So, let’s talk about the basic premise of FFXIII, and its characters! Light spoilers to the basic plot premise and character backgrounds follow.
The World of Cocoon
In FFXIII, your “homeworld” is the hollow moon of Cocoon. Humans live in its interior, provided for by the fal’cie, god-like beings/constructs that make the air, food, and light that keeps humanity alive. They even regulate the weather!
Cocoon lives in fear of the world it orbits, Gran Pulse. Several hundred years back, the inhabitants of Pulse waged a destructive war against Cocoon, actually cracking its exterior shell. The fighting grew so intense that the Cocoon fal’cie were compelled to make l’cie – branded humans empowered with special abilities. When a l’cie is made, it’s given a specific task – if he or she succeeds, they were granted eternal life; if they failed, they became mindless zombies. Despite the risk, it is considered a great honor to become a Cocoon l’cie, even though none have been created in generations.
Complicating matters is the fact that Pulse has its own fal’cie, and the Pulse fal’cie are capable of making l’cie, too. This really heightens Cocoon’s fear of Pulse, as any branded human basically becomes a thrall to a sworn enemy of Cocoon. Because of this, any contact with Pulse is shunned and viewed as contaminating.
Days before the game begins, an active Pulse fal’cie was discovered in the quaint little Cocoon town of Bodhum. Afraid of its corrupting influence, PSICOM – the military division responsible for dealing with Pulse-borne threats – decided to relocate the entire town to Pulse, for the greater good.
But not really. The “relocation” was named the Purge for a reason.
The game opens as our primary protagonist, Lightning, is fighting her way off of a Purge death train.
(FYI – character names link to a pic of said character.)
Lighting is a badass. A rogue soldier who has infiltrated the Purge trains for reasons of her own, Lighting is a well-rounded character. She’s what I wanted FFXII‘s Ashe to be – strong and silent, without the whinny emo bits. In particular, I like that she isn’t “her kingdom’s greatest soldier evar,” like often seems to happen in previous FF games – at the age of 21, she’s not made officer yet.
Snow is… Snow. He’s the hero! Heroes don’t need plan!
At least he doesn’t think so, because he’s the tank of the party. Crazy HP and good defenses means he doesn’t need to think!
Snow leads NORA, a group of wannabe heroes who protect Bodhum from wild animals. When NORA is Purged with rest of the town, they arm their fellow citizens and fight back.
Sazh is best as a “synergist” – i.e. a buffer. He uses dual pistols and moves around like he knows jeet kune do.
I was originally afraid that I wouldn’t like Sazh – his first appearance reminded me of Mushu from Mulan. He’s quickly proven to be one of the most interesting, likeable members of the party. It helps that he’s the “old man” of the group, and belly aches alot. It also helps that he’s often paired with…
… the youngest member of the party. Vanille is young and nieve, and makes a good counterpoint to Sazh. I like her, but her laugh… well, my wife thinks someone is having sex every time she laughs. >.<
She’s cool, I like her, and I don’t want to say more, for spoiler’s sake.
Hope is the emo kid of the group, and I’ve disliked him for about the first 20 hours of the game. His mom died in the Purge, and he blames Snow – because it was Snow who armed them, and who accidently dropped Hope’s mother when an airstrike destroyed the elevated road they were own. I think he’s hating the wrong guy.
In the past few hours of gameplay, though, he’s started to man up. He might even become a favorite.
Fang doesn’t join your party for a good long while, and her arrival helps with some exposition. She’s awesome, she speaks with an Australian accent, and she kicks ass. She may be my favorite.
Playing the Game
The first 20 hours have been very, very linear. Get off the train, fight your way down a road, board a tram, fight your way down a road. If you don’t know where to go, you have a problem – go the way opposite of the way you came!
Alot of people feel that this first 20 hours is like an extended tutorial. There’s nowhere to go but exactly where the plot dictates (forward!), and you can’t change your party.
That’d be bad, except the game does a very good job cutting between the different members of your party. Lightning and Hope do their own thing, separate from Sazh and Vanille. Every little bit, the came goes from one to the other, alternating locations and characters. It keeps the game feeling fresh, with an emphasis on the story and how the characters are interacting. I really don’t mind!
However, I think I’m on the cusp of the game opening up. I’ll keep y’all posted.