Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

First instalment of the long-running RPG series on the Xbox 360.

Review Verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
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XIII's 'Stagger' system works like an armour break, allowing you to do extra damage and launch enemies high into the air.
XIII's 'Stagger' system works like an armour break, allowing you to do extra damage and launch enemies high into the air.

XIII's 'Stagger' system works like an armour break, allowing you to do extra damage and launch enemies high into the air.

Conversely, however, some mechanics have evolved for the better, and FFXIII's Active Time Battle (ATB) combat system is one of them. FFXIII's combat is like the lovechild of FFXII's divisive Gambit system and FFVII's classic ATB system. Like in FFXII, all three of your front line party members are visible as you explore the game world, and you can avoid many of the enemies you see pottering about waiting to be disturbed. But unlike in FFXII, when combat is triggered there's a short transition to a battle screen, where all the action kicks off.

FFXIII's ATB gauge charges continuously over time. Commands cue up, each one with an associated ATB cost. At the beginning of the game, each character's ATB Gauge only has a couple of segments, limiting the number of commands that can be cued up, but as you progress you gain more - up to a maximum of six. Once the ATB gauge is filled, all the commands play out one after the other in real time. When you've got a three person party going up against multiple enemies using spells, melee attacks, and other abilities, combat is a spectacular, visceral sight.

Now, you may wish to sit down for what's coming next: you only ever control one character during combat. We know, madness, huh? What has Square Enix done? Why have you dumbed down FF for the casual noobs! Calm down, dear. It's actually really good. Yes, you only control one character at once, but, with the Paradigm Shift function, you indirectly control everyone, and the AI is really, really good. Say, for example, you're controlling the gunsword-wielding Lightning, with the broad-shouldered Snow, and the moody Hope backing you up, and with the Strategic Warfare Paradigm (Commando, Sentinel and Synergist) enabled. As Lightning, you'll be concentrating on doing damage to your enemy with melee attacks - dealing physical damage to multiple targets with Blitz, perhaps, or maybe just slashing the crap out of a single target with basic attacks. While you're busy getting your game on, the AI makes sure Snow and Hope are doing their bit as effectively and efficiently as possible: Snow attracting the attacks of enemies with tanking abilities like Challenge, and Hope buffing Lightning and Snow and himself with spells like Shell and Protect.

Of course, the AI doesn't always do exactly what you want it to, but on the whole it's pretty smart. For example, if you use Libra to learn an enemy's weaknesses, your party members will automatically exploit them by using the appropriate elemental attacks. We only ever found the AI wanting when controlling Medics. When a party member is knocked out, an AI controlled Medic always prioritises raising everyone's hit points over reviving the downed character.

FFXIII's combat system is the best the series has seen. It's exciting to watch, fun to use, and, most importantly, brimming with strategy and depth. The only problem with it - and this will be a big problem for some - is the Auto Battle option. Here, with one button press, you can let the computer decide which commands to cue up for you. It does such a good job that it's all too easy to sit back and spam Auto Battle without mentally engaging in combat. The game doesn't do itself any favours by being ridiculously easy for huge chunks of its first 30 hours, only spiking the difficulty for bosses and "Eidolon" fights - FFXIII's disappointing transforming mechanised monsters must first be "tamed" before they can be summoned in battle. It's perfectly possible, then, to play for hours on end by only pushing up on the left analogue stick when exploring and pressing A/X over and over again when in combat.

Vanille reminds us of FFVII's Yuffie. She's chirpy, bouncy, and jail bait.

Vanille reminds us of FFVII's Yuffie. She's chirpy, bouncy, and jail bait.

Story is, of course, massively important for Final Fantasy fans. The great news is that in this regard you won't be disappointed. The game begins with a sabotaged train journey in which members of a resistance force battle against an oppressive government and what's called The Purge - an effort to deport citizens of a spherical world called Cocoon to the underworld below. It's all to do with horrible beings called fal'Cie, which turn ordinary people into slaves called l'Cie. L'Cie are given what's called a Focus - an order, essentially, which they must carry out or face being turned into mindless zombies. Either way, though, l'Cie are screwed. Complete a Focus, and they turn into crystal for the rest of eternity. This is the terrifying fate that Lightning and the rest of FFXIII's eclectic bunch of adventurers face when, early on, they are cursed as l'Cie. The game revolves around their attempt to work out what their Focus is, while unravelling the truth behind the oppressive government Purge.

FFXIII starts slowly - very slowly - but it hits its stride around the 20 hour mark, evolving into an entertaining romp packed full of drama, revelation, and more drama. The six main characters are annoying at first, but they all grow as people as their lives spiral inexorably out of control. Hope, for example, starts off as a spiky-haired whine-bag hell-bent on stabbing Snow in the back for murdering his mother. 'Oh god', you think, 'not another JRPG emo!'. But as you play you can see Hope growing up. In their own ways, all of the central characters do this. It's sophisticated, engaging, and helps drive you to finish the game despite its faults.

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Woffls's Avatar


I really enjoyed this until I got to some mega robot boss and got stuck. Somehow it makes the first 10 hours a tutorial, and STILL hasn't made obvious to me what I need to do to beat this boss. It's the one just after you meet Hope's father, I think, and I got stuck so gave up. This was like 6 months ago now. I've been meaning to go back to it, and I probably will because I was half invested in the story.

It's definitely the best looking game I've ever seen.
Posted 12:05 on 25 March 2011
87Sarah's Avatar


I'm currently on the 'grinding' stage of this game so thought I would take a break and read this review. I never bothered to read it before as I was always going to go out and buy the Final Fantasy game straight away but this review is so true and I agree with pretty much everything that has been said.
It really is the most beautiful game I've ever seen though :)
Posted 16:38 on 24 March 2011
Azcarim's Avatar

Azcarim@ scaz2244

I am getting extremely tired of everyone and their brother praising the 'high and mighty FF7". I have played nearly every final fantasy game to the extent of 10 hours (with exceptions to some of the older ones like 5 and 6) and I can say without a doubt FFX is my favorite. It has my favorite combat and leveling system, as well as the most satisfying storyline and characters. The only reason I can see that everyone likes FF7 so much is because either it was the first 3D or its the fanboy effect; I played 7,8,9,10 and 12 to the end and honestly the only one I didn't like better than 7 was 12. Try to be candid when you are playing a game and stop comparing it to FF7, then go back and replay 7 and see how 'awesome' it really was...
Posted 13:08 on 12 April 2010
krellda's Avatar

krellda@ shadowkaster

Play 'Heavy Rain'

Movie games are not bad things, infact they are 'Revolutionary' according to the critic world
Posted 15:35 on 17 March 2010
krellda's Avatar


I don't think its fair to say this game is bad for being linear, fact of the matter is its the most enthralling Final Fantasy game i've ever played, I think the fact that there are no towns or places to stop and quit the game for another time is a strength, not a weakness. I sat down on the first day of getting this game and played 7 hours, stopping only to go out to get wasted. Following that, mid hangover the following day I played a further 10 hours... stopping only because i saw the words, 'insert disc 3'. The story, battle system, characters, environments are all top notch. I hope no one is forgetting that FFVII had some of the most bleak and boring area designs (and some of the best) and that was arguably the greatest (or at least most loved) game within the series.. and what was it famous for? The story, the battle system, the characters, the environment... i think people need to stop getting so hung up on this game being linear and just play the damn thing :D
Posted 15:31 on 17 March 2010
akorndr2's Avatar

akorndr2@ shadowkaster

lol i recon numbers 10-12 were bad never got into it like numbers 7,8
Posted 10:40 on 16 March 2010
akorndr2's Avatar


as an old player i do like this linear style i remember spending weeks trying to workout what to do next but that was due i was young and noob who knows mabey ill like the exploring game like zelda or final fantasy 8 but till then i like the game and how it removes the stress on having quickly click here and there change and stuff. square enix did well into moving the modern gaming world
Posted 10:39 on 16 March 2010
akorndr2's Avatar

akorndr2@ scaz2244

i think its due to that role playing explorer games like the old final fantasy died many years ago today its all american style buy play it finish it within a days work and dont forget it isnt multiplayer.
Posted 10:36 on 16 March 2010
Stegosaurus-Guy-II's Avatar

Stegosaurus-Guy-II@ shadowkaster

You haven't played it for long have you?

Show Spoiler Turn auto battle off...
Posted 20:46 on 15 March 2010
shadowkaster's Avatar


This is a good review but the combat is wayy to easy and linear. Walk straight press auto, rinse repeat. Why did they dumb this game down soo much? If I read your review before the weekend I never woudl ahve bought the game. It it didn't Final Fantasy in the title all reviews would be at least 1-2 points lower. Worst FF to date IMO. looks nice, decent story but thats about it. More of a movie than a game.
Posted 20:43 on 15 March 2010
mecegirl's Avatar


The main characters have been made outcasts and need to escape Cocoon or be killed. They have to complete the task given to them buy "higher" beings and have no idea what the task really is. If they fail they get turned into zombie things if they succeed they turn into crystals. Oh and they have no idea how soon they need to get it done... yeah I'd be rushing too. After playing it a bit I feel like the reason why they streamlined the game was because they wanted you to feel like you really are a fugitive. I mean I do miss the freedom of past titles and other rpgs but because of the story the fast pace doesn't bother me. It's not like a real fugitive has the freedom to go where they want or stay at inns or talk to the townspeople. In reality if a fugitive did that they would just get arrested or worse.

What does bother me is the way they handle the battle tutorial and the fact that I can't change characters. That aspect makes me feel like I'm being baby sat. I know it gets harder later but goodness cut the cord already.
Posted 05:59 on 13 March 2010
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ IndoorHeroes

That's just one 'zone', there are lots of areas branching off it. Looks like that video was made with a character that hasn't yet explored beyond it (just going by the HP they've got in one of the menus, my characters have 4 or 5 times that as they've travelled a bit more).

I think you mentioned elsewhere that you weren't currently looking for 60 hour opuses (opii?), if that's still the case, stay clear, there's a bit more grinding to do here than, say, Cloud had to do to take on Sephiroth and his various forms. You'd be missing out on a beautifully woven story though. Ultimately you know yourself better than I do, so I'm not going to try and hard sell it.
Posted 10:59 on 11 March 2010
IndoorHeroes's Avatar


That looks like running around a giant mostly empty field? Not exactly what I'm looking for.

I will play this game I have decided. Perhaps this Sunday :)
Posted 10:42 on 11 March 2010
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Stealth-SLi

Originally Posted by Stealth-Sli
The game is completeley linear. In almost every way possible.

Only the first 20-30 hours of 'tutorial' through the first 10 Chapters. After that you get:

YouTube Video

which is a more traditional open world type gameplay replete with over 60 side-quests (mission crystals) and a few 'points of interest' to keep an eye out for on the map.

And to be fair, Square Enix even made the first 20-30 hours of linearity make sense in terms of the storyline; Primarch Dysley explains it all when you reach Chapter 9, no spoilers but the short version is that up to that point you had no option but to follow a specific route, after that point it's logical why you then have the ability to go where you please.

Personally I love it, there's some serious hardcore grinding to be done in FFXIII, lots of it, which is the main reason the series has always appealed to me. And Sazh is growing on me, he hasn't quite got Auron's instant cool factor, but after 40 hours he's getting close to becoming one of my favourite FF characters.
Posted 10:30 on 11 March 2010
Stealth-SLi's Avatar


Just to clear a few things up to the people who have posted about this review. The game is completeley linear. In almost every way possible. As Wes stated, there are no towns, no side quests, no world map, you cant simply explore an area, you are confined to it as though it were a race track. The reason he uses refference to WRPGs is because WRPG has in a way taken from JRPG and done its own thing with it. For example in final fantasies of the past it was almost like an open world game. You did the linear story quests of the game but there were times when you had a break from that and you could go explore the world. You could back track and find hidden treasures and secrets in places youve already romped through ro go to new places you hadnt seen just yet. There were towns and areas to visit with shops and bars and amusement rides. The world in which you played actually felt alive, and you felt more involved in the game because you were free to do whatever you wanted and go wherever you wanted. In FF 13 you can do none of these things. Every time you come to a save point there is the option to shop via a digital HUD and that is it. This game is decent at best, and I was expecting the most epic FF to date. The developers had so much time and so much past experience. They had the bleeding edge of technology to work with and all the space they could possibly need (blue ray, or 3 dvd discs) they simply made a huge mistake on this one. As said in a previous post, no matter how bad this game REALLY is, it will still make 3-5 billion dollars worldwide. The sad part about that is I cant help but think that SQUARE just "knows" that. I really hope they redeem themselves with 14 because if they dont then it will be the 5th final fantasy that completely flops in the eyes of the FF veterans. Ive played from the very beginning and im starting to lose hope in the series.
Posted 20:44 on 10 March 2010

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Final Fantasy XIII
Out of 10
Final Fantasy XIII
  • Great story
  • Stunning graphics
  • Repetitive
  • Too linear
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 09/03/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Square-Enix Co
Publisher: Square-Enix Co
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 3,188 20
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