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.

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7Out of 10
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Finally, Final Fantasy makes its debut on the 'next-gen' consoles.
Finally, Final Fantasy makes its debut on the 'next-gen' consoles.

Finally, Final Fantasy makes its debut on the 'next-gen' consoles.

After 20 hours, Final Fantasy XIII granted me permission to decide for myself which three playable characters should be in my party. After 25 hours, Final Fantasy XIII granted me permission to decide for myself how I should develop the characters in my party. After 30 hours, Final Fantasy XIII decided to let go of my hand, but then thought better of it and grabbed hold of it again. Welcome to the evolution of the Japanese role-playing game.

Let's talk about linearity. You've no doubt already heard that FFXIII is linear; the PS3 version's been out in Japan for nearly three months, and importing is a beautiful thing. Well, it's true: FFXIII is linear. So linear, in fact, that for the first ten chapters - approximately 20 hours of gameplay - FFXIII feels more like a dungeon crawler than an epic, expansive JRPG. There are no side-quests to add variety. There are no towns or villages to visit. There is no over world to explore. You move forward, fight, fight, and fight, then sit back and watch a cutscene, then do it all again, pushing ever forward, never deviating from the straight and narrow path upon which you must tread. At the end of a chapter, there's a boss fight, which is usually a pretty horrendous difficulty spike, then, a cutscene, and the next part of the tunnel. The Final Fantasy series, and indeed the JRPG genre, has always been a somewhat linear experience, punctuated by turn-based combat and beautiful CGI cutscenes, and driven by melodramatic narrative. But FFXIII is so linear that it feels like you're adventuring through one long, dark tunnel, and there's no light at the end of it to give you hope that at some point your journey will change course.

It's a deliberate design decision on producer Yoshinori Kitase and co's part, of course - an effort to lend the game what director Momotu Toriyama calls an "FPS style vibe". He's obviously been playing the scripted Modern Warfare series and taken notes. But the team's gone too far in its efforts to evolve the tried and trusted - some say tired - Final Fantasy formula. The result is a sanitised, uninspiring, monotonous trudge through admittedly fabulous-looking surroundings. It's as if you are being driven to the end of the game as you sleep in the back seat.

Other design decisions only serve to exacerbate the feeling that you're never truly in control of what's happening. The game dictates who is on the front line of your party - i.e., who fights in battles - for the first 20 hours of the game. It constantly switches between lead character Lightning (female Cloud), blonde-haired brute Snow, the gun-toting Sazh, Oerba Dia "jailbait" Vanille, the sultry Fang, and the Tidus-a-like Hope, progressing the story from various perspectives until all come together and the game nears its exciting climax. Once you get past the 20 hour point, and you're finally allowed to decide the make-up of your party, it's easy to forget that for huge swathes of the game you haven't been able to. But occasionally, beyond that point, the game reverts to type, dictating your party make-up and defying all logic (the party travel everywhere together, so why can't they all get involved in a scrap?).

You can't even develop your characters the way you want to. Each party member has access to what are called "roles" - classes, really. The theory behind the system is that instead of having characters that only fulfil one role on the battlefield, such as a healer, tank, or damage dealer, each character is flexible. In a fight, at any time you can trigger a "Paradigm Switch", which allows you to change the role of each party member. Say you begin a fight with Relentless Assault, which includes one Commando (melee), and two Ravagers (damage-based spell casting) - that's great for doing loads of damage to your enemies. But when your party's health starts to near zero, you'll want to Paradigm Shift to other roles, making available new abilities. You may want to switch to Consolidation, which includes one Medic (healer) and two Sentinels (tanks), allowing you the breathing space to get everyone up to a safe number of hit points.

As ever, the cutscenes are a joy to behold.

As ever, the cutscenes are a joy to behold.

FFXIII dumps traditional levelling-up for a carefully-controlled system via what's called the Crystarium. It's a bit like FFX's Sphere Grid. You spend Crystarium Points - gained from defeating enemies - as you travel around the Crystarium, unlocking statistical bonuses and new abilities, and gaining role levels along the way. This, in theory, is fine. The problem is, the game "caps" the Crystarium relative to each chapter, limiting the number of Crystarium Points you can spend on your party members, and which roles are available to each character. It is only when you beat a chapter end boss, and you get a "Crystarium Expanded!" message, that you're allowed to spend more points in the Crystarium and climb up the role level ladder.

Square Enix's goal in doing this is clear: to negate the need to grind. It's true, for the first ten chapters of the game (about 25 hours), there is absolutely no need to grind, or backtrack (you can't anyway), or move in any direction other than forward. But, ergo, there's no real need to think strategically about what you spend your points on within the Crystarium. You mindlessly evolve your character along a linear skill tree path in much the same way you explore the gameworld, stopping only to occasionally check out what your new abilities do. Admittedly, from the more expansive, open field chapter 11 onwards, all of the roles become available to all of the characters, and you're free to spend as many points in the Crystarium as you like - a good thing, because chapter 11 is much harder than what's gone before, and the dreaded grind rears its ugly head. But by then the damage has already been done.

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Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

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

87Sarah

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

krellda

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

akorndr2

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

shadowkaster

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

mecegirl

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

IndoorHeroes

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

Quote:
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

Stealth-SLi

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
7
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: 733 26
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