And yet, although it pains me, I must admit hate Final Fantasy XIII. Hate it. Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.
Oh, I tried to deny it. Tried to tell myself I was enjoying it. That it would pick up. That I could finish the main story even if I decided to skip the side quests this time. But I can't. I've played through 25 hours (and completed Chapter 9, FYI) and I cannot subject myself to another minute of "playing" this horrible, horrible game.
So today's Daily List is also the official TR review of the game; normally I would have posted it separately, but such is my loathing for Final Fantasy XIII that it ran waaaaay too long, plus I had to number the reasons just to keep my hate focused. It's full of spoilers, so if you're trying to avoid them, avoid this, or just if you want to avoid rambling, bitter nerd rants. There's a reason I Iet other people write the Daily Lists, you know.
13) The Awful, Nonsensical Story
I'm sure many of you are shaking your head and chuckling; after all, the Final Fantasy games are not especially known for making sense. But even in Final Fantasy X -- where, I might remind you, the story was about the dream of a dead person traveling to the future to fight his father who had turned into a giant sky-blob who punished people for their sins-- the story might have been batshit insane, but I could still follow it.
I spent the first 20 hours of FFXIII not knowing what the fuck was going on or why the heroes were doing anything, thanks to the world's worst collection of fantasy proper nouns (the "heroes" have been turned into L'Cie by a Fal'Cie and might turn into a Cie'th? Fuck you). But when I finally deciphered what the hell was going on, I realized that the characters also didn't know what they were supposed to do -- save the floating world of Cocoon or destroy it? Now, I'm all for ambiguity in my stories, but 25 hours is a long time to not have some kind of discernible goal.
12) The Obscenely Linear Gameplay
Please check out this image (you can see it supersized over at Kotaku).
By the way, Final Fantasy XIII has no towns, no shops, no inns, and practically no other characters besides the players and a few antagonists. It is the least epic world that has ever been featured in a Final Fantasy, and it enrages me to think about. Square Enix can pump all the graphic wonder it wants into the setting, but it's all flat and lifeless and totally unmemorable, partially because you never get to look around.
11) The Utterly Broken Combat
Much has been made of FFXIII's new Paradigm Shift system, which assigns each character a class, and has you switching those classes on the fly. It sounds cooler than it is, because all you're doing is switching classes, watching the two other characters in your party do the one thing you told them to, and hitting "Auto-Battle" over and over and over again so that your player also fights. It's horrible, boring, and gives you the least control in any previous FF game.
Seriously, in Final Fantasy XII, you had to use program your NPCs with the annoying Gambit system, but 1) you still got to control your own player's actions, and 2) you could program the other characters to perform a wide variety of tasks at different conditions (it was phenomenally stupid that you had to buy these commands from a store, but whatever).
But in FFXIII, the players can only do one thing at time -- their job, which can be attacking, healing, another type of attacking, offensive status spells, defensive status spells, and "sentinel" -- unless you "shift" "paradigms. Ignoring the fact that FFXIII's battles move quickly and shifting paradigms can take up valuable time -- and ignoring the fact that your other two characters have to change jobs unless you've made paradigms that are exactly the same except the one alteration you want to make... wait, don't ignore that. That's really horrible. Plus, you only have six paradigms to choose from at a time, so there's no way you can have your characters do exactly what you want.
Speaking of, even if you have them doing the job you want, it doesn't mean you'll do it how you want it. Let's say you have Vanille set as a medic. Can she do anything other than heal? NO. Can you pick who she decides to heal? NO. Does she generally pick the character with the lowest HP, and not necessarily the character who's under attack? YES. Would you like her to stop casting "heal" after everyone's actually healed? YES, BUT SHE WON'T. Would you like her to do anything other than cast "heal"? THEN YOU HAVE TO SHIFT PARADIGMS AND CHANGE EVERYBODY'S FUCKING JOB EVEN THOUGH IT'S A HUGE WASTE OF TIME OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS' TIME.
And that's not all! There are three types of fights in Final Fantasy XIII: fights with regular enemies you can win solely by hitting the "Auto-Battle" button over-and-over again (yes, it's called the Auto-Battle and it picks your actions for you, so you can be even less consequential to the game); boss fights which last long enough to require some "paradigm shifting" and perhaps a bit of strategy; and finally, fights which regular enemies who are rendered needlessly powerful in order to make you use FFXIII's horrible system.
Think about it -- if you had one person on your team solely devoted to healing, to automatically casting cure with his/her every action, and the rest of the team was attacking, should you lose any non-boss battle? Assuming you hadn't wandered into an area beyond where your characters should be (an impossibility, thanks to FFXIII's perfectly linear setting design), wouldn't that mean that these regular enemies were doing more damage than you could possibly heal? The answer is yes, and FFXIII has them, solely to make you use the otherwise useless Sentinel class and the status casters. It may not sound awful, but really, the game is making itself needlessly harder just to justify its own stupid combat system -- and that's broken.
If you don't agree, then how about this: the game evaluates you on all of your fights both with a score and a star ranking. Hilariously, the score is meaningless -- if it's added together somewhere, I don't know where it is. The star ranking -- 1-5 stars -- is based entirely on how fast you defeat the enemy. Meaning the fastest you can possibly beat an enemy is if you have all three characters attacking. Meaning not healing or dicking around with status magic. Meaning the game punishes you for using its own bullshit combat system. Whee!
10) "Moms are tough."
At the beginning of the game, Hope's mom decides to go help the rebellion/jailbreak/whatever, telling Hope that "Moms are tough." This is a terrible, hokey line, and furthermore, she repeats its two more time before she's obviously killed. This is terrible writing, the kind I can normally forgive/ignore in other Japanese RPGs when there are other qualities to distract me with. Unfortunately, there's not and I won't. It's phenomenally dumb.