I’ve loved almost every Final Fantasy game I played. When I played Final Fantasy X, I enjoyed it, but thought it was a bit too linear. I missed the world maps of the previous games.
Then I played Final Fantasy XIII, and suddenly Final Fantasy X didn’t seem linear.
When people mockingly call Final Fantasy XIII “Final Hallway XIII”, they aren’t far off. The majority of the game is contained within narrow passages. Even if the area itself is open, the part you can navigate isn’t. (This made it particularly painful when the characters entered an area and warned one another not to get lost. From the player’s perspective, it is impossible to get lost there. There’s only one path.)
It eventually opens up into a large area where you can explore and perform side quests, almost all of which merely mean defeating specific enemies. Worse, you don’t reach this area until about 20-30 hours into the game.
20-30 hours is a long time to play through hallways for a player who enjoys exploration like I do. When it finally comes, the open area is a refreshing change, but there are still no towns or NPCs to interact with. Still, I lingered in that area for a long time. I didn’t want to return to the hallways or the story.
Final Fantasy XIII’s story is a mess. If you read the unlockable entries within the game, you’ll learn enough of its lore to understand the world, but that doesn’t save the story. You play as a group of characters turned into l’Cie. To explain it with as little jargon as possible, l’Cie must complete a task given to them by a demigod. If they fail, they’ll turn into monsters. If they succeed, they’ll turn into crystals. So it’s a lose-lose situation, and the demigod doesn’t even tell them what their task is.
Yes, even though the demigod <em>wants</em> this thing done, he won’t tell them what it is, because I don’t know. Great characters can save a bad plot, but I found all the party members except Sazh and Fang annoying. And the villain is my go-to example of how not to write a villain, because I didn’t care about him at all.
Final Fantasy XIII’s one saving grace is its combat. While you only control one character and set your classes beforehand as paradigms, it’s enjoyable to switch paradigms and select attacks to defeat enemies.
When I look at the lore, I see Final Fantasy XIII’s potential. If only the game lived up to it.