- The story and script for this game is pretty abysmal
- Characters are one-dimensional without any real development
- Difficult and often frustrating battle system
- BUT graphics are solid, interface is futuristically cool, music is top-notch++
[okay, I admit I found this in a database of my old posts and I’m reposting it because it’s hilarious…well, to me anyway]
The biggest complaint that I’d heard going into Final Fantasy XIII was that the game was “too linear.” There’s really no denying it though – XIII is one of the (if not the) most linear RPGs that Square Enix has brought to date. Squeak Enix has taken a “point A to point B” approach and kicked it up several notches, so almost all of the entire game consists of cutscenes, fighting monsters, and moving forward. Your decisions here are limited to choosing whether to go the left path or the right one, but you end up at the same spot anyway. There are (technically) no towns, no dungeons, no flyable airships, none of that interesting globetrotting nonsense. In FFXIII, the entire world is the dungeon. Trippy, right?
This isn’t the big problem with the game.
Truth be told, I was never a fan of walking from Town A to Town B while getting smacked around fifteen times on the way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more appreciative of games where I can just blast through boring parts quickly and efficiently, moving from one chapter to the next. And in that sense, Thirteen sort of performs admirably.
It’s just about everything else that fails miserably.
Before Final Fantasy XIII, I finished Uncharted 1 and 2, two of the most critically-acclaimed games on the PS3. The rough outline for an Uncharted game could double for XIII: watch a cutscene, go through a few battles, jump around, watch another cutscene. Repeat. Yet Uncharted succeeds where FFXIII doesn’t, because it actually has an excellent cast of characters, script and story, and fun gun battles between all of the cutscenes.
Spoilers ahead: click on the blurry text to reveal it. It probably doesn’t matter anyway, though. There’s nothing good to spoil.
So what kind of story does FFXIII have to offer? Well…I’m not sure, honestly. If I could put it into one sentence, it would sound like this: “the protagonist from a floating world pretends to be an outcast to save sister but fails and gets turned into outcast with sorry group of individuals who try to protect an ancient being from being destroyed to prevent the Creator from coming and remaking the world but ultimately fail due to the fact that said group decides to attack the ancient being for unknown reasons causing floating world to collapse.”
That was terrible, I know. It was quite honestly the best I could do after playing through the game, reading all of the datalogs, and doing some “quality” research on GameFAQ message boards.
It makes me sad that I can no longer take a SquallEnix game and reduce it to something cohesive, like “girl accidentally gets sent back in time, boy rescues girl, discovers ancient evil sucking life out of planet and destroys it.” Or how about FF7, the previously-undisputed King of Convoluted plots (but actually fun!), which would probably be “washed-out soldier discovers corporation sucking life from planet, recovers from PTSD, defeats bad guy and saves the world”.
Let me try this again.
The story revolves around a female named Lightning “Worst Birthday Ever” Farron, who lives in a futuristic floating paradise. She’s your “strong-willed” heroine, which in SquelchEnix terms just means really grouchy. When the game starts, Lightning pretends to be a “L’cie” (basically someone who can use magic that’s also being hunted down and “purged” by the government) to find her sister, a girl who is an honest-to-goodness L’cie. Unfortunately for both parties, Lightning gets to her sister only to watch her turn to crystal, a consequence of being a L’cie. Basically, if you’re a L’cie, you have something called a focus – a task from the gods that you have to accomplish. If you succeed, your reward is to be turned into a human crystal. If you fail, well…you turn into a zombie.
So once you turn into a L’cie, you’re pretty much screwed.
You might guess here that your motley cast of characters all turn into L’cie.
In other words, the rest of the game involves you trying to undo your predicament. But wait! There’s more! It also turns out that the emperor is actually a major Bad Guy named “Barthandelus” masquerading as a normal human. He’s basically a god who sometimes decides to help your group escape and sometimes decides to attack you at prime intervals throughout the game. He is also, in his non-human form, a giant rectangular head. I can’t respect any boss that is just a giant head. Anyway, it seems that one of his goals is to “strengthen” your party, so you can defeat one of the godlike beings that keeps the floating world afloat. If this being, Orphan, is defeated, mankind is doomed, and the Maker will swoop in and recreate the world. Or something.
So what happens? Your party goes through the entire game doing a whole lot of nothing except fighting monsters and moving onward. You get to Orphan, who’s locked in some funky-looking cyberworld, and have a big final fight with Barthandelus. And then you have a big final fight with Orphan. I don’t know why. And then the futuristic floating paradise collapses. And then two people in your party execute some sort of ice attack that prevents the paradise from crashing into the planet, and everyone who previously lived in the floating paradise falls down onto what I suppose is now their new home. Have a nice day!
The story, you might have gathered by now, is not good.
FFXIII’s script reminds me of The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan’s movie equivalent of a Bad Hair Day.
Character development, done well in “other” Squawk games (maybe anything pre < FFX-2), is unrealistic, to say the least. Unless you count the fact that every character undergoes a one-time, “flick-of-a-switch” change: Lightning goes from annoying grouch to a suddenly-happy optimist. Hope goes from being Most Pitiful Kid Ever to some kind of optimistic leader with choice monologues about saving the world. Snow, the carefree optimist, turns into a carefree optimist. Basically, everyone becomes an optimist. That’s all the character development in this game.
How about the battle system? Repetitive, frustrating and difficult, mostly. This is the first FF game where normal battles actually posed a challenge for me. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just – well, I’ll let you decide. Boss battles, especially, are the icing on the cake. Hah! Good luck beating most of the bosses on your first try. I have a intimate relationship with the “Game Over” screen, thanks to late boss battle buzzer-beating attacks that just happen to decimate my party, allowing Barthandelus (insert your favorite XIII boss here) to just flick his finger and wipe everyone out. Real nice. I still have nightmares about Destrudo.
Reason One why battles are so difficult is because, for most of the game, your characters are broke as hell. You don’t earn Gil for defeating monsters any more – you get a chance of picking up an item. Most of the time that item is a cheap organic souvenir that you’re supposed to use to upgrade your weapons. Problem is, you don’t get enough of high-quality stuff (which are worth more exp for your items) through battles for it to make a difference.
What you are supposed to do is grind at very strategic points during the game, since there are certain types of enemies (usually soldiers) who drop credit chips that are actually worth some money. And money, unlike most Final Fantasy games, is EXTREMELY crucial in this game. Upgrading weapons (of which a GameFAQ is virtually required, no joke) is a costly affair, and without careful planning your group is going to just barely survive until about 3/4 through the game, when a side quest nets you a ridiculous sum of money. Unfortunately, I found this out much later.
Reason Two why battles are difficult is…if the leader of your group dies, the game is over. (and you only control the leader of the group, the “ai” controls the rest) Throughout most of the game, you don’t get to pick your leader either. Trust me, there’s plenty of room for frustration here.
There is really only one bright spot to such a ludicrous game. And that is presentation. Music, graphics, the interface – these are all top-notch and it makes you wonder how much time was spent on these instead of, you know, the story. The music is especially good, and the main theme is still one of my favorites in a Final Fantasy game.
My advice for anyone even remotely considering playing this game: go play FFIX instead.