Lightning Return's time limit, terrible battle system, poor quests and a convoluted storyline feels like a unfitting....

User Rating: 2 | Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII PC

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Game Title: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Platform: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC (Steam)/iOS & Android

Developer: Square Enix/Tri-Ace

Publisher: Square Enix

Genre: Role Playing

Age Rating: PEGI: 16+, CERO: B, ESRB: T for Teen

Release Date: PS3/XBox 360: 21st November 2013 (Japan), 11th February 2014 (North America), 13th February 2014 (Australia), 14th February 2014 (Europe) Microsoft Windows 10th December 2015 (World Wide) iOS & Android January 2016 (Japan)

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Game Score: 2.5/10

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Summery:

Lightning Return's time limit, terrible battle system, poor quests and a convoluted storyline feels like a unfitting conclusion to the XIII universe.

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The end has come for Final Fantasy XIII since after 4 years of the original game's release the story concludes with a third and final game in the XIII universe Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Rather then trying to improve on the foundations and game mechanics found in XIII-2, Lightning Returns goes for a complete gameplay change. The Final Fantasy XIII titles were known for their convoluted storylines, poor gameplay changes and shallow battle systems but Lightning Returns just adds more to the nonsense and it features so many gameplay annoyances that make the game perhaps a strong contender for being one of the top worst Final Fantasy games I think I ever played.

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In Lightning Returns the world is about to end and Lightning has been granted the task as the saviour and she has only a number of days before the world is destroyed. Lightning has to go around the world helping as many people as she can so that people can find peace in the new world. That means the game is set on one of the game's biggest faults which I will point out right of the bat, the time limit. That's right the game is set on a time limit and you have only a few ingame hours before the day ends, that means you have to explore each area where people can be helped and this can be both time consuming and frustrating for a number of reasons. First up some of the many quests in the game have to be done at a certain time of the day and if you miss that time of a person's objective well you have no choice but to wait for the next day for another chance or reload your current progress which by the way you will be doing so a lot in this game. Another reason is that most quests range from fetching items to talking with just other targeted NPC's around the area and then finally there are quests that are just plain stupid. In one quest you have to examine all 13 clocks in one town just to see if they are working, there's one quest where you have to get a group of runaway sheep back to their den and that quest happens twice. By far the worst quest I come across is the one where you race a small boy across the street and he is super slow and you can easily win against him with no challenge what-so-ever. Another reason is that every quest gives a stat boost such as increased health, attack power and an increased item capacity which means the more optional stuff you ignore the more difficult the later sections of the game will be. Lastly the optional quests feature no hand holding and what I mean by that the game doesn't point where every quest and required destinations so you can never tell where you are supposed to do or where to go this means that you'll end up forcing yourself to use a strategy guide or a online walkthrough telling you where everything is. You can place markers as a remainder but honestly having the game point out where the NPC quest is would have been far better. So instead of having to fight monsters to gain experience points and level up in the traditional fashion that we are accustomed to instead Lightning returns forces you into a role of an errant girl to have fighting chance and the poor quest design combined with the strict time limit makes sidequesting very stressful and it works against all typical RPG traits. One of Lightning's abilities called Chronostasis which allows you to stop time temporally, two things about though. Firstly it consumes EP which can be replenished by defeating enemies but only by a small amount and second the effects only last for about a small brief time. The amount of questing is required in order to stand a chance because there will be plenty of times that you will get into a boss encounter only that 5 minutes into it you realize that your stats are just not high enough to defeat it. Even the main quests in the game fail as well, most of the main story objectives have you trending through dungeons that have the same copy and pasted corridor environments over and over. The original XIII game's main downside was the linear corridor environment that you spent the entire game going through and they did resolved that in XIII-2, for Lightning Returns they did a half decent job of making the outdoor areas have some large open environments allowing you to tackle your objectives freely but the designers were just lazy with the indoor dungeons considering they look identical and it just gives a cause of deja-vu when you already explored that same corridor for the 30th time. There are puzzles which only involve pushing buttons to jumping across other platforms but the most annoying one is in the dead dunes temple where you forced to go through certain doors at the right time of the day otherwise you will end up stuck. Sometimes you never know exactly what doors you are meant to go through since some can lead to dead ends and you will end up losing an hour of the ingame time waiting for the other door to open and it can just be a absolute pain to navigate through.

Back to the storyline, after the events that took place in XIII-2 Lightning awakens from a 500 year frozen sleep and she notices that everyone has not aged at all and all her friends are still alive and the world is about to come to an end. She is also been made into a servant for the god Bhunivelze and if she does what he desires she will be able to reunite with her lost sister Serah. It tries to be an understandable premise but the amount of nonsense that are forced to put up with combined with zero character development truly let the plot down. First of all is Lightning herself, in the original game she had unlikeable personality and attitude which her annoying, in Lightning Returns she is now made emotionless for some reason by god's power and her low monotone voice by Ali Hillis simply ruins the energy of the events going on in every single cutscene. Also Hope who became a young man in XIII-2 strangely is back to mummy's boy Hope again for the same bizarre reason. Final Fantasy XIII's characters were never likeable in any regard and for the most part the same traits for each of the original is shown here plus the drama between Lightning and Snow is just as ridiculous as it was in the original game.

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Lightning Returns' other terrible gameplay features is the battle system, like the previous title XIII-2 you can strike an enemy in the field to start with an advantage and it is helpful however unlike other Final Fantasy games where you had a party of multiple characters to fight alongside with, Lightning is all on her own. You do get a temporally ally in one or two areas but for the entire game Lightning handles the rest on her own plus also it drops the active turn based menus from the other two games in favour of action orientated combat. In battles Lightning can instantly switch between one of three garbs called Schemata which can be customized to your liking, there are many different outfits that you can dress Lightning in and you can also set up to four abilities which correspond to the four buttons on the controller plus you can change the colour of each outfit as you wish, each Schemata has their own strengths and weaknesses like having high physical damage, equipped with higher level magic or having evasion or guarding abilities, you can change Lightning's abilities and even upgrade them to have better efficiency but some abilities are exclusive to some garbs and can't be removed but other abilities can be swapped. You can control Lightning's movement with the Left Analog Stick but however she moves so slow and awkward that it's impossible to dodge any incoming attacks by any normal method. All of Lightning's abilities use up a portion of the ATB bar and when it is drained you are supposed to instantly switch to the next available Schemata and use it's remaining ATB before doing the same thing with the third one you have set up. It's idea is there but the ATB bar fills back up at a very slow rate and I also hate that guarding even takes up some of the ATB bar. Think about that in Tales of Xillia and Tales of Graces F you can use the guard button to defend yourself without wasting any points as well as evading to avoid attacks freely and their battle systems can be very challenging, Lightning Returns on the other hand requires you to be on point and guard at the right time to reduce the damage taken or negate it completely but every enemy has a different attack style that sometimes it's difficult to get into a rtythm where you can spam attacks, switch Schemata and keep attacking before defending because you might end up spamming away while various spell effects end up preventing you from seeing an enemy's attack. Now look I played Secret of Mana on Super Nintendo, even Star Ocean and also some of the Tales of titles that I already mentioned so I like to say that I have a reasonable amount of Action RPG skill when it comes to those kind of games, but in Lightning Returns most of the time as I go ahead and use magic spells I don't see what enemy attack just hit me and it doesn't help that the game uses the stagger system from the previous XIII titles. In order to stagger the enemy so that you can damage it effectively is to continuously use a mixture of magic and attacks so that the meter fills up to the max which breaks down the enemy's guard for a short while or you can do a well timed guard if you're lucky which can also help with the result. It's the same kind of system which was used in the previous FFXIII games but in Lightning Returns as Lightning fights on her own it can be annoying to have to deal with the damage sponge enemies but it gets worse when in some battles you get to deal with 2 or more enemies on screen at once it can make battles more difficult to manage and you will end up taking plenty of damage from enemies that are off camera which can be unavoidable. If regular and boss encounters weren't hard enough there are also spots where the chaos can appear out to make the enemies inside much stronger. Another thing is the drop in frame rate which can also make the timing of defending against attacks more difficult and seriously you will end up dying so much because of the terrible battle mechanics that are either not refined and is overall a terrible variation of the combat system used early entries of the Tales of Series and Star Ocean. It's just one of the major examples of how the franchise is falling, it's poor attempt to try and make the fights more active by copying some ideas from other J-RPG franchises but never perfecting them in anyway as well cause that's a way to try and take the series forward right?

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By now I am starting to get really tired of having to give praise every Final Fantasy game I review just for the superb production values when the entire gameplay is so bad, but for Lightning Returns I have noticed the presentation is somewhat worse then the other two games. Like I said before about the environments they do have some large and open landscapes compared to the previous games but the details can look dry and flat and I noticed texture and shadow flickering in many areas that I went in and that combined with the indoor dungeons and also the bad frame rate I already mentioned make the game look worse considering that the game is running on the same game engine as the previous FFXIII games. On the plus side the cinematic cutscenes still carry the weight of the game's presentation considering the quality looks really good and also the character models alongside Lightning's outfits do look great dispute that some of them are quite revealing. Also you will also notice that there is some character model clipping and also I find it funny how the weapon you have sheathed manages to stay on the characters back when there is a bit of a gap between the character and weapon. Lastly the game's own tracks feel very lackbuster compared to the tracks were in the previous games and the game does actually use the tracks used from the previous FFXIII games to fill in the soundtrack list. The voice acting is mixed between excellent performance from Troy Baker voicing Snow to other characters like Lightning, Vanille and this annoying girl named Lumina who's voice performance is a little poor.

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So by now people might not be sure if Lightning Returns is even worth buying but let me break this down to anyone who wants to finish the XIII trilogy, do yourself a massive favour and just stay away from this game. Lightning Returns' game mechanics are so strict on time limit and that be overwhelming for newcomers to get used to, the battle system is just plain awful and the storyline just adds more incomprehensible nonsense which is both dum and painful to even sit through. There are some new game plus options which can allow you to improve weapons as well as giving you a limit break after completing the game but really they should have been unlockable during the main game instead which is a mistake on the designers part and it doesn't help improve the gameplay in anyway. I am glad that this is the end of the Final Fantasy XIII universe but however we will never see the end of Lightning as she will be in future Final Fantasy titles which is really, really sad. Lightning has to be one of the worst Final Fantasy characters of all time and she really needs to die a horrible death and never to be featured in future games again. Out of all the XIII titles I played so far this game is by the worst with XIII-2 possibly being the best of the three, to be honest I do recommend this game but in fact I do not recommend playing either one of the FFXIII games to be honest because they all have bad storylines, weak and shallow gameplay and lets be honest we didn't want Final Fantasy XIII to have a sequel in the first place and this game is just full proof of that.

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The Good Points:

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1. You can dress Lightning in various outfits and the cinematic cutscenes are quite good

The Bad Points:

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1. Time Limit can make exploring and quest management a chore

2. Quests which have no hand holding and some completion results are low

3. Terrible battle system

4. Graphics that have flickering shadows, textures and drop in frame rates

5. Convoluted storyline and plenty of incomprehensible nonsense

6. Reused corridor dungeons and soundtracks from the original XIII and it's owm tracks are very lackbuster

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Reviewed by: Anthony Hayball (AQWBlaZer91)

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