Review by MrKowz
"Definitely worth the money ~SPOILER FREE~"
Almost done with FFXIII and felt like writing a bit of a review.
I can sum up the graphics in this game in a single word - unremarkable. There are times when I am watching a cutscene, and I think it is one of the special high-res movie clips. The in-game graphics here are definitely honed to near perfection. I am playing it on the XBOX 360, which arguably does not have as good of an anti-aliasing engine as PS3, but the graphics are better than any game I've played (Aside from Crysis... that game is just nuts).
Sound Effects: 6/10
I wasn't expecting sound to be all that great in a video game, but there are many sounds throughout the game that are recycled a bit excessively and also not quite what one would imagine. For example, Water, Watera, and Waterga don't really have that much of a distinctive sound difference between them all. Also, with SO MUCH going on at once in battles, the sounds clash together and create a cacophony of lightning strikes, sword clangs, etc so that it becomes almost annoying to battle. You will come to hate the sound of footsteps too.
A new composer came into the Final Fantasy series with this one. Nobuo Uematsu, the man very much acclaimed for his work in past Final Fantasies (perhaps his most popular works have come from FFVII), only wrote and composed the main theme in this game. Masashi Hamauzu composed the music in this Final Fantasy, and I think he is going to give Uematsu a run for his money. I intend on downloading the soundtrack for this game and listening to it in its entirety. Some of the music was so soft that it was barely audible through the other game sounds.
Battle System: 8/10
The battle system in this Final Fantasy has been COMPLETELY revamped. You can set what is called "Paradigms" that is basically a configuration of what roles you want each character in your current party to enact. Any one individual character can only perform one role at a time. There are six roles that a character can perform, and through use of Paradigms, you are able to switch roles out for each character. For example, if a character is in healer mode, they can ONLY cast spells related to healing. If a character is in ravager mode, they can ONLY use spells/abilities geared towards killing the enemy. Battles are decently more intense than in any previous Final Fantasy, however battles require much more micro-managing because of Paradigms. What really hurt the battle system though, is that you can literally go through the first 50% of the game hitting A. To elaborate on that a bit, you only control the actions of one character in a battle (the party leader). Your default action allows the AI of the game to determine what string of abilities are best suited for the given situation, and uses those actions. You still have to manually Paradigm switch. However, in the last half of the game, if you don't know how to properly manage your party in battle, and know how to switch Paradigms FAST, then it is entirely possible that a regular, everyday, battle will destroy you.
Pretty basic storyline with a few twists here and there. However, if you closely pay attention to cutscenes and how characters interact, things are pretty damn predictable. Some of the twists will catch you by complete surprise though! Can't say too much here without spoiling things!
Difficulty: 5/10 (9/10)
I gave this two ratings for a very good reason. If you are an RPG veteran and you can pretty well play through an ATB based RPG with your eyes closed, you can do the same in this. You'll quickly pick up how to manage your Paradigms and what each character truly excels at. However, if you have only played a couple of RPGs, or if this is your first one... this will definitely be a challenge. Certain boss fights require almost a specific tactic, and deviating from that tactic will surely get you killed! Also, the game is EXTREMELY LINEAR! I'm talking more linear than FFX was. For the first 90% of the game, it is literally walking and following the corridors to the next area. Later in the game, though, it becomes slightly more freeform... but still very linear.
This is definitely one of the more fun RPGs I've played in a while. The battle system is pretty intense (especially when you try to take on something WAY higher than you) and can really suck you in. However, this game (if all cutscenes were eliminated) would probably be around 10 hours shorter. I'm at the 34 hour mark right now, and am (what I'm thinking) about 6 hours from the end of the game. There are times when you will do two battles, cutscene, one battle, cutscene, cutscene, 15 min of battling/walking, cutscene. They definitely went a bit overboard on the number of cutscenes, but they REALLY help to develop the storyline and draw you into what is going on. The tutorial system of this game is very well written, however even around the 20 hour mark, you will STILL run into a tutorial. It just takes that long to really allow characters to "develop" enough to use certain things. There is a LOT less micromanaging to do with gear, as you upgrade the gear you find.
This game is shaping up to be among my favorite RPGs of all time. The storyline, while decently predictable, will still draw you in and keep you playing the game for "just one more save point". There really isn't much of a need to do a dead grind with your characters until MUCH later in the game, so you are able to at least progress through the game at a leisurely pace. The linearity of the game really hit a sour note with me, because I love being able to do a lot of side quests while doing the main quest. Side quests don't even show up until the third-to-last chapter of the game! If you have a 360 or a PS3, this is definitely worth your money to buy. Some of the achievements/trophies you can get will take a bit of time, but they are ALL attainable through decent skills (unlike some achievements/trophies I've seen that require you to be a god among gamers to get).
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/22/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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