Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII: First Impressions

I bought this game about a week ago, and I just started getting into it. If you had called me the first night I bought it to ask me how it was, I would've said it sucks.

But now, a week or so later, I think it's kind of the bomb. That was a pretty steep learning curve and warming over period, and it hurts the game because I can't imagine most casual gamers would make it past the first three or four hours without bailing. The first level or so of this game (if you could call it that) flat out sucks. It's just monotonous and boring, with you doing little more than following long hallways, pausing here and there to have awful battles that require nothing more than hitting the A button over and over again. But, as I said, it got better. After that first section of the game, your characters become L'cie (don't ask), giving them the ability to wield various forms of magic. Before that, you were only able to use a generic attack over and over again. Once you are able to actually perform magic and use other abilities, the battle system became amazing. This is seriously one of the best battle systems in any RPG ever. It's and furious and actually requires a lot of strategy. The battles quickly went from being a chore to being one of the most fun parts of the game.

I could see how long-time fans of the series might complain about how the new battle mode is a bit easier and more user-friendly, but that's exactly what I like about it. I actually feel as though I'm in control of my team during the battles, instead of just watching them play out in front of me while I input directions here and there. It is a little odd that your party heals after every battle, but, again, I don't mind because it cuts down on the frustration. The only real complaint I have with the battles is that there is no victory fanfare. What's that about?!

The story is deep and rich and entertaining... and also completely impossible to follow. It has something to do with a conflict between the Fal'cie and the Pulse La'cie, who convert humans into L'cie and Pulse L'cie, over control of Cocoon... or something. It is super hard to follow, moves really fast throwing so many details at you in each sequence, and everything sounds the same. Luckily, there's an in-game database that keeps you up to date on story progress and key terms, but I wish the story had been told more deftly so homework wasn't a requirement to keep up with the story. But this is a Final Fantasy game, so convoluted stories that make little sense are par for the course. Also, I'm still too early in the game to expect everything to make sense at this point.

The graphics are pretty much the best graphics I've ever seen in any game ever. I can say that with out any fear of hyperbole. It's just gorgeous, with an amazing art style and ridiculously detailed character models. Remember how amazed we all were by the video clips in Final Fantasy VII? Well, the in-game graphics in this game blow those away. Gorgeous game.

So I like it. It's probably the most fun I've had playing a Final Fantasy game since part IX on the original Playstation. Check it out if you're a fan of the series.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

This is pretty much the way combat has always worked in the Star Ocean games, which is why I like those so much. I always wished, though, that somebody would finally release a game that combined the excellent storytelling, graphics, and characters of the Final Fantasy games with the combat system of Star Ocean. Sounds as though this might be the game. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll ever play it.

Donald said...

From what little I've played of the Star Ocean games (the first one on the playstation maybe? I can't remember), you had more control over your characters' movements than you do in the FF games. In XIII, as in all FF battle systems, your character stays still until the battle animations start up. You actually don't control them as -- I think -- you do in Star Ocean.

One of the neat things about XIII's battles is the use of paradigms. This basically dictates what roles you and your companions have during the battles. You can customize a list of paradigms that, say, assign one person as a medic, another as a spell caster, and you as the commander, freeing you from having to keep healing people, since you can assign that role to somebody else. Or you can have somebody perform supporting spells while somebody else inflicts massive damage. You can swap paradigms at any time, but doing so too often can mess up your combo bonuses and such.

I'm not explaining it very well, but it's very fun, if a little hectic and confusing in places.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Either way, it looks pretty good. But yeah, in Star Ocean, you have full control over your characters. The last game was particularly excellent, because it added a dodging mechanic that you could use to perform flanking maneuvers.