Sunday, 14 March 2010

Final Fantasy XIII: 12 hours in.


Chances are that if you've already read something on FFXIII, then you've already heard it's 'linearity issues' discussed in one way or another. So far, I have seen nothing to dispute any of these claims. I have essentially been following a straight line for the entirety of my playthrough with barely even a hint of an unbeaten path or exploration in any form. The linearity is an inescapable fact, but the focus should be on what intersperses the path-following - some fantastic battles and drop-dead gorgeous cut-scenes.

As always, Square Enix doesn't disappoint in terms of presentation, boasting flawless, endearing and memorable character design, each sporting disticntive images and personalities. Sazh has a baby Chocobo living in his hair, Lightning is a smouldering badass, Vanille looks at me like she wants/needs me, Snow is essentially Ken Masters, but nonetheless endearing, Fang is just sort of there with her attitude being completely overshadowed by Lightning and then........there's Hope.

Ah, Hope. What an unbearable little shit this kid is. Always whining and moaning and trying to grow up , like he's trying to force an erection out. I swear he's going to end up bursting a blood vessel before the credits roll. I wish pain upon this little turd, he is a complete waste of Phoenix Down. Speaking of which, it is now referred to as a 'tuft of phoenix down'. Which brought me to the stark realisation that that shit was stolen off a real phoenix! do you know how rare that must be!? And I've been wasting them on that little turd when I should be selling that shit on the black market to crazy billionaires like Charles Widmore.

Back on topic now. The characters look gorgeous and I would probably do it with each and every one of them (except Hope) if I were some sort of lawnmower man virtual reality bisexual. They are wonderfully complimented by superb animations -particularly the faces; the lip-syncing is beautifully done and gives the characters a weight and believability which is integral to their personalities.

The game's other two main strengths are it's incredible soundtrack and unique battle system. With the latter being, again, something of a topic for debate.

At times, you could be convinced that FFXIII was being played on some sort of auto-pilot as you stare drooling at the lush visuals. In reality, it is a refined and streamlined version of traditional RPG battling. Rather than leaving it to you to figure out the best roles for your characters and having you chop and change accordingly, it organises varieties of roles into what are called 'paradigms'. In each paradigm, the characters on your team fulfill a different role. For example, one configuration will provide you with a medic, an attacker and another that casts supporting magic. You can opt for balance, or all-out attack but you will soon find that the best approach is switching between paradigms according to the direction of the fight- learning to go all-out or take a step back whenever necessary. Attacks and spells are doled out by the single character you control, based on your knowledge of the enemy. You can select specific actions, but the better option is to study your opponent and let the auto system do the work as it will always select the best course of action if you have enough info on your enemy.

Whilst it may sound all to easy, the new battle system is simply just shifting your focus, forcing you to be more considered, plan ahead and do your research. Rather than sacrificing depth wholesale, it simply trades some of it for a faster paced, more contemporary battle system that is better suited to a generation that is being raised on dull, uninvolving shooters that take a mere 7 hours to complete. Face it, our attention span is fucked. We brought this upon ourselves.

The soundtrack hasn't displayed a hint of Leona Lewis yet, but for all you haterz, just remember that it is going to be right there at the end to reward you for all your hard work. Otherwise, the OST is incredible: massively varied, memorable and appropriate. It runs the gamut of genres and has already embedded a few melodies in my brain. They aren't going anywhere and I will gladly whistle them upon request.

As linear as it makes it, the pacing and direction of my first 12 hours or so have been wholly appropriate. Your characters are on the run - the last thing they should be doing is dicking around looking for Chocobos to ride when there are bad motherfuckers with gunships and gatling guns after them, I know I'd be running. I retain a fair amount of good faith in the game, hoping that the pace will shift in order to keep my interest. If it were to continue like this for the estimated 45 hours playtime, I may have to kill someone.

Keeping the hope of change in my mind and getting to watch the characters mature and develop before me is holding my interest this far. Even that unbearable little shit Hope is starting to wise up and if that's not enough, there's always the promise of more boner-inducing Advent Children-esque cinematics to come.

There will undoubtedly be more to say about FFXIII further down the line and I won't hesitate in forcing my opinion on you all once again when I've played some more. For now, keep reading and share your thoughts on it in the comments. If you haven't played it yet - why the hell not!? Financial excuses are permitted.


Justtherightbullets said...

Vanille's gait keeps me up at night...

vandalworks said...

my first hour and a half were pleasant enough, i'm yet to play more as i've either been busy or getting into battlefield bad company 2. early parts so far are linear, but its the start of the game and you dont need to explore that early anyway! a mate of mine who has it said things open up a lot on disc 3... hes over 30 hours in=| oh, to be in 'uni' and have so much time for games.

YEAH R0Y said...

picking it up on Tuesday ... and can't wait


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