Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Suffering Through FFXIII (X360)

Say what you want about gameplay, but FFXIII is beautiful to behold

A rejected copy of Final Fantasy XIII has laid ignored for months beside me, and so last week I decided to give it a chance. Upon release, Square Enix’s latest iteration of the Final Fantasy franchise was much maligned, among other things, for its linearity. Depending on who you’d believe, the game has what amounts to a glorified tutorial section that lasts between fifteen and twenty-five hours, after which point the real game begins in earnest. Challenge accepted.

It was unnecessary to have to wait three hours to learn upgrades.
Playing for twenty hours before being entrusted with a real experience was enough to put most people off the game. RPGs have a reputation for lasting longer than their action-shooter cohorts, and certainly in an industry where the going length for a full game might hit the eight- or nine-hour mark, it is asking a lot of people to expect them to sink over twice that amount into merely the beginning to a game. However, it begged the question: Is that such a bad thing?

The art direction is, as ever, spectacular.
Essentially, no. There have been many cries from players across the board for games to provide them with a mite more time for their money. Story length is not the issue here. The problem with FFXIII is not that Square Enix have given us more to play, it’s that they have given us nothing to play. This opening section is a lesson in how to press forward and the confirm button, alongside a piecemeal training in how best to battle enemies. All of which takes place in lush environments that you cannot explore because you must stick to a rigid, mostly one-way path.

I don't much care for Lightning or Snow, to be honest.
My intention is to break through the twenty-hour glass ceiling and discover the fabled game that lies beyond. So far, I have progressed approximately four hours into it, having just discovered the Paradigm Shift combat mechanic and the Crystarium, a reboot of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid system with a new, overly-pretty skin. At this current juncture, I do not really care for any of the characters, who seem to be at permanent compass points of emotion, but I am hopeful that they  will become at least slightly more realised and relatable. The story seems weak, and feels a bit jumbled-up, but again this complaint is common for Final Fantasy games, and it takes a while before neologisms like L’Cie and Fal’Cie and Cie’th will really hit home to me.

Ideally, I plan to clock the necessary hours within the next two weeks. The task ahead is nothing short of daunting. I have no interest in wasting my time on a game that won’t pay the necessary dividends, but by all accounts FFXIII should be worth the struggle. Here goes nothing.


  1. I would say that around 10 hours in the thoroughly on rails portion ends and the game; while not breaking from that oppressive linearity, at least gives you some freedom to fail.

    While there is a very specific point after which you can take on some ancillary objectives, I can't say that's really the turning point. Around the 20 hour mark, I realised I was enjoying myself on some level and genuinely wanted to continue on. That aforementioned point where the game opens up is an improvement on what comes before - but if you aren't won over by that point then that change alone isn't going to convince you.

    I think a peculiar sort of Stockholm syndrome set in somewhere along the line. That point in an abusive relationship where you become attached to the partner who's knocking you around. Final Fantasy XIII became an abusive relationship for me, and despite this I enjoyed it - possibly through familiarity alone, but I'd like to think I came to really love it in the end.

  2. I think Stockholm Syndrome is an apt description for how a lot of people react to games, particularly RPGs and MMOs. When you sink that much time into something, you have to legitimise it somehow.