Published on March 5th, 2014 | by Gary Mullen2
Review: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
This was a very hard review to do as I love Final Fantasy games so I thought I would enjoy writing a review on the game not having read anything on it and just going with my experience on the brand. Sadly being an old school Final Fantasy player, the game did not sit right with me. The game itself is not a bad game, however some people will pick up Lightning Returns expecting the game to play a certain way and this game will not; you need to ask yourself how many changes are too many? As I have found, they have changed a lot of the fundamentals of the game that I expected to play. This game has split the community; some love the new approach and some are traditionalists who are shouting “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!”
Something else that catches this game out is that it is a last gen game in a next gen market, so while we are all going goo goo eyes over Titanfall, it’s hard to pick up a 360 game and try and love how it looks. With that in mind, the graphics are iffy even for last gen standards with screen tearing issues and incorrect pixilation happening all the time (such as your player and the clothing not sitting just right and appearing to be floating). Looking back at the previous games in this series, in many ways the larger picture of graphics is better however the issues seem to stand out more than in previous games. This could be because overall it looks better so it’s easier to spot a flaw compared to an older looking game. I also did encounter some motion blur in the game when I changed direction and it became more of an issue in areas where there were texture changes, such as in the forests where there was grass and tree textures compared to the dunes where there was only sand.
So I set off on my mission to drag my way through the game to see out what I will loosely describe as the game’s story. Sadly I felt the game should have given me a full catch-up of the previous games as it has been a long time since I played the first two of XIII but instead I was questioning my memory; Did this happen or did that happen? Who is he? Do we know him? …and so on. This was always going to be a risk with a game that had such a large story and gaps between the games; the storyline itself is missing in action as far as am concerned. I can’t fully understand how all the parts fitted together and it seemed like several stories sitting side by side without any clean path between them, which left myself as a player disinterested in the game at times.
When we start off, we find that Hope from the previous games has gotten younger (which is never fully explained may I add) and he is helping us by making deals with Bhunivelze to bring our sister back from the dead. In exchange, we have to help Bhunivelze release the souls of mankind for the new world before the end of this one. We find out that the main quest’s enemies are in fact our old team because they have become lost souls… Yip, I’m still at loss as to how we got to this stage but we now have to fight them. When we defeat our old teammates, they then see the light side and their souls are saved. Even trying to explain this story is just becoming mush in my head as it was just that stupid and illogical; I’m left with too many questions after playing this game as to why things happened. Once again if we look back in the series (the XIII games) we do not see any great stories however they seem to have fitted together better then this overall where I felt as if I was drifting through without much purpose.
To do this task for Bhunivelze, you will play as only one character and no prizes on who you play in a game called “Lightning Returns”. Of course you play as Lightning and being one of the stronger characters from the previous games in the trilogy, you have more of an attachment to her than other characters you previously played in the games; which is just as well as our ex team members are now our enemies.
Lightning does not level up in the old fashion. Instead when you save a soul or do a task you get attribute increases; you have no input on what gets increased. This does take away some control of creating the character to your specifications however as you only control one character you don’t need to do this like in the previous games; i.e. trying to get one character maxed up in magic, one as a healer and the other as a tank.
They decided that the game would span up to 13 days of game time before the end of the world and the game would end. Yes, a Final Fantasy game that’s trying to rush you through the game which is shocking to say the least. My love for Final Fantasy was always about taking your time to explore every corner and do every sub mission which is simply not possible in this game. This raises the issue of choosing between what sub missions you tackle and what ones are simply too time consuming. This led me to another issue where there were missions that looked fun but I could not allow that much time to pass me by so I rushed past them, where as in previous Final Fantasy games I would have gone off track for several hours to play the side quests and would have loved every minute.
A new battle system has been brought into this game. The battle system allows you to freely move around and to power up your attack/defense as your power bar fills up which in some ways works and I like the system. This allows you more control over when you do what moves and there’s no waiting on the moves to be carried out, however it does leave an issue when you are fighting more then one opponent at a time. The camera angle moves so that sometimes you lose sight of one of them and then you don’t know when to defend against their oncoming attacks. It’s not a huge issue but has caught me by surprise a few times. Sadly I think the issues outweigh the positives of the old battle system. I preferred the older one and it will always be in my memory as the definitive Final Fantasy battle system; turned based with time counting up to attack. Some of the battle features are still in the game like the stagger system, however unlike in the previous games where it showed you what percent the stagger is at, you are left with little information which makes the whole thing worthless in a lot of aspects.
If you are defeated in battle, don’t expect a “Game Over” screen as this does not happen. Instead you are given the chance to escape and when you escape your items all revert back to how they were before you started the battle. If you play in normal mode, you lose 10 minutes of in game time before the end of the world. If you are playing in easy mode, there is no penalty for escaping the battle. The only time you get a game over screen is if the time runs out and the world ends.
The overall controls outside of the battle system do exactly what is required. You can see the opponents walking around like in previous games and you can attack them or run away. The camera angle outside of the battle seems to be a lot more friendly than in the previous games and I did not find myself struggling to see things because of not having the exact camera angle needed. This was helped due to the more open spaced areas throughout the game it must be said but it is worth noting that I did at times find it hard to control my character on small platforms; that may have just been myself getting frustrated with the game.
It’s really hard to find a glimmer of something great in this game rather than something average or poor. The only thing that made me smile was that if you bought the Limited Edition version, you get the following: “gain access to the iconic gear of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII, including his uniform, Soldier’s Band, the formidable Buster Sword and his victory pose and fanfare”. If there was ever a musical tone in a game that could put a smile on your face then it’s FF7 fanfare music! Yes, I know it’s just a small thing but sometimes the small things make the difference and this helped me through the game! The music throughout the game is actually quite good and does help set the mood without being in your face. I would be hard push to find any real criticism of the music or sound effects in the game; the music does what it needs to do, nothing more, nothing less.
So we come down to scoring the game. My major problem is that this is not what I expected when I bought a Final Fantasy game and some of the decisions made in making this game have left a sour taste in my mouth, such as putting a time limit on the game. However, even if I do take away the fact of comparing it to other Final Fantasy games, then I found the game to be acceptable but nothing more. The storyline is key in RPG games and I still can’t fully figure out how this all linked together and that’s after two playthroughs of the game! There are some very good moments in the game however I got the feeling that if I was not doing this review, I would not have finished the game.
Summary: Not sure what was going through peoples' heads when creating a storyline for this game. A poor storyline in an RPG is a major mistake.