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Final Fantasy XIII Review

Review; Jul. 8, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Newest game in legendary series delivers, but not spectacularly

Final Fantasy is a game series of legend, now with its thirteenth iteration. Gamers have seen the good and the bad come from this series as time has gone on, so does Final Fantasy XIII deliver? Well yes, it does. But it's not spectacular.

You may be asking yourself something along the lines of "Why such a late review of this game?" Well, aside from the fact that OMGN does not represent the day job for any of us, we also want to be able to play a game extensively to review it. We don't want to play a game like FFXIII for just a few hours when it really takes about 30 hours just to get to a point where you can "choose your own adventure." We want to take the game in, let it simmer and then deliver a review truly worthy of the game. We tend to game here at a slower speed than professional gamers, much like many gamers do. We play the game when we can.

Final Fantasy XIII Screenshots

FFXIII takes place in a world with humans, magical beings and a floating planet above a huge vicious planet. You start the game taking control of Lightning, a 21-year-old former sergeant in the Guardian Corps, a police force in Cocoon (the floating planet). Lightning is fighting against her own police force to start things off, and she has a traveling companion in Sazh.

As the storyline starts to flesh itself out in the beginning, you learn of a horrible action the police force has taken against its own citizens of Cocoon. They are systematically booting many of the citizens to the lowerworld, Pulse, because they may have become contaminated by a nearby Pulse artifact.

Cocoon and Pulse are two worlds in constant tension and occasionally war. Citizens of Cocoon fear Pulse and its citizens, thus when an artifact containing a magical being was found in Cocoon, any citizens near it at the time of discovery were rounded up to ship off to Pulse itself. The citizens of Cocoon are afraid of Pulse primarily because of Pulsian fal'Cie. A fal'Cie is a magical creature capable of great and powerful things. A fal'Cie can also brand a human into what's known as a l'Cie. A l'Cie must do its master's bidding in the form of a focus, a mission that if left uncompleted will result in the l'Cie becoming a Cei'th. Cei'ths are wandering monsters with no remaining focus and nothing to do until killed by a stronger creature. Thankfully, if a l'Cie finishes their focus, then they can turn to crystal and sleep for an indefinite period of time, until they wake again.

Much of the back-story and continuing story of FFXIII is fleshed out over several hours. And when I say several, I mean it. Most RPGs see you take control of your own actions after an introductory period. At this point, you're able to choose what missions you go on, within certain boundaries, and you can choose your character's customization as well. In FFXIII, the point where you get some say in the storyline comes some 30 or more hours into game-play. This is a massive amount of time to be playing a mostly narrow storyline with no say in what happens.

Honestly, this aspect of the game did not bother me much. I must confess, this is the first Final Fantasy game I have owned, as well as the first I've ever played extensively. I enjoy single player games just as much as multiplayer games, and even the lockstep storyline of FFXIII kept me very interested. The story is well written, and it moves along briskly until the latter half of the game, where you have more say in what your characters do.

Character development is very linear throughout the game, using what's called the Crystarium. In the Crystarium, you can choose to develop along certain roles that each character can assume, and you'll have a small say in some cases how you develop within each of those roles. However there isn't much room for great customization, as your options are limited and once you cap out on one role, you'll end up spending your crystal points (think: spendable experience points) in other roles.

This isn't too big of a downside, but the lack of tuning a character does leave some to be desired. While you can choose what roles to develop and in some cases choose different branches within each role, you'll end up developing in a very linear manner as time goes on. By the latter half of the game and ultimately at the end of the game, your characters are likely to look very, very similar to characters developed by your friends at the same stages in the game.

Speaking of roles, your characters can assume different roles for combat. These roles don't have any use outside of combat, either. Some roles are defensive, some offensive and there are others in support roles, such as medic or a saboteur, which is a role in which you weaken your opponents by using magic.

Final Fantasy XIII Screenshots

You'll utilize these roles in combat with up to three characters. You'll be able to select from a list of six paradigms, which are configurations of your characters' roles. For instance, you could select one paradigm to be comprised of one commando (think: Arnold Schwarzenegger), one medic and one synergist (strengthens your party's attributes). Another could be a commando, a ravagar (standard battle role) and synergist. There is some strategy in play with your paradigms, as you can only create six at any time with which to go into battle. If you find you don't have the right configuration going in, you'll have to retry with different paradigms built.

You'll likely fall into a pattern where you have a good set of three characters and six paradigms that fit your battle style. Once you find your optimal configuration, you may not find yourself deviating much throughout the game, which is a bit disappointing. I didn't find much need for strategy or even item usage throughout my travels in the game. Once you complete the game and potentially take on very powerful beasts on missions, however, this may change as you may not be able to "win conventionally."

In combat, you'll be able to select from a list of actions, such as healing party members or attacking particular enemies. As you develop your roles, your actions will expand. One thing to note is that the battle system is very fast paced, and magic and physical attacks are all lumped together. Having played numerous RPGs in the past, I like the way this battle system is setup. Quick and easy.

You can use items in battle and can use special commands that use Technique Points. Technique Points are earned as you defeat enemies. The faster you defeat an enemy, the quicker your TP gauge will grow. One special function that TP can be used for is Libra, which will give you some limited information about an enemy you may not have any information about at that time. However the bread and butter of the TP system is the Summon command.

As you're likely aware from prior Final Fantasy games, characters can often summon some sort of guardian to help in battle. FFXIII is no different. As the game progressed and you accumulate what's known as Eidolons, you'll be able to summon them for your characters in battle. These Eidolons will fight in the battle with you, filling up what's known as their Gestalt gauge. When you activate it, you'll have free reign to attack your opponents for a set number of turns without taking damage. Once your turns are up, your whole party will be returned to battle.

The ending of the game is satisfying, but you could see it coming from a mile away. You may get somewhat emotionally invested in the characters, but you never truly start to care for them. Unless of course, they start to irritate you. Lightning is liable to piss you off a great number of times early in the game, as well as Hope. There were times I wanted to slap that silly little bastard senseless in the early going. Some have also cited Vanille as very annoying with her high-pitch voice and odd sounds in combat. Some might even say she sounds sexual when she's in battle. However, the character development feels very real and is one of the better points of the game.

As I'm more interested in the enjoyability of a game, the story and the game-play, I'll only touch lightly on the visuals and sound. They're good. Very good. The in-game graphics are very appealing and the in-game sound is also very good. But you'd expect that in this day and age, especially from a Final Fantasy game. The cut-scenes are also very well done. I never really noticed the game stuttering, although there were a few times I could notice some frame rate slowdowns. But if that's a deal-breaker for you, then maybe you can't appreciate video games for what they are. That's a rant for another day.

Overall, FFXIII is a very good game, and I recommend it to any looking for a good RPG to play, especially if you've got lots of time to sink into it. I've logged more than 65 hours in the game and have yet to finish all of the side missions and to develop my characters to their maximum abilities. Some criticize the linear nature of the story and character development. However, I found it to be refreshing, rather than trying to glean the story in between doing side missions. A worthy buy, if you haven't bought it yet.

Editor's Note: IGN is listed as a source because they were the best spot for us to pick out some screenshots for you to view. Thanks IGN!



rfludwick - Jul. 12, 2010 at 6:57:10am

Yeah, the voice acting was pretty solid in the game. Vanille was obviously the "worst" of the bunch, but she didn't really bother me much. Talking about sound though, for some reason one of the menu sound effect triggers (the one when moving between items, I believe) was a very uncomfortable sound for Laura (my wife, for those that don't know).


JCXanirus - Jul. 12, 2010 at 2:32:45am

It seems that a lot more JRPG's are getting better voice actors, this one included. Vanille is a bit too high pitched for my tastes, but I noticed once in a while she just suddenly drops into an English accent, which undoubtedly sounds a lot better, and then losing it just as fast as she got it.

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