Other Take

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - A Newcomer's Take

  • Game release: February 11, 2014
  • Reviewed: April 4, 2014
  • X360

A very poor place to start.

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After enjoying only a select few JRPGs over the years, Chris Watters dedicated just under 20 hours to Lightning Returns, his first ever Final Fantasy game.

I had never played a Final Fantasy game. For all the countless hours I've spent at a computer or a console, how had I never delved into this iconic franchise? Lack of access to the right systems and lack of time to devote to such lengthy adventures have come and gone as excuses. Maybe it's a question of desire? I don't often seek out Japanese role-playing games, but there have been a few over the years that have snagged my interest. I played and enjoyed a solid chunk of Chrono Trigger, and was charmed by the world of Ni No Kuni. I completed 2007's lovely, sentimental Eternal Sonata, perhaps the best experience I've had with a JRPG. A paltry resume, to be sure, but I've always been intrigued by the grand adventures and enduring characters that FF fans are so passionate about, and so I resolved to play a Final Fantasy game.

I chose the wrong Final Fantasy game.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII starts off with a splashy cutscene that shows beautiful people engaged in elegant combat in a fantastical city. This kind of intricately rendered video seems to have fallen out of fashion of late, but as aspirational introductions go, it did the trick. Even though I didn't know the players involved, I was intrigued and excited about the world I was about to explore, eager to learn more about the creatures and characters. But as a newcomer to the trilogy that Lightning Returns concludes (as well as the series as a whole), I knew I had some catching up to do, and I was a bit worried about keeping up with all the lore I was about to immerse myself in.

As it turns out, Lightning Returns does a very thorough job of laying the foundation for the events to come. It didn't take me long to understand Lightning's strange role as the savior charged by God to save the souls of the citizenry before God's own doomsday clock runs out. Apparently, the world of Nova Chrysalia has been in a slowly decaying holding pattern for five centuries since the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2. No one has aged, no one has died of natural causes, and no one has been born; they've all just coasted along waiting for something to happen as a mysterious force called chaos slowly encroached on their world.

It's an intriguing setting, one that raises questions about how a static society might change as its citizens grow wise, bored, or crazy after long years of the same thing. But Lightning Returns continues to explain the setting long after the stage has been set. In the interminable exposition sequence and subsequently through hours and hours of adventuring, the dialogue in Lightning Returns is riddled with redundancy. Characters make observations only to have their conversation partners reword and regurgitate the same information without adding anything of substance. This constant reiteration makes it seem like the only reason that people talk is to drill information into your head rather than to flesh out personalities, create dramatic tension, or evoke emotion.

And so Lightning Returns isn't initially confusing, as I'd feared, but initially dull. Lightning herself doesn't exactly sparkle with charisma, and in the early hours she acts like she's still a bit groggy after her epic nap. The fate of thousands of strangers isn't much motivation, but the chance to reunite with her long-dead sister gets her going even though, as she remarks, "God is using my dead sister as a bargaining chip." This quip is a welcome bit of sardonic self-awareness, and it's when Lightning Returns gets a bit playful that it begins to show a spark of life. A chef observes, "People are more health conscious these days, which is ironic, given the times." A public announcement seeking Lightning declares, "She has rose-colored hair and is carrying an enormous weapon." A random kid running through a plaza trips and falls. Unfortunately, these lighthearted moments are rare, and most conversations with townsfolk and quest givers are dry and colorless.

And playing the role of the trickster...

Interactions with returning characters are more colorful. Lightning reunites with a few friends from the past, though whether or not they are friends anymore is often uncertain. One clash pits Lightning against a grief-stricken former comrade in a test of how far each is willing to go for the chance to see a dead loved one again. Another relationship has become antagonistic over the centuries, and Lightning's musings about the passage of time and its effect on relationships resonate nicely with the intriguing setting. Yet these conversations, while often staged with stylish camera angles, nonetheless suffer from the redundancy that plagues so much of the dialogue. Characters repeat themselves and parrot each other frequently, as if trying to drill basic situations and concepts into your head so you don't forget them. Narrative development becomes belabored exposition, and even after I was well into the game, I still felt impatient for things to get under way.

The first proper task set before Lightning is to investigate a string of murders in the city of Luxerion. The worlds of Final Fantasy have always struck me as having an interesting mix of gothic, modern, and fantastical architecture, and this proved true about the streets of Luxerion. Attendants in trim, vaguely futuristic uniforms populate train stations with gold Victorian trimmings. A soaring gothic cathedral plays host to supplicants that wouldn't look out of place in a pop music video. Coming across these exotic pairings makes exploring the city enjoyable, though the abundance of drab plazas and dreary alleyways begins to get tiresome after a while. Luxerion has seen better days, but the glittering city of Yusnaan seems to be in a state of perpetual polish. Nightly festivals make this area much livelier and more visually appealing, but this hustle and bustle has a downside. Street musicians, loudspeaker announcements, idle chatter, and walkie-talkie messages from Hope can all layer on top of one another and create a cacophony in which everything is unintelligible.

The two wilderness areas offer quieter exploration, though the incidence of tough monsters effectively confines you to the urban areas for quite some time. You can travel freely between each of these four large locales, and each offers an array of quests that lead to the collection of the all-important souls. Some quests must be hunted down by talking to citizens, while others can be grabbed from a handy quest board staffed in each area by a character that looks like a cross between a tropical bird and a female prostitute. I'm not sure what turn of events led to this provocative reimagining of the iconic chocobo, but judging by some of Lightning's outfits, it's not a new phenomenon.

Bird on a Street Corner.

Some quests require more running around and listening to lackluster dialogue, but most involve the game's most enjoyable element: combat. Lightning enters the fray with three different gear sets called schemata. Each schemata is made up of a weapon, a few abilities, and a number of clothing options, all of which can affect your attributes and resistances. Switching between schemata on the fly isn't just a matter of bringing your deadliest attacks to bear on the enemy; it's also a resource management challenge. You have only a certain amount of energy per schemata, and once it's drained, you can't use any of that schemata's abilities until it recharges.

This makes combat a bit of a juggling act, which encourages you to design your schemata strategically. Early on I simply loaded all my best gear into one schemata and used the others to kill time while my best one recharged. As I acquired more gear and enemies grew tougher, I restructured my schemata to focus on physical attack, magical attack, and defense. Dealing the right kind of damage can stagger enemies, opening them up to serious pummeling, and timely blocking is essential in tougher fights. Nimble schemata switching and smart energy management are the keys to victory, and exploiting these tactics is an engaging and dynamic challenge.

Which is not to say that I was a terribly skilled fighter. I had to use heal and revive items frequently while clashing with formidable enemies, and occasionally made use of Lightning's handful of special EP powers to get myself out of a bind. As I progressed, difficult fights began to drag on longer and longer, and the lively juggling act of combat began to lose its luster. The challenge no longer seemed to arise from skillfully juggling schemata, but rather from simply grinding out tedious encounters. Combat was still tough, but as endurance took on a larger and larger role, my interest waned.

Almost 20 hours in to Lightning Returns, I gave it up. Perhaps if I had known the main characters' histories, their relationships would have resonated more strongly. Perhaps if I was previously enamored with the worlds of Final Fantasy, Nova Chrysalia would have intrigued me more. While I'll never know what my perspective would have been, I do know that, as a newcomer to Final Fantasy, Lightning Returns didn't feel unwelcoming. From combat to characters, the game did a lot to make sure I knew where I was, what I was doing, and why I was doing it. The problem isn't that it's a poor choice for newcomers; the problem is that it's a poor game.

The Good
Combat can be a lively juggling act
Some appealing architecture
The Bad
Combat becomes too endurance-focused
Dialogue is often dry and redundant
Introductory sequences drag on
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

About the Author

After enjoying only a select few JRPGs over the years, Chris Watters dedicated just under 20 hours to Lightning Returns, his first ever Final Fantasy game.

Discussion

322 comments
MalakTawus
MalakTawus

"The problem isn't that it's a poor choice for newcomers; the problem is that it's a poor game."


Or maybe you simply are a poor player and a poor reviewer, just saying.....

zombiefreak47
zombiefreak47

how the fuck can you judge the third game without playing the previous two, get over yourself this review is trash

dadlm
dadlm

so... when will they returned with the classic gameplay.. or what about a gameplay that everyone will like? FFXII gameplay wasnt that bad but the gambit killed the game...i didn't even need to play sometimes to beat a boss... and a FFVI remaster could be a good idea (i know they already did one in the gba)

Anyways I hope FFXV would be a success and the gameplay won't be a downfall....

LtReviews
LtReviews

I gotta say, I really like the "Different take" review thing.


Hope you guys keep this up.


I could never get into JRPG's either.

rickphoenixxx
rickphoenixxx

The great production values alone warrant this at least a five or six even with it's issues, it's the same deal with Resident Evil 6.This site gives freaking everything a 7 or 8, why punish this with a 4? And I didn't anyone hired by a GAMING site couldn't have played one of the countless FF games across all the console generations heck I have only owner half of the consoles and i have played about half the FF games. Wanna hire me to do reviews?

mimsoo
mimsoo

Everyday i walk as fast as i can back home to play FF13-3, passing through hot babes on the street whom i'm suppose to bang. I personally thinks its the best in the Trilogy. I give it an 8.5! :)

shenmuethree
shenmuethree

Most people commenting here probably weren't even born when chrono trigger was released. I don't even remember playing any jrpg's until golden sun on gameboy adanced, before that I only heard a little bit about final fantasy 7. If someone was reviewing games & told me they'd never played pac man before, or mario bros then I'd be a lot more surprised, but jrpg's have always been a little bit niche in videogames, I think it's only recently with emulators people are starting to play all the old ones more. I highly doubt there's many people here who were old enough to play/bought chrono trigger on the snes. 


I think reviewing a game is a lot more about being unbiased & being able to write well, I wouldn't say a really in-depth knowledge into every single video game series ever released is particularly critical 

bilson22
bilson22

Typical FPS FANBOY BIAS.


You know what kind of lousiness deserves a 4? Check out Rambo: the video game. That's what deserves a 4, not this.

Reddevil66666
Reddevil66666

I'm not saying this is a great game, but this is for sure one of the worst and laziest review I have ever scene in Gamespot. Gave up because the combat was becoming harder? WTF?

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

The review is accurate.  It doesnt matter if he doesnt play rpgs much, what matters is the game needs to be good.  And that doesnt matter if you start playing a series from the beginning or in the middle.


I started playing Mass Effect 2 NOT ME1.  I loved ME2 so much that I got ME3 and then ME1 once it was released for the PS3.  The fact is, the games are good and this isnt.

Albaficas
Albaficas

No wonder the guy is a fps fanboy

but at least fair rview for that crappy "ff" game

glad the XIII saga is done for good

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Thankfully Square may have actually realized that FF13 is utter garbage and Bravely Default should be the model for their RPGs.  We can only hope that they immediately begin making proper JRPGs again.

brn819
brn819

Question: I have never played any FF either and I want to get one for the ps3. Do you guys recommend the new FFX remaster or FFXIII? I love kingdom hearts and most rpg/3rd person games. I dont know why I've never picked one up before considering I've had playstations all my life since the PS1

SilentXero
SilentXero

Well...............That's why you don't start a FUCKING GAME beginning with the FINAL game in the trilogy! What the hell did you expect? Go back to the XIII-part 1, then XIII-part 2......and then...........well you figure it out. 

nicecall
nicecall

i'm not a hardcore jrpg fan, but i've played a lot of them, probably at least 40+... and I can't believe a guy who hasn't played a Final Fantasy game before can be hired on a site that reviews games for a living, or even be giving a chance to review the jrpg genre without being a fan of it.  Gamespot must have a hard time finding qualified people, their reviewers here are awful noobs.

Ok this is a bad game, but at least only have people who respect or actually like the genre they are reviewing or the reviews are meaningless crap.  Its like having a FPS kid try to review a game like Civilization... they just don't get it and can't give a proper opinion on it.

Its fine and good this review was written with sentences and capitals, but i'd rather have an review written by someone who can barely type a sentence but has true experience and opinions rather then acting like a poser who likes games and playing a genre they don't like.

slainta
slainta

"others can be grabbed from a handy quest board staffed in each area by a character that looks like a cross between a tropical bird and a female prostitute. I'm not sure what turn of events led to this provocative reimagining of the iconic chocobo, but judging by some of Lightning's outfits, it's not a new phenomenon."

Say what? Is this Chris whatever trashing my most loveable Chocolina? WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING WHO AND WHAT SHE REALLY IS?!

As a punishment now this Chris has to play FF XIII and FF XIII-2 begin to end DLCs included (DLCs are a must indeed for Chocolina).

hinzkunz
hinzkunz

I never played a Final Fantasy Game ... and then find it a good idea to start with the 3rd part of the 13th entry (which is anyway critised for having a rather obscure story and not very likeable characters) in the Franchise ... and when I don't get it I moan and bitch about the story and the characters? Not only that but I write an offical review about it, that is supposed to be any use whatsover? Or was it just written to fill some virtual space completly uselessly ... then fair enough.


Oh for crying out loud Gamespot ...



jesot
jesot

Person who doesn't like JRPGs didn't like a JRPG.  OK.

Rtarroyo
Rtarroyo

How can you have a videogames related job and never have played any of the Final Fantasy games?! Thats very odd! Even if you dont like the genre, you have to give it a shot even if only for professional knowlodge's sake!

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Unlike some of you, I welcome the opinion of a newcomer. It may not be versed in lore and such of the franchise, but at least it's free of the taint of expectations.

(Of course, some of you don't realize that the opinion of a series veteran is already inherently loaded with bias.)

Rakou
Rakou

Having completed most of the Final Fantasy titles + being a huge Final Fantasy fan, I actually enjoyed FF13. But I guess that's because virtual characters never really irritate me anymore - not even Vanille and Sazh.

(Based off the first FF13 title alone) Lightning is my third favourite FF character, behind Rinoa and Zack.

thingta42
thingta42

@zombiefreak47  


Cough X-II is a perfect example of "Not" needing to play the other games in the series in order to understand or enjoy a game. Look at the Alien movie series. You don't need to watch the 1st one in order to understand what the freck i going on. It's bad design choice flat out. I played the first one for 20 mins and i returned it to the store and got my money back. Never touching a modern FF game ever again.

Geogyf
Geogyf

Btw i forgot Game Rankings. 70/100 


So Metacritic 69/100, Game Rankings 70/100.

are a mile away from Gamespot's 5/10 and 4/10 reviews.


One of the few times i see a Gamespot review that missed the average review score by so large a margin.

cory_vet_gamer
cory_vet_gamer

@dadlm  Honey i really wanted to believe that FFXV will revive the traditional JRPG gameplay but after watching the trailer i doubt that will be possible, in the begining there's a statement that says ''this will be a Final Fantasy based in real life'', what the hell!? FF is not based in a mythos? a tale like the previous games [yes even the morbid FFXIII ''saga'' followed this formula] and the gameplay part was quite...depressing it depicted a Action/RPG style with Hack & Slash elements, what the hell is this? looks like SE is still refusing to hear the fans they keep transforming FF in everything less a JRPG that infuriates me and everyone who wants to see the origins of this franchise again.

cory_vet_gamer
cory_vet_gamer

@shenmuethree  No youre wrong honey knowledge about the game/genre in question is always a must in any topic of conversation or critic otherwise you end talking about your opinions and that is not good the VAST majority of people here tends to stick with that personal vision,If the reviewer is unbiased or not is not really the problem depending on what he/she is craving for, in the case of a JRPG if the reviewer is looking at the common elements of the genre then it's a fair critic and in this review Chris did a good job he appointed the absence of many things that directly related with the genre that defines its quality.

Yamaneko22
Yamaneko22

@bilson22 Rambo: the video game deserves less than 4

Albaficas
Albaficas

@brn819  FFX HD all the way dont bother with XIII its the worst ff of the franchise

if u dont mind graphics then ff6-7-8-9-10 are a must

179107199999
179107199999

@SilentXero  If a game series is good enough, where you start wouldn't matter. Past FF games were like that as were Dragon Quest games. If you were new to the  Elder Scrolls games you could pick those up without knowing the histories and still enjoy them. 

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@SilentXero Why do you want him to suffer so much by having to play the other travesties?

179107199999
179107199999

@nicecall  He stated that he played Chrono Trigger and Eternal Sonata. But he played SquareSofts' Chrono Trigger and he stated he enjoyed that game.He is review is understandable.He represnents a different perspective.What he said about it is pretty much what was said about FF13 LR in the past.

freeko
freeko

@nicecall Well, you have an opinion, but your basis is flawed. Not everyone is a final fantasy fanboy. Not everyone (like me) has played every final fantasy in the order they have been released in the states. How does it make their opinion any less valid than anyone else's opinion? Clearly you have no base to stand on with this being a good game, as it is not.


So I guess the only way a fanboy can lash out at yet another terrible final fantasy game is to attack the person making the review? The "qualified" reviewer gave this game a 5. The second opinion of someone who is not as educated in rpgs in general did not like the game as much, so lets draw some conclusions here. Rpg fans might tolerate this game a lot more than someone who is not a fan of the genre and is looking for an rpg to start with. That is pretty definitively the tone of the review, and it could not be any more obvious than the first tag line that says, "A very poor place to start.".


I have no problem with this review as it is the reviewer's opinion that this game is not very good. He goes into reasons why, and they are all valid.



cory_vet_gamer
cory_vet_gamer

@nicecall  There's nothing wrong with his review honey it reflected the truth about this ''saga'', he did a good job and i wonder if you and the others who probably have some fondness with this pseudo JRPG could do the same,  there are many people here that keep saying that he never played a FF game before or know much about JRPG but that is not a decisive factor to review a game he played games like NNK, CT and Eternal Sonata so he knows what a JRPG is made of in other words he knows the elements of the genre and he stated that LR is missing them in his review he deserved some credit for that.

SilentXero
SilentXero

@nicecall   Exactly! Maybe they should hire actual gamers who actually have knowledge and experience and especially LOVE for the genre and who at LEAST understand how the games work, how to play them, and get through them. Hey, GameSpot, I'm looking for a job, try to contact me and you'll be more than happy; evermore so, the people that actually are gamers who want credible experience (35 years and counting) and someone who can review something objectively.  

cory_vet_gamer
cory_vet_gamer

@hinzkunz  Honey like you said you never played a game of the franchise you have no idea of how pathetic this ''saga'' really is,youre in no position to complain about those who disliked or hated it and you think this ''saga'' is hated because of a ''obscure'' story and unlikeable characters? that is only the tip of the iceberg the most serious issues in this ''saga ''lies elsewhere the gameplay says for itself.

freeko
freeko

@hinzkunz Not everyone can claim as I can to have played every final fantasy in the order that they were released. Most people I would say were introduced to the franchise with final fantasy 7 and its very very in your face marketing. The review is valid as far as I am concerned, as the only people that would like this game are people who are already hooked on the franchise. Someone who is not a final fantasy veteran should not start here. That is the point of this whole review.

chibistevo32
chibistevo32

@jesot  Yet he liked Chrono Trigger.


People can still tell something good from Sh**

179107199999
179107199999

@Rtarroyo  Chrono Trigger was created by SquareSoft and was produced by Hironobu Sakaguch. It wasn't Final Fantasy but in many aspects it was better but anyway point is Chrono Trigger is related to FF

jesot
jesot

@Gelugon_baat  Except the first review was already by someone who doesn't like JRPGs.  At least bring in the perspective of someone who enjoys the genre if you're going to review it a second time.

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

@cory_vet_gamer

Its sadly a thing that happens to many great games from the past. They have the need to please the mainstream gamer and simply don't care about the fans. But the mainstream gamer often doesn't go for these games so in the end they try to please people who are not waiting for such a game and screw over those who are waiting for it (not just Final Fantasy).


SE is also in a position where they try to please the western market to much. Trying to find out what works for the west. In the past when Japanese games where made for their market first and translated to the past they still had their own identity. That is why gamers liked them, for what they where back then. 

Now no one really knows what they are anymore. SE isn't know for listening to comments from people though. During the FF14 beta (the first time not the remake) SE didn't listen at all to the people who where actively reporting bugs and broken mechanics. Many of the things i reported for months where not looked into. And i wasn't the only one who reported them, others did so too. SE just doesn't like comments when they think they do it the right way. Don't expect them to listen, they won't, they think they do a good job with Final Fantasy, and sadly its just another long time running series that has abandoned the olds fans in favor of trying to gain new ones.

Geogyf
Geogyf

@cory_vet_gamer @nicecall  the JRPG is a genre that develops many styles of RPGs.

FF Tactics can be compared with Agarest on most things.

Ni No Kuni can be compared with Eternal Sonata on most things

But some games are more different than others, despite that they belong in the JRPG category.

For example Ni No Kuni is very manga in its looks/style.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@dr_jashugan @Rtarroyo 

There are no official standard requirements for such a job - the only unwritten requirement is "force of personality". ;)

cory_vet_gamer
cory_vet_gamer

@Geogyf  That is not my point honey and if we compare the gameplay there's an abysmal difference between the FFXIII ''saga'' and those JRPG, the absence of many elements and others that was thumbed down because of the countdown like exploration and free roam are good examples.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII incorporates a brand-new story, world, characters and an enhanced gameplay system and is the final chapter in Lightning's saga
    6.2
    Average User RatingOut of 254 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
    Developed by:
    Square Enix
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence