Grind-In: Final Fantasy XIII - Chapter 5-8
Spoiler Warning: Details About Parts of Chapters 5 through 8
It’s been a long straight road over the last 12 or so hours of my continued playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII, but I’m still as eager to play more of it as I ever always. It is a bit strange when you stop to think that all the game really boils down is running down a road and fighting the 5-10 fights needed to make it to the next cutscene. You occasionally stop to fiddle with your Crystarium or upgrade some weapons, but those seem pretty linear too. Any time I start trying to describe the things in this game it sound boring, but it’s somehow not actually boring to play. Let’s see how boring I can make all this stuff sound.
People into getting the most out of their RPG stats would probably freak out as I dumbly just scrape whatever goo or circuitry has dropped from the enemies onto a glaive with little regard to what it’s doing, but it seriously doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest. I can barely detect my parties increase in strength in any significant way other than the acquisition of new skills. +5 strength? It might as well say +5 toast. The numbers are probably getting bigger, but you never really know what the numbers should be once you've taken into account the comparative defence stats, the stagger rating, which damage numbers belong to which party member, etc. in a battle anyway, so who cares. As long as things continue to die it’s all fine. I’ll leave my stat micromanagement for WoW and Dragon Age.
Controlling battles in this game seems increasingly more like being the characters manager and just advising them on what the overall strategy is. The combat itself is so fast paced, I’m actually glad that I can just mash Auto-Battle and let them work it out. While this still makes it sound like the game plays itself, it’s far more intense than FF12’s literal automatic battle system. Choosing the exact right strategy for the exact right moment is crucial, and one false move will get your main character killed and the entire battle will have to be played over. The game gives you a checkpoint before every single battle in the whole game which is obscenely generous compared to FF10s 20 minutes of unskippable cutscenes, and makes this game a joy to play, and allows experimentation without too much risk.
Setting and Graphics
Hmm, so where have the roads taken me. Oh yes…
- Chapter 5 was the crystal wood place. This nicely realised and quite original looking environment sadly didn't quite match it's in-game datalog description. Apparently it was constructed confusingly to disorientate invaders. I’m not sure what about a completely straight road with no forks would confuse anyone.
- Chapter 6 was the waterscape. I liked the weather changing orbs. I think I was supposed to set everything to be easy, but I deliberately picked the hardest routes at all times just to make sure I was capable of it, and to see what sort of strategies I would need later.
- Chapter 7 was finally an urban environment. I’m pretty sure the name Palumpolom is a reference to FF4’s twins usually translated as Palom and Porom. This chapter was super long, but was really beautiful throughout. I did catch them getting lazy and using a few obvious ‘matte painting’ tricks with the backgrounds.
- Chapter 8 was the golden saucer. It’s a shame they couldn’t have given you anything to do here, like a snowboarding mini-game or being able to ride that crazy rollercoaster in the background. A petting zoo doesn’t really have as much impact when it’s in a videogame. Just when I thought the game had been as colourful as possible, this place blew that out of the water. I think this was the shortest chapter of the game yet, but yet again one of the detailed colourful. Even this game’s most vocal detractors can’t say that Square’s artists haven’t been working very hard over the many years this game has been in development.
It’s a good job they use the Lost flashback sequences in this game, otherwise the actual events of most of these chapters would be boring as hell. I could motivate themselves to get through three hours of a man with an afro and an Australian girl running through a swamp for three hours. Fang has been a good late addition to the cast. Square seem to like doing their guy who shows up later on, like Irvine from FF8 and Riku from FF10. She has provided a good catalyst to fill out Vanille’s backstory which ended up justifying a lot of her forced cheery nature, and allowed her to stop giggling for a while which is good for all concerned.
Hope’s eventual confrontation with Snow while they probably dragged it on a bit too long, was handled quite predictably with an explosion happening just when it was needed, but was fine overall. Hopefully he’ll be a bit less whiny for the rest of the game. I would think that the plot seems to already be heading straight for what could be the final confrontation if I didn’t already know about a whole different direction the game is supposed to go in later on. Man, these games take a while. Still going to devote every free moment of time to playing it, and stopping to watch more Twin Peaks. Damn good coffee! Yes, I realise I am about twenty years too late and in the wrong country to make Twin Peaks references.