For 22 years now, Final Fantasy has been at the forefront of the RPG world. The pedigree that comes with the Final Fantasy name is a hard one to live up to, considering games such as Final Fantasy VI and VII. Great story telling, beautiful graphics, and memorable characters are the hallmarks of the series. The most recent installment doesn’t disappoint on these fronts.
The story begins in the middle of a battle. Two worlds, Cocoon and Pulse, are warring with each other. Some citizens of Cocoon have come into contact with Pulse, the feared world below, and are being evicted from Cocoon. This event is known as the Purge. Snow is the head of a resistance group fighting against the Purge, and Lightning is looking to rescue her sister, who has also come into contact with Pulse. It is here that the character’s paths intertwine, and their battle against the god-like beings known as Fal’Cie begins. Your party consists of six playable characters, running the gamut from an ex-soldier to a scared, young boy facing exile. The characters as a whole play off each other very well, and the story provides some genuine laugh out loud moments, particularly between Lightning and Snow. The quality of the voice acting in this game is excellent, although many casual gamers may be turned off by Vanille and Hope, who can come across as whiny.
One critical aspect of any RPG is the battle system. Although the battle system in Final Fantasy XIII is different than in previous installments, it still delivers an overall fun and easy to control experience. For starters, only one character at a time is player controlled, while the other two are AI-controlled. This may be a turn-off for some traditional gamers, who are used to controlling all the characters, but it does increase the pace of battles and make them more engaging.
Another change is the role system. Characters are assigned one of the following six roles: Sentinel, Commando, Ravager, Medic, Synergist, and Saboteur. In battle, roles are changed on the fly through a “Paradigm” system, which allows for a very fast-paced, interactive experience. It’s critical to use the right combination of these roles, as gaining levels will not help you defeat some bosses; you will need to strategize or you will not make it through this game. If you’re worried that the system sounds too complex, fear not; features are gradually revealed through in-battle tutorials as the game progresses, so that the gamer does not get overwhelmed. Also, in a big change for the FF series, random battles have been removed and all enemies are now visible. Not only can you avoid enemies if you don’t want to fight, but you can sneak up on them to get a preemptive strike. This adds an element of stealth to battles, ultimately making them more enjoyable.
Final Fantasy also delivers big time in the graphics department. Some of the levels are nothing less than gorgeous. Two levels that come to mind are the frozen lake, and the Pulse wilderness. Enemies such as Wyverns, Behemoths and Ochus are beautifully animated and appear larger than life. Despite the levels, environmental exploration is linear for the most part. While linearity is nothing new to fans of the series, Final Fantasy XIII takes it to another level. While exploring environments, many times it feels like you’re on a singular path and can only go backwards or forwards. Part of the fun in RPGs is taking the road less traveled, exploring environments, and finding hidden items. There’s very little to discover about the environments of Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy XIII also lacks fun mini games that were present in earlier games in the series. For example, VII had Chocobo Racing, and X had Blitzball. In both cases the mini-games provided a fun diversion from the story. Without the mini-games and environmental exploration there’s very little to break up the games pacing. Even though Final Fantasy XIII does have some fun side quests, they don’t open up until extremely late in the game.
The role system can also be linear at times. At the start of the game, each character can only be developed in three roles out of the six. Although all roles are eventually unlocked for all characters, by the time this happens there’s little point in developing them because the game is almost over. I felt limited when developing my characters. In general, I felt like the game decides how it’s going to be played, as opposed to me deciding how to play the game. Additionally, after eighty hours of playing Final Fantasy XIII, I was only 50% done with trophies. The huge time investment for Final Fantasy XIII and linear elements make Final Fantasy XIII repetitive at times, and thus limit it’s replay value.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII is a fun experience. The story telling, beautiful graphics, and amazing battle sequences are all excellent. Although the game play and character development are linear, Final Fantasy XIII is still a fun, unique RPG experience. Comparatively, I did not have as much fun with Final Fantasy XIII as I did with other games in the series. Final Fantasy XIII is definitely worth owning, but I would not recommend paying full price for it.
This review is based on a retail copy the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII published by Square Enix
- Excellent Battle System
- Being Able to See Enemies Adds Depth
- Repetitive At Times
- Very Linear