So… Final Fantasy XIII-2. The sequel to one of the most love/hate Final Fantasies of all time. I’ve sunk now around 8-10 hours into it. For me, I loved Final Fantasy XIII.
Let’s get right into it. I’m of very mixed opinion on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying myself greatly. But as a sequel to FFXIII, it feels like they’ve taken 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. Final Fantasy XIII had a broad, grand, sweeping story… so grand that sometimes you got lost in it unless you really focused on it. But it was incredible, and when you got to the big revelations that changed the entire world in your eyes it was just unbelievable… but even from the start, the characters were deep and motivated; the story was so emotional and intriguing; and it really pushed you to follow through the game. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is so much less in terms of story. The story seems to be built on one pillar – timetravel. The characters are pretty poorly thought out, their motivations feel rather lacking. The story is still twisted, but it doesn’t feel as interesting. Part of this are the largely meaningless ‘conversation options’. They add little, and give little ‘reward’, and really would’ve probably been better left out. The other aspect is that the story has become so non-linear that it just really feels like it’s lost a lot of it’s focus. And without that focus, the game feels a lot less driven. That being said, even if the characters were a bit lacking… the world is still as fantastic as ever – possibly more so since you get to visit it in so many different ways and time periods.
Unfortunately, that lack of drive really even impacts the gameplay. While I am absolutely in love with the combat system, it is still my favourite combat system I’ve seen in an RPG to date – without the focus of a good story, the combat loses a bit of it’s purpose. It feels like I’m just fighting these monsters because they’re there most of the time – and often it feels like I didn’t even have a choice in the matter since there doesn’t seem to be a ‘run away’ option, and some of the monsters move so fast on the world map that escape is just impossible. That being said, there are some good things in here. The strategic, fast paced awesomeness of the FFXIII combat system has been upped a notch with the addition of the ‘paradigm pack’ – allowing you to incorporate monsters into your paradigms. Now this sounds pretty simple, but the leveling system surrounding the monsters allows for so many varieties, and the fact that each monster fills a different role meaning that swapping paradigms also changes the monster… all just add up to a really interesting game system. One of the best additions to the game.
In addition, they’ve also added a number of other things to the gameplay. Most notable are the additions of sidequests and puzzle levels. You can do little sidequests for people in exchange for various rewards, most often being rewarded with just pure cp(the points you use to level your characters). These add interest and a feeling of importance to the game by pushing you to explore more of the world and to talk to more people. The puzzles, however, are a good way to break up the gameplay - providing alternatives to just straight up running and fighting. And they work well, they offer a nice little bit of thought-provoking gameplay which makes the game feel a bit more engaging.
The graphics are still just as gorgeous as ever, still setting the benchmark for graphic quality in games in my opinion. Everything is designed so well from character models to animations to environments to effects… that there really just isn’t much room for improvement. The audio on the other hand is a little weird. They seem to have taken a step away from the typical final fantasy type themes and in stead used a lot more vocal themes. I think I’ve encountered at least 5 different vocal themes… some of them really good, others just plain weird. Overall I do like the soundtrack, but it certainly isn’t the best I’ve heard, and I would say its one of the least appealing final fantasy soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Not that that’s saying much… since a bad Final Fantasy soundtrack is still better than most good soundtracks from other developers. If there’s one thing Squenix knows, it’s game music. The voice acting is all fairly good, no real complaints to be had except that the moogle’s voice is a little annoying.
Probably the single most annoying part of FFXIII-2; however, is the fact that at the beginning and end of each segment of the game you get little internal monologues narrated either by Lightning or Serah - which are completely unnecessary and make me feel like I’m watching a bad 90s children’s show with a moral at the end of each episode.
Written by: Sean