Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
Toastfarmer
15 Mar, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII Review

PS3 Review | Lucky thirteen?
One of the hallmarks of the Final Fantasy series has been how each game has changed to the next. While retaining the same basic template, we were introduced with each successive title to new characters, new worlds, and new gameplay mechanics. That again is the case with Final Fantasy XIII. What’s different this time is that the changes are bigger and more drastic than ever before. Final Fantasy XIII is a Final Fantasy game stripped back to its core, its augmentations minimal. Just like Final Fantasy VII ushered in a new era - a new format, a new platform and a new mindset – Final Fantasy XIII too seems like the first step in a new direction for the series.

As you might have heard, Final Fantasy XIII is a very linear game for the first 20 or so hours. You’ll be heading forward and forward only, no exploration, no backtracking. Not very RPG-like, right? The lack of sidequests and exploration, until one significant opportunity for both late in the game, will be a sticking point for fans of the series who have come to expect such things of a Final Fantasy title. But Final Fantasy XIII isn’t really trying to be an RPG, or at least, not trying to be the kind of RPG we’re used to. Square Enix’s aim here is a focused, cinematic, story-driven experience, not entirely unlike the campaigns of Uncharted or Modern Warfare. The gameplay may be different, but the intent is the same. Final Fantasy XIII’s linearity is a consequence of serving the game’s story.


Prettiness abounds.

Prettiness abounds.
Close

So what is the story, exactly? Basically, the world of Final Fantasy XIII is split into the moon-like Cocoon, and the accompanying planet, Pulse. Cocoon is extremely fearful of Pulse and anything to do with it. An expulsion of those potentially tainted by Pulse, the Purge, unites five of the six main characters. In a confrontation with an ambiguous deity called a Fal’Cie, they end up branded as L’Cie, its servants. Perks include magical powers and a neat tattoo. As L’Cie they have a mission to carry out called a Focus. Tricky part is, they have no clue what their Focus might be, save for a fleeting vision. Making things even trickier is that the Fal’Cie which branded them was from Pulse, making them public enemy number one as far as Cocoon is concerned. Chaos ensues.

Final Fantasy XIII does a poor job at implementing exposition into the start of the game. You’ll be bombarded with terminology from the outset, words that are meaningless to you until the game explains them. Unfortunately it never really does this in the context of the game itself. Instead, you’re forced to consult the game’s Datalog, which is an ever-growing source of information on people, places and concepts. While the Datalog itself is well done, it shouldn’t be necessary to consult such a source for clarification on basic plot points that should have been fleshed out in the game itself. However, this is really only a problem early on. Once the player is familiar with the concepts the story flows on nicely. Cutscenes are taut and to the point, and the dialogue will make you cringe only occasionally. The quality of the voice acting varies, but as far as JRPG’s go, it’s pretty damn good. You’ll be drip-fed with flashbacks that gradually piece together to form a coherent backstory. As a whole, Final Fantasy XIII’s story is more straightforward than previous games, but it’s also more propulsive. The steady flow of exposition makes you want to press on in order to learn more about what’s happening.


...and that's why Lightning stopped using online dating services.

...and that's why Lightning stopped using online dating services.
Close

This is an incredible looking game. From the menus to the in-game graphics to the CGI sequences, you’ll be getting more than your fill of eye candy. The presentation oozes class out of every orifice. The environments you’ll traverse are quite static but many are nonetheless breathtaking. The stylised yet realistic character models are meticulously detailed and beautifully animated. Even smaller battles can look quite spectacular with spell effects splashing all around the place and characters leaping and striking enemies. The art direction as a whole is excellent. Many traditional Final Fantasy creatures like the Behemoth make appearances, but there are some fantastic original designs too. We played the Playstation 3 version of the game, and therefore can’t comment on how the multiple-disc 360 version compares visually, but we can’t imagine the difference being so significant as to discourage those with a 360 only. The soundtrack is generally strong, with great battle music and some memorable pieces to accompany the various environments you’ll wander through. The cheesy wailing guitars in some tracks bring the classiness down a notch, though.

Some of your time in Final Fantasy XIII will be spent traversing the environment, usually a simple trek from point A to point B. The majority of it however will be fighting, preparing for fighting, and reaping the rewards from fighting. Fortunately Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is excellent, and perhaps the most engaging yet in the series. Though you only directly control the leader of your party, you exert your influence over the party as a whole through what is called a Paradigm Shift. A Paradigm is a set of roles that can be equipped to your party. There are six roles that boil down to melee (Commando), magic (Ravager), defence (Sentinel), healing (Medic), buffing (Synergist) and debuffing (Saboteur). A party can have up to six Paradigms, and therefore six role combinations. You can switch Paradigms at any time in battle to shape what you want your party to do. Though at first you’ll get by on basic offensive Paradigms, you’ll need to learn how to get the best out of every role as the game progresses. Final Fantasy XIII includes an ‘Auto-Battle’ as the default option in battle. Hitting this will cue up what the game considers are the best moves for your current situation. Though some may feel this reduces battles down to mashing a single button, it’s an essential and intelligent streamlining to help the player cope with not only the vastly increased speed of battles, but also the new Active Time Battle system. Instead of one bar filling up that allows you to execute one move, multiple smaller bars fill allowing you to execute multiple weak moves or a couple of stronger moves. Auto-Battle means you won’t be constantly selecting to attack or cast a particular spell three or four times, though by all means you can still do this if you want.


The joys of interpretive dance.

The joys of interpretive dance.
Close

Tying cleverly into Paradigms is the Stagger mechanic. Each enemy has a bar that fills when they are attacked. Fill it completely and the enemy is staggered, entering a period of greatly increased vulnerability. Staggering enemies is the most effective way to defeat them and this will always be your aim. Where it ties to Paradigms is that you’ll need both a Commando and Ravager active to increase the bar with any efficiency. Spells from a Ravager make the bar shoot up fast, but it will decrease just as fast without the attacks of a Commando to slow the bar’s reduction. Of course, you won’t be able to have a Commando and Ravager active at all times, and from this basic platform of prioritising springs a surprising level of strategic complexity. Battles later in the game will see you switching paradigms every few seconds. You’ll also have to master timing your attacks with other party members in order to juggle enemies effectively.

So the battle system is fast, strategic and great to watch. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII fails to take full advantage of it. Whether it was simply a matter of bending gameplay to story, or a deliberate decision to more gently ease players into the system, your party will consist of only two characters at a time for a large part of the game, switching between groups in different locations. This really hinders the battle system, like playing chess minus a third of the pieces. It’s deeply unfortunate that what is one of the game’s biggest strengths is held back to this extent. The payoff comes eventually in the later points of the game, where you’ll finally have all six characters together with the ability to choose any party of three that you wish. Unfortunately for some players, this will be too little, too late. For those who stick it out though, you’ll be given a rather excellent playground for battling in which to make up for lost time.


Each Paradigm combination comes with its own nifty nickname.

Each Paradigm combination comes with its own nifty nickname.
Close

We should also touch briefly on the Crystarium levelling system. Like the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X or the Licence Board from Final Fantasy XII, battling earns you points which can be used to buy your way through a levelling tree for each character. Unfortunately, unlike those systems, there’s very limited capacity for choice. Though you can select which role to focus on for each character (which is limited by the fact that characters initially have only two or three roles available to them) the Crystarium path itself is as linear as the game itself. There is still something satisfying about gaining strength and abilities as you progress through the Crystarium, and different characters will have different paths through the same role, but ultimately it won’t be satisfying to those who like to really engineer and individualise their party.

There’s no doubt that Final Fantasy XIII is the most drastic departure yet from the series’ template. Square Enix have stripped this game down to plot, visuals and the battle system, excising exploration, sidequests and, to a degree, complexity. Though this change will appeal to some and repel others, Final Fantasy XIII is a first class game. The production values are simply stunning and the battle system is one of the series’ best. It’s certainly not without flaws; pacing, the party limitations and the levelling system taint the experience. There’s also the reduced capacity for exploration and sidequests. But in the end, Square Enix set out to deliver a focused, cinematic, story-driven video game, and Final Fantasy XIII will give you just that.
The Score
A brave step in a new direction for the series. It won’t please everyone, but Final Fantasy XIII succeeds where it counts.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Final Fantasy XIII Content

Vote for Australia's Biggest Final Fantasy Fan
08 Mar, 2010 Fulfilling fantasy.
Final Fantasy XIII: Georgia Van Cuylenburg Interview
08 Mar, 2010 We have a fun chat with one of the game's Australian voice actresses.
Final Fantasy XIII Limited Collector's Edition
27 Jan, 2010 A generous package.
46 Comments
4 years ago
I pretty much agree with everything in this review. I'm saddened by the lack of exploration and sidequests.
4 years ago
Honestly, I don't play ff games for side quests so I wasn't disappointed. Final Fantasy side quests are normally pretty boring and tacked on anyway. You buy mass effect 2 if you want to indulge in side quests. Or like me by both and get two very different rpg experiences.

I enjoyed the battle system but I agree with the review it was annoying how you were always left with only two people. It just made the battles too simple. But overall an enjoyable game.
4 years ago
That 10 looks funny.
4 years ago
I am enjoying it more that X and XII - so am happy from that perspective. I am only 10 hours in at this stage so hoping there is plenty more gameplay to come.

I like the fact that there are no puzzles, so you never have that 'what the hell do I do next' problem.

There's not a lot of depth, but then you can always play Dragon Age if you want that.
4 years ago
I'm happy with the lack of exploration. I'm in chapter 11 and all this vast open space just seems annoying.
4 years ago
I was expecting to be slightly disappointed with this one once I finally played it, with some of the negative buzz floating around the Internet for the last few months. I'm happy to say that I'm absolutely loving this one though, the battle system is fantastic and consistently exciting, and the game's linearity isn't bothering me, as FFX was highly linear as well, and was one of my favourites of the series.
4 years ago
6.5/10 to max 7/10 from me. The first 17 hours or so are garbage. I'm not done but it's not going to exceed 7/10. A
Lot of flaws. (IMO of couse)
4 years ago
sobriquet835 wrote
I'm saddened by the lack of exploration and sidequests.
Glad I never bought the game then.


*waits for the inevitable posts on stuff I don't give a damn about*
4 years ago
8.5 sounds about right for me.
4 years ago
@ Ashlar - Ditto. I've only been playing for about 4 hours but I love not having that feeling that I've missed something very important.

I'm playing through FFVIII as well and I missed Doom Train in my first play through. Call me a coward, but I love being safe in the knowledge that no stone has been left unturned.
4 years ago
I actually dont miss the exploration as much as i thought i did. Towns and all that served no purpose rather then a filler between story moments, and exploration was something which died long before FFXIII.

IMO FFXIII is to the FF series what Resident Evil 4/5 were to the RE series, nothing like the previous entries in the series but a great game overall.
4 years ago
Ryvenor wrote
IMO FFXIII is to the FF series what Resident Evil 5 was to the RE series, nothing like the previous entries but a great game overall.
admittedly i havent played ff13 yet, but that seems like a strange comparison. re5 was basically a hd version of re4 with coop.
4 years ago
THEMAN wrote
6.5/10 to max 7/10 from me. The first 17 hours or so are garbage. I'm not done but it's not going to exceed 7/10. A
Lot of flaws. (IMO of couse)
You've sure been playing it a hell of a lot for a 6-7/10 game. icon_razz.gif
4 years ago
Agent 042 wrote
Ryvenor wrote
IMO FFXIII is to the FF series what Resident Evil 5 was to the RE series, nothing like the previous entries but a great game overall.
admittedly i havent played ff13 yet, but that seems like a strange comparison. re5 was basically a hd version of re4 with coop.
True....i guess i should say 4/5 and not just 5 hehe. What i meant by the comparison was the latest entries in both series were great, but played nothing like the previous entries.
4 years ago
fatpizza wrote
THEMAN wrote
6.5/10 to max 7/10 from me. The first 17 hours or so are garbage. I'm not done but it's not going to exceed 7/10. A
Lot of flaws. (IMO of couse)
You've sure been playing it a hell of a lot for a 6-7/10 game. icon_razz.gif
I want to finish it yo~

then I'm never touching this again. Like never.

and I want to finish it in 2 days so I can then play GOD OF WAR III.
4 years ago
It certainly isn't a game that will appeal to everyone. The exploration comments are interesting as in many rpgs, it doesn't even add much anyway. Towns also don't add a lot in many cases and are rarely exploited to their full potential.

My biggest gripe about FFXIII is the whole weapon upgrade system, not a fan of it at all.
4 years ago
Question for Pincott, is it frustrating to have to finish the game so expediently and quickly?

When I play these games I like to stretch the experience out for as long as possible, kind of savour it.

BTW 16 hours in and the game is A+, battles are so much fun and strategically trying and the story/direction is fantastically developed and paced =]
4 years ago
I see a lot of people talking about lack of exploration. JRPG's have never been big on exploration. Most of them are relatively linear with piss poor attempts to disguise it.
4 years ago
I thought I would be disappointed about the lack of towns but the new setup makes me realise how linear X was and I didn't even realise it. Like others when you get your world opened up in Chapter 11 I found it jarring to now have these expanses. In any case the battle system is fantastic, the best part of the game by far. Western RPG's has made it a very cringe worthy playthrough though, and Vanille's voice and characterisation is atrocious.
4 years ago
el_rezzo wrote
I thought I would be disappointed about the lack of towns but the new setup makes me realise how linear X was and I didn't even realise it.
See I've always realised that FFX was very linear but it is my favourite FF.


So what is the difference between that and FFXIII and the reason I don't want this game (for now anyway) because of linearity? Simple! As linear as FFX was, it still had a lot of things to do outside of the main game.But from what I hear of this game there isn't that factor.Yeah I've heard about the large area you do get to explore but from what I have heard there isn't more to do.



See FFX the monster arena that you had to collect all the monsters for and then could fight them.

It had Blitzball which I must have played for 200 hours.Recruiting was part of it so that was another side quest.


There was the parts for the ultimate weapons which was a large part of the side quests.Some of which were hard as to beat like the 0.00 time in the Chocobo race and the butterfly section of Macalania.Despite the high difficulty of those two, I have finish them both at least twice.


There was the Aeons to collect which you had certain goals to achieve to be able to unlock some of them.

There were the Dark Aeons that were hard as HELL.I never actually beat Dark Anima.



Now people would argue that this game is fine without all that stuff.A year or so ago I would maybe agree.But at the moment the only games I have been REALLY enjoying are sandbox games.I'm LOVING the freedom to run around HUGE places and do what I want when I want.My big wane in video game interest has gone since I have been playing Destroy All Humans: Path of the Furon, The Saboteur and the Just Cause 2 demo.
4 years ago
The linearity doesn't surprise me that much, the Final Fantasy series (With a couple of exceptions) have usually been pretty linear, but this linearity is disguised somewhat by the typical world map interface and the chances for sidetracking.

Looking at FFVII, aside from a some instances, the first half of the game could be seen as railroading, with some optional locations (Fort Condor during Disk One, for example) and chances to explore when a new vehicle is obtained. The world doesn't really open up until the Highwind is obtained during Disk Two, and even then, you don't have access to the full party until after Mideel sinks.

Yes, the player who explores and sidetracks (Even backtracks) is the one who will find the better equipment, but this is not every player's cup of tea. Unfortunatly, everyone has wildly varying expectations on what they want from Square Enix. I personally had a lot of enjoyment from FFXI (For example), and I feel FFXIII is a welcome breath of fresh air after FFXII.
4 years ago
^It's all true. The FFXIII experience is more passive, which is where it really shines. I'm happy to pay $85 for a 60 hour SQUARE ENIX movie. Seriously, if I could afford it, I'd fund SE's production for movies, they're light years ahead of Pixar/Dreamworks/etc.

Edit: Was actually a response to Gamesta, Qin commented while I was typing XD
4 years ago
Quin wrote
Looking at FFVII, aside from a some instances, the first half of the game could be seen as railroading, with some optional locations (Fort Condor during Disk One, for example) and chances to explore when a new vehicle is obtained. The world doesn't really open up until the Highwind is obtained during Disk Two, and even then, you don't have access to the full party until after Mideel sinks.
Well I've never properly played FFVII.I only played it when I got it from PSN and that was only about 10 minutes before I turned it off and never touched it again.
4 years ago
The game is good just that its not that good for the first 10 to 15 hours (its 60 hours long). i found the story beginning to turn extremely good at about 15 hours later and the battle getting mindblowing at about 10 hours later.
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/3Xw

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  9/03/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  1

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.