30 June 2010

Final Fantasy XIII - Final Thoughts

So, I just beat Final Fantasy XIII. (Could've done it weeks ago, but I got sidetracked by other stuff... At least this time I came back to it relatively soon, too many games still remain unbeaten.) This was, in fact, the first FF I've had the motivation to play all the way through since the days of the PS One. (Yeah, I'll still beat that FFX, and others, some day, just don't know when.)

The game's clock stood at about 75 hours. Honestly, it felt shorter, at least when compared to the likes of Final Fantasy VII. I think this was largely due to the way storytelling was handled. Although there were lots of cutscenes, the story itself, while fairly epic, was relatively short and straightforward, with very little branching, being basically limited to those cutscenes. Almost movie-like, one might say.

When I first started writing video game reviews for my website, I decided I wouldn't review Final Fantasy games. 'Cause, well, that'd be like writing a book review of The Lord of the Rings. Pointless. But I can still blog about them, of course.

All in all, Final Fantasy XIII was a game with some nice ideas, but also many flaws. The new battle system was quite fun to play. However, they'd pretty much made that the whole game. One battle after another, with very little exploration or NPC interaction. Considering the length of the game, it's not surprising that it could get somewhat monotonous at times due to this.

There were also some problems in regards to the placing of content. Once you're finally given the option to do some optional exploring by taking on 'missions', all of this content is placed in more or less one area of the game. So you can spend hours and hours doing this stuff (which is still basically just killing monsters, without a single NPC or anything in sight), while the story is essentially on hold. They could have spread this content out more, so it wouldn't affect the pacing of the story so much.

After beating the game, it's possible to return to complete more missions etc. (some of which would be very hard, if even possible, before). But honestly, once the story's done with and the credits roll, what possible motivation could I have for carrying on? I don't really see the point of accomplishing everything just for the sake of it. Not in a series like Final Fantasy, anyway, which has always to me been more about story than anything else.

The music, which for the first time had no input from Nobuo Uematsu, wasn't bad, even if there were few really memorable themes. There were some nifty ideas, though, like the use of vocals on several tracks, something I don't recall encountering before in this type of game.

The world, story and characters, as such, were fairly interesting and original. But there would have been potential for much more. Like I said, the story did feel surprisingly short for a game of this length, particularly since there were so few NPC's and little exploration involved. With a little more variety it could have been a great game. As it is, it was still pretty entertaining, but by no means a new FFVII.

So, what next? Since I'm likely to be spending a lot of time out of town during July, there's not much point starting another big game right away. Maybe something I can play on my laptop, if only I knew what...

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