Grind-In: Final Fantasy XIII - Chapter 4
Spoiler Warning: Details About Parts of Chapter 4
Considering how slowly the game gives you elements of the battle system and pace at which you are taught when and why you might want to use the various options, I think Chapter 4 is the point where you really get good idea of how the game works. According to the clock I'm 12 hours and 6 minutes into the game, so still would be barely out of Midgar if this were Final Fantasy VII.
I've always like how JRPGs seem to think up the oddest names for their various systems, 'Gestalt Meter' and 'Paradigm Shift' are excellent examples of this. I've been using the star rating system to work out if I'm understanding what’s going on in the fights or not. The way I see it, if you go through a fight and get zero stars, you are probably doing something wrong. I had a revelation after a number of low scoring battles about using a Commando and a Saboteur together, then quickly switching to two ravagers to quickly and effectively stagger an enemy. While I would prefer they give me all 3 characters more of the time because clearly the more difficult fights in the game will use a full party, I can see why they are using the character limit to train you some on some vital things like this.
Setting and Graphics
While most of the environments and the every second of the cutscenes make pretty much every other recent JRPGs look like amateur hour, there was nothing particularly interesting about spending most of this chapter in a junk yard. They might as well of set it in a sewer and been done with it. Fortunately they really pulled out the stops with Snow's sequence towards the end. Five steps into Chapter 5 and it's already looking like a much more interesting area.
Sazh is still standing out as the most obviously likeable character of the bunch. Hope's stereotypical mopey angst is slowly turning into stereotypical determination. Lightning continues to be stoic, and Vanille is Vanille. While I admit she is kind of dumb, I seem to be immune to getting to aggravated at the more grating characters. The kids in Lost Odyssey didn't really bother me either. Oh crap! I just remembered those horrible children from Infinite Undiscovery. Those were the worst. Urgh! Okay maybe I'm not immune.
Not much movement on the plot front. The developments mostly came from characters having disagreements and going through various different realisations like 'The government are jerks' and 'I should stop whining'. The introduction of the Lindblum and Cid were a nice double hit of call-back that reminds you that yes this is actually a Final Fantasy game. Those crazy robot Bombs were a good sci-fi twist on the normal Bomb design as well. I hope I get to fight a giant robot Malboro and a cybernetic Cactaur later.
I probably won’t do one of these for every chapter, but as I’m going to be spending probably more than 50 hours of my gaming time playing this thing, my current opinions are probably going to be long forgotten by the time I see the credits, so might as well them down somewhere.