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FFXIII thoughts so far...

Figure I might as well, right? I'm trying to let this be non-spoilerific, except maybe some spoily footnotes/clarifications below the cut. But I guess any impressions are to some extent going to be spoily, in letting people know somewhat what to expect, and coloring their own expectations. So... yeah. I'll do the best I can!

So this is my third day with the game and... I'm not that far in, really. Maybe somewhere between 6-10 hours? Probably closer to the former. I'm partway through chapter 4, if that helps. The game is just sloooow for me to get into, for a variety of reasons.

What do I actually think of it so far? Well, it's shiny and polished, which is only to be expected by a Squarenix game and a Final Fantasy game in particular. Beyond that, it's got some potential, but also some flaws. I expect that more of the potential will come out and the flaws will hopefully recede as I get further into the game, but this is dealing with so far:


-The party is a bit small, both in the "number of people you recruit" sense and the "people fighting on the field at once" sense. Now, I realize that other Final Fantasies have had only three team members fight at once, at least I'm pretty sure... but a) four is much nicer, and b) it's more restrictive in this game, where characters are shoehorned into *such* strict battle roles, and you can't direct them personally.

-No direct control over most of the party. Now, this is the necessity for the "paradigm" system to work right, I guess, but it's just not quite working for me. I'd rather have a different system altogether than the paradigm system, shiny and different as it is, if it means I could have at least *some* more control over my party members. I mean, even though FFXII didn't give you direct control over more than one character at a time, at least a) you could switch between characters on the fly, and b) you could do some serious programming of AI for them all. This...? I'm just... not grooving on it.

-Some of the characters. I seriously want to punch the main character in the face most of the time, and I'm totally not into violence toward women!(1) I could also do without the whiny mopey-kid(2), even though he does have an excuse for it being a) in a bad spot in life, and b) an actual KID. This is made worse by the fact that he's so... so... nonsensical!(3) I am also not totally amused by the Spunky Yet Silly Black Sidekick stereotype!(4)

-The lack of Final Fantasyness in some ways. No crystal theme? No battle-end fanfare? No familiar and beloved jobs? Not to mention that even some of the familiar aspects are... warped.(6)

-Lack of jobs/roles. Only like 6 or 7 different roles for people to play? Like with the lack of direct control, I guess it's an artifact of the paradigm system which would get too complex with many more roles, but... it's just not working for me.

-TOO LINEAR. I know it's been said before, and it may or may not open up more later on (I remember FFX being pretty damn linear to start with for one thing), but right now this is probably the biggest thing keeping me from getting more into the game. It's just "run along on a railroad track, fight various mobs, save point, oh, a few cutscenes... fight some more..." Argh! I never thought I'd miss shopping in towns!

-Lack of money. Having to sell things just to get money didn't work in Xenosaga II, and it doesn't work here. Even if you do get a few little smidgeons here and there from treasure spheres. It's just annoying! Which brings me to:

-Changing things just for the sake of changing them. Like if you're GOING to have treasure chests, why not just have them be chests instead of making them "spheres"? Like it's going to fool anyone? Really? I know this is a serious nitpick, but some of the things they're changing just seem... stupid! Like they're so desperate to make the game "different" and "new" they can't stand to have *anything* the same. (And yes, part of this is bitterness over the loss of some of the aforementioned familiar things, like the music.)

-NOT changing some of the tired old FF tropes. Gee, I really wonder which organization is going to end up the Bad Guys here. And I really which eeeevil location/organization/whatever is not going to end up so evil.(7) About the only thing they don't have is a bishounen appearing to say "oh hey, I'm totally going to be the bad guy!" At least, not yet...

-Combat is SOOO SLOW to start getting interesting. I mean, HOW long do we have to putz around doing basic variations on "Attack Attack." "Pause" "Group Attack" before we can actually use some, I dunno, abilities?

Things I'm Not Sure About:

-The combat system. As mentioned above, there are some aspects I definitely don't like, but I do like that it's more fast-paced in general, and the quickness of switching between Paradigms. And being able to check so easily to see a reminder of what the various enemies are weak against and other notes. I also like having techniques separate, using separate points that regenerate at a different rate. Not sure yet about the lack of things like experience points and having to heal between combats, not to mention that not even having MP factor into it takes a lot of the strategy and depth out! So... yeah, the combat system is a big giant bundle of "I don't know how I feel about this!"

-The shopping system. It's nice to be able to access the stores regularly and all in one spot without having to visit a ton of places, but... but... they're dull so far!

-The Crystarium, or Crystalarium or whatever it's called. It's somewhat a modified sphere grid system, which is cool enough, but there are annoyances. Like the fact that I basically blazed through the first "level," then had to wait around for the game to decide that oh, *it* was ready for me to unlock the next level. And each level seems so... sparse! At least so far!

-The music. Really, I don't even *remember* any of the music so far, and for a Final Fantasy game, that's pretty sad. But I can't say I don't like it, because I don't even really remember it.

-The segregations of the party. On the one hand, it mixes things up in combat, and it does make some sense for a bunch of people who don't even know each other to not immediately crystallize into a cohesive unit that's all "let's pull together! We're friends for life! Raar!" On the other hand dudes, you are being pursued by deadly enemies and in the midst of a ton of monsters! STOP SPLITTING UP! And also it leaves me with party members I don't enjoy as much(8) for a good part of the time!

-The "thirteen days" thing. Or rather, I don't like it, but not because it's horrible in and of itself - it's an interesting storytelling idea, and I think I see what they're trying to do with it, but they way they implement it (having you just a bit *too* confused at the start, and having CONSTANT FLASHBACKS for some of the most minor, silly things) is just not working for me. But I put it here because I do like the concept - the idea of letting us actually start in the action and learn things over time rather than having a huge long sloggy introduction before we get into the meat of the game (I'm looking at you, Suikoden V!)

-The Datalog, Datapad...whatever. Again, good in conception, if stolen from a ton of previous games (well hell, it's an RPG staple at this point rather than a theft), but do we really need it updated every couple minutes? And that wouldn't be so annoying, if so much of the information weren't basically repeating itself!

Things I tentatively like:

-The Eidolons. I won't go into great detail, but I've seen/dealt with one so far, and it looks like while they won't crop up too much, they should be interesting and challenging when they do. I just hope they factor pretty heavily into the game! Like having to find/win over a bunch of them!

-Some of the characters. I like Snow, except for the peach fuzz, although the "I'm a hero, I'll save everyone" thing might get real old real quick if it keeps up.(9) I also generally like Vanille, despite the fact that her voice is a tad too high/forced, and she's way perky.

Um... this isn't much is it? Looking back, that *really* isn't much in the "like" column. But really much of the good stuff is either in the middle section due to some of the other negative aspects (like the good things I like about the combat system), or exists in potentia at this point - like I look forward to upgrading weapons and doing some of the side-missions and such. And combat should, I hope, get deeper and more interesting as more abilities are unlocked, and tougher monsters crop up. But for right now? It's slow getting started.

(1) - And when she keeps punching Snow? Dude, stop taking it! I hate hate hate seeing women being abused in general obviously, but in this case, the second time I was like "dude, hit her back already!", much less the third time!
(2) - Tidus Jr. I mean Hope. But seriously, he even LOOKS like Tidus.
(3) - Dude, you are going to be pro-active enough to steal a freaking air...thingy and go follow Snow into Certain Danger, and then can't even get the balls to say "hello, my name ees Hope Montoya, you keel my mother, prepare to die"? Inconsistent, much?
(4) - It's looking like Sazh is getting a little more depth to him finally, but sheesh.(5)
(5) - And while we're at it, what's with a chocobo chick that's a) so teeny tiny, and b) can fly? WTF? Also: Go for the eyes, Boo!
(6) - The Shiva *Sisters*? And morphing into a bike? WTF is this? And see also footnote #5.
(7) - Also: I totally wonder where Vanille is going to end up being from! I have no idea! *shifty eyes*
(8) - Dudes! I want Snow back! Not Bitchy McIcequeen, Whiny Tatertot, Pollyana, and Mr. Stereotype!
(9) - Which it might not, given his track record so far. Girlfriend crystalized, currently a prisoner, separated from everyone he knows, having gotten a bunch of relatively innocent civilians killed by bridge-sliding... yeah. Let's just hope it doesn't go *too* far in the other direction though.

Anyhow, this is already longer than I intended, so I'll just shut up now! Free free to ask about anything I didn't cover in comments though, cause gods know I love to gab about games. :p


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(Deleted comment)
Mar. 12th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, it *looks* gorgeous enough...

I find myself wondering about replay value, as in, "if I see my wife play enough of it, is there any point in my playing it as well?" With Dragon Age or Mass Effect, that's a definite yes. FFX we both played, but we went about certain things differently, so that was fine.

Here they're *so* focused on telling a particular story that once I've seen the movie once, I'm not sure I'll go back for seconds? But my wife is only 6-8 hours into the game, so we'll see how that goes.
Mar. 12th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm actually okay with the crystal part. Because of the New Age stuff ;) I'll always have a soft spot for four/eight elemental crystals, but i think i can live with this. There are crystal thingies, and they are important to the plot. (Also, don't some of the fal'Cie have a crystal look to them?)

I'm totally with you about the lack of fanfare and the changing of the jobs though!

And yeah, they're really pushing the "Sanctum is evil and everyone is overreacting about Pulse" angle in the Datalogs. I can't count the number of entries that have said something like "anything from Pulse will cause widespread HYSTERICAL FEAR even though no one really knows anything about Pulse."

I'm also totally with you on Hope. According to the Datalog his eyes burn with HATE and FURY, and he is BOUND and DETERMINED to ENACT VENGEANCE! The vengeance of acting like he's too shy to approach his favorite pop idol, so he's just going to mumble something and then run away. That'll teach him!

Oh, and there is someone who is at least a little bishounen coming up, but it's not clear yet if he'll end up being one of the big bads or some kind of ally :)
Mar. 12th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Hrm, the only crystal part I remember mentioning is the lack of crystal theme, which, I'm talking about the music. :p But I could be forgetting even the various things I'm complaining about!

And yeah... Hope is just... hopeless!

And yay bishounens! (I kinda liked Snow's one teammate with the greenish-blue hair, but I'm sure we'll never get to actually use him!)
Mar. 12th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
Ooops, i misinterpreted that part then, sorry :)
Mar. 13th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
And yeah... Hope is just... hopeless!

So, is it honey mustard or BBQ that goes better with words? I forget...

I think I've finally nailed down what it is about 13 that is throwing me off. The first 10 hours or so IT IS NOT A GAME. It's a story, being told in snippets and flashbacks, with a bit of game squeezed in.

Once I internalized that, I've actually enjoyed it a bit more. This may also be due to A) more game bits appearing, B) the story getting a bit more interesting, C) the groupings of characters mandated by the story leading to new tactical choices, D) boss fights that are actually hard, and E) the Crystarium opening up quite a bit more.

I'm past the "OK, this is a disappointment" phase I had early on, to a guardedly optimistic outlook. We shall see.
Mar. 13th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm much more accepting of that sort of thing at the end of the game, ala Xenogears, when you figure it's possible the developers ran out of time and/or money and had to ship the damn game. Unless they pull a KotOR 2 and don't actually resolve the plot, anyway.
Mar. 13th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC)
So I'm just a little further than you (just started Chapter 5).

I wasn't sure about the combat in the beginning of the game, but playing through Chapter 4 I started to actually really like the paradigm system. Instead of setting distinct commands, you switch on-the-fly in between every combat round. And it really does matter which set of roles you have for which enemies.

I just wish it were easier to change the "default" paradigm while on the main map screen - so that you could check out the enemies you're about to attack/try to sneak up on, switch to the right paradigm, and barge in. Instead, you have to go through the menu-paradigm-customize-select default all the time, which is annoying. Otherwise, the paradigm-switching screws up the pre-emptive attacks.

Lightning needs to calm the heck down, but at least she is competent. Seifer (excuse me, Snow) was really irritating me with his whole Hero shtick. I find both Hope and Vanille to be annoying. They all make Sazh look good in comparison, even if we don't have his character motivation yet.

One of my favorite things so far is actually that we have a mom who doesn't just disappear off-screen as cannon fodder - she at least gets to go out heroically while kicking ass.

And yeah, I like JRPG linearity, but this is taken to really annoying extremes. On the other hand, it means I've spent almost no time running around poking in corners for chests...
Mar. 13th, 2010 06:21 am (UTC)
That last bit is, indeed, the one good side to the linearity. At least I'm not spending a ton of time backtracking or trying to make sure I've found Every Little Thing...
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