Final Fantasy XIII at first glance, does not fail to impress. Enter on a train, traveling at a high speed through a canyon. The camera pans across several robed people and its made clear that something is about to happen. A guard enters the room on an apparent patrol and the train goes through an energy field, with the resulting jerk, Lightning, the heroine of this entry, begins to basically whip every soldiers ass up and down the train. The game has several features that are reminiscent of earlier entries as well as new features that truly make the game feel not only unique, but also intuitive in their implementation. What frustrated me most wasn’t the lineal game play, although we’ll get to that, it was the lack of understanding things that were brought at the onset.
There is a Purge happening, there are fal’Cie, and l’Cie. Your on Cocoon and there is Pulse? None of this is really explained as you continue on and unless there was a manual to go along with the original release. As you play through there are numerous mentions, but even the flashbacks are more about the characters in the days leading up to the start of play and less about explanation of these terms. Even the Eidolons, just kind of come out of nowhere and you have to fight them without really understanding how they fit into these terms and your role as l’Cie.
Combat and abilities have been renovated but still used the Active Time Battle (ATB) system. However, the combat system makes use of several different factors. First, it is a point based skill system. You can use auto-battle in which the system chooses skills to fill up the ATB Gauge which starts for Lightning at three bars. These can also be selected manually. The skill options are based on your role. In XIII there are six different roles that start to feel like a typical MMO style roles that include Damage, Taking, Debuffing, Buffing, Healing. There is a little bit more in to it with chain gauges and staggering, but we are just looking at the basics. With your party, which maxes at three, you can custom your roles by changing your Paradigm. In a given paradigm, each active party member fulfills a pre determined role through the character screen. During combat, you are able to instantly change between the six set paradigms, to change roles as needed. This is important when at any give time, you are in control of one character and the other party members perform actions based on that role. You will find advantage, in understanding when to change paradigms in combat to use them to your advantage.
While magic plays a role, its is less a special thing and more part of your standard repertoire of attacks depending on the class you are. Abilities, including Attacks, Magic, Skills can are gained through Crystarium, which reminded me of the Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy X to an extent. As there were no traditional character levels, all increases in stats and health as well are purchased using the same system. Each role, has its own Crystarium path in which to follow and the roles as well as weapons have multiple levels that can be attained. While this gives you control over which characters specializes in which role primarily, you still have to follow a mostly preset path along the Crystarium.
Outside of the standard ATB charges, are items, which are the typical potions and phoenix downs of Final Fantasy fame, but also techniques. These are special abilities that use TP as opposed to points in the ATB system. This is special skills are listed like Quake or Libra, but also summons. Summons, feel like they are a glorified spell, that have an elaborate visualization as the summons comes on the screen, fighting along with you instead of the other party members and than going into Gestalt mode, adding in a different combat system while they are out in to more damage.
Overall though, the game has kept me interested in its pacing and delivery, the characters and their stories which is something that Square has always been good at in my opinion, even with Final Fantasy 8, which is one of my least favorites in the series. With that I give Final Fantasy 7/10.