Dec 27, 2010

Review: Final Fantasy 13

Another way overdue review, here is Square Enix's Final Fantasy 13, released march 2010 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I played this on a PS3, but the differences between the versions are fairly small. I think the only significant change on the Xbox 360 version is that some cutscenes are rendered, where on PS3 they use the regular game engine. Oh, and there's no disc swapping on the PS3, gotta love Blu-ray.


The Final Fantasy series should be well known to everyone moderately interested in games, but in short, it is a long line of wildly popular japanese RPG's. Final Fantasy 1 was released back on the NES in 1987, and the game's name was anything but random. Square was deep in financial problems, and Final Fantasy was their last attempt to tip the scales before shutting down. The game and all its follow ups have all been instant hits.

Final Fantasy 13 is the first in the series on current High Definition consoles, and Square Enix very clearly put in everything they could to make the game as visually gorgeous as possible, and has also given us a game that is very different from earlier releases, for good and for bad.

The game's story begins with a bang as a riot takes place in one of the cities of Cocoon, an artificial planet suspended high over the lower planet Gran Pulse. In the chaos we are introduced to the six playable characters of the game whose destinies become one and they fight a desperate battle to escape a very grim fate.


As with the older games of the series, the two main focuses of FF 13 is the story and tactical combat. Outside of the battles, playing this title feels almost like watching a fantasy movie, there is rarely very long between dialogues and cutscenes telling the story as it goes on, and snippets of history that slowly piece together whats going on. It gets pretty confusing, and it doesn't help one bit to have to relate to cryptic names like fal'cie, pulse l'cie, and c'ieth. Still, I thought the story was great, even emotional as you discover the tragic stories of our characters.  Fair warning though, if you get bored watching long cutscenes and cinematic clips, this game probably isn't for you.

The realtime tactical battles that make up the majority of the actual gameplay, is great. There's been mixed feelings about FF 13's combat system but I just love it. For the most part of the game, you can not choose which characters to have in your battle team, it depends on where you are in the story forcing you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each one, and you often play with rather unusual setups. Each character has a number of party roles they can do, but only one at a time. This is where the Paradigm system comes into play and adds a lot of depth to the combat. Paradigms are like a deck of party roles you can set and tinker around with between battles, and while fighting you can change paradigms whenever you like to switch party roles. For example, you might start a battle out with a commando and ravagers to quickly do damage and try to "stagger" (when enemies take damage they fill up a stagger bar, when full they become staggered and take much more damage) enemies, but when taking heavy damage or in preparation for it, you can switch to a Paradigm with a medic and a sentinel to absorb damage. Other roles include saboteurs who cast curses and debuffs on enemies, and synergists who cast beneficial spells on the battle team.

Some (or many, I should say) feel the combat is far too simple, that all you have to do is mash autoattack which lets the game pick what attacks and abilities are most useful. You can also only directly control the battle team leader, other party members do their own thing but use the paradigm roles you've set, and assist on the same target as you.  I say the combat system is just great. Everything happens so fast there's rarely time  to fiddle around in the menues setting up the abilities you want to use, and once the battles start getting more difficult you often have to switch around paradigms like a madman to keep everyone alive. Some hate on the autoattack function, but I am very happy to have it. There is far more depth to the tactical battles than mentioned so far, to learn more I suggest watching the embedded video at the bottom of this post.

Another big change in Final Fantasy 13 from the older games, is that it is completely linear. You can't at any point until you've completed the game (except when you're on Gran Pulse, that area is a bit more open) decide you want to head someplace else, and there are no quests or sidequests in the traditional sense to do. This point has raised a lot of raging critisism and I'm inclined to agree, I would much have preferred a more non-linear approach with more freedom. One good thing from it though is that the story feels tighter. The linear approach was an intended one from Square Enix, and in their defense I can kinda understand how it would be almost impossible to make it more open while still keeping the ultrasexy visuals of the game.


Simply put, the presentation of the game is incredibly hot. Easily the most visually impressive game I've played to date, Square Enix deserve mad props for the breathtaking visuals. Everything looks fantastic, whether you are exploring, watching cutscenes, poking around in the game menues or doing battle.  The game music also deserves mention, as has come to be expected of the Final Fantasy series we are treated with wonderful orchestrated scores that gets you even more sucked into the game.


8 / 10

I wish I could give this game a 10 as I absolutely loved playing Final Fantasy 13, but I can't in good conscience not withdraw points for how extremely linear it is. Also, the battles don't really get exciting until you're well into the game and have unlocked paradigms and developed your characters a bit which takes many hours of game time. As you're playing you get one little new tool to play with now and then for the first few chapters and until stuff is unlocked and fleshed out a bit, all you can really do is "press X to autoattack".

Once that's done with though I was left with a terrific gaming experience with a rich story and tense battles and having one heck of a time the roughly 50 hours it took to complete the main story. There is even more to do after the story is done as all characters unlock more roles and can level even more, and there's a bunch of trophies/achievements doing a lot more after the game is "done".

What are your thoughts about this game? Feel free to leave comments about the game, or my opinions of it!

Official trailer (I recommend clicking the youtube link, and watching this in 720p full screen):

Battle system explained:

No comments: