my Syngerist would use Bravery ON MY MEDIC FIRST, and then on me, LAST. Really? Is that how that's supposed to work? What makes this worse, is that unlike in other games in the series, where the White Mage would do miniscule damage, but would be able to attack, a Medic in this game cannot attack and is restricted to using healing spells. Now, I can take my Medic, and switch him/her to a different class if I like, but that's the problem with this game. Chances are that my Medic is going to spend a good deal of time healing, so why does my Medic receive priority over my Commando with Bravery? I thought FFXII was a terrible game, but this game actually takes a step back from FFXII and makes things worse. At least with FF12 I had Gambits and I could personally set-up whatever priorities I wanted for each character.
There's on-the-fly character switching like there is in Final Fantasy X. You have absolutely no control over what spells your team uses, other than giving them a general idea of what to do. You cannot turn any spells off - This was a big one for me. I could deal with bad AI if the game gave me the opportunity to mess with the script that was written for them. Summons (Eidolons) in this game are hardly useful, and the battles with them are more boring than the typical encounter with generic soldier #8. Auto-Battle is the default command!! You actually have to go into the settings menu to turn this off, as opposed to turning it on. I can somewhat understand having the ability to turn it on, but never should Auto-Battle be a default setting for a game. If you're really so interested in making everything automatic,simply make a movie or a cartoon. Uh, what else? Oh right, the level-up system.
Getting to my final (not really, I just want to wrap this up since I've already wasted enough time on this game) problem with FFXIII, we come to the Crystarium system. Back when I first looking up information on this game, I saw pictures of the Crystarium system/grid/whatever (I don't even remember what the full name is anymore), I saw something that was very similar to something that I loved from FFX, the Sphere Grid. The Sphere Grid gave you the option to customize your character almost entirely however you wanted to. In FFXIII, what we have, much like with the rest of the game, is one long road. You pretty much unlock skills as the game progresses, for no reason whatsoever. Oh and one final message that I got after defeating the boss of the game was "Crystarium expanded!" This is the message that you get whenever the game lets you advance further on the Crystarium Road. So uh...really? I didn't even have access to all my skills until AFTER beating the game?
I realize that my review just sort of tapered off towards the end. Much like with the game, by the end I was out of steam and wanted for it to be over.
+ The game is beautiful.
+ The characters are somewhat interesting.
- You don't actually get to interact with...anything.
- The entire game is linear, not just the one road that you'll be walking on.
- While the characters are interesting, they're predictable and love repeating themselves.
- Vanille reminds me of a 5 year old child.
- Stuff just happens in the end, and ultimately it's just tiring.
- Exploration (yes I said it's linear) is non-existent.
- Terrible AI.
- 2 Commandos will never attack the same target, unless there is only one target to be attacked.
- The story is hardly worth it and much of what goes on never received a cohesive explanation.
- While there are some decent tunes, the music is massively underwhelming.
- Somehow, they found a way to make this game worse than FFXII.
- Much like how Sonic The Hedgehog used to be a quality product, the Final Fantasy series now thrives only on the name that it has.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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