- Starting from year 1987 Square-Enix (originaly Squaresoft) has released a lot of great franchise RPG, which are highly demanded on the market. The latest installment in the series is no way different.
Moreover, FFXIII became the fast selling Final Fantasy game, reaching the point of more than one million sales in five days for both Xbox360 and PS3 consoles.
This review is to cover up this highly anticipated game, which took 4 years to create. I played it on PS3 but I believe, there will be no major differences with Xbox360 version.
1. Introduction - 10/10
For me, introduction begins the moment you take the disc in your hands - FFXIII has a great case with :minimalistic" artwork, showing only the main heroine on the front and some nice screenshots on the back of the case.
Inside, you can find rather thick manual - it around 40 pages or so, every page is brightly colored and it's a pleasure to look at it. It's also very informative, as it gives explanation of the basic controls, status ailments and so on.
And, of course, there was a code, which you can register at Square-Enix site to gain access to Final Fantasy XIV beta as soon as it'll be released!
Popping the disk into the PS3 I saw it did not require installation at all (Xbox 360 users have optional 18 GB), so the game's ready to play as soon as you're ready.
There is optional (skippable) movie just before the main menu, so you can watch the game graphics and get familiar with characters.
2. Graphics - 10/10
Pressing "New game" button drives you in the world of complete graphic awesomeness. Everything is eye-candy, although it is still possible to see the difference between CG movies and not prerendered scenes, the game can boast high-quality textures, great lightning and post-effects.
Gran Pulse (one of the locations in the game) looks outstanding with that huge open terrain and excellent "nature-like" graphics. For those of you going to the countryside not very often, scenery this game provokes you to visit wildlife in real world.
Character faces now look close to real, and you can see various emotions on their faces, that is a huge plus when watching the story-driven cutscene.
I can't just stress enough it's pure awesomeness.
3. Gameplay 10/10
The game has a very innovative gameplay. For me, FFXIII reminded greatly of FFX mixed with other FFs' elements, and I would like to hear your opinion on this point.
Random encounters are gone (in some sense, because the encounters are now visible and you can decide whether you want to fight enemy, although some enemies are still not avoidable) so as towns. You won't find yourself in city mashing "X" buttons to talk to bunch of people listening the same dialogs and running in circles to find the needed armory or accessory shop.
It's all is done now via save stations. There you can save, buy or upgrade weapons, etc.
But the inns are gone for sure. Party's HP is refreshed every battle's end and there is no Mana Points, in a sense, because game introduces us new ATB system. The ATB line at the bottom of the screen consists of segments, which are charging up as the time passes, such commands as "Attack" requires 1 ATB segment, whether Firaga requires 3.
With the slogan "everything new is a good old", FFXIII introduces job system. There are 6 basic jobs: Comando (physical attacks), Ravanger (magical attacks), Sentinel (guard), Medic (healer), Saboteur (debuffer), Synergyst (buffer). Each character is truly specialized in 2-3 jobs, but can learn others to fit into the situation.
The next new thing is leveling up system. It's not, basically, leveling up, because there are no levels. The system introduces Crystallium (aka Sphere Grid in FFX), where you can spend earned Crystallium Points (CP), earned in battles on developing the characters parameters (like HP+100 node, STR+20, etc.) and learning abilities (Blitz, Mediguard, Thunder,...).
Even if a character was not the active party member, he/she will receive the same amount of CP, which is very convenient and pushes the player to use all of the characters depending to the situation, basically no more "tough fellows which I always play, that are 100 level" and "weak guys that I never play of 3-4 level". If a characters aquire CP, the all do.
And talking about CP, the game has unique feature - every battle has a rating depending on how well you managed to beat the bad guys (or creatures) and it can be from 0-star rating to 5-star rating. Depending on that you'll have a different amount of CP and items after.
Having a 5-star rating multiplies your probability of acquiring rare items in 5 times, which is very important, as you're not rewarded with Gil after each battle, so you have to sell lore and items (but seldom you can find Gil in chests).
You can't really die in the game, every time your leader is KO'ed (yes, killing the leader is sufficient to take you to game over screen - like in Persona 3,4) you can press "Retry" and be respawned before that encounter, including the boss battles.
The game did not miss the weapon crafting system. Every weapon can be upgraded using the items you've collected after the battle. And I found very often that my newly-acquired weapon is much weaker than my upgraded initial weapon. Every weapon can be upgraded to ultimate, so there is no real "buy-sell-buy-sell" rush in equipping top-notch weapons and accessory (which can be upgraded the same way) rush for your party.
Every character has its own summon, which unlocks as the game completes. And Bahamut and other summons looks as awesome as they never be. Summoning is a long topic and has a bunch of great details, but it's impossible to fit everything in this guide.
The major flaw, that you can hear from a lot of people is the game's linearity. The first 25 hours are linear as ruler, but then the world becomes wide open. Personally, I see no problem in that because the FFX was the same, the characters are in a rush from [spoilers] and they have no free time to wander around doing quests and so on.
And it would be hard to tell so heavy story If it was often interrupted by quests. As for me, it's OK. If you like games like Oblivion and Dragon Age, have courage to face first 25 hours of linearity.
In overall, it took me 60 hours to complete main storyline (I've done some quests, so think it should be near 45- 50 hours for average player) and seems to me, another 40 hours of post-game quests are awaiting me. The game has no New Game + feature, but you can play after the credit roll giving the extra possibilities to complete quests (or "missions" how they are called in game) to your pleasure.
The game is neither hard, nor easy, it's just right to keep you in pressure from the first till the last battle.
Covering up that huge "Gameplay" part of the review I want to admit, that gameplay in FFXIII is a way better than in other FFs and other games. I wouldn't pick up any game in a long time after experiencing this gameplay style.
4. Story - 8/10
Jumping into the world of FFXIII, watching intro and playing the first hour you can find yourself lost in the story as it complicated without explanation. Hopefully, there is a Datalog, where you can read everything about story, characters, places etc. Never used that type of things in games, but FFXIII made me to.
I won't say a lot about story not to spoil a lot, but it's better than average. Some moments are very heart-touching, some are hard to understand (but are uncovered later), it's good, but it could be better. The positive is that it's constantly changing, and heroes often change plans, so you'll never know what they will end up to.
Characters have their own unique style, and to my opinion has great voices, that correspond to their personalities.
5. Music - 8/10
Speaking of voices, I have to mention music.
Some tracks are great (like characters' themes or battle music), the others are easy to forget.
6. Overall experience 46/50 (9.1)
You may see, that the "Gameplay" part is the largest, probably because the gameplay is what you'll remember for a long time. The complicated storyline will be forgotten (except the characters' awesome styles, and storylines), you'll get used to graphics, soundtrack CD's will be collecting the dust, but you'll have a heartwarming touch remembering of FFXIII.
The game really is worth $60. It's a great game, great addition to the FF series which fans shouldn't miss, tons of pleasant hours of gaming guaranteed.