That was… strange. That’s my best single word description of Final Fantasy XIII. There was some that was good. There was a lot that was horribly bad. But overall my thoughts after finishing are… strange.
Starting with the primary good, the paradigm system. It’s pretty fast with the focus is more on what formation you’re using rather than what abilities exactly, so for the most part you focus more on paradigm switching and just leave choosing moves to auto-battle. I felt the paradigm system was built well. Sure it may not give you as much control over characters as previous games, but the goal was something that moved faster but was less frustrating than the gambit system, and I think it worked pretty well to those ends. You have to pick your priorities and what combinations you think will be necessary and quickly switch between them in the middle of combat. Switching is even encouraged and switching every two moves actually makes your characters execute commands faster, though that’s easily exploited. Eventually you’ll figure out what each combination is and what works best and you’ll just switch between one or two with the exception of bosses, which gets a bit boring due to its repetitiveness, but I feel is a good base to build upon. There’s definite room for improvement in the rest of the battle system however as it felt the actual balancing and design of the various abilities was really rough. For example, summons were completely useless when it comes to actually using the summons, but it was nice to exploit their other effects, such as everyone in the party reviving and losing status effects as well as it being impossible to die while summoned allowing you to attack a staggered enemy unimpeded. On that note, I didn’t really like the chain/stagger system either. It added a bit of variety to classes with the commando/ravager roles and I guess was necessary to add variety to the battle system to avoid having the same exact thing for the entire battle for simple normal enemies, but it felt really rough and annoying. Another issue is, that while I don’t think the battle system is bad, I think it gets old really quickly. If there’s a battle system that gets old really quickly that’s fine as long as there aren’t a lot of random battles and most battles are unique in some way or another. If there’s a battle system that feels interesting and different for each battle than its fine to have a whole bunch of random battles and bosses that aren’t that different from each other. But having a battle system that gets old really quickly and then having a lot of pointless battles that all seem like the same thing and seem to drag on forever is an unholy union that plays like crap. Every battle seems to go so slowly and every animation seems to drag on forever, especially the first paradigm switch. Furthermore, these battles are all that this game is due to the infamous hallway. All you do is move forward a bit, fight, repeat. There’s nothing else to help with pacing. There doesn’t have to be anything major, such as major new mechanics or even mini-games, but there has to be something. Exploration, gathering, going through towns talking to people, maybe a crafting system, all of those would work wonders for this game, but it doesn’t have them in the slightest. Plus the one portion of the game that wasn’t completely linear, gran pulse, was still really annoying. Just having a large place to move around in doesn’t mean shit if all you’re doing is still going from point to point seemingly pointlessly fighting enemies pointlessly. It felt even more annoying than the hallway. When dealing with open places, things should open up game play wise and there should be a lot you can do. Here there was still a very linear path on how to proceed with the game. Your only options were to go through battle missions in order, or skip them. There was only one non ‘defeat this enemy’ side quest with gathering parts for a robot. More so than the game opening up, the chapter just felt like them being lazy and wanting to repeat the use of the hallway. It was honestly the most annoying part of the game for me. Next, I was fine with the crystarium overall as well, though I did feel constrained by how it limited you up until you got expansions and didn’t really provide information on how it would expand, but overall I thought it a workable system. The item upgrade system on the other hand I found incredibly useless, annoying, and a massive waste of time. Items over all needed a major revamp. Overall, game play wise I thought the game was semi-decent and had good potential. Not diamond in the rough level, but that with some changes and more polish it could be pretty good.
That is far more than I can say about the story. WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING? That is my summary of the story. It made absolutely no sense. I even tried keeping up with the datalog, but even that became a incomprehensible mess eventually. The CG was amazing. The graphics overall were beautiful. The soundtrack was awesome. I even liked the art style and character designs. And the back story and settings seemed really interesting. I really really wanted to fall in love with the story of this game. I really did. BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY NONSENSICAL. I can forgive the bad pacing. I can look past the lame writing. I didn’t have too much of a problem with the flat characters or not so great voice acting. I can even usually enjoy plots that most people would agree are pretty bad. But when despite my best efforts I can’t make head or tails of what is happening or why and my subconscious desire is an overwhelming urge to ignore the story entirely… well I don’t really have much to work with do I? I have no idea what the hell was going on with the development of the story but whatever it was, stop doing it. The game play can be worked with. The story of this game can not. That is this games biggest failing by far.
As a final note on the game, I didn’t really understand why everyone hates Lightning so much. Is it just that she is the face of a series of game that lots of people are tremendously disappointed with? She had a lot of strange moments and isn’t great, but I felt that that applied to everyone about equally. She didn’t really stand out to me in that regard.
I’m going to start FFXIII-2 eventually. It is not going to be my next game. I’ll probably play another game in between. I’ve heard its fixed a lot of the issues and made changes in direct response to the criticisms though has become more soul less in the process, whatever that means.