Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3

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

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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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User Comments

Sloshkosh1's Avatar

Sloshkosh1

A Square Enix rep said a couple weeks ago that they're going to take some time after FFXIII to look at western RPG's, so maybe a sythesis is going to happen in the future, but I'm pretty excited for whatever 13 has to offer

Click for Image
Posted 21:19 on 08 March 2010
Kamasenin's Avatar

Kamasenin

Here's a couple of old-school FF battle mixes I did to put everyone in a good mood for the FF13 release.
FF9 Battle - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rbkp...sponse_wat ch
FF7 Battle - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSvxToc4NWY
Posted 18:11 on 08 March 2010
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Karlius

Yeah it will sell millions but at the end of the day no matter what..

Final Fantasy sucks

YouTube Video
Posted 11:57 on 07 March 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ FantasyMeister

booo!!! What's the point in all these blurays if we're not having HD sound :(
Posted 19:27 on 06 March 2010
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32

Is this game 60 hours, normatter how you play it?
Posted 16:48 on 06 March 2010
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Woffls

PS3 version should have LPCM/DTS/Dolby Digital 5.1
360 version definitely only has Dolby Digital 5.1 according to its manual, as I have a copy sitting here right in front of me.
Posted 15:58 on 06 March 2010
Get2DaChoppa's Avatar

Get2DaChoppa

Is the linearity really a game breaker? Not quite sure why Square Enix have gone with this approach then? All the positives that Wez stated in the review may be blown out of the water by this hinderance. Square must be trying to reinvent the JRPG, and sadly, apparently, failing...shame.
Posted 14:52 on 06 March 2010
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Get2DaChoppa

Be aware, then, that there's no grinding in FFXIII until around the 30 hour mark, when you reach chapter 11.
Posted 14:38 on 06 March 2010
Get2DaChoppa's Avatar

Get2DaChoppa

I totally respect wez' review, but i'm a bit of a whore when it comes to grinding in games, and i'm afraid i'm probably still going to get the game, just love the genre.
Posted 14:32 on 06 March 2010
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ GeNeCyDe1993

Newcomers to the series are likely to enjoy it more, so I'd definitely give it at punt. The linearity issue, however, affects all.
Posted 14:09 on 06 March 2010
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993

I might look into it, only because it will be my first FF which i will actually play, and if its for the beginners to the genre i may actually enjoy it. Great review Wes
Posted 13:26 on 06 March 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

WELL this is an interested turnaround. It seems Squeenix have made 'Final Fantasy XIII: My First Final Fantasy', which actually makes me want to buy it. I've dabbled in some JRPG's, all of which I can name offhand: FFVII, FFX, Eternal Sonata, Blue Dragon. Only dabbling means I'm limited in my experience and knowledge, and to be honest I still find them quite daunting. Even under this assumption I was tempted to get the game purely for the presentation and story. To hear that FFXIII might be suitable for me to play and have 1080p visuals is a very inviting prospect.

I'll comment on SE's approach to this game after I've played it, but it does seem as if they did what Bioware did for Mass Effect 2: shaft long term fans in favour of making the game more linear and marketable. Of course, this is fair for FF because it's such an old series that people WANT change. Mass Effect 2, not so much.

For the record I'll get it on PS3 without anything like a second consideration. The graphics and story are ALL I'd be buying this game for. Also, is the game in DTS-HD or Dolby True HD or anything special like that? Or just linear pcm or 5.1?
Posted 09:52 on 06 March 2010
Lisa69's Avatar

Lisa69

FFXIII is indeed a different type of RPG, and even though the amount of defects you may find, it is an entertaining and good game in many aspects. If sometimes the game "gives" you the character that you may use in a battle, that's because the story requires it to be that way. And you know, after 25 hours, all the characters bacome able to perform all roles.
Anyway, i just wanted to say that why do you always compare Lightning to Cloud?? is it a men thing or what?? She's a strong character, and she has never reminded me of Cloud! I've been reading of such comparison since the firts trailers! because Lightning is a soldier it doesn't mean she's a Cloud....give it a break!
Posted 03:38 on 06 March 2010
teke367's Avatar

teke367

Well, I didn't care for the battle system in 12. In fact, 7 had my favorite battle system, and 10 had my favorite leveling system, so perhaps a blend will be great for me. I've always been 50/50 on side quests, and in general, for FF games I've did them for grinding purposes only, so hopefully I won't miss them.

I did like the towns and NPCs though. On of my favorite things in FF games was the ability to wander around and actually take a break while still in the game. A lull in the action after a huge battle not only refreshed you, but also gave you a sense of completion that other games only give you at the end, it was always very satisfying for me.

I figure it will take two FF games I hate in a row to give up on the main series. I didn't hate 12, but it wasn't near my top. I don't count the online ones, so even if I hate this game, I'll still probably get 15 when it comes (unless I'm 40 by then), and I'm sure that is the game for many FF fans.
Posted 15:23 on 05 March 2010
mulcebar's Avatar

mulcebar

That was a great review. Im still going to be playing this game. How could you not at least try it. Ive been watching footage and reading about it for over 5 years now. Its a damn shame these designers dont realise that the good things about JRPGs are really what they did way back with FF3 and and 4 and that the reason why FF7 was such a success was because of it complexity and depth.
Posted 13:29 on 05 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
Developer: Square-Enix Co
Publisher: Square-Enix Co
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 178 2777
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