Final Fantasy XIII

 19 Mar 2010

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I LOVE IT.

Just a bit of back story. I never played a Final Fantasy game until X (and I played that one about a year after it was out). Since then I have only managed to play VI and VII and about 1/2 of XII. I am going to go back for XII for sure cause I did enjoy it, but not near at the level of X and XIII. VI was great but the battle system is not as interesting as all of the following ones. I would have to say that X is my favorite but I might change that after I finish XIII. I’m almost done with the story and plan on doing many of the extra things.

The story is what I expected. I think it’s neat but it’s very typical of other recent Final Fantasy games. Cool world filled with crazy technology and people that dress VERY colorfully. I’m not going to say too much about the story. I don’t require an amazing story to like a game, this story is interesting and keeps me engaged. The characters are fleshed out even if they are cliche and that’s fine for me!

The battle system is amazing. The first 3 hours (or so) can be misleading. Keep playing through it cause the system get’s cooler.

You only ever control your main characters. You basically have a bar (starts at 3 segments and can have 6 if you get a characters ultimate weapon). You put actions on the segments (Some spells take 2 or 3) and then execute them all at the same time. In order to not waste time you have to place all of your actions before your bar refills. You can quickly execute less that a full bar if you need to, or cancel things that haven’t happened yet (if you’re quick) in order to do something else with the unused portion of your bar. That sounds complicated but it’s really not. Basically you have lots of real time control to pick what to do.

Most fights you can just hit “auto” and let your character do it for you. I think this is a GOOD THING, cause it makes trash fights easy. The characters auto cast things the mob is weak to, won’t cast things they are immune to, generally behave pretty awesome. The “auto” selection is pretty much what you’re other two characters are doing as well (only slightly smarter since they have to pick their target automatically too). If you are selecting an action without thinking you can now hit “auto” and you can actually pick things manually when you need to. Sometimes this doesn’t work but in this system I think it’s perfect.

Now comes the fun part, at any time during combat (ANY time) you can change your paradigm. Basically you can change the job of each of your party members to one of 6 “decks”. You can make the decks anything you want in the menus between combat. The job choices are as follows:

Ravager
Magic damage dealer
Commando
Physical damage dealer
Synergist
Buffer
Sabatour
Debuffer
Medic
Healer
Sentinel
Tank

So this means one second you are working with Com / Rav / Rav (more about this in a section) and suddenly the boss hits you all for a lot! You switch to Com / Sen / Med or even Sen / Med / Med to heal up and then switch back. It’s great. It keeps you engaged in EVERY battle (including trash) while not becoming tedious and boring (so far). I absolutely adore it. You may think that you’ll only ever switch between the two I just mentioned (or something similar) but if you did fights would take a long time due to the next bit.

Every mob has a bar that fills up the more you hit it. The bar usually starts at 100% and increases as you hit the mob. The more you hit the mob, the more damage you do! Easy! The trouble is the bar doesn’t stay filled, it slowly goes back to 100%. If you manage to fill it (the filling point is different on different mobs) the mob gets staggered and you can do MASSIVE damage to it. For example: If a mob has a 130% stagger mark, then as soon as you hit 130% it jumps to 230% and increases much faster up to 999%. Once staggered you have a certain amount of time before the bar resets to 100%.

Now here’s the cool part, the amount the bar increases / the speed at which it depletes / and the time in stagger is dependent on what you do to the mob. Ravagers fill the bar VERY quickly while not doing as much damage as Commandos. Commando’s keep the chain from depleting fast while doing a bit more damage (As a side note: Ravagers do have physical attacks that chain fast, and Commandos have magic attacks that keep the chain from depleting so you aren’t screwed if a mom is immune to physical for instance). If you do fill it up all the way with only ravagers (hard to do unless you use ALL three ravagers on a mob whose bar fills up fast) the stagger time won’t be much. If you have at least one Commando in your party the bar won’t go down fast at all (plenty of time to switch paradigm’s, heal, then come back). Once you do stagger a mob you generally want to keep Ravagers in the mix to get it to 999% as fast as possible. Once it is as 999 switching to more commandos helps doe more actual damage on the mob.

Sentinels also keep the bar moving down slowly but not as reliably. Having a group of Sen / Com / Med is awesome since the Commando keeps the chain going (you won’t lose it despite not adding to it very fast), the Sentinel takes hits (they taunt) and do it while taking little damage (guarding and counter-attacking) while the medic heals you up. Even if you have to Sen / Med / Med you can normally get back to a damage paradigm after without losing your chain if you react fast enough.

All of this chaining business means that fights are very different from each other. Different ones have different parameters changing the way your paradigms affect things. Some bosses need buffing or debuffing. Some only one healer is ok while others need a tank or a healer and a tank. Figuring out optimal paradigms in each case is an awesome addition to otherwise standard fights.

I can’t get enough of this battle system. Every boss is a great challenge! You do hit X a lot to do the auto actions, but you are doing it while constantly switching jobs, and every once in a while (or a lot in a complicated boss fight) you go manual and have to pick actions. I think this completely kills the boring fights that many other games have while keeping you engaged and giving you a feeling like you’re improving at the game while your character’s stats are improving.

The leveling system is typical. You have a thing you drop points into that add to your stats. Very familiar if you have played FFX. The difference is at end game the characters are very different from each other still. They all don’t have access to every ability even if they have access to ever job. I think this is a huge improvement. Not having everyone on the same grid means that the end game will still be interesting.

The game has everything about FFX that I loved. Ultimate weapons that can be hard to get. Tons of monsters and missions to beat after the game ends. Crazy monsters. Graphics are stunning. Some things though are improved. There are no towns! You buy things at save points. This just helps (again) remove a boring part of play. There are plenty of NPC’s around but you don’t have to talk to them individually. Walk by them and you hear what they’re saying! These changes just make playing a FF game even more fluid and fun.

A quick point that I found great: You can’t miss ANYTHING during normal play through. Everything can be gotten AFTER the final fight of the game so you don’t need to worry about getting every chest if you don’t want to (might save you some money here and there, but there will be nothing you can’t get again via shops or mob kills). No missing a critical steal on a boss (there’s no stealing at all actually). Another great change from some of the other games.

Anyway I love it and can’t wait to get home and play some more. Most of my friends have not liked this game very much mainly saying that the game is too linear. I don’t see an issue. The game makes you follow a story through 60% of it, but all FF games do so I don’t know what people were expecting. The game exceeded my expectations in all of the right ways!