Thursday, September 15, 2011

Suffering Through Final Fantasy XIII: Part III

This scene looks blooming marvellous. Pity I never made it that far.

My occasion to further experiment with Final Fantasy XIII has come to a close, and to be honest, I'm more than ready to draw the curtain on it. As much as I would have loved to have made it through the requisite 25-hour-long tutorial that opens up the game, in the end I found myself lacking the time and, perhaps most importantly, the willpower to make it through to the slightly less linear second half.

The problems I have with the game are manifold, but not all-encompassing. The beginning is far too drawn out and spoon-fed in its approach to teaching you the core mechanics of the game, while the action that goes on outside of the combat encounters simply wasn't engaging enough to keep me interested in the end. The battle system itself can often feel over-complicated. The need to constantly shift paradigms in battle can reach unforeseen lows, particularly when those battles are longer than the more standard random encounters. The much-maligned auto-battle aspect isn't as automatic, or often as useful either, as it seems. In situations where you are acting as a medic, for instance, the tendency for auto battle to over-cure yourself or your team-mates can lead to frustrating fatal consequences, and it eventually becomes clear that it is beneficial to be more involved and to take a more active role in the proceedings.

Snow is easily the least likeable character
that I've ever encountered in a game.
The story left me cold, frankly. A combination of too many plot threads and consequently not enough development of any of the protagonists resulted in being thrown between characters or teams every hour or so. This doesn't allow enough time for you to develop any empathy with the game's characters, and serves to undermine everything that makes a typical Final Fantasy experience great. It also meant that I would find myself getting comfortable with a team and understanding how best to use them before promptly being forced to get adjusted to a new play-style, only to return once more to my previous team and have to readjust all over again. It sounds convoluted in writing, and that feeling translates 1:1 to the gameplay experience.

All in all, I spent a total of just over fourteen hours in the world of Final Fantasy XIII. To put that in perspective, I finished Mass Effect 2 earlier this year in just twelve hours. According to various sources, I had between five and ten more hours to go before the game would 'begin'. At that point, I believe there is perhaps at least another twenty hours that await. If you have the time and the patience, I think there's a great game in here somewhere. I'm just sad to say that I never found it.

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