(PlayStation 3)

Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Final Fantasy XIII Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Lightning strike

Final Fantasy XIII is unmistakably a Final Fantasy game. It's set in a rich universe, with a cast of clashing personalities who ultimately unite to save the world. Nothing new there.

Set in the outlandish futuristic universe of Cocoon, a host of gadding personalities are sewn together through crossing fates — they are branded the mark of the l'Cie, a stamp which demands they do the bidding of their rulers the fal'Cie and destroy Cocoon. Cue tears, epic orchestral swirls, and lots of grinding.

In main protagonist Lightning, Square Enix has looked back to its most successful character — Final Fantasy VII's Cloud Strife. Despite not looking anywhere near alike, there are personality traits that carry through, and the comparison remains a reasonable observation throughout. Hardened warrior Sazh bares more than a passing resemblance to FF VIII's Barrett, while narrator Vanille could be compared to Tifa. What's reassuring about Final Fantasy XIII is that Square Enix looked to its best games for inspiration, and largely came up trumps with a universe and characters you can relate to. There are no gimmicks in XIII: the cast feels natural. Well, for a JRPG anyway.

With around 60 hours of play, Final Fantasy XIII's universe is absolutely its greatest strength. Every element of the game's world has been well constructed, well considered and precisely laid out. The world feels like it has a history and characters feel like they have pasts, resulting in an engrossing plot that, while it can get convoluted, is constantly fascinating. The Datalog in the game's menu allows you to look up the meaning of certain terms, or track the history of certain events, so you can really engage yourself in the characters and the fiction.

Sure, Vanille's voice might annoy you, Fang's Australian tones may not fit and Hope may be a snotty-nosed child, but there's something charming about the cast. Short of the Chocobo that lives in Sazh's afro, they are without gimmick. They fit the universe, and their story is interesting. Factor in numerous multi-layered plot lines and you're given a meaty incentive to follow what happens next.

Final Fantasy XIII's battle system is fantastic, too: a simple premise with bold, flashy results. Essentially, three-man squads are assembled from the game's main cast of characters, each character with a unique set of roles which they can focus on at any point in the battle. For example, your team might consist of a Medic, Ravager (essentially a wizard) and a Commando. The medic's job will be to heal the team, the commando to attack and the ravager to both attack and increase the enemy's chain, a percentage that multiplies the damage inflicted. All enemies have a "Stagger" point which allows you to really let rip and do damage. This would be interesting on its own, but in Final Fantasy XIII each character can learn different abilities meaning you can have different combinations of roles. These combinations can be set-up in the menu and then changed on the fly during battle with the L1 button. That means you can switch from being all-out attack to all-out defence almost immediately, offering you a range of tactical options. It sounds complicated in writing, but Final Fantasy XIII does a great job of pacing out the learning curve so you feel comfortable with each new element as they are gradually introduced. It's a battle system that's accessible to newcomers without being gimped enough to disappoint Final Fantasy fans.

It's common knowledge that Final Fantasy XIII is an exceedingly linear game (we'll go into more detail later), but that doesn't stop its surroundings from being tangibly delectable though. Early locales are noticeably bland, but once you let the game get its footing, it gets particularly impressive, if only from an artistic stance.

The inclusion of a mini-map seems like a joke: it's a straight line. The fact is, Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay boils down to a string of battles taking place on a long corridor ending in a cutscene. The variety just isn't there, and when the cut scenes don't come soon enough the gameplay starts to become really tedious. It's a shame because the battle system is great, but when it's all you've done for the past 50 minutes, it really starts to grate. Sure, grinding is a staple of the RPG, but the truly great games manage to break up the tedium often: Final Fantasy VII, for example, punctuates frequent battles with exploration. Final Fantasy XIII is simply battle - battle - battle - battle - cut scene, and when the formula does eventually change it feels too little, too late. The very early hours especially are a slog.

That's not to downplay the quality of the cut scenes: as always, the quality of the CGI on display is unbelievable. The in-game character models are beautifully rendered, but nothing really compares to the CGI. Its simply breathtakingly done, with unbelievable attention to detail. When actually playing the game becomes a slog, Square Enix is on-hand to win your enthusiasm back with a rip-roaring CGI cutscene. They really don't disappoint.

We also have reservations about some of the casting in Final Fantasy XIII. Cut scenes focusing on Hope and Vanille will leave you wanting to slit your throat. Given the possibilities made available by Blu-ray, it would have been nice to see Square include the original Japanese voice track in the PS3 version of the game.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy XIII's greatest strength is its obsessive attention to detail in every element of its universe. The gameplay, while boasting an interestingly paced battle mechanic, is often far too monotone. Ultimately, you'll sit through the occasional bouts of tedium simply because Square Enix dangles an astounding CGI cut scene at the foot of them; only you can decide if that's reward enough.

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User Comments (11)

CanisWolfred

#1

CanisWolfred said:

This is a review I can get behind. I love the visual and the world of FFXIII, and thought the story was decent. Also enjoyed the music quite a bit. Other than that, though, I didn't find the game that great.

The only thing this review didn't mention that I would've thrown in is the pacing - The pacing's so brisk I honestly forgot I was playing an RPG, as it was almost non-stop action and story (until that one chapter near the end, of course), and it made it difficult for me to put the game down. The pacing and linearity really work with the story, too, since it's about a bunch of people on the run - they don't have time to stop in towns to talk to people or explore the scenery, they gotta get going! Really well-made game all around, but certain elements make its audience more limited than one would expect from a Final Fantasy.

Really, good job with this, man.

NathanUC

#2

NathanUC said:

I know the game took a lot of negative feedback at launch, but it's one of my favorite RPG of all time. Linear or not, I consider it one of the best in the series. Fantastic review. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some FFXIII-2 calling my name.

ShogunRokAdmin

#3

ShogunRok said:

I can definitely agree with a 7, I think I'd hand it that score too if I were to review it. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison with how great older FF games are, it's severely lacking in many areas :/

WolfRamHeart

#4

WolfRamHeart said:

Great review. I really wanted to like this game but I just could not get into it. Perhaps I should give it another shot. I would like to finish it because I'm interested in picking up XIII-2 one day.

Noire

#5

Noire said:

I personally loved how linear and battle-focused this game was. I loved that unrelenting forward momentum and sense of urgency so much that when it opened up later on I was disappointed. Too many JRPGs are filled with dead time, and this was one of the few games that dispensed mostly with that. Not to mention how streamlined and slick everything was. It was such a grand personal experience filled with both momentous, earth-shattering moments as well as deep, painful intimate ones that half the time I forgot to breath.

Definitely a modern classic and best Final Fantasy game for me.

cyphid

#6

cyphid said:

Seeing as how FF XIV turned out and even the president of Square-Enix blamed the financial loss of the company due to the game, I'm just glad FF XIII was decent.

This was a great review for a good FF game! I might have to revisit it since XIII-2 is coming!

zezhyrule

#7

zezhyrule said:

A 7/10 huh...
(yes I'm one of those who just skips to the score and then comments on it o___o)

And what's wrong with Hope and Vanille? I personally found Vanille to be one of my favorite characters of any FF game. Her crazy perkiness is explained throughout the story, which I don't wanna spoil. Her VA was pretty much told to copy the emotion of the Japanese VA, so I don't think it would've been much better if we had an option for that. And Hope? Here's a quote I like from TV Tropes:

"Hope in Final Fantasy XIII continues the trend of feeling sadness which is immediately declared Wangst by American and European players. Poor Hope would have been accused of wangst simply for being 14-year-old and not having slightly less emotion than Rambo. Ignoring that his mom died, he's wanted dead, the only people he's safe around are people he hates, and he's still maturing....but that's not a feasible excuse for committing the terrible crime of being 14 years old and having more than three emotions."

FFXIII is definitely one of my top FF games, the battle system was perfect, and the music is just beautiful. I agree with pretty much everything feenie and mickeymac said :D

Also, about them 'not looking anywhere near alike'... ;)

ro-kurorai

#9

ro-kurorai said:

Nice review Sammy, thanks Mate. No your awesome reviews can also be featured on metacritic as you're using a conventional 10 point scale. Thanks guys, I like the changes a lot. Long time reader of PS, will be lingering here in 80 years still, I guess.

Stine

#10

Stine said:

"Vanille could be compared to Tifa" No no no. I don't dislike Vanille or anything, but she's no Tifa. :P

I'm 30 hours into FFXIII, and for me it's better than a 7. I kind of love the game, actually. Enjoyed it way more than expected after all the hate.

Nanaki

#11

Nanaki said:

Would agree with that review; the game was fun, but the linearity of it was just too much to bear. Was a real shame, because it truly looked spectacular when I first saw the original E3 trailer.

This one lacked that factor that normally keeps me engrossed in the FF games. I completed it and didn't realy explore much after that.

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