Final Fantasy XIII - A Beautiful Disaster
I hadn’t even played a single Final Fantasy coming into this generation, but the amazing trailers for Final Fantasy XIII, the information on it’s world and themes got me so interested; I became a Final Fantasy fan overnight. Thereafter I played Final Fantasy VI through an emulator, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy IV on DS, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. Come Final Fantasy XIII launch day I had played most Final Fantasy games and was very hyped, now a year later after much thought, replaying and after almost platinuming the game I am ready to express my full thoughts; Final Fantasy XIII is a colossal disappointment, it’s a disaster, a very beautiful one though.
The most important thing in any game is it’s gameplay, as this is a Japanese RPG I will be separating the gameplay and the battle system as the latter is such an important thing that is used more often than anything else in a Japanese RPG.
The gameplay in FFXIII; to be quite frank there isn’t much to talk about. Seventy percent of the game consists of running in a straight line from one point to the next to experience a new cut scene, there is no variety until a certain point in the game; Gran Pulse. Don’t be fooled though, instead of a straight line now you have empty fields full of enemies where you do nothing but fight, one welcome distraction is the Chocobo and a type of minigame that comes with them. The side quests are all hunts, there are no side quests apart from this.
The game has no towns, NPC’s or any such distractions. In an RPG these things are essential as they add a sense of immersion to the world, instead information one would usually explore for in a town is put into the datalog.
So overall what is there to say about FFXIII’s gameplay? It’s pretty atrocious, never has there been such a repetitive RPG.
For a game with nothing but fighting and moving forward the battle system has an unfair amount of weight put on it’s shoulders, and after a certain point those shoulders get tired and break.
I’ll put this out right now, the battle system is one of the most enjoyable ones I have experienced in an RPG, but after a certain point it gets very repetitive. The main crux behind the battle system is macro-management through roles; Commando (warrior using offensive weapons), Ravager (mage using offensive magic), Medic (Healer), Saboteur (Magic to cause debuffs on enemies), Synergist (magic to help buff up fellow team mates) and Sentinel (defender). You can have combination of these rules for your three team mates in what are called paradigms, the idea is that changing enemy types and situations on the battle field will have you changing the paradigm so it’s suited to the enemy you are fighting. In theory it’s great and it works great. The problem is for a lot of the game your only playing with two people, at this time the battle system becomes dull as it gets repetitive; although still quite enjoyable. Later on in the game you have three characters and options to switch party members, this is when the battle system clicks and becomes great. This greatness is short-lived as the remaining parts of the main story don’t pose a major challenge if you grind enough.
One disappointment is that the summons on the whole are useless.
Overall the battle system is great, but in a game where you do nothing but fight it’s hardly surprising that it gets repetitive. The other parts of this game along with the reluctance to open up the battle system earlier on bring the overall quality of the battles in the game down a tad.
As this is a JRPG, more specifically a Final Fantasy I am separating story and characters. The story in FFXIII is downright incomprehensible in parts and I only understood the ending after reading a help guide online to understand the story. It’s no surprise that Producer of FFXIII (Yoshinori Kitase) said one of the aims behind FFXIII-2 is to make gamers understand FFXIII’s story more.
The premise is about 6 characters, each with their own struggle who have become l’cie by accident and how they need to find a way to solve the dilemma of completing their focus (which is to destroy their homeland cocoon) or to reject it; if a focus is rejected they turn into monsters called C’ieth. The lore, ideas, setting of FFXIII is interesting and top notch, but the plot it’self is poor. The pacing is off, characters dialogues are awful and the plot does not utilise the amount of potential it had. To truly appreciate the setting you need to read the datalog which many gamers may skip, all that interesting information should have been integrated into the game.
Mid way through the game the plot self destructs, you don’t know whats going on and the ending is a major cop out. The plot is disappointing because it doesn’t live up to the world, setting and the ideas the world of Final Fantasy XIII gives us; it’s also a the great potential is locked away in the datalog. This is the perfect example of having a good premise but atrocious execution, still better a good premise full of potential but a bad plot rather than everything being bad.
In FFXIII you need to be patient with the characters; each one is going through a difficult time in the game and then gets put into a situation they have grown up to fear deeply. Due to this we see bad sides of characters come up, good sides too, we see them arguing, we see them smiling. At the end of the day though apart from some instances the character development lacks for some of the characters.
Highlights include Lightning and Hope’s growing friendship as they each find the person they lost in each other and face their fears, same with Sazh and Vanille. Snow and Hope’s confrontations. Hope is a character that is developed particularly well, I could sympathise with his loss at the beginning of the game and grew attached to him through the game. Lightning has mediocre development, her interactions with Hope are the best part, part way through the game her character arc stops and she becomes pretty boring. Fang and Sazh I see as similar, both love someone dear and want to do anything for them, both are fun loving and characters you could see yourself having a beer with. Finally we come to Vanille, a rather annoying character with a weak characterisation.
Ultimately the cast of FFXIII was good if you let yourself open up to them, these aren’t people you may like from a first glance, but seeing their mental state at the time and empathizing with it ultimately I grew attached to most of the characters. Character development wise it’s not that great.
The soundtrack is very good, my favorite from this generation easily. The battle themes and the boss themes are incredible (Blinded by light, Will to fight), some of
the environment tracks are immersive and emotional too. Masashi Hamauzu did a great job.
One issue I felt the music had was that many times it felt like the scene the track plays in wasn’t suited to it, this made me thing that perhaps the tracks were made without taking into account the specific environment they were played in. Another issue was some melodies being reused in several tracks.
Overall it was a great soundtrack full of music that could tug at my heart strings (especially the track Memories Of Happier Days), however I can’t judge this based on the soundtrack alone, the placement of the songs is important to consider too.
On a technical level the graphics are good, not amazing. Some areas in the game suffer from poor textures. Sometimes the character models and environment quality is pretty different.
The art style of the game is incredible, Isamu Kamikokuryo has outdone himself, the technical quality of the graphics left a bit to be desired but this was made up by the art style which results in FFXIII looking breathtaking in the end.
Pulse and Cocoon both had distinctive art styles which helped us see a good variety of environments in each style (however uninteractive and sterile the worlds were). One minor issue I had was the monster designs for many machine type enemies felt lackluster.
Final Fantasy XIII is a bad RPG, it’s barely an RPG really. The game has design decisions that are terrible, this results in non existent gameplay. The battle system is good but the sheer weight thats put upon it’s shoulders makes it lose it’s luster. The plot is atrocious and nonsensical and it fills me with rage to see such great potential locked into a box and thrown off a cliff. The characters are on the whole good but not easy to get attached too and some suffer from low development. The music and graphics are great.
The game does not live up to it’s legacy of genre defining RPG’s at all.Yes Final Fantasy XIII is enjoyable on some levels but it has unforgivable issues present! One has to wonder how the developers thought they could get away with making such a featureless game.
The terrible design choices and plot completely overshadow the positives regarding the battle system and some of the characters, the music and graphics do make this game beautiful though.
Final Fantasy XIII is a beautiful disaster.
6.5/10 - Above Average to Ok
**NOTE -- The Final Score isn't an average of the section scores as clearly some sections will be more important than other to the overall quality of a game**