Review by JonWood007

"Not terrible, but not very good either"

It should be noted that Final Fantasy XIII is the first Final Fantasy I have played. I heard that the series was good, so I decided to try this game, since it is the most recent installment of the series. Overall, while I have to say the game is not terrible, it is not very good either; players are not given much freedom at all, and in my opinion, it just cannot get the difficulty curve right. For most of the game, the difficulty level is either way too easy or way too hard.

Graphics: 9/10

While the graphics are somewhat limited by the 360's aging hardware, it looks great considering, and has a very visually appealing art style. The environments are unique and colorful. It is a welcome change from the brown and grey games we often see nowadays.

Controls: 6/10

As far as movement controls go, the game is simple enough; move your character where you want to go using the joystick. Battle controls can be a bit more complex, and often involve going through relatively complex menus in real time while being attacked. While there are auto options to alleviate this for the most part, it can still be a pain to reach something in a snap if it does not follow the auto battle commands.

Game Play: 4/10

The game play is just not that great. As mentioned in my introduction, the game gives players very little freedom, and is highly scripted. The average play session goes as follows: watch a cut scene, walk a few feet in a largely linear world, watch another cut scene, fight another battle, walk a couple more steps, fight a battle, walk a little more, save your game, watch a cut scene, watch another cut scene, and finally fight another battle against a boss-like character. After beating said boss, watch a couple more cut scenes, rinse, and repeat. At some points, I felt like the game is a virtual movie. While plot is good, the story element seems overdone at times since there are some areas that are so plagued with cut scenes I forget I am actually playing a game. As far as the actual battle mechanics are concerned, they are not very good either. Players have little freedom in battle at all aside from ordering attacks and choosing what roles characters play as. You can only control the moves your character makes; the rest of your team is controlled by A.I. This is frustrating because the A.I is often not very smart. In battle, A.I. controlled medics may heal characters with minor injuries while ignoring the characters that are really getting pummeled. Synergists may buff medics while ignoring the main character trying to inflict damage. You also cannot move your character in battle. Instead, he or she just stands there while the enemy tears into them. The difficulty level is also off for the most part. While there are a lot of moments early on in the game so easy that it practically plays itself, other parts of the game are so obscenely difficult they almost seem impossible. Some enemies later on can just about one hit KO your entire team at the same time. This is extremely frustrating.

Fun Factor: 4/10

For the most part, this game is not very fun. Early on, it feels very scripted and boring. The middle of the game gets interesting as fights get harder and require more strategy, but then it just gets flat out frustrating when enemies suddenly become obscenely difficult and nearly impossible to kill.

Replay Value: 8/10

I'm at the beginning of disc three, and I spent 20 hours on it. Theoretically, it should last at least 30, although I have heard most people take 50. I wonder how much of the remaining 30 or so hours is actual game play, and how much of it is pointless grinding to beef up your stats enough where the enemies are not impossible to kill.

Learning Curve: 4/10

Goldilocks would have a problem with the the difficulty level of this game. It is either too easy or too hard; it is almost never "just right." When you start out, the game is obscenely easy to the point that it practically plays itself. For the second third of the game or so, the difficulty is highly inconsistent. While the game sometimes is at a good difficulty level, there are some parts where it gets very easy, and a couple battles here and there that are extremely hard. For the final third of the game, the difficulty level gets maddening; some enemies can even just about kill your entire team in one shot.

Overall: 5/10

Overall, Final Fantasy XIII is only an okay game. It has some good moments in it, but ultimately, I just cannot get fully into it. There are some points where the game is obscenely easy and boring, but then there are other times when it becomes extremely frustrating. In addition, the lack of player freedom to explore, or even move in battle kind of kills the experience a bit. Overall, I would not recommend this game unless you're a major Final Fantasy fan, or unless you like this kind of RPG. I just feel like my money could have been better spent on another game; while it is not terrible, it is not very good either.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/27/12, Updated 03/01/12

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

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