Ok, so I just beat FFXIII. It had its moments, and I don’t consider it a waste of my time, but I got it as a gift and lord knows I never would have paid 60 bucks for this game. For those who haven’t played it and are considering buying it, this post will be extremely long and hopefully relatively informative. Let me go into each aspect of the game.
What do you expect? FFXIII is obviously a beautiful game. Everything is nice to look at, and playing it on a widescreen TV with HDMI is eye candy from start to finish. The cutscenes are beutifully rendered, only hurt by the fact that all of the characters are boring and the story is an absolute mess. My advice? Look and don’t listen. You’ll enjoy yourself more. As for the battles, nothing could possibly be more tedious to watch. Out of the six possible classes that each character can play as, only one of them actually moves during battle. Everyone else stands perfectly still, so if watching a bunch of people grunt and moan while they jiggle their arms is your bread and butter, prepare to be deeply satisfied.
The Battle System:
I don’t understand why people heap so much praise on this thing. You have no control over the AI’s actions other than to switch “Paradigms”. What a paradigm is, is a set of classes you establish prior to battle, and must reestablish every time you switch team members. Even if you use a certain set of 6 paradigms for a certain party for most of the game, the moment you swap in another character for a particular battle, you have just guaranteed yourself 2-3 minutes in the paradigm menu reestablishing your setup. For your average battle, you can simply choose any combination of an Attacker/Blaster Paradigm to deal damage, switching in more or less spellcasters depending on how low the stagger meter/damage multiplier is. Each enemy has this meter, and it is raised through continuous attacking, and falls while the enemy is not being hurt. For most enemies, the damage you deal is rather miniscule until this meter is filled, at which point you can start to really beat the hell out of them. How do you beat the hell out of them? Press X once to choose auto-battle, and once more to choose a target. You could take the time to scroll through the menu and pick abilities, but for the most part, the computer does a fine job. To switch paradigms, you press L1, likely the only time you’ll ever press a button that isn’t X during battle. If you want to have a ridiculously easy time with the game, just start each battle with a Medic/Enhancer/Jammer party and then switch to your attack paradigm after a minute or two. Rinse and repeat for every tough enemy you come across, and you have every battle in a nutshell. Brilliant apparently. If you plan on renting the game, you can pretty much ignore everything I’ve said, because for the first 25 hours of the game, you aren’t even allowed to choose your party.
Where’s the challenge? I’ll tell you. Unlike every other rpg you’ve probably ever played, in this game, your party leader (the one you control) is the lifeblood of the party. If the leader dies, it’s game over. Your other members can die all they want. I’ll often just leave them dead when they bite it because characters are fully revived and healed at the end of the battle, so as long as I can finish the fight on my own, who needs ‘em? Some of the battles in the game are designed to last a very long time, and there’s nothing quite like watching in horror after 10 minutes of pressing X as your party leader gets targeted by a one hit kill move and you don’t have enough time to raise his defenses. This happens a lot. You’d think the AI would prioritize the life of the party leader, but this is not the case. The medic AI is broken as all hell, never prioritizing Revive or Esuna to help out dead characters or remove debilitating status effects because they find it far more important to cast heal 5 times on someone with half health, even when the first 3 heals were enough to fully restore their HP. If you want someone healed right, you better make damn sure one of your teams healers is you.
Oh god the menus. The leveling system in this game is the most tedious thing ever created. Instead of directly applying experience points and raising your stats all around, you must use collected XP to charge a beam of energy along what amounts to a huge coiling string of beads and crystals. The beads are HP/Strength/Magic bonuses, and the crystals are abilities. Instead of choosing one bonus and then moving on to the next bonus in line, you must hold X anywhere from 1 to 5 seconds (depending on the amount of XP required for the next bonus) and wait for the string of energy to make it from one bead to the next. To fully level all 6 characters in each of the 6 classes, I am willing to bet you would have to hold the X button down for a grand total of 2-3 hours. Since this is the only way to directly strengthen your characters, you will have to do this every time you reach a point where the enemies become too difficult, or instead of waiting, just do it every 10 minutes. Try to spread out those hours of holding down a button as much as possible, and maybe you wont notice how much the idea sucks.
As well as leveling characters, you can also level items. Each weapon has three levels. You start at level 1, feed the weapon loot for experience, and once it’s maxed, feed it a transformation catalyst to take it to level 2. From here, repeat the process to get to level 3 and then repeat the process again to max the weapon out. Not really all that bad, but there is of course one problem. All the best loot worth the most experience costs money. A lot of money. And you don’t get any from battles. Until about 30 hours into the game, I had amassed maybe 100,000 bux. The most expensive major XP loot costs 50,000 a pop, and to fully level a single weapon, you may need about thirty 0f them. This means that in 30 hours of gameplay, I had 1/90th of the money I’d need to fully level all 6 of my weapons. The only good way to make cash is also the only way to get the rarest transformation catalyst needed to make all of the top tier weapons: Killing a dinosaur whose only move is stomping the ground and instakilling under-leveled players and hoping he drops the loot you need, which he seems to do only 20% of the time. Fucking hell.
The one complaint I’m not going to go into much detail about is the “linearity” of the game. Yes, for the first 25 hours every map is effectively a straight line, and yes, the one large area in the game is simply a circle with more straight lines poking out from the center in every direction like a child’s drawing of the Sun. But instead of being delighted when I was finally given the chance to explore, I was so used to stuff being right there in front of me that I didn’t even want to. In FF 12, the world is huge. You revisit old areas to find newly opened paths that might end up leading you to another area, reinforcing the idea that your in one big interconnected world, but it is ridiculously easy to get yourself lost. I don’t mind it but I can understand why they might want to eliminate that aspect from 13. Give the people what they want, and if FFXIII and W+M1 pyros in Team Fortress 2 are any clue, what the people want is to hold a button down and run forward for hours on end.
I think that about covers it.