Ultimate Sci-fi 0xD

Nov 5, 2013

The title is a little technical joke. I’m a programmer, you see. Ha ha.

After a break of straight up giving up on Final Fantasy XIII, I’m back in the saddle. The reason for the break was a boss fight that involved basically dying if you played for too long. I don’t know who came up with that idea, but they clearly can’t grasp the concept of fun. Come to think of it, that might describe the entire development team.

If I had to pick one word to describe this game, it would be corridors. Did you enjoy the huge, varied landscapes of FFXII? Did you like the combat system that didn’t lock you in a room with a monster and a menu? Was the tactical feeling of the gambit system right up your alley? Well too bad, because they dropped those things and instead gave us a bunch of linear corridors in visually uninteresting locales and a combat system that’s just about as annoying as most FFs.

Alright, alright, it’s not completely linear. For the first 20 hours or so, it’s corridor mania, and then, it’s suddenly a huge open expanse with non-linear monster hunting missions, which litter the rest of the game and are only explained once you get this far. It’s like the first 20 hours were just the introductory level and we’ve only just started the real game now! But then you realize that you’re now on disc 3 of 3 and all the monster hunting missions are basically “go here and kill this”. And once you’re done with that area it’s linear again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with linearity. I recently played The Last of Us, which was completely linear, but it worked because its levels gave you just enough room to not feel like you were just holding the analog stick forward constantly. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say that as soon as a piece of adhesive tape can play half the game for you, you might want to rethink your level design.

uh A monster from FFXIII. It looks like a futuristic headless kamikaze from Serious Sam with headphones and roller skates for coolness. Strangely enough, it hangs out on grassy plains and not in the ghetto.

The combat is once again a variation of that weird turn-based/real-time hybrid thing that never works all that well. Sure, XII (which I will again remind you is still the high point of the franchise) had sort of the same thing but it had the tremendous improvement of the gambit system that allowed you to formulate a sound strategy before a giant wolf monster began shoving fireballs in your face. Plus, when you realized you had taken on a monster with around 50 million HP, you could run away by just… running away. In XIII, there’s no way to escape a battle, so if you run into mr. Fifty Million you’d better hope he has some major fucking weaknesses.

As an added bonus you can’t change who you’re controlling once the battle has begun. I’ll let you guess what happens when the player-controlled character dies. What would help is a way to switch player characters during a battle, which they fortunately realized for the sequel. What most certainly doesn’t help is that the option to change your battle team only unlocks after about 20 hours into the game, and then locks again for certain boss fights just to fuck with you.

As is generally Final Fantasy tradition, the combat meshes with the rest of the game fairly poorly. Since combat is an activity that apparently occurs in some logic-defying parallel dimension, you’ll run into countless instances of “why?” moments. One example that springs to mind is when a group of soldiers with assault rifles hold up the party by simply pointing their guns at them, when just moments before, the party had fought another group of the exact same soldiers and survived numerous bullets all the while punching the soldiers to death.

Why are guns suddenly a threat? Why is a punch more effective than a gunshot? As soon as you mix fantasy with sci-fi, you better be able to explain why people still use swords, spears and … whatever Vanille’s weapon is supposed to be. Seriously, I have no idea what it is. She found it behind an old statue and it’s like a set of antlers with some fishing lines attached to it. It confuses the hell out of me.

The pope. The pope before his “murderous robot” form.

It occurred to me that FFXIII incorporates many religious elements into its story. The protagonists live in a closed society floating in the sky, above a planet that no one has seen but everyone is scared of and frequently refer to as a “hell on earth”. The floating continent is ruled by the primary antagonist who — apart from when he transforms into a giant robot — bears an uncanny resemblance to the pope, complete with equally ridiculous headwear.

Occasionally, citizens somehow attract the wrath of the gods and must perform a difficult task to not become hellish creatures. It is said that if they do complete their task, they will instead turn into crystal (since, you know, Final Fantasy) and somehow gain eternal life. Except they’re trapped in crystal, so I fail to see its appeal.

Once someone has angered the gods and is given a task, they are exiled to the aforementioned hell on earth to not somehow infect the rest of the population with their sinful nature. Of course, as it turns out, it’s not really that hellish at all and the citizens in the sky are really being manipulated by the pope, who turns out to also be a god. And evil.

On one hand, it would seem that the game attempts to portray religion as a bad thing, but then the thing about turning to crystal or zombie actually turns out to be true. So what is the game trying to tell us? I don’t know. I kinda stopped caring around the time I gained a summon that transforms into a car.