The Average Gamer

Final Fantasy XIII – A Post-Mortem

Final Fantasy XIII was undeniably beautiful. The world it created was vast and full of life. My explorations through the great plains of Gran Pulse and the Ice Fields on Cocoon never failed to drop my jaw on more than one occasion yet there was something not quite right about it. Sadly FFXIII had one major problem along with a swathe of minor ones – it’s one giant corridor romp.

In putting so much effort into creating an epic tale worthy of the FF title, its creators at Square decided it might be a sensible idea to place you on a leash. I’m not sure where that idea came from. Of course with a FFXIII game or indeed any RPG you expect a certain level of linearity as it guides you round the locales and introduces characters and skills. Even so, one of the staples of the FF series has been its sprawling towns and villages, full of denizens to talk with and treasures to hunt down. These hubs make a quiet retreat for our usually busy heroes and offer a place to learn more about the world you have been placed in.

XIII has its fair share of towns and villages to visit yet when you do, you are rushed through. Ushered to the next objective with very little room to stray. Hand-in-hand with its linearity came a yo-yo-ing story. Hours could be spent with very little information on what is happening and why only for you to be bombarded with cutscenes and text documents to read in the next 5 minutes.

I struggle to call XIII an RPG. To me RPG involves character progression, the ability to craft your party into a team you feel can tackle the inevitable big bad that is threatening the world and still have time to hug a moogle but more importantly, to become as close to this virtual persona as you can get. Characters in this game chop and change here, there and everywhere but thanks to the levelling system granting points to the whole party rather than just those in combat, there is no danger of underlevelling when being thrown into another character.

However, thanks to this constant rotation I never really felt like I had become attached to any character. In FFX I became the blonde haired Tidus, battled with his emotions and experienced his wonder as he travelled a new world he had never seen before. By the end of the game I cared what happened to him. I tried as hard as I could to feel the same way about Lightning – the heroine of XIII – as she fought to save her sister and her world, or empathise with the woes of young Hope whose long cheese filled speeches always made me want to die a little inside.

I couldn’t.

XIII always snapped them away from me just as I was starting to grow towards each one and by the time I was handed back the full reins of my team, I just wanted to finish the game. There it is; despite the problems with endless corridors and lack of control I still wanted to know what happened next. I cared more about the world my people inhabited then the heroes themselves. It’s a strange contrast to the love I felt for FFX which will still be the best Final Fantasy game I have played in my years of gaming. Like LA Noire was more of a film than a game, FFXIII is more akin to a storybook; one you read that drags you from place to place and shows you wonders and marvels. Like all good storybooks it leaves you wanting to know more.

I asked around to see what others thought of this fanbase-splitting title and whether they will be buying XII-2 on it’s release next month. Here are a few responses.

“As much as it got bashed for being linear, I enjoyed every minute of it, still great story telling and I shall very much be buying XIII-2” Iain McDougall

“it’s boring? Linear, too. But, the battle system is great, and does open up big time for whoever sticks with it long enough” Kevin Kissane – The Average Gamer

“I didn’t like how the control was ripped from the player. I’d like to control every team member not just the leader. Amazing visuals though, when my GF was playing it through i watched it a lot but couldn’t play it past the first area” Samuel Curd – Fusion Gamer

“FFXIII while I have yet to finish it, I did enjoy. It just felt too different to the FF series before it. I’m a wee bit of an FF fan so naturally I have FFXIII-2 on preorder, Can’t tell if the change is good or bad as it is nice to see them take some risks” RidentFFXI

I can understand why the changes were made. Final Fantasy is a decades-old series and is now an institution that sits proudly next to Dungeons & Dragons. Perhaps in focussing more on continual action and beautiful graphics Square hoped they could draw in a new generation of RPG players and hopefully bolster what is classed as a specialist fan group.

Final Fantasy XIII has me torn. On one side I hate it for its problems but on the other I can see what they tried to do. I can appreciate how and why they switched characters so often. I can understand the choices in leading you by the hand to learn a completely new combat system. As a Final Fantasy game, XIII does deserve to be played. It deserves to be loved despite all its flaws and it comes into its own after the first 14 hours. Sadly most players, like myself, will have lost faith in it by then.

Final Fantasy XIII is available now.