Final Fantasy XIII or Frigging Frustrating XIII?
Lets goto the positives first of all, the game has great graphics and Square has done themselves proud allowing the game on the PS3 to be played in 1080p and managed to limit slow downs to specific area's, the movies as always are top notch.
Sound is great, some weird choices in songs which don't really match the scenery but that is forgivable. And the story as always is very well executed.
But now the negatives, the character building is an integral part of any RPG but unfrotunately Square tried a similar method from FFXII and have the ability to learn attacks, spells and attributes through a series of nice looking but annoying Crystarium system. Which starts off nice and easy but later on in the game becomes the most annoying thing.
Why annoying? Well it becomes necessary to really spend Crystatium Points (CP) as much as you can later, and it becomes even harder to get those points you need to level up your character. This can be very difficult as once the game starts to open up (well not completely but feels a bit more open) the creatures you will fight will progressively become very very difficult. So to make them easier to fight you have to beat them to get the CP, so it is a kind of catch 22 situation.
Combat is relatively simple but so focused mostly on luck on what the NPC's will target next, you can change battle roles through a Paradigm system (which ill talk about in a bit), if done right you can switch a role and instant use your attacks etc. At the start of the game you should not have much problems, but as said later on it does become luck.
Another part of the combat system is Staggering, each opponent has a bar under their health bar that fills up when you attack them, straight forward attacks (aka Commando role and some of the Sentinel role) will only put it up slightly but allow the bar to fall slowly, offensive spells (Ravager role) will increase it sharply but will cause the bar to decrease quicker, so you have to have a mix of both Commando and Ravager to make sure the bar increases without too much problem. As the bar increases the % of damage you can deal increases also.
Once staggered the opponent will take on more damage (some creatures have a large bar to fill, average is around 130% some have 500% or more), and each subsequent attack adds more and more % to the damage you can deal, which is great for very tough high healthed mobs.
And no more gil through battles, unfortunately that is true, you will find gil through chests in game (like floating orbs) and by selling things you find along the way at shops at a save point. Infact gil becomes less important in this game, as people who are a fan of this game love to go out and grind the materials needed for leveling your equipment. Yes you heard me right you can level your weapons and accessories too, joys.
As said, at save points you can upgrade your weapons by using materials also your accessories, some materials like bones and skins give little XP towards their level but also give a positive XP increase (max is 3x), and machine parts give more XP but a negative XP (min is 1x). A hint for people get 36 sturdy bones and use them to get your 3x multiplier and then use Perfect Conductors, 20 of these usually max the levels for weapons, 10 for items (not always the case). Once they reach the maximum levels you can use another material to open up a 2nd XP gain on them.
I have noticed some reviews say you can only have 1 accessory slot that is not true, they obviously only started playing, through the CP system you can come across a attribute called Accessory, which gives another slot, usually on your characters class role, Lightning the heroine is a commando so you will find it on there, along with an ATB slot addition further on.
Ok now the Paradigm system, the Paradigm system basically allows you to make combinations of roles for your 3 characters that you can switch between in battle, the usual decent one is Commando, Medic and Ravager. For healing and Stagger bar increase. But sometimes you will come across nasties that will hit hard so you will have to stagger them quicker, so you can go for a RAV, RAV, COM build or all RAV for quickness. But switching to this means no healing so you cant stay on it for long just enough time to get that staggered bar up, then switch back. The main positive as I have said already is when switching usually you will have a full gauge to use all your attack/spell/heal slots.
And like most people have said its annoying, you really only control 1 character in the battle and if your character (leader) dies while the other 2 are up and alive then its game over, very unfair if you are unlucky enough to get every mob hit in one go. And it means you are limited to using the leaders Eidolon mid fight, whereas one other persons Eidolon would have been better suited, fortunately later on you can choose who to put in your party and choose who the leader will be so you can switch around.
Eidolon collecting is really annoying, without a guide you will be guessing the best way to increase a bar called a Gestalt bar to full to be able to capture them. This is tough enough sometimes but it is even tougher when your leader has a few minutes to do it in before dying due to the death spell put on your leader by the Eidolon.
I will say one thing to interested players, after your hours of linear running through tunnels, once you reach Gran Pulse DO attack mobs around the first map (except anything bigger than you :P and yes even 40 ft mobs nice looking that they are will trample you easily), this is to get CP up, it can take a few hours, but it is well worth it, because those damn frogs later will destroy you if your not lucky to catch them unaware to get a pre-emptive attack (which is practically impossible in large groups of them) which quickly allows a near full staggered meter on all the mobs (which fall quickly) and gives you a bit of a chance.
So overall, it is an enjoyable story and definite eye candy, but flawed in the character progression and overall linear and difficult game play later. Square really needs to patch this to decrease the mobs difficulty when arriving in Gran Pulse to give people a chance to enjoy the area rather than become frustated of dying quite regularly.
The game is definitely been designed for the Asians in mind, as they love this type of battle system, but westerners are not keen on it, so I gave it a 8/10 and I'm being generous maybe because I'm a fan of the Final Fantasy series, for old fans they may enjoy it to a degree, but for new players I suggest perhaps buying the Final Fantasy's from the PSN store in the PS1 games, 7,8 and 9 are available there. That is how an RPG should be, shame square if you had kept most of those elements in this game it could have been a higher score. I think Gamespot were being nice with their score too.
Ultimately over the last few years the FF franchise is slowly dying, which is a shame, but even more so is instead of doing FFXIII why did they not even comprehend a remake of FFVII? It would have sold by the bucket loads. Silly Square.