Thursday, 15 April 2010

First impressions - Final Fantasy XIII

That's Final Fantasy XIII (therefore referred to as FFXIII) for the PlayStation 3 since the X-box 360 is a big pile of shit and I sure as hell am not rich enough to throw money on a console that will break after 2 hours of game play.

As a big Final Fantasy fan, it was inevitable that I would pick up FFXIII and, truth be told, I was quite impatient to obtain a copy of Square's latest installment. Although reviews were less generous than with previous installments claiming that it did not feel that much Final Fantasy-like and Square had pissed all over its flagship franchise by implementing tons of changes nobody requested, my fanboyish curiosity took over and I bought the game as early as possible. How's that for a long sentence by the way?

I have only played up to chapter 11 so far, thus this review is based on what happens up to this point. Besides, the only reason I stopped playing the game is because I stumbled against a boss who's being a real pain in the ass and my four attempts to defeat him have so far been in vain.

I won't go over how this game is graphically "superior" or the fact that it has excellent music, as this is quite typical of Final Fantasy titles and anything less would be seen as an outrage and a crime of epic proportions. I will instead randomly point out things that impress me as well as vent my anger on those points that annoy the crap out of me every time I play the game.

Let me add to what you must have already heard from at least one thousand sources: Final Fantasy XIII (to hell with the FFXIII) has perhaps the best battle system found in any role-playing game, even surpassing Final Fantasy X's. FFXIII indeed uses a new system that works wonders in making every single battle monumentous (I made myself a word!). Characters are now effective in a single role (as opposed to FFVII where everybody would turn into gods) and care must be taken when optimizing the abilities as the game is extremely restrictive in the upgrades it offers you.

Square has made the game actually challenging, and this is the first Final Fantasy where you'll pay attention to how you are upgrading a certain character's weapons and how you're allocating his abilities. Summons, Final Fantasy's trademark, also return and are this time referred to as Eidolons. Each character is assigned only one Eidolon, which also has the ability to transform into a vehicle, a testimonial to the fact that someone at Square must be a very big Transformers fan. Either that, or the guy who thought turning Odin into a horse was smoking a big dose oof crack at the time.

Another big change is that FFXIII is as linear as it gets. Yes, previous Final Fantasy titles were also linear and merely fooled gamers into believing they were not by using an "open closed world" (go figure), but FFXIII gets rid of all the drama and presents you with point A and point B, an actual thoroughly linear path. Funnily enough, they also use a map in the game when it's downright impossible to get lost since there's always only one direction to take unless you're a bloody idiot and keep going forth and back for 2 miles wondering when you get to the next save point.

To further reinforce the fact that "Hey, I'm a badass linear game", Final Fantasy XIII completely got rid of towns, which is a real shame. Still, you get used to it after some time although the towns used to be a good break from the action. Besides, you don't actually get to meet a lot of people in the game, and you'll be too busy going from point A to point B to bother noticing after the first 2 hours. Additionally, the first 4 or so hours* of the game are frightfully easy and act more as a tutorial. You can play through it by just pressing forward + X all the time. However, once you've suffered through this 4-hour tutorial (seriously, fuck you Square for treating all your gamers like retards) and the story picks up, the game gets really engrossing.

I'm actually inclined to be amazed by how quickly the game goes from borefest to "Oh shit, I'm gonna die!!". Moreover, the story is extremely confusing at the beginning when events are shoved up your throat like ecstasy and you have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on with tons and tons of new hard-to-pronounce terms like l'Cie and fal'Cie. Sure, the game procures you with a log where you can read about locations, people, events, and the chapters themselves (yeah, totally!) as you progress, but it's still tedious at first. However, when the game starts relying on flashbacks to develop the story, you get sucked in.

Part 2 will be up once I pick up the game again, provided I do manage to beat the boss that's almost making me considering sell the game on eBay (yes, I am that kind of gamer).

*may be an exaggeration