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    dkirschner's Final fantasy 13 (PS3)

    [November 2, 2013 08:45:00 AM]
    Finished FFXIII today. I took a long break from it to play another game that I will write about shortly. When I came back to FFXIII, I was in the final area, which looks amazing. Technically you're in a data stream where the data has materialized and flows by you, like if you can imagine being inside a cable. Lots of really cool looking environments in that game...

    Alriiight, so my last entry I talked about all the game mechanics and about how linear it was, and said that it appeared to open up a bit in Chapter 11. It WAS a false appearance of an open world, just like I suspected! Chapter 11 introduces hunting missions. There are partially crystallized l'Cie scattered around the environment who implore you to complete their focus for them to free them from fully transforming into crystals. In total there are 64 missions. I did about 30 that I could find in Chapter 11, and that were on the way through the rest of the game. I guess the rest you have to go back before beating the game and do. They're all just "find this monster and kill it" quests though, which is kind of lame that it's just 64 tougher-than-usual battles. I'm sure the later ones are proper boss fights. Anyway, those l'Cie missions are in Chapter 11, and you can find and ride chocobos to get around, and there are cactuars and a funny little skit about them! The game actually feels like Final Fantasy for a while.

    After the open world parts of Chapter 11 though, it's right back to linearity until you get the option at the very end to revisit those areas and...well, I don't know what else there is to do besides those 64 l'Cie hunting missions. Upgrade stuff I guess.

    So by the time I beat the game, I noted a handful of things:

    (1) the combat music is nice, but gets really repetitive to the point that I was muting it. That's rare. They reeeally should have had more variations on the main score.

    (2) trying to get 5-star ratings in combat is fun. I often swore when I got a 4 instead of 5 star rating! By the end though I was often getting 0 stars. I dunno how you're supposed to beat some of the fights in the final area so fast.

    (3) there seems to be a lot of pointless upgrading. You can max out every character's chrystarium in every role if you so desire, which is insane to me. I didn't even max out one role for any character. Would one have to do that to defeat the hardest enemies in the game? That would be soooo much grinding! You can also upgrade weapons. I upgraded one weapon for all the characters I used through level 2 (of 3). I'm not even sure you can upgrade to 3 before the end of the game because the material costs like 2 million gil. I never even accumulated 1 million. And I think you can get it off these tortoise enemies, which, from reading online, is what people farm for shit at the end of the game. So there is a lot of grinding and farming for upgrades that people do...

    (4) the summon/Eidolon system was useless for me. I probably summoned 5 times through the whole game. They don't seem very strong, and their main functions that I would use them for, soaking damage and removing status effects and healing my party, are better done by, well, using my party. I don't know if I missed something or what, but yeah, summons were pointless. Also, you can only use the Eidolon of the character you are controlling, so unless you plan on controlling all the characters, then most of the summons just gather dust. Is the system useless? Is it broken? Is it just used for farming or specific instances that I didn't cross? Did other players ignore it too?

    By the end of the game, the combat gets more interesting, which is great. Up until Chapter 11, just pressing X a bunch wins you every battle. In and after Chapter 11, you've actually got to pay attention or die fairly often in even normal battles, especially in the last areas. I liked and didn't like these tough normal battles. At first I hated them. They felt long and drawn out. But the other side of me said that they are epic and appropriate for the badassery that my characters should be going up against. Tug of war there. But it's cool because you really start learning to use paradigms. I actually used the sentinel role and would switch characters in and out, use specific synergists or healers for their specific spells, and change paradigms quite often in battle. It's a cool system that has more depth than it appears. One thing I rarely did was actively command my main character. I just let her auto-battle 95% of the time. If you want to get really into it, you can choose actions. The AI was great though, so that was unnecessary.

    Finally, a couple other notes on design choices...

    You inexplicably cannot save paradigm combinations. This was incredibly irritating and definitely led to me changing my battle party as little as possible to avoid the hassle of re-defining paradigms every.single.time. I should be able to save paradigms for character combinations. So if I have Lightning, Sazh and Hope's 6 paradigms set, then every single time I put Lightning, Sazh and Hope in my party, those 6 paradigms should already be set. Instead it defaults to whatever 3 standard ones every single time. I want to be able to switch out Sazh for a sentinel like Fang and have my Lightning, Fang, Hope's 6 paradigms already set from when I set them previously.

    Like I've said, I enjoyed the story, but it had some weird parts. Like the beginning of chapter 12, for some reason you assault a street race...? Lightning or Fang or someone straight up murders a race car driver...? I thought I was protecting citizens...? I realize one reason why the story is weird though. It goes back to there being no cities or towns or NPC interaction whatsoever. The sense of what this epic story means is completely lost on the individual level. Why would individual citizens care? How do they know what's going on? Why are they or aren't they responding in certain ways? How do they know the fal'Cie are bad guys? All of a sudden, everyone is like, "Oh we hate the fal'Cie!" Why? How do you know? You've spent your entire life loving them...I think taking away all NPC interaction was a bad idea overall. Yeah, you focus more on the main characters and epic story, but you lose the weight of it for all the individuals in the world. The broad societal fiction is set up very well, but you see none of it playing out in the lives of ordinary people. For me, a great RPG tells the stories of regular folks too.

    I'm glad I played the game, even if I had some big problems with it. There is still a lot to love. It took some chances, some hit, some miss. In the end, it's good to see the series trying to innovate regardless of the outcomes. I have Final Fantasy XIII-2 sitting on my shelf. I'll wait a while to play it, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully Vanille is not featured...
    add a comment Add comment
    [October 18, 2013 07:23:04 AM]
    What a strange game! It's always funny to me when so many people independently arrive at the same conclusions or opinions about a game. For example, FFXIII doesn't feel like a Final Fantasy game at all until 30 hours in. There is about a 10-hour "intro" and the first 30 hours in sum feel like a tutorial once you hit Chapter 11. Once I got to Chapter 11 at the 30-hour mark, I hit a snag where the denizens of the newly-open world seemed very difficult/I had not yet been forced to be very discerning about building my characters. I went online and saw that practically everyone was saying the same things I was thinking (30-hour tutorial, completely linear up until then, difficulty spike, etc. etc.). The funniest thing is that pre-Chapter 11 is SO linear that about 98% of people specifically stated "30 hours" to get there. It's like you cannot even deviate from the expected time frame.

    On with the details...I'll divide this up into pre-Ch.11 and Ch.11 onward so far.

    Pre-Ch.11: FFXIII says "I'm going to tell you a story and you're going to like it. There are gonna be like 1000 cut scenes to tell it. I'll introduce you all the main characters and to the world of Cocoon. All the characters will be very enigmatic and you will have questions about their backstories and motivations. I will slap you over the head with a bunch of lore, about the old war between Cocoon and the lowerworld, Pulse, and about ancient, ominous and powerful beings with odd names called fal'Cie. I will tell you how fal'Cie use humans to do their bidding, humans that get branded and become l'Cie. There are good and bad l'Cie, good ones from Cocoon that get branded by Cocoon's fal'Cie and bad ones from Pulse that get branded by Pulse fal'Cie called, you guessed it, Pulse l'Cie. Once l'Cie get branded, they have a Focus (mission) that they must carry out, or else turn into a Cie'th (the undead, sort of). You will learn all of this lore because I will repeat it over and over in cut scenes and data logs and random dialogue and you will enjoy it because the battle system is going to be insanely simple and easy and perhaps boring for a loooong time. Muwhahaha."

    Ok, maybe I made the game sound a little more sinister than it is, but you get the point. The game oozes with story. Luckily I do enjoy it and think it builds characters very well. You spend enough time with them, and bit by bit, learn who they are and why they are doing what they are doing. Some characters are great from the get-go like Sazh. Others are hopelessly annoying like Vanille, the ever-optimistic cutesy girl whose in-world movements and battle sounds usually sound like she's orgasming. Seriously, the noises she makes cause me to question the game's rating. If I could turn her moans and grunts off I would. I'm not sure why JRPGs so often cast these sexualized or otherwise annoying little girl characters in such important roles. Vanille also narrates the game. The other annoying character is...I can't even think of his name because I never use him. He's the one who wants to be a hero and wants to save everyone all the time. He epitomizes some of the story's questionable logic because his motivations don't make sense. They're too extreme. Though I do like the story overall, a lot of it involves great leaps of imagination. The rest of the main cast I do like, Hope, Fang and Lightning.

    Gameplay-wise, you run a completely narrow path from story event to story event, battling some enemies and finding poorly hidden treasures along the way. Let's do combat. The game s.l.o.w.l.y. introduces combat mechanics to you over 10 or so hours, and even then it doesn't fully unlock what you can do until 30. You are in control of 1 character in battle, in your team of up to 3. The others are AI controlled, but you can program them sort of like you could in FFXII. How it works is this: Each character has access to a number of roles (commando, ravager, sentinel, synergist, saboteur, medic). I forget how many you start with with each character, but it winds up being 3 main roles, and then at Chapter 11, it opens up and any character can take any role. So, for example, Hope can be a ravager, synergist and medic; Lightning can be a commando, ravager and medic; Fang can be a commando, sentinel and saboteur; etc. Your job in battle is not so much to assign commands via menus like traditional turn-based RPGs, but to play the tactician and select combinations of roles for your characters. With the 3 characters I just mentioned, for example, you can program up to 6 combinations, which the game calls "paradigms," to choose among in battle. So I'll begin with commando, ravager, ravager. None of them can heal, so if I start taking damage, I push L1 and select the paradigm for something like commando, ravager, medic. Whichever characters are assigned to the roles, they will switch on the fly and start acting according to their new roles. All the paradigms have catchy names so you can choose them quickly. commando, ravager, ravager is Relentless Assault and if you swap a ravager there for a medic it becomes Diversity. Anyway, you learn these over time.

    More on roles: Different roles specialize in different things and give party-wise bonuses to their specialties. Ravagers specialize in 'staggering' opponents and their bonus makes other roles fill the stagger gauge faster. Stagger is an interesting mechanic. Every character, enemies and allies, has a stagger gauge. The stagger gauge fills when damage is inflicted on that character. It depletes whenever damage is not being inflicted. As the stagger gauge fills, the % of damage that character takes increases. Each character has a stagger point (say, 300%) at which the character becomes 'staggered' and the % of damage increase begins to rise much quicker, as (I think) all their defenses drop (no resistances) and you basically beat the hell out of the more-or-less defenseless enemy until the stagger gauge empties. The stagger gauge begins emptying as soon as the character becomes staggered. SO, ravagers make the gauge fill up quickly. This is great, except that in between attacks when the enemy is not staggered, the gauge empties. From ravager attacks, the gauge empties very quickly. So although they fill it quickly, they also empty it quickly. This is one great thing about commandos. Their attacks slow the stagger gauge's draining. Commandos are strong and provide boosts to damage. So if you have a commando and a ravager, the commando will inflict heavy damage and make the stagger gauge drain slowly, while the ravager will make the gauge fill quickly, offsetting the now-slow draining. If you had two ravagers, the gauge would deplete because they wouldn't be able to attack fast enough to sustain it, and thus the enemy may never become staggered. Sounds sort of confusing to write out, but makes perfect sense in-game. Suffice it to say, roles complement one another. The others are more straightforward. Medics heal, sentinels are tanks, saboteurs cast debuffs and synergists cast buffs.

    Each character develops differently in each role. So for example, Vanille, Hope and Lightning all have medic as a main role. Vanille and Hope are the better medics as their characters inherently lean more toward magic. Lightning is also a very good ravager and commando, the latter of which relies on strength, meaning I can stack magic on Vanille and Hope, but that may not be a good idea for Lightning because then she'd be less useful when I needed her as commando. Also, each character has a "chrysarium" (spelling?!) which is where they spend points to learn skills. Each role has a chrysarium, which is like a skill tree. There they spend points earned in battle to unlock stat boosts and role-specific abilities. Vanille and Hope have access to better healing abilities earlier in their chrysariums than Lightning does. Vanille and Hope also will be learning things in the saboteur and synergist trees, respectively, that will have more magic boosts, whereas Lightning will be getting a lot of strength from her commando tree. Characters don't have levels in the traditional sense; they just upgrade stats and skills with points. Over time, characters become more specialized and can increase in role level. It becomes ever more expensive to upgrade stats and learn abilities the farther into the chrysarium you get, so you're sort of forced to specialize (or grind for points). I really like the chrysarium system, though I wish characters were EITHER more naturally different or more completely open. The way their development is now is that many are very similar to one another, but at the same time, I can't just mold them how I want. There are only slight differences between, for example, Vanille and Hope as medics, and even Lightning works fine as one. So they're very similar...yet Lightning can't be a synergist or saboteur and Vanille and Hope can't be ravagers (at least until Ch.11).

    The same odd balance between freedom and restriction in character skill development exists in the game itself. As I've said, pre-Ch.11 is totally linear. Now that I'm in Ch.11, the game world opens up some and for the first time, I actually have an environment to explore. However, like the sort-of openness of the role system, I think the open world is an illusion too. But I'll talk more on the second portion of the game later.
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    dkirschner's Final fantasy 13 (PS3)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 9 October, 2013

    GameLog closed on: Friday 1 November, 2013

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Great, loooong time to introduce basic mechanics, want to punch Vanille. Becoming more complex! -------------- Good game, some interesting design choices. Wish there were towns and that I could save paradigms. Enjoyed battle system in the end. Thought-provoking story.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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    1 : Final fantasy 13 (PS3) by Codex (rating: 4)
    2 : Final fantasy 13 (PS3) by Codex (rating: 4)


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