25 August 2012 | jshunter
Close to being really good
I'm going to assume you already know that Final Fantasy XIII Part 2 is an RPG, and have some familiarity with the series. If not, please Wiki it, as it's too much to cover in a review. So how does this latest installment stack up? Short answer: fun, but flawed.
A common criticism of FF-XIII-2's predecessor was that it was too linear. This game has gone overboard in the opposite direction; you not only have the choice of different large and labyrinthine locations, but also different time periods and even alternate time lines.
Unfortunately my joy of exploring these vast realms was thwarted by the frustration of having to find artifacts to unlock gates to get to new areas and advance the story. To make matters worse, some of these artifacts were invisible, and in locations where I couldn't stumble upon them just through casual exploring; I had to throw one of my companions to retrieve them. I had no clue that one of these artifacts was in an area, or if I'd already picked it up, so I had to resort to ticking off items on a walk-through printout.
It would have been easy for the game to meet me halfway; at least have the map screen let me know that I wasn't wasting my time laboriously exploring every nook. And let me zoom in on the map a bit more, and make the icons easier to see. I'm playing this from the other side of my lounge, not within arm's reach of a computer monitor!
As a result of all my exploring, I also battled a lot of random monsters. This was fun for a while, but I quickly became far too munty. I like to push through to the boss monsters so I can have a decent fight and am forced to be strategically creative. However, because of all my grinding while just trying to find where to go next, my boss strategy was usually just "hit it with my sword until it dies."
One nice touch is that you can capture monsters and have them fight in your party, level them up, and even infuse them with other monsters. Unlike other games in the series, you can't Summon a heavy hitter when times are tough, but your monster teammates do have special Feral Link abilities which are extremely useful and will form part of your battle strategy.
The battle system is almost identical to its precursor. I like the frenetic semi real-time pace, but my wife (who enjoyed all the Final Fantasy games from 7 through to 12) dislikes it, finding it overwhelming. If you like your RPG's to be turn based, be warned.
Leveling up is usually one of the most fun parts of a good RPG, but your options here are extremely limited. It's an entirely linear progression, with your only choice being which of the six roles to develop. You have no choice about when to learn an ability. Compare this with the leveling system of FF-IX; "Should I learn the Fire spell, or an ability which will earn me more money, or build up my immunity to poison attacks?" You had an array of options, and it was fun to choose. No so in FF-XIII-2.
On the plus side, the graphics are sumptuous, and the music generally pleasing, although sometimes jarring: after the first serious battle in your home village, your fiends and neighbors lie wounded on the ground. Something somber seems in order -- so why is this carnage accompanied by a nightclub dance track?
The story itself is okay, but ends on a "To Be Continued..." There is DLC (Down-Loadable Content) available to pad the game out, which activates the battle arena and adds extra mini-games. Part of me grumbles that I didn't have to download Battle Square or the Gold Saucer in FF-VII, but that's the game world we live in now.
In conclusion I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII-2, but it could have really done with a few simple tweaks to enhance the gaming experience.