The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Ethos

wht_PS3_keyart_22_r04-80.inddEthos’ Pick: Final Fantasy XIII

Hey! Whaddya know? FFXIII cashed in on one of its very rare chances to win one of these awards. It has one other chance, but I’m not crossing my fingers.

I obviously feel differently about FFXIII’s battle system than Riddles, but that’s the joy of this series and these awards. While I agree with scattered complaints about the system – namely that the AI doesn’t always quite do exactly what you want – I still maintain that it’s an incredibly crafted system. It’s the only RPG (not just Final Fantasy) that fully draws me into all facets of its mechanics. While the action is super-flashy and fast-paced, I actually felt like a commander in the battles. Sitting up high and directing the flow of battle. Never before has quick victories or defeats felt so deserved. Excepting some really fucking stupid instant death spells that very few late game enemies have, every twist and turn is directly in my hands. The added pressure of fast completion times force quick strategic thinking and adaptability. In other games, I can just level-grind and plow through anything, but while this is marginally the case in FFXIII, stronger weapons enforce quicker completion times (not scaling enemies, thankfully), and thus a non-stop need to win battles as quickly as possible. And yes, the ranking is that important. TP skills are very useful, and rare loot drops are even more useful, and a high ranking is essential to both.

But even dismissing the satisfying sense of urgency and post-battle rewards, balancing the need to enhance, defend, or heal your party with the need to sabotage, attack, or distract your enemy combined with the vast benefits of raising and maintaining the chain gauge make for a perpetually satisfying user-powered experience. Fighting the same enemies over and over will even help to reveal new strategies for different fights.

Final Fantasy XIII is the best organization of all the skills and strategies of the past Final Fantasy games placed into a single near-flawless battle system. It is the one saving grace of nearly the entire main story portion of the misguided game, and I hope it’s not the only time such a system is implemented.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X-2

While I agree with pretty much everything Riddles said about Final Fantasy X’s system (though not with his assessment of FFVII, none of the PSX games challenge the top systems at all in my book), the game’s controversial sequel edges it out in this category for me. Much like FFXIII, X-2 is a game with a lot of brilliant ideas surrounded by a “what the fuck?” casing. I suppose this should come as no surprise as my runner up since it’s the closest the ATB system could get to FFXIII’s system. The battle system alone is the biggest reason I’ve played through this ridiculous weirdness of a game almost twice total. Tied with its predecessor.

Dishonourable Mention: Final Fantasy II

I’d like to call out III here just because I hate that game, but it doesn’t have the worst battle system. I actually kinda like Final Fantasy II, and I found its stupid battle system amusing (I didn’t know the talk about it, I figured out how to attack myself on my onesies), but there’s no denying that it IS stupid. It was a kinda cool thought that turned out horribly, horribly stupid. Did I mention it’s stupid? A little dumb too.

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13 Responses to “The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Ethos”

  1. SiliconNooB says:

    “I suppose this should come as no surprise as my runner up since it’s the closest the ATB system could get to FFXIII’s system.”

    -A point of contention, XIII seems to run on an extremely fast ATB, so technically XIII is the closest the ATB can get to XIII …

  2. Ethos says:

    Yup, you’re actually right on that one.
    I stand corrected. I’ll leave the original text, though.

  3. Andogo says:

    I have to say in FFXIII’s favour that it’s the only time I’ve ever bothered with status effects in an FF series. In previous installments, debuffs simply weren’t worth using because you could either kill the enemy faster with standard attacks, or you’re up against a major boss and they’re immune.

    But the AI can be kind of retarded. Like leaving the other healer dead in a Combat Clinic paradigm. Raise+Cura+Cure>>>Cura+Cure x3. Especially when the dead one can cast Curaja.

    I’m fulling expecting a hybrid paradigm/gambit system to be introduced in the international version (when have they not released one?), with new crystarium grids, and additional fal’Cie battles. Of course, to maximize the double-dip, they’ll probably release the international version as a disc in Japan, and then release the new features as DLC six months later.

    I mean, I’m not against international versions. Look at FFX-2 INT+LM, it introduced the Creature Capture sub-game. I had a battle team of a chocobo, a tonberry, and a cactuar. Just think about that for a second.

  4. Riddles says:

    Y’know, as good as Final Fantasy XIII’s battles may be, the reason I just can’t quite love it is because to me, every aspect of it feels like a watered-down Final Fantasy XII. Or, a watered-down X-2, even.

    As satisfying as it may be to switch paradigms on a dime to react to battle situations, I can’t view the system as anything more than a stripped-down, more automated version of the Gambit system that I love so much. Like I said on the most recent MAP, the Paradigm system is like a version of the Gambit system where you can only program one, very general, course of action.

    Also, even if AI members do more or less what you’d want them to MOST of the time, to me, that’s like saying you have a fancy new robotic car that drives in the direction you want MOST of the time. I want them to do exactly what I want ALL the time. The fact that they don’t makes forming a battle strategy a bit of a messy affair.

    For example, when Hope is a synergist, I know that he’s going to start casting protective spells of some kind. But, that’s about as deep as my strategy can go. I have no control over what spells he’s going to cast, in what order, and who he’s going to cast them on. I know that he’ll eventually cast every spell he has on every party member, but… well… that’s not really much of a “strategy,” now is it?

    At least, not to me. Again, I think Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system has some excellent qualities; most of which you pointed out. In fact, I agree with almost everything you said, oddly enough; aside from: “Final Fantasy XIII is the best organization of all the skills and strategies of the past Final Fantasy games placed into a single near-flawless battle system.”

    I guess what I’m saying is that while I agree with most of what you said, I don’t see how it makes Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system great. While I can appreciate this newfound emphasis on speed and flashiness, I think it comes at too great of a cost. I won’t go so far as to call Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system “shallow” – but speaking relatively, it is absolutely shallow-ER than the battle systems of Final Fantasy’s past.

  5. Riddles says:

    Oh, and Andogo: Final Fantasy XII started the trend of de-buffs that were worth a shit. Final Fantasy XIII thankfully followed suit.

  6. Ethos says:

    Nah, Riddles. Because in your example, Hope will cast enhancements based on information about the enemy. If you’ve uncovered all the information, then he’ll cast Protect first against physically strong enemies or Enfire against fire weak enemies.
    In fact, he’ll react EXACTLY as a well-programmed gambit character would based on the available information.

    And if you pay attention to the italics in my post, you’ll notice that I said don’t ALWAYS do EXACTLY what you say. In my 65 hour experience I maybe had 5 instances of the character not casting what I wanted them to. Hardly making “forming a battle strategy a bit of a messy affair”.

    And exactly Andogo’s point. It’s the first time a system encourages you to use all facets of its system.

    I’m sorry, the only system that FFXIII’s battle system is CLOSE to being shallower than IS FFXII’s, but again, the characters act exactly as they would were I to create gambits for them. I truly fail to see how any of the games IX and earlier have a deeper system.

    I can understand through personal preference why one might see X, X-2, or XII’s as deeper because they got more personal satisfaction out of it, and they ARE deeper systems than anything seen previous. Never have decisions had such an impact. Even something simple like choosing to execute an action before the bar is finished can determine the outcome of battle.

    But then again, you said you just play on auto-battle, so I suppose your arguments of the way SN plays XII applies to you with XIII.

  7. Riddles says:

    I don’t just play on Auto-Battle. In fact, I do my best to avoid it. The only times I’ve ever used it excessively is when I was playing intoxicated (which happens pretty often, with any game) and GUESS WHAT? I won every battle. Easily.

    But, what you’re almost saying is that I SHOULD do that, since apparently the AI characters will know EXACTLY what to do in any given situation.

    Which, even if that were true – and it isn’t – that doesn’t make it any better. Let me form the battle strategy, not the computer.

    Seriously, can’t you see how shallow this is:

    “Ha! I cast Libra! Now, my party members’ AI will know EXACTLY WHAT TO DO! I am a brilliant strategist!”

    I hate to sound like a Lusipurr, but that’s just fucking stupid.

  8. Ethos says:

    In fact, I’d argue that designing good paradigms is far more strategic than designing gambits. The gambit system obviously has WAY more variety, but it’s pretty self-explanatory when it comes down to it. “cast Esuna when people have status ailments? Brilliant!”. So FFXIII auto-programs all that really obvious stuff and lets you instead focus on designing appropriate and powerful paradigms so that you can focus on a well-fought battle.

    Now, not saying that FFXIII wouldn’t benefit from a gambit system added in for further customization, but it’s hardly necessary or in need on one. And as I’ve said before, FFXII is a great game, one of my favourites ever, and I really like the battle system, but it’s not deeper where it matters, and that’s designing and executing good battles within the battle system, not the backend.

    Remember, we’re talking about battle systems and not menu systems.

  9. Ethos says:

    No, you’re missing my point, Riddles.
    Like I just said, the point of THAT is to take out all the obvious stuff that the gambit system lets you program. OBVIOUSLY you should cast anti-poison magic for poison and haste on slow and etc. etc.
    XIII removes that really obvious shit so you can focus on battling well.
    You’re not implementing strategy by the spells Hope casts, but by knowing when and for how long to let him be a strategist.

    And if you’re doing that, why not just say
    “Ha! I made a gambit to cast Cura when you’re below 50% HP! I am a brilliant strategist!” It’s really obvious shit and I’m glad I don’t have to bother with the really fucking obvious for FFXIII.

  10. Riddles says:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s really obvious; if you wanted to, you could use that same wording for any action ever taken, in any game, ever.

    “Attack to damage the enemy? Brilliant!”

    “Cast spells on a physically resistant enemy? Brilliant!”

    “Cast protect against a heavy-hitting foe? Brilliant!”

    “Heal when HP are low? Brilliant!”

    The point is, everything could be considered “really obvious,” but they’re all essential elements of a battle strategy. The fact that Final Fantasy XIII automates them is not a point in its favor.

    Now, before someone mentions FFXII, let me remind you once again that in FFXII, things were ONLY as automated as you WANTED them to be. The same cannot be said of FFXIII.

  11. Ethos says:

    No, that is a good point, I was just showing that that point descends into madness which you further proved.
    And I think it IS a point in its favour in this case (or at least a neutral point), because there are much better things to worry about in this system. It works in FFXII because that’s the design of the system. It’s not what is important in FFXIII and that works extremely well, because there is a lot going on that doesn’t involve choosing which spells get priority.

    Like I was saying, I think it’s a matter of personal preference. You get more out of a system like XII’s, so you’re confusing preference with depth. While XII’s is deeper overall (in that it has more options), I would never be able to say it’s better.

    And, just like you, it likely comes down to preference. I’d rather focus on and control the flow of battle than tell Penelo to prioritize Blizzara over Haste.

  12. SiliconNooB says:

    -XIII’s system has massive amounts of depth, but like everything else in that game it keeps you at arms length through user-friendly automated mechanics. It still felt a little more hands on than XII though, and the macro satisfied me in the same way that micro usually does.

    -Sentinel AI never ever did what I wanted it to.

  13. DarthGibblet says:

    There have been a few times in FFXIII when the AI’s been problematic in my game. Mostly, it’s more made the difference between 5-starring and 4-starring the battle than winning or losing, but it’s still something that can be an annoyance. Like pretty much any AI system, it works great in general cases, but suffers in the edge cases due to lack of information available to the computer system at the time (namely, it can’t read your mind).

    All things considered, though, that’s a lot better than it could have been (*cough*Persona 3). As I’ve said before, I’d love a hybrid system of XII and XIII where you get a bit more fine-grained control over the character AI with user-created gambits, but they’re not sacrificing the speed of the battles for player input (and, of course, the ability to switch which character you’re controlling in battle would be nice).

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