[Video Game Review]: Final Fantasy XIII

FFXIII final fantasy XIII 13 video game

Developer – Square Enix

Publisher – Square Enix

Platforms –PS3, X360

I think it’s fair to say that most gamers have heard of Final Fantasy. I think it’s also fair to say that most gamers have heard a lot of negative feedback about the 13th main title in the series. For once I’m here to tell you that what you’ve heard is probably right. Striking out on story, character development and gameplay, Square Enix’s focus on graphical quality is pretty much the only good thing about Final Fantasy XIII, though that merely serves to emphasize the poorer quality of the other aspects.

Cocoon is the name of an artificial moon on which many people make their home. Life thrives, nurtured by the mysterious, powerful and beneficent Cocoon Fal’Cie, machines that cater to humanity’s every need. Life would be perfect were it not for the constant threat of violence from the planet below, Gran Pulse. So fearful are the citizens of Cocoon of the land they live above that when a Fal’Cie from Pulse is discovered near a Cocoon settlement, all of the region’s inhabitants are set to be exiled from their homes in what may as well be a death sentence. After all, Fal’Cie can take L’Cie, human slaves given a task that they must complete aided by the ability to use magic, or die trying. Any one of the citizens could have been turned against Cocoon. In the midst of all the confusion a group of citizens becomes trapped inside the Pulse Fal’Cie and are indeed turned into the L’Cie that Cocoon so fears. Hated by their own people and hunted at every turn, the group soon discovers the true, dark nature of the Cocoon Fal’Cie, and their quest for survival becomes something much greater.

FFXIII final fantasy XIII 13 video game

JRPGs are known for their lengthy and epic stories, and though you could argue that Final Fantasy XIII fulfils both of those criteria, the story isn’t actually any good. You run around on Cocoon for a bit before running around on Pulse for a bit and then you fight the final boss. That’s pretty much it. The only part of the story that might be considered interesting is the background and the setting itself. Though the whole Fal’Cie, L’Cie, Cocoon, Pulse stuff could have been used to much greater effect (and indeed, the game contains screeds of background text that most players will ignore), they aren’t explicitly explored and integrated with the events you actually experience. On top of that the story is delivered in small chunks interspersed with long corridors of enemies for you to fight, meaning that there’s very little connection between the gameplay and what’s going on in the story at the time.

That leads rather nicely into my next point. Final Fantasy XIII is a JRPG that doesn’t act like a JRPG. When I said corridors in the last paragraph I meant it literally; the vast majority of areas you are in consist of a single linear path lined with monsters. There are no towns, no people for you to interact with and (almost) no areas for you to explore. The game opens up about 20 hours in, introducing a larger world and side missions for you to complete, and I’ve heard people say that the game improves at this point. For one thing, a game that only gets good after 20 hours isn’t good at all and secondly, I think it actually gets worse at that point. Though the story has a minimal input into what’s going on to begin with, after you hit the second part of the game it takes yet another step back, leaving you with what can only be called a glorified grinding session (and believe me, you will need to grind). I say that because, despite the more open world, all that is added to what you had already experienced is a greater number of areas to fight monsters in.

FFXIII final fantasy XIII 13 video game

The other aspect contributing to the non-RPG feeling is the usefulness (or uselessness) of the items you can find, buy and use in the game. Normally finding a chest in any game is a big thing because something potentially rewarding lurks behind each closed lid. In Final Fantasy XIII, however, I could count on one hand the number of useful items I found in the entire 40 hours I played it. By the end of the game I just ran past most of the chests because I knew it wasn’t worth my time to open them, and even if it was something worthwhile I would be able to buy it in the store anyway with my oodles and oodles of money. What you do find in chests (and can also buy in the stores) are components used for upgrading your equipment. While I did spend a lot of time jumping through hoops to upgrade my gear, I never felt that it made any appreciable difference to how I was doing in each battle.

Combat is an incredibly important component of most JRPGs, as it’s something you’re going to be taking part in for a huge chunk of the time you spend playing. Final Fantasy XIII’s take on the standard turned-based battle system is certainly novel, though I can’t say it was one I enjoyed. During combat you only control one of your party members (which is immediately a downside because the AI just isn’t very good), choosing either to use the Auto- button or choose actions yourself. Early in the game using the Auto- button was preferable because, despite losing your feeling of involvement in the combat, it was simply faster and easier to allow the computer to choose actions for you. Later, however, the AI tends to make choices that aren’t sensible and you are forced to manually input every command, which wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t racing against the clock to complete your orders. While the combat is turn-based your enemies don’t pause, so taking time to think about what you’re doing isn’t an option and rushing around your actions trying to find the one you want to use is rather stressful – especially since you’ll be trying to queue up 5 attacks at a time by the end of the game.

FFXIII final fantasy XIII 13 video game

During battle you can change each of your characters into various combinations of “paradigms”, which are much like the classes you might select in MMOs. Ravagers use elemental attacks (mostly magic) and are best at increasing a target’s chain gauge, which staggers the enemy and makes them vulnerable to attacks once it is full. Combat is pretty much based on trying to fill up that gauge ASAP. Commandos deal neutral damage (mostly physical) and prevent the chain gauge from running out, as well as being the powerhouses of your group. Synergists and Saboteurs buff your group and debuff your enemies respectively, while Medics heal and Sentinels act as tanks and soak up damage so the rest of your party doesn’t have to. Because of the Auto- command I mentioned earlier, your input into the combat consists of choosing which paradigm you want everyone in and little else. You can choose to play as any of the characters you want after the half-way point, but you’ll probably want to play one of the better healers because the AI doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that if your main character dies it’s game over. While the spell effects and various attacks are flashy, the fact that you’ll be seeing the same ones over and over and over again, coupled with the unentertaining combat system in general, means that the gameplay just isn’t very fun.

Adding on to what I’ve already mentioned, the difficulty curve is absolutely horrendous and on multiple occasions, most notably at the end of the game, I was forced to grind experience for extended periods of time to be able to progress. Not only that, but as you progress you will find that you receive less experience for fights that take more time in order to buy skills that cost more. It’s rather bizarre, really, leading me to backtrack to areas I’d left behind hours beforehand just to get some decent experience. Even more odd, perhaps, is the fact that the final boss is an absolute joke once you’ve managed to survive fighting the normal enemies just before you reach it.

One of the big differences between western games and JRPGs is the focus on character development. Even if the plot is lacking, good characterization and strong character development can keep a game interesting. Unfortunately for JRPG fans that is not the case for Final Fantasy XIII. Because of the disconnect between story and gameplay the ability of the player to connect with the characters is blunted, though that wouldn’t be a major problem if the characters were at all interesting in the first place. The thing is that I just didn’t care about most of the characters in Final Fantasy XIII, and even discovered two of the most annoying characters in existence during my time with the game (who I’m pretty sure get more lines and more time in the spotlight than the actual main character). It’s not that there’s nothing likeable about the characters at all, it’s that they’re all incredibly superficial and barely develop through the course of the story. It’s like they were all born to be L’Cie and fight monsters, like it all comes naturally to them. They have no weaknesses to connect to, precluding them from being relatable. In all honesty, I only really liked one of them and that’s probably just because he was the comic relief.

FFXIII final fantasy XIII 13 video game

When it comes down to it, Square Enix is consistently good with its pre-rendered cutscenes. While not as cutting-edge as they were when the game was first released, Final Fantasy XIII’s cinematic sequences are wonderful to watch. Unfortunately, while the normal character models aren’t bad by any means, the difference in quality after coming out of those gorgeous pre-rendered visuals is incredibly jarring. Having said that, it’s not a major issue and the quality of the scenery and monster designs cannot be denied. As I mentioned earlier, the special combat effects are also well done. If you ever do decide to play FFXIII I really hope you like the BGM, because you will hear the same tracks repeated throughout the course of the game. I personally didn’t find the soundtrack to be particularly special, and I’m sure that if I hadn’t played the game over a long period of time the combat music would have driven me insane. Still, the voice acting is fine and overall there isn’t much to complain about regarding the technical aspects.

Summary – Final Fantasy XIII is a huge disappointment. At least with FFXII I was able to say that it would have been fine were it not for the “Final Fantasy” attached to the name, but the latest release can barely claim to be a JRPG, let alone part of one of the major series of the genre. Lacking in most of the departments I consider when writing my reviews, Final Fantasy is neither a gripping, nor entertaining experience and none of its better features make up for that.


About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
This entry was posted in Reviews, Video Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to [Video Game Review]: Final Fantasy XIII

  1. Lazarinth says:

    Looks like I stopped playing final fantasy at just the right time, though I am a little curious about xv after watching it’s trailer

    • Silvachief says:

      Final Fantasy XIII took time from me that can never be recovered =/

      I haven’t personally been keeping up with the FFXV news but friends of mine are incredibly excited for it, so it’s probably something to look forward to.

  2. Overlord-G says:

    Only picked up this game for Fang X Vanille. I should have just looked up cutscenes online instead. The main cast annoyed me far too much for me to even bother finishing this game. Even if the story ended up eventually being good I lost interest. The “hallway” gameplay didn’t bother me much.

    • Silvachief says:

      Vanille was actually one of characters that annoyed me the most XD
      You didn’t miss out on much; the story doesn’t get to be any better later on. All you would have had to look forward to was more grinding =/

  3. chikorita157 says:

    I admit that I outright hated Final Fantasy XIII. The linearity is one of my annoyances I shared in my recent editorial for the fact that the game is basically an endless hallway simulator. Not to mention, there is even less control with the battle system compared to older Final Fantasy games. Sure, Final Fantasy X is very linear, but at least it has a good amount of options and exploration aspects, which makes the linearity not so much of a problem.

    • Silvachief says:

      Linearity isn’t an issue as long as you don’t notice it. I think that very few people would include linearity in their list of complaints about FFX. Final Fantasy XIII had no substance to it beyond it’s flashy visuals; you ran down corridors and pressed auto-attack and that was it. The story wasn’t engaging like FFX’s was either, so there was no distraction from its bad points.

  4. judge212 says:

    Great review that pretty much summed up why I hated XIII. When it initially came out, I gave it a 4/10. My opinion has declined even further since then. Have you played any other Final Fantasies?

    • Silvachief says:

      I’ve played either originals or remakes of all of them except XI, though i’ve only actually finished I, VII and XIII, which is a little embarrassing. Final Fantasy VII and X stick out above the rest in my opinion, though i’ll admit I need to give some more time to VIII and IX.

      I’ve learning that despite how well known it is, the Final Fantasy JRPG franchise is not the best one out there. Production quality only counts for so much. A lot of people I know are looking forward to XV but I think i’ll wait to see how it’s received.

  5. Kai says:

    I feel like after X, the franchise started going downhill from there, and XIII is one of the greatest offenders. At this point, I’m just keeping up with the FF tittles as a sort of “tradition”, considering I played so much of their older series.

    The thing about the battle gameplay mechanic is that I feel it’s like they were stubbornly trying to retain FF’s classic turn-based system, while trying to put in some action real-time elements (you can see characters moving all around the place unlike the previous titles where the characters will return to their fixed positions after their attacks). The auto-button I feel is also a system introduced for this very reason.

    And you’re right, the whole game is flashy, but there’s no substance. And then there’s the linearity. Probably a lot of complaints about the game had already been addressed. There’s also the game structural design, the game was linear before, but at some point of the game, it suddenly threw an open world-like area with tons of quests (and I mean tons, like 60 of them) right in front of our face. Most RPGs usually introduce quests like those in a gradual manner but XIII was like just straight out threw them right to our faces o.O And this was around 2 chapters to endgame too, lol. Additionally, for a modern game like this, it’s kinda weird that there’s no new game+.

    • Silvachief says:

      I think the whole “tradition” idea is a very big reason why so many people did keep playing FFXIII. I personally though it was going to have to get better but unfortunately it never did.

      The fact that your characters move around but you can’t control them was actually a source of great frustration for me. I don’t think you’ve had the full FFXIII experience till your main character runs in to attack a bomb just as it’s exploding, or a massive beast rakes its claws through two characters who just happen to be standing right next to each other. Trying to make static battles seem more active is a wonderful one, and couple with the game’s graphics it could have made it much more interesting and cinematic…in reality, however, that feature was ruined for me as soo as it started affecting my gameplay.

      Yes there were quests at the end but i’m fairly certain that every single one was a “go here and kill X”-type affair. You still weren’t interacting with anyone and there was only a thin background behind each task, meaning that I would go so far as to say that when you reach that branching point the game is still very much a linear experience. And it may have been 2 chapters before the end of the game, but that was still hours of grinding >.<

      • Kai says:

        Speaking of which, what do you think of FF XIII-2? or 3? If you had played them (I haven’t started 3 myself).

        This is the one reason why I like Resonance of Fate’s battle design more, lol. It seems to contain all the end-results that FF XIII originally aspired to be. Although, about having to move your character around in battles, you can actually do that in FF XIII-3, seeing the gameplay video. Although it still looks very awkward, instead of moving quickly across the field, it’s like Lightning is just tip-toeing along. It’s not like the Tales series battles where you are actually running, dodging and attacking all at the same time. In XIII-3, it’s like you’re “moving just for the sake of moving”. Again, I haven’t play XIII-3, and I only seen all of these in a gameplay video before, lol.

        For me, it was almost weeks of grinding, lol.

        • Silvachief says:

          FFXIII-2 is a much better version of FFXIII. Leaps and bounds better. It has so much in it that the original was lacking. I didn’t get all that far in it though. I’m not sure whether it was just because I didn’t like FFXIII, but XIII-2 still felt like it was missing something.

          While I haven’t gotten around to it yet, Resonance of Fate is on my “to play” list. I haven’t really kept up with XIII-3’s news since I can’t see myself playing it at all. To be honest, I find it completely bizarre that Square Enix decided a third game was needed.

          For me it was definitely weeks of grinding XD I could only force myself to play an hour or two every few days…it was terrible!

          • Kai says:

            I do agree XIII-2 has some significant improvements, but actually, ever since the start of XIII-2, I had always question the continuation of the story. In XIII, it certainly has it’s flaws, but it at least concluded well, the whole premise of XIII-2 extended the story from XIII in a really awkward way. Not sure if that’s just me.

            Do check it out if you can. The battle mechanics take some time to get used to, but it’s certainly a creative one. Not sure if you had read my review for it (or some other), but just to warn you, the story isn’t all that great either… lol.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s