Initial Thoughts: Final Fantasy XIII

Okay, first of all, I will probably make another post and amend some things I’ll be saying in this one at a later date, when I finish this game. The reason why I will make a part two for thoughts on Final Fantasy XIII is because a lot of people are like ‘OH BUT YOU HAVE TO FINISH THE GAME BEFORE YOU DECIDE IF YOU LIKE IT’, so I’ll let you know.

I love the Final Fantasy series, but I’ll just come right out and say it – Final Fantasy XIII feels like such an experimental game for the series; which I guess it is. Square Enix are just trying to see how far they can push the graphics, as well as test out a new battle system while sacrificing storyline and storytelling techniques. There still is a storyline, a huuuge one, but unless you read the supplementary entries in an in-game encyclopaedia (The Datalogs), you only really have vague ideas of what’s going on. The game dialogue in the beginning doesn’t really explain all that much about the new terminology which is spouted a lot. Example? Purge, Cocoon, Pulse, fal’Cie, l’Cie, PSICOM, NORA, and so forth.  I mean with context you can figure out what some of them are, but then there are others where you’re like ‘oh, WHUT?’

Also, pacing of the beginning of the story is rushed. There are a lot of emotional moments – well, supposedly emotional moments – and I could really care less. I was still trying to figure out exactly what was going on instead of worrying about the characters. Oh and the characters I’ve met so far are like Female Cloud (Lightning) , Seifer/Zell hybrid (Snow), the Australian Selphie (Vanille), the Emoside Tidus (Hope) and Token Black Guy(Sazh). I know it’s really hard to be original nowadays, but come on Square Enix it just feels like you’ve taken these guys out of the recycling bin and put new clothes on them. I’m not sure if I like these guys yet, although I mightn’t have played the game long enough for me to discover something I really like about them.

Onto the battle system. I actually like this new real time battle system. Instead of the usual turn based shenanigans and mashing ‘X’, you actually kind of have to think tactically. Since you can’t stop the enemies to think for a long time as to what you can do next, it feels like you’re actually in a battle. Basically you control only one character, the leader, and the others follow your lead through the use of Paradigms which are like tactical presets you switch through in battle to assign the characters Roles (like job classes). For example you can choose a Paradigm where everyone is attacking, but once your team starts taking heavy damage, you can switch to a Paradigm which has one character attack, one defend and the last to be a healer. Once everyone is okay again, you switch back to the full offensive. As for  the one character you control, the battle still works on the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, but works a little differently to the older systems – you stack your desired commands for your turn slots and once the time bar fills up they automatically execute in a chain. Different commands take up  differently amounts of the time bar. For example, you have three turn slots, Attack takes up one slot and then another special attack takes the two remaining slots. Or you decide to take the three slots with three Attacks. It’s an interesting system. I’m guessing later on once I figure out what all the abilities are like I’ll come up with a favourite string of commands or something.

When it comes to levelling up, something akin to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X called the Crystarium is in place. So you don’t have levels exactly, just maps (well I call them maps…) that have nodes which you can activate along a route by spending Crystogen Points (CP) you gain through battle. The nodes increase stats (like Magic +4 or HP + 70 or something) and give your characters abilities. There are different maps for different Roles of a character – which relates back to the Paradigms – you level the different Roles a character has e.g Commando (Attacker), Medic (Healer), etc. I loved the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, so I have no complaints about the Crystarium system.

Okay, so recap on overall initial thoughts for Final Fantasy XIII, I know I griped a lot in this post, but I don’t think this is a bad game, it’s just not great either – so far. It’s really pretty in graphics and music, I just wish the storytelling techniques were stronger. I don’t want to have to keep checking the Datalogs every time I don’t understand something. If you’re a veteran Final Fantasy player, give it a go and see what Square Enix is trying out, but borrow it off a friend who’s bought it first to see if you like it enough to buy it. It is very different. For newcomers to the Final Fantasy franchise, I don’t feel Final Fantasy XIII is a good judge of the series – probably better to start with Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII.

That’s all for now, I’ll report back when I complete the game – I might be absolutely obsessed with it by that time!

– IdiotCat

About the Author

I'm just your regular gamer! Currently working in the game industry as an artist. I love all manner of things cute, colourful and crazy. I also love lemons quite a lot. c: