Review by RogueLeader1976

"Final Fantasy XIII: The Interactive Action Movie"

Welcome to my review of Final Fantasy XIIII. Having played every iteration of the 'numbered' Final Fantasy games up to this point in time, I had to give the newest addition it's due process.

Final Fantasy XIII has a few great aspirations. That being said, let's start with the positives:

Story: 7/10
Although the story is original and enjoyable, the terms for the different things in the game can get messy and convoluted. The addition of the journal in the menu helps to remind you of where you are at in the story, which is a welcome addition. There is not much of an extended plot for the individual characters, because no complete backstory is ever given.

Graphics: 8/10
Graphically, the game is a feast for the eyes. Beautifully animated characters and textures appear through the entire game. The animation is fluid, the scenes are well put-together, and the scenery is bright and detailed. Nothing bad to say here.

Sound and Music: 8/10
The sound is typical Final Fantasy fare. The orchestration is varied and well-composed, but it lacks the energy of past titles like Final Fantasy 7-9. Certain items are still notably missing from the score, including the classic Final Fantasy victory music, but the new battle music is enjoyable. The voices are well done, but as in the past few sequels, there is far too much sighing, whining, and heavy-breathing. If I wanted melodrama, I would go watch a soap opera.

Unfortunately, that's where the good stuff ends. Let's take a look at what went (terribly) wrong:

Gameplay: 2/10.
So all I need to do is push forward through the maps, and press auto-battle? Wow, that does not sound fun at at all... and that is exactly what you get. Contrary to what other reviewers have posted, there is very little strategy to the combat, which should be considered crucial in a role-playing game. Sure, you can change some of the options for what role your character should play, but forget about actually doing any heavy customization or giving a character a specific command during battle. You only directly control the party leader, and unlike Final Fantasy XII's gambit system where you could use your pre-programmed logic to help you out, Final Fantasy XIII's combat system allows you no such option. Want a character to perform a specific activity during combat? The best that you can do is change their role, and hope they do what you want them to. There is very little thought involved besides switching your roles and occasionally using a potion. Right or wrong, the computer AI will do the rest. 90% of the time, you will get a false sense of victory... as it was the AI that did all of the work, and you just stood there with a stupid grin taking the credit for it. The other 10% of the time, you're going to get your greaves handed to you because the AI KNOWS that you don't have the necessary skill (de-shell, for example) to dish out enough damage to get the enemy into a staggered state. Forget about manipulating the combat system to get advantages on multiple enemies, because you will have a difficult time staggering opponents without concentrating everyones attacks on one target. And in certain battles if you don't get to staggering your opponents, you're going to be there for a long time.

Weapon customization? Forget about it. You can increase the levels on your weapons, but the system is boring and uninspired. This same system is used for accessories. Although this may have been fun as an add-on, that is the extent of the equipment: a weapon, and an accessory. Boring...The 'shops' are accessed through the save icons, and are impersonal and mostly pointless.

Miscellaneous: 2/10.
Don't bother exploring. There's nothing to see here... so just move along. 90% of the entire game is played on railroad tracks. Point A to point B. You will not deviate from your current trajectory, unless you count turning around and backtracking. Yes, I know Chapter 11 is riddled with sidequests. But it's much too little, much too late, and you will still find yourself on railroad tracks... going off of the beaten path will not be tolerated.

Where did everybody go? There is almost no NPC-interaction for the entire game. No 'real' towns/shops, no travelers, no.... nothing! Aren't my characters supposed to interact a little bit?

The Crystarium leveling system is Final Fantasy XIII's answer to the sphere grid, except there is a big problem.... It's just as linear as 90% of the game's levels. Point A to Point B. You can change which role you are assigning points to, but it's still pretty much point A to point B.

Oh, before I forget, the camera is awful. It rarely goes where you want it to, and if you do manage to get it there, it won't be staying for long.

But what's this I hear? Play the game for 25-30 hours and it gets better? Really? Does the battle system ever give me complete control over what my character(s) are doing/wearing/going? Do I ever get to go back to ANY previously visited location, or truly go off the beaten path? Do I get to finally choose how I want to play through the game? Sorry, but the answer is 'no'.

Conclusion:
I really tried to like Final Fantasy XIII. I did. I begged myself to like it. The problem is that even with all it has going for it, it's just NOT much fun.

And finally, a trick question: what happened to the 'role' I was supposed to be playing? Truth be told: Final Fantasy XIII is not a role-playing game. At best, this is a lazy-man's action-RPG. Sure, you get 60-70 hours of gameplay, but the AI does most of the work, you can't play it the way you want it, and it ultimately turns out to be nothing more than an interactive movie. It is not challenging. It is not thought-provoking. It is not adventurous. The truth is, the game virtually plays itself.

If you absolutely have to own it/play it, I would recommend that you let some other poor sap pay the full sticker, and pick it up in the bargain bin. Your wallet and your conscience will be glad you passed it up the first time.

It is truly unfortunate that Square-Enix has once again placed the bet on their graphics to sell their games instead of gameplay. Unless they change things around (and this was just coincidentally 'unlucky' number 13) I'm afraid this will be my 'Final' Fantasy.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/10

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


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