Review by logas2
Frustatingly Shallow for an FF game
Final Fantasy 13 is intensely frustrating. It is so close to being a really superb game, but falls short in almost every possible way. Unbelievably despite all the years spent making FF13, it feels rushed. FF13 is an attractive airhead of a game, pretty but shallow.
No question the graphics are amazing. Unless of course you happen to still have an SDTV. On my HDTV it frequently takes my breath away. On my SDTV there is such extreme screen tearing in cut scenes it is unplayable.
The story is pretty good, not the best FF story not the worst (12 or maybe 1), but as with other aspects of the game is shallow. The opening few hours are really poorly done. I can understand that they wanted to put the gamer straight into the action, but if you are going to use a large number of technical terms early on you really need an exposition character, someone to have things explained to them. Falcie, l'cie Cocoon, Pulse, C'eith are words frequently used through the opening hours. Unless you read the data logs you have absolutely no clue what anyone is talking about or what their motives are. This should never happen. Data logs should be for added lore. I shouldn't have to read the data log to find out how why a main character is doing something.
The characters are the main reason the story is shallow. The main characters I thought excellent. Unlike some other reviews I didn't find any annoying and they were all well fleshed out with good back stories. Thats it though. Other than one or two related characters I don't think I could name another character, let alone their motivations, feelings, etc. I was frequently left thinking why are these people helping me, or who is this guy attacking me. That may well be because I stopped reading the data log after a couple of hours. The main character problem though is the lack of a tangible villain or minor villains for most of the game. Even when you finally see some of the guys controlling the hordes of troops thrown at you they aren't on screen for long and you never find out anything much about them at all. This may well link into the lack of NPCs about the place.
Music and sound
Nothing special. A few classic FF tracks are missing, but I don't really have a problem with that. They haven't replaced them with anything that made any impact on me though. Overall I found the music just a bit bland. The voice acting is excellent. I do have one problem with it though, Fang. I have no problem with Ozzie accents in general but Fang's accent grates. It is just so over the top fake 'bogun'.
At first I hated the new battle system, then as it got more complicated with paradigms I loved it. Then I hated it again. There are three real problems with the battle system. First, it is revealed too slowly. Not until around chapter 9-11 do you really have access to the full battle system. Thats 20-30 hours into the game. For much of that time the battle system is too limited to be fun. Secondly, I hate that you can only control one character, but that not the real problem, its that when they die its game over. In 12 if the character you were controlling died, it just switched the main controlled character. Why could that not happen in this game? Thirdly, battles move too quickly for me. When you finally do have access to the full potential of the battle system you have too many options to select from manually, even on the slower speed for later enemies I just ended up mashing the auto-battle function. That prevents me from becoming really involved in the battles. Even with these problems I did enjoy the system and though paradigm shifts were an excellent idea.
Basically the FF10 sphere grid but with all the choice and stats taken out. True you have six paths for each character, but that is six fixed paths. Thats not necessarily bad, but I feel this was the worst designed feature in the game, in particular on the synergist paths. Haste is one of my favourite spells, and only one character is able to learn even vaguely early on his path. This forced me to have him as a character even though I didn't really want him. The other development feature is item development. This I thought was much better thought out using components to upgrade items. However, for most of the game you do not have enough components or Gil to really make use of this feature.
This is where the game is really shown up as shallow. There are other things to do in FF13 other than linear corridor fights, but not much. For the vast majority of the time you do nothing but fight with no real break. Towns, Sidequests, NPC's, explorations, etc are all there despite what you may have heard. However, they are basically an afterthought. For example two characters sneak unnoticed into a town that has a huge themepark. This should be where you take a break from fighting for a while, talk to NPC's (who give you some background on villains or the world politics or whatever, a basic bit of immersion and world-building), play some minigames, get some miniquests. Something to add some depth to the world. In FF13 you can over hear some snatches of conversation, chase a little chocobo around to progress the story and...... Thats it back to fighting. Exploration is limited to one chapter, and you can't even go back to areas you've previously visited at the end of the game. There is no real point to it; there really are not many secrets to find just more monsters to fight. The sidequest(s) are obviously stuck on at the end to add some replayability but are just more run through a place and kill a boss. Oh and a sucky treasure hunt thing. This really hurts the overall enjoyment you can get from the game. In previous FF's I could get lost in the world for days at a time, when I got bored of fighting would go do something else for a bit. Here I just can play for 2 hours max without getting bored of fighting, then I stop playing as there is nothing else. I cannot get immersed in this game, and so can't really connect to it. It feels empty and shallow.
Overall FF13 is not a bad game; its just not the game it should have been. It should have been so much more
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Final Fantasy XIII (EU, 03/09/10)
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