Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So I've Been Playing Final Fantasy XIII

I haven't played long, but I can already start to understand the myriad of complaints that have been leveled at Final Fantasy XIII in the time after it's been released, but I'm not really prepared to add to them, at least not yet.  I can't say that I've actually had fun playing the game yet, but it's only been a few hours really, and in an RPG where you'll spend a good 40+ hours through it, that's negligible and not really indicative of the overall experience.  When you start it, you're just supposed to be learning the systems that will take you through the game, and it's after that point, when you have the tools, that you're meant to be able to make of them what you will and there's where the fun comes from.  In picking this and that, making these combinations as you see fit, and fine-tuning them as necessary.  That's when the real experience starts, for me at least, which is usually well past the intro.  Still though, in a series where you make kind of a big deal about the way it's intro'd, I'm not quite sure what I think of Final Fantasy XIII's intro myself.

I feel like Squeenix was doing what they -do- and trying to throw you into a scenario at the start where you're already in a situation and the only way to get any idea on what's going on is to get through it.  Make you look for your answers and wonder a little, that sort of thing, while also keeping you interested because there's a ton of shit going on.  In Final Fantasy VII, it was the whole infiltrating and blowing up the Mako reactor, in Final Fantasy VIII it was getting you tested for SeeD by sending you into a Mercenary Mission, and in Final Fantasy XII it was giving you a likeable character as he was set upon a mission....and then killed him off to give you Vaan.  We....don't talk about that anymore.  Regardless, XIII throws you right into the thick of things, but I sort of think that perhaps they threw us too into the thick because of the way the actual beginning sequence is orchestrated, which I think is more than a little off-putting for anyone who might not be initiated in Final Fantasy games or even RPGs as a whole.

You see, during the first couple of hours, the 'party' as it were has more or less just not met up and you end up spending a little bit of time with just about everyone individually or at least mostly individually as their own 'story' starts to get set up.  In theory, it's kind of brilliant and something that -should- happen, because it sets everyone up as a fleshed out character instead of "that guy who stabs stuff" or "that girl who is a healer" and you would expect that their story would only progress naturally as the game goes on.  In execution, however, it....sort of loses something in that there were about nine character swaps between the three or four 'parties' (counting some where one was left out separate since sometimes that meant controlling the -other- person) in the first two hours of the game as everyone raced towards the same conclusion for their own reasons.  I'm not sure -what- bothered me about it in particular, but it just didn't work and that's a shame.  Perhaps if the switches had been less jarring or if more information had been spread out during them instead of literally just moving some of them forward a bit instead of them just 'showing up' at an area, or if there'd just been less of them, it would've been better, but it just began to grate a little.

And so far, that's kind of been the mantra of the game as a whole, in that it's -trying- to do something right, but the way it does it just grates.  It's dangerously close to being something enjoyable, but falls short and it feels like any minute now, it'll break that barrier, yet I'm not sure if it will.  The rumblings of the '30 hour tutorial' (in that the first 30 hours are a tutorial, and not the 'real' game) have certainly instilled me with a fear, since I feel like I know from where that draws, but I haven't let pessimism take hold yet.  I do, however, find it a bit odd that when the battle system is supposed to be unique and great because it offers on-the-fly customization (ala Paradigm Shifts) I'm limited in its useage in the formative moments of the game, where it should be teaching these things.  You don't get to use it at -all- for the first few hours, and then once you're inducted into its trappings, you're not given the full thing.  You see, game, I know that at some point, I'll be able to do what the fuck ever I want with classes, but you won't -let me-.

Characters only start out able to use a few different classes and more unlock as the game progresses (Not everyone even starts with the same, meaning people have defined roles in a game with on-the-fly customization) and that breeds a battle system where I can only do so much with it in terms of using that customization.  Pre-made values are all that's available to me, with 'witty' titles to them like Slash & Burn (Commando/Ravager) and War & Peace (Ravager/Medic, I think) and that's governed by who is in my party which -seems- to change every five minutes.  I mean, this is the point where it kind of sucks being a guy who knows about games because I know what the fuck is going on, because it's that transparent that the game is just trying to make me use everyone in every scenario to get a feel for them, but I just want them to knock it off.  Let me try this out, take away the training wheels already.  I got this.

Despite all the negative things I say about Squeenix, I almost always genuinely hope they put out something good because what they do put out is...kind of uncontested anymore.  There's simply not a whole lot of RPGs out there, even ones that pretend to play at the old style as FFXIII does with its clinging to the ATB system in a sense, but there are some of us out there who do quite enjoy RPGs.  Just make a good game, and we'll buy it, anyone out there making games, don't worry about trying to 'keep up' with trends or anything, just don't include the trappings that classic games had that we have outgrown.  What those are, I couldn't tell you right now, but I assure you, there are some out there that are unnecessary anymore, that you can make a good, proper RPG without including them.  With any luck, I'll grow to enjoy the game, but I'm not really going to put any bets on that.  I just want to get through it to the fun that supposedly awaits me on the other end.

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