• My Thoughts on the First 3 Hours of FFXIII-2

    On October, 21 I had the opportunity to visit Square-Enix at their offices in Los Angeles and got a sneak peek at Final Fantasy XIII-2. Below is my review from playing the first three hours of the game. It should go without saying that this only reflects my opinion. If you want to read a general overview of the event you can go here, and if you want to read a factual rundown of what we learned about FFXIII-2, check it out here. In general I had a great time at the event and enjoyed playing FFXIII-2. I cannot say enough how nice the Square-Enix NA staff was and how well they treated us. They were simply awesome. Even if this game turned out to be a steaming pile of crap I would still have enjoyed myself due to how friendly and professional they were to us. Fortunately it was not a steaming pile of crap.

    Bear in mind that I only got to play the first three hours of the game, and my opinion will only be based on that time period. As we all know, many of the more fun features in these types of games often don't get unlocked until much later. For example, after playing Final Fantasy XIII for three hours you probably wouldn't even have met your full party yet or received access to the item upgrade system. So take this review for what it is: a scratch on the surface.

    Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts off well enough. I really enjoyed playing as Lightning in the opening sequence. It was exciting and action packed. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that will be the most you get to play as her, which would disappoint me since she was my favorite FFXIII character.

    I was a bit disappointed to find the battle system pretty much unchanged. Many people loved the FFXIII battle system, but I was not a big fan. It's still way too automated and too fast for anything other than 'auto-battle' to be an economic option. I like more control, and the only control I feel I have is over Paradigm selection. However, I will say one thing that pleased me immensely is that you can change leader during battle and if the leader dies it switches to the other character (either Serah or Noel, don't know if it works for the monsters). The inability to do this was one of my biggest complaints over the FFXIII battles, if not the biggest.

    The cinematic action events (QTEs) I found a nice change of pace to break up the monotony of a battle, especially ones that are fairly automated. I'm probably in the minority of people who will enjoy seeing these elements (typical to action games) in a Final Fantasy game. As far as I could tell, these action elements appear to be only in boss fights, and so for many of the early battles with Serah and Noel I found myself constantly hitting the X button and barely paying attention. I ended up skipping many 'random' battles, partly because I wanted to get ahead, but mostly because I found the battles boring.

    The ability to choose dialogue options is a cool feature. It adds to replay value and makes me want to pay more attention to the random conversations that happen. More interaction from the player = good thing. I found the character interactions enjoyable for the most part, but the interactions with NPCs still felt more like FFXIII than 'old school' FF.

    The first part at the beach town was pretty boring. There's not many places you can go and the scenery is very typical FFXIII, that is, pretty but nothing really stands out or is memorable. Like I mentioned above, I ended up skipping many battles because I wanted to get the hell out of there.

    I loved jumping. I don't know why such a simple feature as a jump button made me so happy but it did. Great feature!

    The Historia Crux looks like it will make the game a lot more fun. It looks like there will be MANY times and places to go. In fact, I would not be surprised if all travel was done by Historia Crux, with each node representing one specific zone in one time period you have access to (as opposed to part of a larger world like in Chrono Trigger). One cool feature I liked was that the game saves your progress in each zone so that you can go to a different era and come back to EXACTLY where you left off. I tried it out and it was pretty neat. Also I go giddy for time travel storylines so I really loved all this stuff. I only went to one other era, which was 2 years in the future, and already I thought it was cool.

    I already don't like Serah. She's a pretty weak character in my opinion. In FFXIII she was only there as an excuse to link Lightning and Snow and give them a reason to fight. I don't know how they will turn her into a main character, when the characters of FFXIII already had pretty strong personalities. I on the fence about Noel. He was ok in the time I spent with him and I could grow to like him. He certainly appears to have a mysterious backstory, which tends to help. That's it for the characters. No one else joined my party (besides monsters, which I'll get to), and it's sure implied that this is how it will be for the vast majority of the game. I did hear rumors that other characters may join you, but only temporarily as guests. As in, you can't adjust their Crystarium or equipment or anything like that. So get used to Noel and Serah because this is their story (to steal a phrase).

    Having monsters in your party is a change of pace and it adds a lot of variety and all, but I prefer actual characters with personalities and abilities that can fill many roles, talk to each other, I can relate to, etc. Also I can forsee getting annoyed at spending time leveling up some monster only to catch one that's better in the next battle. It does sound cool to get some classic beasts like Omega, Tonberry, and Cactaur into my party, but it certainly feels like a step down from the very strong cast of Final Fantasy XIII. FFX-2 at least introduced Paine, who was a nice contrast to Yuna and Rikku.

    Once you get to a new Historia Crux 'gate' you do a little puzzle challenge. Think cloister trials in FFX. If you hated that you may still like this because it's different, but I really liked the cloisters of FFX and I really liked these puzzles. It's all about gameplay variety. 'Fight fight fight cutscene' is boring. I am very pleased that SE has included many different things to do in this game (but if half the endgame content is mark hunts again I'm going throw my disk out the window). I'm pretty sure that this is only the tip of the iceberg, too, so I am looking forward to seeing what other activities FFXIII-2 has to offer.

    The equipment scares me. I really hated FFXIII's equipment customization system. I ended up using 1 weapon per character and a bunch of HP+ accessories for about 75% of the game because you don't get enough materials to upgrade until later, and that sucked. Also I prefer various armor slots to a general set of accessories. Well, the slots in FFXIII-2 are the same. Just weapon and accessories. However, I didn't get far enough to tell if it is a standard upgrade system (ie. just buy or find the new weapon with better stats) or if its some silly item customization system. Hopefully it will improve on FFXIII's system at the very least.

    And now for my biggest issue with Final Fantasy XIII-2: the Crystarium. I was not a big fan of FFXIII's Crystarium and this one may actually be worse. In FFXIII, you at least had some (though just a little, for most of the game) freedom to go down the path of your choice. If you wanted to skip a few HP nodes to get that ability, you were free to do so. Also, there were instances where you could go after one ability before another by taking different paths. Stuff like that. That is not so in FFXIII-2. The only choice that you get to make is which of your roles you want to level up at each node. That's it. Every ability is on a set path and you will get them as you reach that 'level' in that role, and not before. So if you wanted to go after Shell before Protect? Can't do it. Wanted to beef up your HP in the Commando class just so your Medic doesn't get trampled, but not waste CP on COM abilities? Sorry (though indirectly you can probably achieve this by utilizing the 'big nodes'). There is one other element of choice. Each time you go through your 'board' (think passing Go in a Monopoly board) you get to choose a power up that includes: addional accessory slot, additional ATB slot, new role, power up a role, etc. That's something, but it really limits how your characters can grow. I only hope there is more to it as the game progresses or that it grows on me over time.

    Several other things that have been leaked such as chocobo races and casinos, I never got a chance to play. They probably get unlocked later, and I will say that they look fun and go towards my general comment that more variety is a good thing.

    Here's a very simple and easy way to summarize FFXIII-2: Final Fantasy XIII-2 is Final Fantasy XIII, part 2. This game is more like Uncharted 2 to Uncharted than FFX-2 to FFX. FFX-2 was a completely different game, it just happened to be set in Spira and involve most of the characters from FFX. FFXIII-2 is FFXIII, but upgraded. If you hated almost everything about FFXIII (especially the battle system) then you will not like FFXIII-2. If you enjoyed FFXIII in general but hated some very specific things, like linearity or NPC interaction, then you may find this redeems it. If you loved FFXIII then you have a real treat on your hands, unless what you loved most about FFXIII was the cast because there's only two characters in this one, and one of them's a nothingburger. If you're like me and you enjoyed FFXIII in the casual sense, but were disappointed in the general direction it took the series relative to the classic FFs (I won't rant about that here), then you will not see this change in FFXIII-2. But it will still be a fun game, and probably more fun than FFXIII since this one has time travel.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: My Thoughts on the First 3 Hours of FFXIII-2 started by Del Murder View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Shlup's Avatar
      Shlup -
      If you enjoyed FFXIII in general but hated some very specific things, like linearity or NPC interaction, then you may find this redeems it.
      I agree with this part the mostest.
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