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by Ethos

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Art Direction – Ethos

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

wht_PS3_keyart_22_r04-80.inddEthos’ Pick: Final Fantasy XIII

What the hell, man? Even I’m pissed off that this game has got the first two awards on this list from me. But don’t worry, everybody, if FFXIII gets another nod from me this week it’ll be in the dishonourable mention category.

But if you read my review, this pick shouldn’t really come as a surprise either. The two things I praised the highest were the battle system and the visuals, and the visuals are spectacular for more reasons than just being in HD for the first time. While nothing was done in the gameplay to connect anybody to Cocoon, the world was designed in intricate detail. Architecture and clothing to subtle plant growth, even the tunnel of Cocoon was beautiful to behold. So much so, actually, that it made the game a little worse to think of how incredible the connection to the gorgeous surroundings could have been.

But Cocoon is only the beginning. Pulse is a wild, sprawling paradise with ruins that whisper its history, caverns swarming with wildlife and mystique, and huge fields dominated by truly massive beasts. Speaking of, FFXIII has my favourite enemy design of any Final Fantasy, and that’s saying a lot since both X and XII had great enemy design as well. In fact, all the characters are well designed. The main cast – although idiots that should never open their mouths – are my favourite character designs in the series. Ridiculous, yes, but Cloud’s hair was ridiculous, and so was Zidane’s tail although they at least had good personalities.

Still, the visuals may have made the overall game bittersweet, but judging them purely on their merit, I’d say Final Fantasy XIII has the best art design of the series that I’ve seen, which is quite a feat. Granted, I haven’t beat every game, so I might sing a different tune after finally completing VI, but as it stands, this is an easy choice.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy VII

Again, I almost wanted to say VI here, but I don’t feel educated enough in the game to choose it.

I realized that people might have an incorrect perception of my opinion of FFVII when Riddles was in Toronto and he was surprised I loved the soundtrack so much. Because my love for FFIX is so great, I suppose it overshadows the special place FFVII has in my heart. Anyway, I love the way this game looks. All the PSX Final Fantasies have beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds and I miss the style a lot, to be honest. Final Fantasy VII started it off beautifully with detailed and varied environments that really drew you into the world and made it the beloved classic that it still is.

Dishonourable Mention: Final Fantasy III

There is no real loser here because every Final Fantasy looked great for its time, I just really hate FFIII.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Ethos

Monday, April 5th, 2010

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.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Riddles

Monday, April 5th, 2010

FFXIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy XII

I can feel the flames already, but I frankly don’t care. Final Fantasy XII is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and one of the main reasons for that is its battle system.

Final Fantasy XII marked the first time in the series that encounters weren’t random. Enemies are clearly visible on-screen, and engaging in battle doesn’t take you out of exploration mode – it’s all seamless, and all beautiful. People compared it to Final Fantasy XI and other MMO battle systems, which is fairly justified, although it’s hardly “FFXI Offline.” Rather, it’s just a seamless, more streamlined version of the same ATB system we’ve enjoyed for years.

The reason why I love Final Fantasy XII’s battle system so much is because it removes all the clunkiness of a turn-based system, but retains all of the strategy. The Gambit system is still the best example of player-programming ever featured in a game; individual character strategies can be programmed in-depth, to the point where many normal encounters can be overcome by simply sitting back and watching the slaughter. Sound shallow? Well. Hardly more shallow than pressing the X button every couple of seconds, wouldn’t you say? Also, the fact that Gambits can be accessed and modified at any time – even during intense boss battles – makes them that much versatile.

But Final Fantasy XII’s battles also maintained this crucial aspect: the ability to issue commands to any character, at any time. If you don’t like how the tide of the battle is turning, not only can you adjust your gambits – you can step in and issue manual commands. And it’s an immediate override – anything you command takes precedence over gambits.  This is exactly what Final Fantasy XIII failed to implement in its super-streamlined, super-flashy encounters. Final Fantasy XII’s battle system is, and remains, the best of the series.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X

I’m tempted to give this to Final Fantasy VII, but X barely outdoes it, in my opinion. The new ability to switch characters in and out on the fly, coupled with the heavy focus on specific battle roles resulted in some of the most rewarding, strategy-intensive I’ve ever fought. Without a doubt, the greatest take on the traditional turn-based model.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy XIII

I hate to seemingly strip Final Fantasy XIII of the one honor it has, but unfortunately, I only do what I must. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is extremely well-designed, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very good at what it sets out to be, and it’s certainly not an entirely mindless affair. But despite that, it’s undeniably more shallow than its predecessors. The Paradigm system is cool, yes, but it’s just a very simplified version of Gambits. The inability to issue manual commands is sorely missed. Oh, and the fact that you can’t control who’s in your party for the first 30 hours or so doesn’t help its cause. Is it mindless? No. But it is very watered down.

Scatter Storming. Issue #025

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

SS25Well, he brought this upon himself. He had to act like a cock, so now I’ve taken away his Scatter Storming privileges.

And yes, they ARE privileges. Scatter Storming was actually my idea. I just decided to let him have fun with it. It’s simple enough for him, after all.

But now, he doesn’t even have that. Sorry, Ethos! Sucks to be you! Today we’re gonna talk all about MEEEEE!

Stupid Final Fantasy XIII

Seriously. I know I haven’t written much about Final Fantasy XIII, and there’s a pretty good reason for that: I haven’t played much of it. I’m about about 16 hours right now, and I’ll be honest: the game struggles to maintain my interest. It’s really a bit shocking, but for the most part, FinaL Fantasy XIII just plain bores me. The gameplay is non-existent outside of combat, and turn-based combat alone can’t carry a game. It would help if the story was worth a shit, but god, it’s just… not. In any way. At all. Whatsoever. It’s bad. The plot is bad, the writing is bad, the characters are bad, it’s all… bad.

I don’t hate Final Fantasy XIII. I think it does some things very right, and it’s gorgeous to look at – but it’s easily one of, of not the worst numbered Final Fantasy game. And, after waiting for over three years, I was really hoping for more.

Modern Warfare 2…?

It’s true, I’ve been playing it lately. I’m actually somewhat decent now, which makes it much more fun. I’m still not great, obviously, but I can hold my own, and actually feel like a part of things instead of a king-sized target for the other team.

Seriously, though, fuck the “Stimulus” DLC. Fuck it. Fifteen dollars for five maps? Three of which have been lifted from the original Modern Warfare? Where the hell does Activision get off?

Unemployment

…yep, I still don’t have a job. Unemployment really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m bored and sleepy all the time now, because I have nothing to do, and I get no exercise. My body is slowly retreating into this odd, vegetative state. I feel like I should go dig a hole in the ground and hibernate.

I don’t regret quitting my job, though. I’ll spare you the details, but it was well past time for me to go. After five years or so, I’d kinda overstayed my welcome.

But hopefully, I’ll find another job before my brain completely shuts down. And… before I run out of money.  Not sure which is the higher risk right now.

On that note, who wants to pay me to write about videogames?

Nobody? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Shame, because I’ve been writing about games for years now, and I fancy myself to be pretty good at it. It’s been my goal to break into the videogame journalism industry for a long time now, and I’m hoping that all of this payless work eventually amounts to something. Like, y’know. A job.

On a lighter note, The Office

Man, I love that show. I’ve watched it here and there for the last few years, but only recently have I gotten serious, sat down, and watched it from Season 1 on up. I just finished Season 3. I would see about downloading Season 4, I’ve recently discovered that I have no hard drive space on my laptop. No, really, I have like… less than a gig of space. I need an external badly.

And that’s it! Ethos has been officially one-upped. Hopefully, he’ll learn something from it. Who knows, if this is well-received, I might just take over Scatter Storming for good. After all, this is my website. Meaning I can do whatever I want. And Ethos has to do what I say.


Final Fantasy XIII Review – Lost Focus

Monday, March 29th, 2010

FFXIII Box Art_(PS3)LIKED:
-The inventive, fast, challenging, and satisfying battle system.
-Absolutely beautiful fantasy visuals
-When the menu and upgrading systems open up, they are the best in the series

DISLIKED:
-The fact that those good things open really far into the game
-Horrible writing
-Practically zero opportunity to connect to the primary world
-Apart from the battle system, very unfocused and practically automatic gameplay takes the front seat for most of the game

Note: I rarely go into detail explaining mechanics or story elements in this review. If you’re very unfamiliar with the title, our Final Fantasy XIII Week in the Riddlethos archives has a wealth of details.

Final Fantasy XIII. Like all the other iterations in this heavily and emotionally debated series, this one has the fans divided. I strangely stand somewhere on both sides. I enjoyed my 60 hours with the game and have a lot of high praise for the game in some areas, however I cannot deny some tremendous design flaws and missed opportunities that weigh down all the highlights at every turn.

Gameplay
This is the most bizarre sub-category to both score and talk about. That’s because it can range from either the very best or the very worst I’ve experienced in a very long time.

I’ll start with the good stuff. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is top-notch. The focus on individual battle strategy finally let me go all out and use spells and strategies that I would flat out ignore in other iterations. The pay-off is huge. Planning paradigm combinations and successfully navigating a challenging battle to the finish is incredibly satisfying. Experimentation begets powerful strategies for boss fights, and a hard-fought win has never been such a good feeling in a JRPG before. Mass Effect 2’s combat seems like filler after this. To supplement this system, Final Fantasy XIII almost does a lot of things right, and this is when it gets difficult to write about.

All style, no substance

All style, no substance

Like almost every single thing in Final Fantasy XIII, the Crystarium powering-up system is either a non-interactive tunnel with the illusion of choice at best, or a fantastic and open system representing a high-point of the series. It’s truly a staggering difference. In the “tunnel” portion of the game – that lasts around 30 hours, no joke – the system might as well not exist but function automatically. Once the game and system opens up, however, it becomes interesting and important strategy to decide if characters are going to learn another role at a very high price and abandon buffed stats, or favour more powerful characters instead of extremely helpful choice in battle. And there are many more micro-decisions within those major choices. It’s like night and day.

But that’s the issue present in all the gameplay except the battle system proper. Upgrading weapons is fantastic, but weighted such that nothing significant can really be done until late in the game, and same goes for complete customization of the party. There is no reason for it. The game becomes even more difficult at the end, so the hand-holding gives a false impression to newbies and frustrates veterans. In fact, the game only fully opens up after completing it. It’s as if the game wanted to hide all of its fantastic gameplay elements away.

And the “tunnel” I speak of really is that bad. It takes place any time you’re in Cocoon and it very rarely is anything except for a straight line that your character runs down. You can’t go off the beaten path to find your own perspective of the world and feel like you discovered Cocoon because there is no Cocoon to discover. The world is explicitly presented to you, and the personality and depth suffers greatly for it.

As a final complaint, Final Fantasy XIII seems to make things worse by occasionally showing a hint of how it could have done more in the tunnel. One location allows you to explore just a tiny bit so that you can overhear conversations with regular non-distressed citizens, while another section takes place in a flashback in which you can actually talk to a few characters at your own pace. But both of these examples literally only happen once a piece, so they are more frustrating than refreshing on account of their rarity. And all of this wouldn’t be so hard to bear if the story was well told…

The bike's too cool for him

The bike's too cool for him

Story
Final Fantasy XIII has a horribly told story. Sure, the scene direction is fine, but even Final Fantasy X – a title I consistently bash for mediocre characters, melodramatic dialogue, and poor scene direction – had me emotionally invested in the ending. There is some great character design in Final Fantasy XIII (some of my favourite) and solid voice work, but the writing steps on all the potential. There are some interesting set-ups for character arcs, but every climax is handled either in a forgettable or terrible manner, placing preference on gimmicks and melodrama before respecting the characters. The premise and many of the plot points are incredibly intriguing, but one of the game’s rare consistencies was in missing these opportunities. Also, even with all the dud or absentee villains of VIII, X, and XII, XIII trumps them all with the most bland, one-dimensional villain in Final Fantasy history.

I beat the game yesterday, and I remembering thinking to myself during the final scene, “if this was a well-told story, this ending may have been beautiful,” but as it was, I was just excited that I finally reached the post-game and thus the final level of the Crystarium.

What an incredible waste of a gorgeous world and intriguing premise.

Graphics
Speaking of gorgeous world, if nothing else Final Fantasy XIII is jaw-dropping. While not technically the best, it is my favourite looking game of all time. There are a few dud animations, but the environments, character and enemy design, and unbelievably beautiful CG scenes are just some of the reasons why Final Fantasy XIII is a perpetual joy to look at. The PS3 has very rare frame-rate hiccoughs, but it never seemed to affect the silky-smooth and blazing-fast battles for a moment. The only other small complaint is some enemy pop-in once you’re out of the tunnel. The landscape is unbelievable, but a massive creature quickly fading into view on occasion ruins the magic a bit.

Sound
The music is a mixed bag. There were some very great moments in the soundtrack when I was happy to see risks pay off to create a unique and fitting soundscape. Other tracks, however, were distracting and out of place. Other tracks still would surprisingly loop very awkwardly as if they weren’t written for a video game. The rest of the aural experience, however, is very pleasing. Context sensitive quips from party members are generally better dialogue than what the cut-scenes have to offer, and sounds from the environment often offer the only connection to the surrounding world.

Final Thoughts
Final Fantasy XIII may have some outstanding and even unparalleled gameplay, but waiting for 30 hours to access a lot of it is way too much to ask of newcomers and veterans alike. If the tunnel had better writing, it would have been more forgivable, but the fact is that it doesn’t and so it just comes across as unfocused and simply bad design. It’s deceptive, inconsistent, and devoid of the sort of rewarding exploration that Final Fantasy is known for. Cocoon could have been an amazing world to explore and get to know, but instead nobody got the chance and Final Fantasy XIII has all its gems –and believe me, they are truly gems – in the menus and battle system in late and even post-game. You have to really love the battle system to get to where FFXIII truly shines. For me, that worked just fine, but for many it will be too little too late.

Final Fantasy XIII - 6.5/10

Review Outline

Scatter Storming. Issue #024

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

ss024I’m in a bizarre anti-social mood, so let’s just dive in.

Out of the field and back into the tunnel -
Although Pokémon has been taking up most of my time, I’ve been making an effort to play Final Fantasy XIII too, since I quite enjoy a lot of the game, and if I beat it this week it might still be relevant to review it. Still, while the game is getting harder and harder (Lightning’s not a good enough Sentinel yet, and I often refuse to put Snow in my party, so that doesn’t help), it’s a little annoying to be plucked from the expanse of Pulse and dropped back into somewhat of a tunnel. Sure, there are more branching paths and whatnot, but game really does need more dicking around.

Despite all that, I’m excited to beat the game and go for completion since you can continue your save after beating the final boss, a nice change. It’s no New Game Plus, but it’s something.

Thank god for slow game season -
Seriously, I’m the most broke I’ve been in a very, very long time. I had to trade in for FFXIII and SoulSilver, and I hate trading in games. I don’t think there’s a game I want until Splinter Cell: Conviction, and I shouldn’t be so broke by then.

Seriously, I have to deal with this asshole? -
Check out the comments in Riddles’ little “revenge” post. What a little diva. I get that he quit his job and he’s having a bit of a life revolution, but Riddlethos and I shouldn’t have to suffer his little rebellion. We should be benefiting from it! We’re not the crazy oppressive mom, we’re the cool hip dad! Seriously, there’s just two of us, it should be easy to follow the simple rules we’ve laid out. Ones like “ONE MOTHER FUCKING OFFICIAL REVIEW PER GAME”. Argh, sorry, I love the guy, but I’m hoping a public rant will open up his eyes. He’s supposed to be the conservative one, remember?

Clarification on the 3DS -
Absolutely nothing is official yet, but IGN has a great article explaining three different technologies that the 3DS would likely choose between. I mean, it’s already been chosen, but you know what I mean. We have to wait until E3 for the absolute word, but what’s the internet for if not rumours and speculation?

That’s that. Modern Family time.

Final Fantasy XIII IMpressions: The Outtakes

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Lightning convobad memory

And that’s all, folks. Hope you had as much fun with Final Fantasy XIII Week as we did.

Sunday Soapbox: Where does Final Fantasy XIII fit now?

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

For clarification, this Sunday Soapbox editorial has Riddles opening, and then Ethos responding to Riddles in the same article. Enjoy.

Riddles –

Beautiful FFVI-inspired art.

Beautiful FFVI-inspired art.

There was a time when Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series was the definitive console RPG experience.

There was a time when a new Final Fantasy meant a new landmark in the RPG landscape. Final Fantasy VI encapsulates the 2D RPG experience to the button. Final Fantasies VII-IX not only defined the RPG experience for the PlayStation generation, but for the entire genre. Final Fantasy XII, in my opinion at least, is the definitive RPG of the previous console generation.

But my, how the times change.

Final Fantasy XIII represents a big change for the series in more ways than one. We’ve already been over the drastic changes that have been made to the battle system, the world design, et cet – but in truth, that’s only half the story.

Final Fantasy XIII is a very good game. Few people are denying that. I’m certainly not denying that – sure, I’m only twelve hours in, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having a ton of fun with the game. But Final Fantasy XIII isn’t that definitive RPG experience any more. The king has been dethroned, and Final Fantasy XIII feels more like an experience specifically tailored to series fans, rather than an all-encompassing, definitive RPG.

So, why is this? Why has Final Fantasy lost the potency it once held?

Poor Serah.

Poor Serah.

There are a few reasons. First and foremost, we’ve already seen a lot of RPGs this generation – Square Enix was a little late to the ballgame. Just to cite a few examples, BioWare has already given us three fully-featured role playing games – Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect 2. It’s a bit too early to start handing out awards for this generation, but in my eyes, those three games define the role-playing experience of the generation. The worlds are huge, detailed, and steeped in pages and pages of lore. The battle systems are both deep and accessible, appealing to the new generation of gamers while avoiding ditching RPG combat conventions entirely. The storylines are epic, emotionally charged, and incredibly well-written.

Three years later, along comes Final Fantasy XIII. The world isn’t huge and sprawling. The level of input from the player is minimal.  The writing really isn’t that impressive, and neither is the storyline.

One word I would use to describe Final Fantasy XIII is “safe.” Despite the many changes that have been made, many of them – if not all of them – have been made in the interest of remaining “safe.” The game focuses exclusively on what Final Fantasy has always done right: the battle system.

In fact, it’s the only aspect of the game that doesn’t hold the player’s hand. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Final Fantasy XIII dumbed down – but it doesn’t take the risks that, say, Mass Effect does. It tries too hard not to frustrate the player. And, in doing so, it removes nearly every vestige of actual role-playing.

It’s a bit of a disappointment, to say the least. I won’t lie: as much as I’m enjoying Final Fantasy XIII, every time I play, I’m struck with an odd desire to play it’s predecessor – Final Fantasy XII.

Take it from here, buddy.

Ethos –

Finally got it right! ...except the theme song.

Finally got it right! ...except his theme song.

Y’know, it’s interesting, Riddles. I would actually say that this game is the best written of the series while at the same time agreeing with you completely in saying that it’s not that well-written. Final Fantasy has never had fantastic writing, Bioware just exposed that with sensational writing that was previously uncharacteristic in the industry. Final Fantasy was always able to draw people in with rare character focus and the pure depth of the worlds.

Now, I have a slightly different perspective than you because I’m farther in. The game world has opened up, and there have been some incredibly intriguing plot twists. This is actually the most I’ve been into a Final Fantasy story since IX. Something just clicked in me very recently that has endeared me to Final Fantasy XIII more than I expected with the opening – oh y’know – 30 hours, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

What we are talking about is how the trail-blazer is now behind the pace. I think some of that has to do with the perspective of Square Enix in general recently. They’ve had so many flops this generation that I truly don’t think anybody was taking Final Fantasy XIII as seriously as they would have otherwise. And as much as it maybe shouldn’t, that makes a big difference. Trying to look at the game objectively at this point in the adventure, I’d actually like to take a more positive stance.

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

I don’t think Final Fantasy XIII is as behind the curve as the company’s reputation dictates. There has been some very questionable choices regarding (lack of) exploration and stopping to smell the roses, but there are other areas where I don’t think any other game this generation compares. While not technically the best, Final Fantasy XIII is my favourite looking game, hands down. Everything is intricate, varied, and often beautiful. There is a lot more that could be done in the first half to connect you to the world, but the art style did a damn good job. Enemy design is unrivaled, character design is on par with the best of the series, and once you get to Pulse, even some enemy pop-in won’t stop you from being completely blown away by what you see.

And I guess that’s the moment where everything changes for this title and its place in this generation. Should you not be too bitter from the linearity of the first half, Final Fantasy XIII is an experience that cannot be found in any other recent RPG. The world is the sprawling size of the lands explored in XII, the fully opened up menu system blows the watered down RPG mechanics of Mass Effect 2 away, and the excitement of the pure fantasy world to be explored will bring back nostalgic feelings of Final Fantasy at its best.

Yes, Square Enix is still a little confused, and that shows in a lot of the decisions in this highly scrutinized game, but factor reputation out, and play all the way through, and I think Final Fantasy XIII has a legitimately earned place in the top RPGs of this generation. And this is coming from a huge Mass Effect fan.

Still, while the characters and story are great, it would be nice for Square Enix to get some Bioware caliber writers and to stray from the melodrama just a little bit. It gets to be too much; ruining some perfectly good scenes.

This has gone on way too long, what do you all think? Is Square Enix setting the pace? Just keeping up? Way behind?

Life After the Lobotomy: When FFXIII Opens Up

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

WARNING - This article will invariably discuss spoilers. Most of them gameplay related, but there will be very minor story spoilers as well.

Lightning says "Guess where I am?"

Lightning says "Guess where I am?"

Well, 35 hours into Final Fantasy XIII and I’m finally at the fabled point when the game opens up. Yup, I ended up on Pulse, and the game kinda turned into FFXII with a better battle system and pretty graphics. I gained control of the formation of my party and then very quickly had all the roles available to every player. Sidequests (See: hunts) were also opened up, and I was plopped into a fucking massive field filled with various beasts and a pretty spectacular view. It’s a little overwhelming, actually, but mostly in a good way. Just after THIRTY FIVE HOURS of extreme linearity, it’s daunting to be able to level up how I want, go wherever I want, find out which enemies to avoid for now on my own, and accept at least some form of side mission. If nothing else, it makes me understand the constraints placed on the Crystarium system until this point. At this point, stats are hiked, but so is the CP cost. I’m talking doubled. Monsters divvy out more CP too, but it’s going to be a while before I’m powering up more than 3 stats at a time again. The point is that without some direction, a lot of players would be screwed if given the full grid off the top. Focusing on filling out a few roles per character helps you to not fuck yourself over before you’re punched in the face with choice.

So the progression makes sense to me, but did it take way too long to set up? And while I had enough fun with the battle system and paradigms to not really care, the answer is still yes. I may not mind personally, but new players coddled by the gameplay to this point will be smashed in the face when the game lets go of their hand, and experienced players will likely be frustrated that they didn’t have this much freedom a lot earlier.

I’ve barely started, but I can already tell how much of a timesink the game will become now. Yes, and I’m saying that after 35 hours of gameplay. The point is that it’s a bittersweet feeling, but ultimately I’m very excited to play on and finally feel like I’m going at my own pace.

And seriously, although it’s just a field, it’s fucking beautiful. Just wait.

Final Fantasy XIII IMpressions: The Battle System/Crystarium

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Battle IMpressionsCrystarium IMpressions

So. Do you like Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system? Or does it feel too oversimplified? And how about the Crystarium? Does it suit your tastes as a micro-managing RPGamer?

Let us know!