Let me begin by saying that I have only played a few hours of this latest epic RPG from developer Square-Enix. The last game in the series I played was Final Fantasy VIII, and before that the much celebrated Final Fantasy VII. None of which I might add, did I complete. I have never completed an RPG as they tend to be games you keep in your collection from months, at first addicted to and then just dipping in and out of as their initial wow-factor wains.
Over five years in the making, from the minute I switched on, it was clear to me that this was something special. From the production values, including beautiful CG movies and breath-taking scenery, to the finely detailed character and enemy art, there has clearly been a lot of time and money spent on crafting this game. To play it is basically a gradual learning curve with a detailed tutorial system to get your head around an at first, basic battle system that allows you to attack enemies in real-time with the use of the ATB (Active Time Battle) gauge, an ever increasing metre on the screen that fills up and in the time it takes to fill you must assign attacks to unleash on your enemies. Anyone used to the mechanics of RPG games will take to the system straight away, and thankfully not too much is expected from the player from the off-set, more over the system increases in complexity as your progress, and you’ll grow your understanding of it as you play.
I only really struggled when I had to fight my first major boss character, and had to hone my skill at the system, which admittedly took some doing. You see the system is all about knowing how to time your attacks and defence correctly – grasp this and you’ll be making your way past deadly enemies in no time, but the complexities don’t stop there, as there is also a very deep upgrading system to improve your characters abilities and weapons, which will surely see me getting enthralled for months to come.
The game itself is centred around a group of (as ever) likable, colourful characters, lead by Lightening, a female soldier who becomes embroiled in a struggle against warring factions from two different planets; Cocoon and the barely explored, much feared home world of Pulse. The story is typical of Japanese RPGs, complicated, emotional and very hard to explain – so google it if you are curious. I personally am loving it, and am really enjoying the branching storylines of the various characters – which certainly keeps proceedings interesting.
Well I am about 12-13 hours into the game, and although the game felt somewhat dumbed down from previous installments, I was kept hooked by the graphical splendour and the story, and now I have hit the 10+ hour mark, the game’s complexities are beginning to reveal themselves. I’ll warn you – this game is a grower, and if you’re initially after a deep and complex RPG from the get-go, this will at first seem rather basic. But fear not! I assure you with the crystarium, the weapon-upgrading and the battle system with the gradual addition of summons, this turns into the Final Fantasy that fans have adored for years. I defend the choice to go linear for those that aren’t used to the style of RPG games, and to be honest from my own experience with them, they can be rather alienating unless you have lots of time and patience, which in this day and age, few do, especially with other commitments like work or school. I salute Square-Enix for designing a game that pulls you in slowly, doesn’t blind you with complicated gameplay mechanics, but settles you in before revealing it’s intricacies. You may feel like it’s too linear or dumbed down, but it’s far from that, it’s just trying to appeal to a wider audience, and for once loosing none of its identity in the process.