The Bottom Line
- One of the best looking video games made
- The combat system seems simplistic at first, but gains incredible depth with time
- Very compelling story, far more comprehensible than some Final Fantasy games
- Some of the best creature/mob design
- Incredible world to play in
- Stuck in a "tube" no real freedom of movement for half of the game
- No towns, puzzles, nor mini-games
- Only direct control of the "leader" in combat
- Upgrade system very linear
- Lacks some of the charm and quirkiness of Final Fantasy games past
- Publisher: Square-Enix
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- Genre: Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG)
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Guide Review - Final Fantasy XIII Review (PS3)
Final Fantasy XIII (FFXIII) is gorgeous. Not "hot co-worker you are scared to ask out" gorgeous, but rather "I'm so pretty that publicists hire me to go out with rock stars on public dates" gorgeous. Epic landscapes, creative creatures, awe-inspiring airships, and pretty, pretty people populate both the gameplay and the custscenes. The former are so good, you will yet again wonder why Square-Enix doesn't make movies (they have, with mixed success), the dilemma is that the in-game action is almost too good.
Yes, it's a strange complaint. But the battles look so impressive, as do the transition scenes using the in-game engine that they diminish the impact of the pre-rendered cut scenes. Why is the game being too pretty a bad thing? Well it's a design issue. One of the main motivation mechanisms in FF games are the mini-movies. You play the game long enough, you get rewarded with a Pixar quality short film that forwards the story of the game. But when the game itself looks nearly as good as the movie, the contrast ceases to be as rewarding, and you lose the motivation factor. Don't get me wrong, I love the movies, but if all movies looked as good as Avatar, then it wouldn't be as "amazing" would it? Continuing to be nitpicky, if we still can't render convincing hair, style your characters accordingly. Fang and Lightening, I'm look at you, and your stylists.
FFXIII's story is great, but it really falls apart at the second half. It's an odd design decision, as the first half is almost too linear, but the story keeps you engaged. When you get to Gran Pulse and gain freedom of movement, the story fades into the background. You can go everywhere but have little motivation to go anywhere. Still, it's a good yarn and the characters are all endearing.
Finally, the core gameplay is brilliant. The job system and on the fly switching of "paradigms" keeps the semi-real time combat engaging and challenging. Yes, there's only three characters fighting, and you really only control one, but the strategy switching will keep you more than busy, which is good as the game has no puzzles, minigames, or even towns to keep you occupied. Combat is the only time you will make meaningful decisions outside of upgrading.
FFXIII is great looking, has a deep combat system and a decent story, but it is missing so many FF mainstays that it feels like a giant version of FF lite.