FFXIII: My Thoughts, Twenty Hours In

GeeCee replied with some really good questions, and I thought I’d go ahead and use them to structure my thoughts about FFXIII.

I know you’re not done yet, but how long do you think the game is in terms of hours of game play?
I’ve heard fifty+ hours of game play, with optional side quests (bounty hunting, really) expanding that dramatically. Currently I’m ~21 hours into the game. The world has yet to enter “sandbox mode,” and I’ve yet to be able to choose my own party members – the plot has kept my party separated till now. The leveling up system has just significantly expanded, so I’m thinking I’m one or two hours away from the game losing some of its linearity and letting me roam a bit.

Is the story interesting? I know that’s very subjective, but I don’t even care if the combat isn’t to my liking, in an RPG it’s all about the story for me. Is it deep, does it make sense?
You don’t play Final Fantasy games for the compelling crafting system or the multitude of class options. Final Fantasy is all about 1) the story, 2) told with impressive cut scenes. I am really enjoying this story, more than the Final Fantasy games I’ve played or been told about. Each member of the ensemble cast is interesting and compelling, even the emo Hope (not at first, but it gets better).

In particular, the game feels very mature. Not in the Dragon Age sense of the word – you’re not graphically murdering things and sleeping with whores. To me, if feels like a fairy tale that is coming-of-age – the world is magical and the characters heroic, but they’re having to deal with more mature issues than past games have included. You have Snow, trying to save his fiancée; and Sazh, worried about his missing son; and Lightning, who is trying to deal with her own grief over her lost sister.

I really enjoy that the characters have developed, even in the course of twenty hours. For me the player, it’s very gratifying for Snow and Lightning and Hope to actually realize they’re being dumb, talk through their problems, and be better badasses for it.

Does your character ever get the opportunity to make decisions? I’m not expecting Mass Effect, but some control over the game’s events would be nice, or is that absent and hence what you meant by the game being criticize as “linear”?
No opportunity what-so-ever. In that regard, the game is very cinematic.

That sort of gets at the heart of Final Fantasy games. Their greatest strength and weakness is their story. Either the characters work and the story is compelling, or you find it falls flat and isn’t fun. Or, most likely, it’s somewhere in between – “I love these three characters, but I never use that one guy because his attacks suck, and that one girl is a total bitch, and I think that one town has a dumb side story. But it’s a good game!”

Supporting that is the combat system: either you think it’s awesome, or it’s teh dumbness. The game system here rewards quick thinking and appropriate delegation to the AI. It’s surprisingly fun when your characters are allowed to switch between “paradigms” in the middle of a fight, suddenly becoming the class currently appropriate in the battle.

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