An intriguing world and story,with a love story,beautiful presentation and exciting new FF battle system.
1300 years ago,the fal'Cie(which are mechanical beings with godlike power and are believed to have been created by a being called the Maker)constructed a paradise for humanity,which is the the shell-like city of Cocoon which floats high in the sky above the surface of their world known as 'Pulse'.A war was fought between the fal'Cie of Pulse and the fal'Cie of Cocoon and the fal'Cie of Cocoon were victorious.However,the people who live in Cocoon live in fear that Pulse might invade once again and the Cocoon government purify Cocoon,so nothing that has been in contact with Pulse is allowed into Cocoon and they do this with their highest ranking soldiers known as PSICOM,and they will remove,exile or will even kill any person who has been in contact with Pulse.Most people in Cocoon have never even seen what the surface of their world(Pulse)looks like.
The fal'Cie choose humans to become l'Cie,an must complete a task referred to as a 'focus' or they will turn into a monster.They aren't even told what their focus is and must discover it for themselves and clues to their focus are shown through visions.
Due to the fact the Cocoon government oppress the citizens of Cocoon so much,a rebel group known as NORA are rebelling against the Cocoon government and one of the main characters named 'Snow' is their leader.You'll also be introduced to other characters named Lightning,Serah (non-playable),Sazh,Vanille,Hope,Fang.
Serah is Lightning's fiancee and Lightning's younger sister and I'll try not to give too many spoilers for the story but anyways Serah came into contact with a fal'Cie from Pulse and gets choosen to be an l'Cie and the fal'Cie captured Serah so Snow and Lightning need to try to find a way to save Serah and they have a limited amount of time to do so since she was transform into a monster soon and they'll go on an epic journey to save Serah and Sazh,Vanille,Hope join them on their journey and later on so does Fang,but the story will become about more more than this too,especially since much of the story is like a soap opera style drama because Lightning doesn't approve of Serah's relationship with Snow and Serah gets caught in the middle of this and there is a lot of backstory about Serah's past and Lightning's past and the story presenation is great and there's long story scenes that show how the government on Cocoon operates and what NORA are up to.
There is some emotional backstories and interesting sidestories to learn about from the characters and from the world.
The story has a lot of emotion because the love story between Snow and Serah is presented with some emotional scenes and you'll see Snow's determination to be with Serah and to save her even after she becomes a l'Cie or even before when Lightning was getting in the way of Snow and Serah's relationship.
The combat uses an ATB system and combines with with 'paradigms' which are combinations of different roles for your party members to do during battle.The roles they can do are:-
Commando-Powerful warrior who uses melee attacks
Ravanger-The equivalent to a black mage.They can cast powerful,attack spells.
Medic-The equivalent to a white mage.They cast healing spells.
Sentinel-A very well thought up role.The sentinel goes into a defensive mode and can withstand a lot of damage and enemy attacks don't do much damage when a sentinel is blocking.However,a sentinel has limited attacking abilities.
Synergist-They cast stat boosts on your characters,such as haste,protect,shell etc.
Saboteur-They casts spells which weaken enemies(allowing your attacks to do a lot more damage),slows them down,poisons them or makes them much less effective in battle.
All of these roles will need to be used at some point.
Your characters can learn any of these roles but each character specializes in certain roles.For example Lightning is a great commando,decent ravanger(which makes her a good secondary healer)but she isn't good as a sentinel.
On the otherhand,Hope is a great ravanger and synergist but he isn't a good commando or sentinel.
Snow is a great commando and sentiel but he isn't good as a ravanger.
To make things more interesting,certain characters have unique abilities which only they can do or only a few characters can do,even if other characters fully learn the role that corresponds to that ability.
For example,only Vanille can use the saboteur ability called 'death' can instantly kill certain enemies(even certain bosses)but has a low chance of working.
Some characters can launch staggered enemies into the air(I will explain about how staggering works later)and after the enemy has been launched into the air they'll stay in the air for a while and cannot attack and when your party members land attacks on staggered enemies it does much more damage to them.
Sazh has an ability to instantly stagger an enemy and even though Sazh's best syngergist abilities can be learned by a few other characters it's good to have him in your party because you want other characters who are better equipped to be a saboteur or sentinel or commando to focus on learning those roles first and have Sazh be your first primary synergist.
It's important to think about your paradigm combinations carefully because timing is more important than ever in FFXIII.
Besides just a health bar,the enemies have a stagger bar and when it's full the enemies are much more vulnerable to your attacks and will sustain a lot of damage when you hit them but it only lasts for a short time.However,when you're fighting against enemies that have a lot of health points or a lot of armor,staggering them can be crucial.Magic attacks make the stagger bar move up much faster,but you occasionally need to hit an enemy with physical attacks to stop the stagger bar from dropping fast.
The characters summon eidolons and eidolons can be helpful in different ways,for one they fully heal and revive party members and they can slow down time and if you have a boss or enemy poisoned it can be very helpful(especially since eidolons take damage for your party members)and eidolons can inflict a lot of damage quickly but an eidolon can be used only once during a battle unless you replenish your TP using an elixir and you can replenish your TP from fighting enemies.
Common complaints I hear about FFXIII is it's linear and there's no towns to visit.Well,there is some little communities/villages with people,there isn't much of them,but it was that way in FFX,and I didn't see anybody complain about FFX being that way.The paths are often linear straight paths and it would have been nice to have more open environments like in other FF games but when you arrive on Gran Pulse there is huge and wide open space to explore and lots of sidequests you can do and Gran Pulse looks very realistic and detailed and filled with creatures running around like real animals and it's breathtaking.It's a shame you can't talk to NPCs and hear charming things or interesting things they have to say unlike in other FF games.
However,it would be nice if I could revisit more of the places that I traveled through.After you complete the game,you can revisit certain places on Gran Pulse and Cocoon but not all including some very beautiful locations.
There is no actual store buildings,the stores are available at save points and this makes it much quicker to buy what you need.However,some people were unhappy the traditional style stores that are inside buildings and that have people working inside them are absent from FFXIII,personally I don't mind them not being there,but perhaps the team that worked on this game should have added some of the traditional style stores while also allowing stores to be accessed at the save points.
That brings up another interesting point,in FFXIII,after each battle your health is restored to full.So you don't need to waste money and time buying more healing potions or using magic to heal your characters after a battle.Also,I'm not sure if you can run out of magic during battle because I saw no MP bar and I casted magic a lot and I actually like this system,as you only need to concentrate on the battle you're engaged in and can use your most powerful attacks and spells and don't have to worry about being conservative.
Also,if you die in battle you respawn close to where you died and you keep all the CP you earned(CP is like experience points in which you need to level up) so you don't need to have to worry about constantly saving or traveling a long way,dying,then have to restart from a previous save point(although there's frequent save points when you move through the environments).
I guess it feels like FFXIII is suited to people who have limited time to play games and don't have much time to waste traveling across the world to a store or inn.
The leveling up in FFXIII uses a Crystarium,which is similar to FFX's sphere grid.You can choose which stats you want to concentrate on and level them up quicker.If you want to level up as a commando,you will greatly increase the strength and HP stats of your character.If you level up as a ravanger your magic will become stronger quickly and you will gain access to powerful spells sooner.If you level up as a medic,you'll gain access to the strongest healing spells quicker.
There is no random enemies,enemies respawn when you re-enter certain places and you gain CP from enemies you defeat.If you don't want to fight enemies you can try to run past them although some of them are fast but you can also move past them undetected or sneak up on them for a pre-emptive attack and you'll almost have them staggered from the beginning.
The game has 13 chapters and in chapter 11 you will be able to roam a big,open landscape,(Gran Pulse)and you can attempt side missions.
The game is beautiful and have a nice mixture of realistic visuals and artistic effects.Right from the start of the game,you'll see breath taking scenery of mountains,some sort of high speed rail transportation system move through the mountains,beautiful footage of the sky,clouds and Cocoon floating in the sky and you'll see inside the elegant Cocoon.
There's scenery of beautiful tropical locations,with beautiful sunsets.I love the way the beach blended with palm the trees and a beautiful sunset,you have to see it to understand how beautiful it looks.There's spectacular fireworks for some ceremony,and other amazing things to see(I don't want to spoil it for you).The emotional scenes/romance scenes are done very well,especially a certain story scene when Serah is with Snow and she's crying and you can see how they're in love and the atmosphere is very beautiful,it was very heart felt.The characters have great detail in their skin tone,hair,clothes,facial features etc.
I loved watching those little,white objects that remind of those white flowers that float in the air,floating all around the place,with beautiful scenery in the background.
Some of the scenes are very exciting to watch,and last for a long time,especially a scene when some people are racing some flying vehicles through cocoon,and the party show up and things get very hectic and fast paced.
Inside cocoon,even though it can look beautiful,in some places it did give me a feeling how isolated it can be too being surrounded by a giant metal structure high in the air and when parts of cocoon start collapsing and people fell to their death it was very spectacular although frightening to watch.
There's also a scene high in the sky where the airship breaks apart and some of the characters get swept out of the ship and the other characters need to jump out and try to use the eidoloons to save them and it's quite incredible to watch.
Another thing I'd like to mention is it can be breath taking seeing Gran Pulse when you travel through it.The creatures run around just like real animals.It looks like a wide open grassy African plains.Those giant turtle looking creatures are so huge and walk with a realistic cumbersome footsteps and can be seen from far away.There's some savage,fast moving carnivores which hunt in packs and you'll even see a scene when they hunt down and are about to tear a chocobo apart.The cinematics even showed a massive creature which towers over everything,even over the giant turtles and they pick up creatures with one handle and gobble them up whole.
The music can be beautiful at times,I prefer the music in the Japanese version much more and if the localized versions of this game used the Japanese music it would have given some of the emotional story scenes even more feeling but the music for the Non-Japanese version is still soothing and beautiful at times and suitable.As for the voice acting,I like Snow's,Lightning's and Zach's voices.Vanille's changing accent was a bit weird and I didn't like Fang's deep Australian accent which makes her sound like someone from the Australian outback.
Overall-A wonderful game in terms of story,gameplay,graphics/presentation.