Review by palinor
"This game divides the players"
First and foremost it needs to be clarified what players I'm speaking of, because this is entirely critical to what this game is geared for, and whether you should bother reading this review. Players that will love this game are ones who focus on getting achievements, they'll be the ones worried about gaining 5-stars in each battle, so they'll be feeling the pressure to optimize their battle plans to get those points. In contrast is the players who want control, they need to feel a sense of discovery while investigating the sprawling landscape but aren't necessarily worried about the achievements, they won't feel rewarded by this game.
Final Fantasy XIII is one of those games that really put guiding rails on, you've got little room to explore until the last bit of the game, and this is the biggest issue in this game. They've streamlined your entire interaction for strictly story development, this isn't to say there aren't other games out there that do this, but as I understood the series to this time was spend trying to expand the world so you feel like you've stepped into an entire culture, but this game erased all that to promote the plot as the sole reason for this game. Character leveling has been nearly destroyed, you have to place CP on a grid which is fine, but the problem is this requires no strategy, just get enough to fill in the next crystal. I think the least hindering change is the equipment, unlike most RPG games you only have a few pieces of equipment, you level it up to get the better stuff, or you can sometimes buy it directly. They made the gear very obvious, and they took out the silliness of people having 100 different weapons when they really would buy only the top gear which required maybe 8 optimizations throughout the game.
As with most Square games, the story is really quite delightful, but they make far too much obvious in the earlier parts. I thought at first that maybe I was just too aware as a writer, but I found several others making the same complaint so I must assume this really was an issue. The overall theme of this game is destiny, how strong the characters are being driven to that destiny is not only shown in the gameplay, but literally stated to you a good number of times in the many cut-scenes. My largest complaint about this game though, is it's plague of flashbacks, by the time I reached the end of the story I felt like I spent half the time looking backwards in time. I can however say this game has one great thing over many others, and it's this that made me rate 7 instead of 6, I actually cared about the main character. Each character really seems to have their emotions, and they don't feel forced, so I have to give credit where credit is due.
Graphics and Sound 8/10:
The visuals in this game are quite well rendered, as is the case with most Final Fantasy games, but honestly I felt that the scenery was uninspired, and a great number of the monsters I found just unappealing to look at. For the audio, I can't say the music captured my attention, but the voice acting was wonderful, there were a couple of characters that felt bland but all the important ones really portrayed their emotions wonderfully without seeming over-the-top so it only complimented the stories around them.
Summary and final score 5/10
This game had great potential, the story was there and the there were no visual or audio problems that prevented you from enjoying the plot-line, but they destroyed any sense of discovery that you could get from it. No mini-games, no side-quests, but rather they focused on the achievements, which is understandable given the way these newer systems are, but at the same time it would've been a much better game if they opened up the options where you could have branched away a bit earlier, and a great slap in the face is that there really is no replay value, but this is counter-acted by the sandbox type action in the post-game so perhaps I'm being too critical there. Over-all, I just can't bring myself to say it's good or bad, but I'm sorely saddened to find myself so unmoved by a Final Fantasy game.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 03/30/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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